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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5437

Mr LINDSAY (1:08 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker, before I begin my contribution, I would like to make an announcement to the parliament. The Maroons will win the State of Origin tonight and the Cockroaches will be flogged.

This bill is called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 but the subtext is that 1,870 Townsville jobs are at risk. That is the subtext for me as the member for Herbert, representing Australia’s largest tropical city. I am fed up with the politics of the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme. The focus has to be on what is best for Australia, what is workable and what will protect jobs while reducing emissions. The focus must not be on the politics of this.

For these reasons, the coalition have a different approach to a CPRS. We are not focused on spin and political advantage. We are doing something that is hard. We are focused on delivering the most sensible public policy position. Even under the former Prime Minister, the coalition supported the adoption of an ETS. I hear this constant claim from the government that we are climate change deniers. I remind the parliament that, even under John Howard, our policy was to have an emissions trading scheme. We still have that policy and no amount of Labor spin can alter our resolve. No one will alter my resolve to protect jobs in Townsville.

We are not climate change deniers but what we are is a party that wants to get the best outcome for our country. Rather than rush headlong into this, we want to get the best outcome. The best outcome only comes when you know what the United States is going to do, and when you have certainty about the US position, because the rest of the world will follow the US. If we jump in too early, we may end up with a scheme that in fact disadvantages our trade-exposed industries. What is the sense in that? How can the government argue against a position that best protects Australian industry and Australian jobs?

The only way they can argue is on the basis of getting some kind of political advantage. The government know that they have bipartisan support in going to Copenhagen to say that Australia will support an emissions target and that both sides of politics support the same target. They know that. There is no downside in going to Copenhagen not having this legislation passed. The upside for the government is to say to the electorate, ‘We are working on climate change and the opposition is delaying.’ The opposition is not delaying; it is just being sensible. I hope that the Australian public will understand that.

The Minerals Council of Australia report about job losses under an ETS predicts that Townsville will lose 1,870 jobs by 2020 and that the total job losses for North Queensland will exceed 3,500. We have got to be very careful of that as a parliament. The Leader of the Opposition was right to observe that this legislation has almost no supporters. The business community have almost unanimously complained about its job-destroying provisions, while the environmentalists, on the other hand, have complained that it does not go far enough and is not effective in reducing emissions.

It is a poorly conceived scheme. It was poorly put together in haste, with inadequate analysis and consideration. It is therefore vital that climate change is approached in a fair and balanced way. This bill shows that the Rudd government do not have that commitment. Their position will cost Australian jobs and send businesses offshore. If Labor’s emissions trading scheme goes ahead in its current form, the Minerals Council of Australia estimates that by 2020 over 23,500 mining jobs will be lost. These are unionists. This is the Australian Labor Party—a branch office of the union movement of Australia—telling people, ‘Sorry, you have lost your job.’ Queenslanders will suffer most, with 11,440 job losses by 2020. This is almost half the total number predicted and a great burden on Queensland. In their haste to implement this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Rudd government are ignoring the devastating effect it will have on North Queenslanders.

Australia produces only 1.4 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. It is clear that the Australian solution does not solve the world problem. There must be global effort and a global agreement. I do not think anybody would disagree with that. But this is why the coalition is committed to providing support to the government in the targets that Australia takes to the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. The government can represent a united Australian position at this meeting for a reduction in emissions of five per cent from 2000 levels by 2020 and up to 25 per cent reduction with a global agreement. The Copenhagen conference is only six months away; Australia must wait until global efforts on climate change can be assessed. It is the sensible thing to do and would ensure that Australia can get its emissions trading scheme right. A vote on the scheme should be deferred until after the Copenhagen conference.

When the Treasury modelling on the ETS was released, it did not consider the effects of the global financial crisis. It assumed all countries would be part of a global agreement. The modelling was only on Labor’s ETS; it did not consider alternative schemes. We in the coalition are very concerned that the full impact of the Rudd government’s ETS has not even been considered. I think I will have colleagues on the government side of the parliament who feel for this point that I make and will be privately concerned that the government’s ETS has not been properly considered.

This is a concern that has been echoed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They have said that they see no reason for the CPRS legislation to be rushed through parliament this year. They caution that it is more important to first fully consider the financial impact of the scheme. The government should take this advice.

The government’s emissions trading scheme legislation is flawed. In its current form it will negatively impact on regional Australia. The beef and sugar industries will see a $60 million tax through the price they receive for their products. The grain industry, with low levels of emissions, will be forced to absorb indirect costs of half a billion dollars every year. This would be in addition to the tariffs they must pay in other countries, ranging from three per cent in the United States to 45 per cent in the European Union and 70 per cent in Japan. This ETS would place an additional burden on the Australian grain industry.

The government are attempting to rush this legislation through the parliament without a thought for the dramatic economic consequences it will have. This is unsurprising from a Labor government which has committed Australians—again, without thought—to $315,000 million of debt. Australia is seeing reckless spending the likes of which we have never seen in the history of our country: $315,000 million—extraordinary.

Mr Rudd’s emissions trading scheme does not consider the impact of the global financial crisis. It will cost Australian jobs and will hurt the economy. The scheme places an effective $12 billion tax over five years on Australian import and export industries. Are you really going to vote for that? Mr Rudd and Senator Wong announced changes to the scheme on 4 May—my birthday; I am 23! These changes do little to correct the problems with the ETS and merely increase its complexity. The Rudd government are rushing a flawed scheme for their own political purposes.

Because it is vital for there to be a global agreement, it is important to look around the world. In the United States the draft legislation on emissions trading fully protects US import and export competing industries until 2025. This protection will not be removed until 70 per cent of global output in the industry occurs in countries which have a similar emissions trading scheme. The Rudd government are not considering the position of the United States. In doing so they demonstrate the flaws in the ETS we are talking about today, and they put our industry at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other world industries.

The Centre for International Economics review of the government’s white paper on their emissions trading scheme reveals that it will tax Australia’s largest employers and risk Australian jobs. Labor has not considered any alternatives, even in light of the GFC.

The coalition’s Green Carbon Initiative announced by Malcolm Turnbull in January aims to achieve additional annual reductions of a minimum 150 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020. The coalition is committed to considering a full range of measures which will not have the high cost of Labor’s scheme. This initiative shows how committed the coalition is to climate change and how out of touch the Rudd government is when it comes to economic management and business interests.

The Rudd government are getting it wrong. The Senate Select Committee on Fuel and Energy released its report on 7 May and found that the proposed CPRS will not succeed in reducing global emissions and will cost Australia jobs. That is a wake-up call for the government. Australia needs effective legislation that provides real solutions. The government’s CPRS does not achieve this. It is a reckless and rushed bill which will hurt the Australian economy, it is a reckless and rushed bill which will hurt industry in Townsville and it is a reckless and rushed bill that will prejudice the jobs of 1,870 good families in my home city of Townsville. For those reasons I cannot support the legislation.