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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5424

Mr RAGUSE (12:12 PM) —It gives me great pleasure today to rise to speak to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related legislation. Like speakers before me, certainly on our side of the House, it gives me great encouragement that we really do understand the need to progress something along the lines of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We went to the last election, in fact, with the resolve that we would act on climate change—and we were given that mandate. Climate change is one of the greatest economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. Climate change is real and is having an impact. The government is committed to tackling the climate change challenge through policy and programs that are contemporary and informed by the latest science and policy developments. The government is also working with industry, business and the community to implement a response and policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts.

The government went to the last election outlining our agenda for climate change, including the introduction of a carbon emissions trading scheme. I remember well that the now opposition were also planning to implement an emissions trading scheme. What we see now is an opposition divided. They are divided into two groups: the climate change believers and the climate change sceptics. It gives me some encouragement that there are those on the other side of the House who do believe in the way forward and in what we are doing as a government. However, as the coalition they are certainly, on every occasion, talking the need for this legislation down and saying that it should be put on the backburner until they have more information.

Mr Robert interjecting

Mr RAGUSE —The member for Fadden interjects there, basically agreeing to that position. Information is always important but, unless we actually start the dialogue in a legislative framework, we cannot advance this. We have the scaremongers right across the board, and certainly on the coalition benches, continually talking down the need to make a move right now. The government is getting on with the job.

As a concession, given our concern about the opposition that is being put forward, the government did make a decision to delay the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to allow the Australian economy more time to recover from the impacts of the global recession. However, we have committed to having a system begin by 1 July 2011.

It is worrying, though, that the coalition continually put up a fear campaign. It is always about fear—fear, fear and more fear. In fact there are contradictions in most of the statements that are made by the opposition. The member for Paterson spoke about a range of concerns and issues. The coalition get almost to the point of agreeing with the need to move forward, but then it becomes, ‘Let’s wait and see. Let us sit back and wait for something else to happen.’

I will give a very good explanation on the ground. When we look at our nation-building activities and programs, you can go back some 40-odd years to a time when the City of Brisbane, a major capital city, was unsewered and there were the well-known thunderboxes in the backyards. The then Labor Lord Mayor, Clem Jones, determined that Brisbane needed to borrow quite substantially to move forward and put in that sort of infrastructure, and the Liberal opposition at that time said it would send the city broke and they needed to sit back and wait and decide.

We all know the outcome. After borrowing, the city moved forward and we now have a very modern city in Brisbane with all the amenities. But at the time a tough decision was made—and it was certainly economically based—to move forward and get some infrastructure built.

The issue of legislation concerning the reduction of carbon pollution is a similar situation. We must act. We must get something in a legislative framework that we can take forward. All those issues—certainly by the member on the other side of the House who has been interjecting—are being debated to allay some of those concerns and give a legitimate way forward so that we are able to debate this in a framework that is declared and where many other stakeholders can get involved. It simply takes it away from the discussion that we have in this particular House.

I would also like to refer to comments that were made by the member for Wide Bay, the Leader of the Nationals. They have shaped themselves up to be the greatest deniers of climate change. I see the contradictions—on one hand quoting Garnaut and talking about the imminent concerns that we will be confronting as a country, yet turning around and then saying that now is not the time, that we cannot go forward now. To say that now is not the time is just not good enough. We do need to advance and we need to advance with a full understanding of the economic considerations.

How do we do that? We must move forward in a legislative framework to be able to consider the options and the economic drivers and opportunities that exist. If you talk to the Leader of the Nationals and his colleague in the Senate, Senator Joyce, it is an interesting discussion. Senator Joyce talks as an expert on climate change to the point that he denies that it is actually occurring. He is a man who has no science background, a man who has for all intents and purposes probably a good accountancy background. But to become the spokesperson for the National Party in the Senate on climate change is laughable. The fact is there is so much information that needs to be put on the table for discussion.

I had the privilege just a week or so ago of opening a conference on the Gold Coast where 200 scientists had come together to talk about biochar and the pyrolysis process that allows matter to be reduced to carbon, to a charcoal base, and then put back to replenish the soil to increase its quality. Many people in the House would be aware of that technology—and I see that the member for Fadden is nodding. It is a technology that we understand can be of use. But we must get this dialogue going and give certainty to scientists generally, or to the scientists in CSIRO, and show some understanding that this may be one of the solutions that will reduce our carbon footprint.

I spoke in the House here on Monday about our nation-building programs and how as a government we had made the decision in severe economic conditions to determine that stimulus to the economy was all about planning and building for our future. I said on that occasion that there was a joke going around the House—we were talking about shovel-ready projects. How do you confuse the coalition over nation building? You put three shovels against the wall and you tell the coalition member to take their pick. That comment was made to me and I repeated that anecdote in the House.

One particular disenchanted member of the coalition said something that was quaintly funny. He said, ‘How then do you confuse the coalition on climate change?’ I gave a few examples. I said that maybe sequestration would do it and asking them questions about their understanding of the technologies. He said no. I said, ‘What about biochar production?’ and he said no. I was rather confused by this and he said, ‘Look, you don’t have to ask them anything, because they are confused.’ It is clear from the statements that they make in this House and by their lack of support for what we are trying to do that they are confused. We cannot hold off moving forward with this particular legislation.

In my electorate, like all other electorates, we have certain businesses and operations that can be affected if we do not work well towards finding the economic solutions. There are a number of major players—those in agriculture and in meat production certainly. There were a number of positions that they put to us to help us understand their concerns. They understand what we are trying to do as a government in those packages that we are proposing to put forward to support businesses. They are all moving forward and they say to us as a government, ‘Please give us some certainty. Please simply say whether it is on or not on.’ We as a government are saying that it is on, but it is up to the opposition in the Senate whether they ultimately support our move forward.

It is concerning of course because this is all about vision. While we can talk about nation building—and we will on other occasions—unfortunately, the coalition lack vision, and they certainly lack the leadership to take those visions forward. As a government we have proved that we have vision and the tenacity to take these issues forward, and climate change is one of those issues that we have stated firmly we need to move forward. The scare tactics are really concerning because, if we do not act now, we all understand that it will be too late to find economic solutions. This will cost us more in the future if we do not make those decisions, and you have heard our Prime Minister mention that on many occasions. I will not repeat the examples that he gives, but it is clear.

The international community is working towards solutions and, yes, the Copenhagen conference will be very important. As a government we want to have something hard-fixed in terms of our position in going forward. The detail, to a large degree, will be worked through over the next few years in terms of how we as a government, along with the industry and business sectors, not only reduce the carbon footprint but also find the best economic solutions. On those considerations and on that basis, I commend the legislation to the House.