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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5413

Ms HALL (11:27 AM) —The previous speaker, the member for Mayo, talked about sceptics on the other side of the parliament, and I think he may fit into that category. He also impressed me as a person who takes a small picture approach to the issues that confront the Australian electorate. He is not prepared to address the causes; he will just look at the problems. It is all too hard, and the easiest way out is to just pretend that climate change does not exist. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills are landmark legislation. This signals the start of a new era, an era where the Australian government recognises that carbon pollution is causing climate change. The Rudd government accepts the scientific data—and I say ‘scientific data’ for the sceptics on the other side—that climate change is a reality and that we must act now. Unfortunately, the opposition is still bickering within its party room and trying to decide whether or not it will accept the scientific data. It is difficult to know whether it is the climate change sceptics or the Leader of the Opposition driving the opposition’s climate change agenda. I suspect that it is the climate change sceptics, and the speeches that we have heard in this parliament this morning attest to that.

If we need a little bit more support for that we only have to go to the comment of Barnaby Joyce on the ABC’s AM program on 14 January this year, when he said:

There is no issue about climate change. It’s the extent that humans are affecting it is a debate that I believe is going to go on.

There was also Senator Minchin, who said:

There remains an ongoing debate about the extent of climate change, about the extent of human activity’s role in the climate changing.

So there are obviously senators who do not accept the fact that climate change actually exists. They do not want to change. They want everything to go along the way it is. It is much, much easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend that something does not exist. The only thing about that is that it is not good for Australia and it is not good for the planet that we live on.

As I previously mentioned, the evidence supporting the fact that climate change is caused by carbon pollution is indisputable. We have higher temperatures—the 12 hottest years have been in the last 13 years. There will be more droughts—there will be a 20 per cent increase in droughts over Australia by 2030 unless we act now. There will be more extreme weather conditions—cyclones and floods. I think that what has been happening in that area is very self-evident. We will be confronted with rising sea levels. Those will be impacting on coastal regions, regions like the one I represent in this parliament. Lake Macquarie Council has already prepared a plan that details the impact that climate change will have in that area, and it is quite devastating. Low-lying Asian megacities will be impacted, along with islands in the Pacific. There will be serious impacts on food production and water supply. There are threats to the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Murray-Darling Basin, as has already been mentioned. There will also be enormous health implications associated with climate change, both in the types of diseases and the impacts that climate change will have on people in the community.

On this side of the House we accept the fact of climate change, as I have already said. This was apparent right from the beginning of this government. The first act of the Rudd government was to sign the Kyoto agreement, because it recognised the importance of climate change and the need to act globally—unlike the Howard government, which buried its head in the sand. The Rudd government has adopted a thorough approach to the CPRS legislation that we are debating today. I am really pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, the member for Charlton, is in the chamber as I am making this speech because he has made an enormous contribution to the legislation that we have before us today.

The process started with the Garnaut report. The Garnaut report found that current emission trends would have severe and costly impacts on agriculture, infrastructure and iconic environmental assets and tourism destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, which I have already mentioned. It also concluded that the cost of inaction would have a greater impact on jobs and the economy than responsible action on climate change. What we have before us today is legislation that highlights responsible action on climate change.

Australia has adopted a three-pillar approach to climate change: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change we cannot avoid and helping shape the global solution. The Rudd government believes that a CPRS is the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution whilst minimising the impact on businesses and households. The Rudd government believes that you have to have the strength to put in place a carbon reduction scheme, because it is the responsible thing to do. It is in the national interest to pass this legislation. We have a responsibility to the Australian people and to future generations to act on climate change now. The business community, environmental groups and the Australian people expect the parliament to do the right thing and pass the CPRS this year. I emphasise that to the members on the other side of this parliament. This legislation gives business certainty and will enable Australia to go to Copenhagen from a position of strength, with the strong targets we need to deliver through the CPRS.

This legislation, put simply, places a limit or a cap on the amount of carbon pollution that industry can emit and it requires affected businesses to buy pollution permits. The mandatory obligations under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will commence on 1 July 2011. The scheme will encourage action to reduce carbon pollution from 2010. The government will also delay for one year the provision of transitional assistance under the electricity assistance adjustment scheme, the emissions-intensive trade-exposed assistance program, the household assistance package and the fuel tax adjustments. Elements of the Climate Change Action Fund and investment grants for businesses and community organisations will be rolled out from 2009-10.

The scheme includes all greenhouse gases included under the Kyoto protocol. Emissions from stationary energy will be covered from the start of the scheme. The scheme will cover around 75 per cent of the emissions. Assistance in the form of administrative allocation of permits will be provided to new and existing firms engaged in EITE activities. Permits will initially be provided at a 90 per cent rate for the most emissions intensive activities and at a 60 per cent rate for activities that are moderately emissions intensive. Eligibility thresholds for the assistance are defined in terms of emissions per million dollars of revenue or emissions per million dollars of value added. The rate of assistance per unit of production will be reduced by 1.3 per cent per annum to ensure that EITE activities share in the national improvement.

The global recession buffer will apply to the allocation baseline emissions per unit of output for activities. It also recognises voluntary action, and there is the household assistance package that is covered in the legislation before us today. This legislation is essential to Australia’s future. Treasury modelling shows that Australia can continue to achieve strong trends in economic growth while making cuts through the CPRS. Almost all industry sectors across Australia will continue to grow. Treasury modelling released in October 2008 demonstrates that economies that fail to act now face long-term losses around 15 per cent higher than those that do act now.

If Australia wishes to be influential in fighting climate change globally, we must pass this legislation and join the 27 European countries, the 28 US states, Canada and New Zealand. Once this legislation is passed, Australia can go to Copenhagen as a global leader in the fight against climate change. I urge the sceptics on the other side of the House, those that are averse to change, to join with the government in support of this legislation and send a strong message to the rest of the world.