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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5447

Dr SOUTHCOTT (1:51 PM) —When this parliament takes any decision there are impacts on individuals and impacts on families. It is the role of the parliament to weigh up its decisions, always keeping in mind what will be the impact on Australian families, the impact on workers and the impact on individuals. I find it extraordinary that we are being asked to consider this carbon pollution reduction legislation for a scheme that will begin in 2012, in 2½ years time—a scheme which has already been delayed—without some very important information.

The world will gather at the end of the year in Copenhagen to come up with a global response on climate change, on how the world will act post 2012. Australia contributes only 1.4 per cent of carbon emissions. There is no Australian solution to climate change; it has to be a global solution to climate change. I find it extraordinary that we have not been told what the impact of this scheme will be on jobs. Anyone who saw the Minister for Climate Change and Water fudging around this issue on Lateline would have been horrified. She was simply unable to say what will be the impact, when we expect that there will be one million Australians out of work over the next two years.

Other people have looked at this. Concept Economics modelling has shown that there will be 23½ thousand jobs lost across Australia’s minerals industry by 2020, and 66,480 by 2030, as a direct result of this emissions trading scheme. That is why we believe it is prudent to have the Productivity Commission look at what will be the impacts of this scheme on our national economy, by region and by industry. We believe it is important to know what will be the shape of the global agreement coming out of Copenhagen. We believe it is important to understand what will be the nature of the United States scheme going forward. And we believe it is important that everyone has a very clear idea of what will be the economic impacts of this scheme.

There is no doubt there is enormous community opinion in favour of acting on climate change—there is no doubt. But we need to get the response right, because a badly designed emissions trading scheme would be worse than no scheme at all. One of the most important areas to consider is the energy-intensive trade-exposed industries. They have been glossed over in this legislation. They are exposed to trade and they are a very important part of the Australian economy. A wide range of voices right across the spectrum have been warning of the damage that this scheme will do to Australia’s economy and to jobs.

One of the things about the government is that they talk the talk on jobs but they do not walk the walk on jobs. When it comes to changing our workplace relations framework, they simply will not say what the impact will be on jobs. When it comes to an emissions trading scheme, which will have an impact right across the economy, they will not say what the impact will be on jobs.

I also reject this notion that the Liberal and National parties did nothing in the area of climate change. We were one of the first governments anywhere in the world to establish anything like the Australian Greenhouse Office. We were actually one of the initiators behind the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. We had a big role in coming up with ideas like reforesting rainforest in South-East Asia—a direct, practical contribution to reducing the amount of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. In opposition, we have come up with a lot of practical suggestions, including the use of biochar, greater use of geosequestration and looking at the notion of a voluntary exchange. There are a whole range of ideas. I would like to congratulate the shadow minister for climate change and the environment for the ideas that he has been offering.

We have said that the government is free to go to Copenhagen with a bipartisan position to reduce our emissions. But what we do not want to see is a poorly thought-through emissions trading scheme which will have a detrimental impact on working Australians, on working families and on Australian jobs. It is about taking a balanced and prudent approach which will protect the environment but also protect Australian jobs and working families.

The opposition are in favour of an emissions trading scheme but we are not in favour of a poorly designed emissions trading scheme. A poorly designed emissions trading scheme would be worse than no scheme at all. It is for that reason that we moved an amendment asking that consideration of this legislation be deferred until we have had the Copenhagen summit, until we have some idea of what the Obama administration will be doing in this area and until we have had the Productivity Commission give us a very clear idea of what the impact will be on the economy, on the regions, on industries and, most importantly of all, on jobs.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being approximately 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.