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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5405

Mr KATTER (10:48 AM) —Mr Deputy Speaker, imagine the entire roof above us here as an illuminating light. If we put four of these clocks up on the roof and said, ‘No light will illuminate this room because we have put those four clocks up there,’ that would be like what we are saying about global warming. We are saying that the equivalent of one square metre in an area of over 2½ thousand square metres is going to warm up the world because the rays will not be able to bounce back up again. The proposition is ridiculous—it really is.

I am not a sceptic; I am an ‘anti’. Don’t call me a sceptic—I am an anti. But, having said that, even an anti like me says: ‘Well, there is a huge rate of increase here. We should pull back a bit.’ If you want to go to one of the half-a-dozen leading authorities in the world, go to Katharina Fabricius at the Australian Institute of Marine Science—and it sure would be nice if someone in this place ever did any scientific research, because there has not been one single neuron of scientific contribution in any of the debate to date, and I have been listening to all the speeches. Please, fellas, just do a little bit of science and think about it: four clocks on this huge roof are going to stop the room from being illuminated! That is your proposition. It is a ridiculous proposition. But there is a huge increase, so even an anti—not a sceptic but an anti—like me says we should take a bit of a pull on the reins. I am going to wheel a breaker here and the horse should be going at a gallop, but I am saying: ‘No, I might get killed if it goes at a gallop. We should pull back a bit here.’

If you go to Katharina Fabricius, one of the world’s leading authorities, at the Institute of Marine Science—one of the four leading institutes of marine science in the world—at Townsville in North Queensland she will tell you about carbon dioxide going into the water. You will get some sort of idea if you listen to speeches here that the sun’s rays go through and kill the reef. I am sorry—that is not the danger here. The danger here comes from carbon going into the water and forming a very mild carbolic acid. Sea water is in fact alkaline and the seashells and even the little plankton have shells, and they are mainly calcium carbonate, which, for those of you who know your chemistry, is alkaline—a base. If you acidify the water, it becomes difficult for the plankton to form their shells, and they do not. There is a diminution in the bottom of the food chain in the oceans. So there is a situation in the oceans which scientific analysis will tell you creates a problem. So even an anti like me says, ‘Yes, there is some reason why we should have a look at this.’ We should not go crazy-mad like we are doing at the present moment, wiping out jobs all over Australia.

I have got to agree, very strongly, with the Leader of the Opposition on this when he says that all of our industries will be put at the gravest disadvantage. Do you want all of your industries to start on a handicap? They are handicapped now because all the other countries have tariffs and subsidies. In agriculture, the average subsidy tariff level is 49 per cent. The figure in Australia is four per cent. They are the OECD figures, not mine. It is much worse in manufacturing. Does Barack Obama worry about WTO rules on free trade when he says all steel from now on will be American steel in every single government job? Does he worry about that when he gives $43,000 million dollars to the American company GMH? Does he worry about that? No. These are all subsidies. But we do not do that in Australia; we go in the opposite direction. We place a handicap on all of our industries.

A very serious problem arises in the mining fields. I represent the biggest mining province in the world, the north-west mineral province, which produces pretty close to $15,000 million a year of product. We have already lost 2,000 jobs. We need our unions to come forward on this because it is their members that are taking the knock. I am not going to nominate the mines because I do not want to scare the horses, the banks and everyone else, but there is not a single person living in north-west Queensland who does not know that another 2,000 jobs will go and another four or five mines will close if you put this cost imposition upon them.

I pay very great tribute to the member for Batman, the Minister for Resources and Energy, who is in the House, because he has acted to deliver to us a reduction in our cost of production and we are very appreciative. In the budget, it says that we will have a true national grid and that the north-west mineral province and the Pilbara will be brought onto the national grid. Minister, we must say a very sincere thankyou on behalf of the people of Australia, not just the people of my electorate, because, if we do not get that, there will be another 2,000 jobs gone. But if we do get that and we do not have this imposition upon us, I think that, even in the current climate, we will create another 2,000 jobs. Mr Gutnick’s phosphate mine at Lady Annie, I am sure, will go ahead. He has said publicly on many occasions that, regardless of the financial crisis—of course the Indian government is heavily involved here, God bless them—he will go ahead with the project that will be worth somewhere between $1,500 million and $3,500 million dollars a year to the Australian people.

