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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5416

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (11:38 AM) —I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills. I believe all Australians, including many of my own constituents in Maranoa, would like us to ensure that we limit any harmful impacts we have as humans on the earth and on our environment. While I believe that the emotive images and the apocalyptic slogans have affected our ability to have a truly rational debate on carbon emissions, I think most people would agree that whether you believe in human-induced climate change or not, it pays to be good to the planet.

In his haste to stand on the winner’s platform, our Labor Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, is rushing ahead with a flawed ETS which will threaten the viability of trade exposed industries, threaten our national economy, cost jobs and ultimately threaten our prosperity and security as a nation. The Prime Minister made his ETS promise when Australia’s economy was strong, the legacy of successful management by the former Liberal-National coalition government, which paid off the previous Hawke-Keating Labor government’s $96 billion debt and returned the budget to surplus. Now the world economy is experiencing a very difficult time. Treasury modelling on the Labor Party’s ETS did not factor in the global financial crisis. It would be economically suicidal for Australia to race ahead of the rest of the world in implementing a cap-and-trade scheme, particularly if our fellow global citizens are not on the same page. This scheme proposed by Labor would further tilt the already unlevel playing field against our exporting industries, including agriculture.

For over a year Labor talked up their green credentials and talked down the economy. That was how they came out of the starting blocks when they became the government of this nation. Australians responded and started to get concerned about the dark economic clouds that were gathering in the distance, so they stopped spending. Then the Prime Minister announced at a press conference in December last year that he had spent half the budget surplus, and then he took some cash from the bank to throw around willy-nilly. Now, as every Australian knows, we are confronted with a $300 billion debt, a $58 billion budget deficit and a personal debt of $9,000 for every man, woman and child, including babies born today.

The Prime Minister wants to impose another tax on the Australian people. Under Prime Minister Rudd’s ETS, export- and import-competing industries will effectively be taxed an extra $12 billion over the next five years. What the Labor Party is doing is sacrificing Australian jobs at the altar of this deeply flawed ETS. Australia produces only 1.4 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, yet the Prime Minister wants to beat his chest at the global climate change summit in Copenhagen later this year and say: ‘Look at me. We are taking a great lead. Aren’t we great in Australia?’ This really is no laughing matter.

Treasury modelling on the ETS was undertaken with the assumption that the rest of the world would sign up to be part of a carbon emissions scheme. If we sign up to an ETS before the rest of the world, Australian jobs will go. Industry will go offshore and relocate to other manufacturing countries. The Minerals Council of Australia estimates some 66,000 jobs will go. Xstrata predicts that between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs will go. Research done by ABARE—the Australian government’s own Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics—shows that the economic value of farm production in broadacre industries could decline by between 0.3 and 1.9 per cent in 2011.

The dairy farmers in the south-east corner of my electorate around Warwick, Millmerran, Crows Nest, Kingaroy and north of Dalby will be hit with a $9,000 cost if this flawed scheme is introduced, without any chance to offset that cost. The beef industry will see a $60 million tax passed back in the price that they receive for their cattle. The grains industry will face an annual indirect cost of more than half a billion dollars, with no chance to offset that under this flawed model put up by the Labor Party.

This is a flawed scheme which will penalise even those who can help reduce our emissions. For example, for every tonne of greenhouse gases associated with the production of LNG in Australia, between 4.5 and nine tonnes can be avoided in the Asia-Pacific region when this gas is substituted as an energy source for coal. Up to 180 million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be saved each year, but under the emissions trading scheme proposed by the Labor Party the LNG projects which would help prevent these carbon emissions will not go ahead. In my own electorate, between Dalby, Chinchilla, Miles and Roma is the Surat coal basin. There are billions of dollars to be invested in the LNG projects there. Some 35,000 holes alone will be drilled to tap into this coal seam methane, creating thousands and thousands of jobs. All those jobs will be at risk if this scheme passes both houses.

What has concerned me throughout this whole debate on climate change is the focus on agriculture and the methane emissions from farm animals. Sure, we can cut carbon emissions, impose a carbon tax or even reduce our animal husbandry, if that is what the Prime Minister would like, to reduce carbon emissions from animals. But the problem is: where will we get our food? Who will produce the bread, the bacon, the steak, the eggs, the milk and the cereals that our families eat? Where will the fibre—the wool and the cotton—come from for our daily clothing needs? Successful farmers are businesspeople. They are not just farmers; they are owners of food- and fibre-producing businesses. They know how to treat the earth, and they have been doing it for more than 200 years in this country. They know that the environment has a direct impact on the success of their businesses. They have been willing to come to the table on climate change since day one. Yet, for all the rhetoric from this city-centric government, the Labor Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, has cut funding for rural research in the latest budget. That is the Labor Party’s vision for agriculture: cut agricultural research in the budget and hit farmers with a new tax.

This flawed ETS will have a significant impact on my electorate of Maranoa. In the far west of my electorate lies the Cooper Basin, Australia’s largest mainland oilfield. Above the ground graze cattle which are owned by Australia’s largest cattle companies. Further east lies the enormous Surat energy resource province, Australia’s next Bowen Basin. The towns of Chinchilla, Dalby, Miles and Roma are set to experience significant economic benefit from the development of this Surat coal seam methane basin.

There are three coal-fired power stations in my electorate. I am sure you would be aware of them, Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper. One of them is Tarong, at Nanango, near Kingaroy. That baseload power station is owned by the Queensland government. No wonder the Queensland government want to sell it, with this emissions trading scheme coming forward under the Labor Party. As we hear today, they are going to privatise everything they can find that is publicly owned. The Tarong, Wivenhoe and Tarong North power stations, the Meandu coalmine and the Glen Wilga coal resource employ some 417 people. All those jobs are at risk. The Kogan Creek power station, another baseload power station which is just near Chinchilla, has a permanent workforce of 40. The Kogan Creek mine, which fuels the power station, has a workforce of 50. The Millmerran power station employs 50 people directly and 150 people indirectly, when you include the employees and subcontractors of the coalmine itself. So there will be job losses if this Labor Party’s flawed scheme has a successful passage through both houses.

We do not have to rush into this. Let us wait to see what happens at Copenhagen. Let us see what the United States does. Even the Canadians and the New Zealanders are saying, ‘Let’s see what happens in Copenhagen.’ They were proceeding down a path, but they have put that on hold. Sensible governments there are thinking of the world economic circumstances and worried about their own economies, so they say, ‘Wait till Copenhagen.’ Even the United Nations does not require countries to have legislation in place before the Copenhagen summit, so why should Australia run the risk of getting it wrong when we can wait, watch and then take a rational, considered and smarter approach to carbon emissions?

The coalition have tried to get the Labor Party to come to the table and talk about our ideas for reducing our global footprint. These include the pursuit of clean coal and renewable energy, biochar, developing agricultural lands in arid regions, boosting the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and homes and revegetating marginal lands. We also propose a government authorised voluntary carbon market, based on the Chicago Climate Exchange, which would allow for the immediate involvement of individuals, communities, industry and business to create bankable offsets.

Let me be clear: we should take all steps to reduce our global footprint. To do nothing is not an option. But to do what the Labor Party would have us do would be to destroy jobs, kill off industries and, at the end of the day, cost this nation dearly. I will be joining my colleagues in supporting the amendment put forward by the opposition. I will not be supporting the flawed emissions trading scheme of this arrogant Labor government.