If we have that transmission line running as the minister has got in the budget—and we thank him most sincerely, as this is truly something significant that the government has done—and that electricity is carried out to that north-west corner where our electricity is costing us an absolute fortune and where in two years time we will not have enough to supply demand out there—and the minister may tune in here. Minister, could you tune in here. I know Mr Billson is a very intelligent person but—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Order! Through the chair, please.

Mr KATTER —Mr Deputy Speaker, along this transmission line—and we will be coming to see you, Minister—as it turns out, the state government has already put $23 million into a solar plant at Cloncurry. It is the logical place to put it as it is the hottest town in Australia and, except for four years, we have had under 10 inches of rain a year for the last 40 years. According to the latest National Geographic, they want to duplicate the Acciona plant which boils water during the day with the sun and uses geothermal energy, which is right next door at Julia Creek, to boil the fluid—I will not say water—of an evening. The state government has already put in $23 million. That gives you, at the start of this transmission line corridor, 70 megawatts—Australia uses about 40,000 megawatts, but we use about 350 megawatts out there—of extremely valuable electricity.

In the next town, Julia Creek, there are six million hectares of prickly acacia tree infestation—60 Minutes is going to do something on it shortly. There are six million hectares infested with this dirty, filthy weed. But it is a tree so they are going to burn it and create renewable power. So at Julia Creek there is renewable power. You have got to understand, Julia Creek has got the biggest vanadium deposits in the world. It is very low grade but they are the biggest deposits in the world. They have the fourth biggest oil shale deposits in Australia. We have two per cent of the world’s uranium in the north-west corner, which, in spite of the Queensland government, will be mined in the not too distant future. That is for absolute certain. We have 500 million tonnes of reserves of iron ore in the area and we have not drilled for it yet; we just happened to stumble across 500 million tonnes of it.

None of these things have been touched, and there are two major phosphate deposits, including Joe Gutnick’s. He has already put a lot of money into this project. We are talking now about a clean energy corridor. We have solar energy in Cloncurry, we have the burning of the prickly acacia tree at Julia Creek and we have a major biofuels project at Pentland. That biofuels project will have a dam which will produce hydroelectricity. We will have 100 megawatts of hydro. Then it will burn the sugarcane fibre after the sugar is taken out to be converted into ethanol. It will turn that fibre into 300 megawatts of electricity every year forever. Minister, because of your initiative with this, people will write you down in the history books because the transmission line—there is a little bit of luck as well as good management in here—happens to be a clean energy corridor, with 700 megawatts of clean energy along that corridor.

The clean energy corridor finishes at Ingham, just north of Townsville, where there are four sugar mills that burn their sugarcane fibre to get rid of it. They produce no electricity from it at all. With a little bit of assistance—and I am not talking about big money here; it might be $40 million or $50 million at the outside—they can convert over to 200 megawatts of clean energy for forever. So there are some 750 megawatts of clean energy that will forever come out of that initiative. With the transmission line, we now have the north Australia clean energy corridor coming into existence and we are getting a very positive response from the government and we are very pleased with that. We thank the government very sincerely.

But we must emphasise this to the government: please, you have to pull back. We appreciate the Prime Minister postponing for two years but it will be absolutely deadly for every mine out there if the government pushes ahead with this. What we are saying is this: we can give you 750 megawatts of clean electricity every year and five per cent of Australia’s petrol as a clean renewable—ethanol. Unlike corn ethanol—I am not knocking it; I do not want to antagonise my New England friend here—we simply cut sugar cane. We do not have to plough every year; we do not put the steel through the ground. They have a 29 per cent benefit; we have a 190 per cent benefit for the environment because all we do is just mow it every year. That is all we have to do; it just keeps growing. It is a grass. So we would say that the government can do practical things here. The trading scheme is just going to give the Goldman Sachses and the Macquarie Banks an extra $7,000 million worth of securities to trade. They are in their silk suits in Sydney rubbing their hands together. But you could go ahead with the north Australia clean energy corridor, and you could add solar hot water systems to that.

When I was the mines and energy minister in Queensland, I did not want to build a fourth power station in Queensland. It was going to cost $1,000 million and I would have had to go on my knees to Treasury. I did not want to do it for a host of reasons. We found out that if we converted all the government owned houses in Queensland to solar hot water it would be a big contract and we would get the solar hot water systems very cheaply. We felt there would be an extra 10 or 15 per cent of other homes that would come in on the contract. We found out that we would be able to postpone the building of that power station by 10 years. So, if you like, one-quarter of the carbon that was going up into the atmosphere in Queensland was removed by simply putting solar hot water systems on the roofs. Forty per cent of domestic energy consumption goes on the heating of water—that is from Szokolay’s book on the solar home, which is gospel as far as these things go.

If we go to 25 per cent ethanol, it will not only make the industries in the New England area and in the Kennedy area internationally competitive but we will have the cleanest fuel in the world. 60 Minutes did a marvellous show on Sao Paulo, the dirtiest city in the world. They introduced ethanol and they did it to help the farmers. It was also done in America, but they did not do it to help their farmers at all. They did it to clean up the pollution in New York—it was the air quality control act. It had nothing to do with helping farmers. People were dying because of the pollution. Sao Paulo is a city with a bigger population than Australia’s—over 21 million people live in Sao Paulo. It is now arguably—this is the claim of 60 Minutes—the cleanest city on earth. The air above Sao Paulo is the cleanest of any city in the world. Petrol with 25 per cent ethanol is compulsory, but because ethanol is also cheaper than petrol—it has been cheaper for the last three or four years now—there is 50 or 60 per cent ethanol in petrol.

I must again pay credit here—and it seem that I am being nice to everybody today, which is a bit out of context! This time, I pay credit to the Leader of the Opposition. We have a big landmass in Australia; we are almost as big an area as China or America. We are not quite as big as Russia or Canada, but they are half ice. If you take them away we have the biggest landmass of anywhere in the world and we are not using it. The Leader of the Opposition quite rightly talks about the use of bacteria fertiliser—not all, but 30 or 40 per cent bacteria fertiliser. We have no carbon in the soils in Australia—we are one-fifth of the average for every other country in the world. Bacteria fertiliser will lock up 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare in the soil. If you can put solar hot water systems in and give us agricultural offsets the same as America is doing then we can do that as well.

Let me come back to another issue. There is a problem that will arise in the oceans. It is not there now but it will arise. Please ring up Katharina Fabricius, a very articulate person, and discuss it with her. By the same token there is a little element of ‘Chicken Little’ here. Those of us who are my age will remember the Club of Rome, which said we were all going to starve to death by 1984. Ironically, 1984 saw the biggest collapse in agricultural prices in human history because we had such massive overproduction. The Club of Rome may have scared us into overproduction! And then there was the hole in the ozone layer and we were all going to die of cancer. And now there is cattle flatulence. No-one is game to get up in public and say cattle flatulence is causing global warming, but it is in all the studies. Just to give you some idea of how much science is going on here, the greenie movement say each cow’s flatulence is equal to 54 cars, and they have convinced everyone. And the government papers say each cow’s flatulence is equal to 54 cars. Sorry about that, but in the latest scientific study they simply had a big shed, fully enclosed, full of cows. They monitored the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air going in, they had the moo cows inside and they monitored the air going out. I do not know why—maybe the cows had a good day—but, instead of representing 54 cars, each cow represented only eight cars. Those cattle contained themselves very well. They must have been northern cattle!

In conclusion, the minister has done a brilliant thing here and has fought very hard to secure in the budget the critical statement that we will have a true national grid. As he has said on many occasions, all of our metals—we are arguably the biggest metal producing and processing country in the world—are in the top third of the country, but there is no power. There is not even access to baseload power in the top third of the country, namely, the north-west mineral province and the Pilbara region, both of which are designated in the budget. Minister, you have been very lucky because you will go down in the history books as the founder of the north Australia clean energy corridor as well, but you may not have entirely deserved all of that praise.