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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5497


Mr TURNOUR (5:18 PM) —I rise to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills, a historic economic and environmental reform for Australia. For the first time in this nation’s history, we will be moving to place a cap on carbon pollution. We are not doing this alone. The United States, Europe, New Zealand and other countries are moving to introduce emissions trading schemes—27 countries in the European Union and 28 states in the United States. We know that the US congress is now looking at legislation and the United States President is committed to an emissions trading scheme. We do not need to act alone; we need to act in concert with the world. But we need to show leadership and we need to demand leadership of the world. I welcome the efforts of the new United States President.

When we were elected the Rudd government delivered on our commitment to ratify the Kyoto protocol. This legislation further demonstrates our commitment to take action on climate change. The CPRS, our emissions trading scheme, is designed to dovetail with emissions trading schemes being developed in other parts of the world. It is the result of detailed policy development. We had the Garnaut report. We have had a green paper and a white paper. We have had draft legislation. Now we have brought this final legislation before the parliament. Throughout this process we have listened and responded to the need to protect jobs while we build the carbon constrained economy of tomorrow. The scheme has been delayed for a year in response to the global recession. It will now be starting in July 2011. There will be a phase-in period including a fixed price on carbon of $10 for the first year and, following this, an auction based scheme. The phase-in period recognises the real need for us to protect jobs as we move to this carbon constrained economy.

We understand that industry needs certainty and time to transition to the new carbon constrained world that we are moving towards. That is why emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries will receive considerable assistance as part of the scheme’s introduction. This has been increased as a result of the global recession over the first five years of the scheme. The Rudd government understands the concerns of business and does not want these industries to be forced to close down and move overseas, effectively moving pollution to another jurisdiction. The government has responded to industry concerns and the need to protect jobs. Industry needs and is demanding certainty. The passing of this legislation will provide that certainty.

You do not need to believe me; listen to what the industry groups have said. In a media release of 4 May, the Business Council of Australia said:

In the interests of business certainty, the BCA calls on the Senate to pass legislation this year to establish a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme …

The Australian Industry Group, also in a media release on 4 May 2009, said:

Ai Group supports the passage of the CPRS legislation this year … This is critical to establish the degree of certainty business requires in assessing medium and longer-term investment decisions. It is particularly important in the current context because of the central role that business investment needs to play in recovery from the recession.

Businesses are calling for this to go through to assist our recovery from recession. They need to take long-term investment decisions, some of them up to 30 years, and they are looking to us to bring this legislation before the House, for the opposition to pass it and for it to pass through the Senate.

We also recognise that we need to protect the environment, not only the economy, with this legislation. We have responded to the need to stabilise emissions in the atmosphere at a concentration of 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent or lower, as recommended by the Garnaut report. That is why we increased our target to 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 if there is a world agreement in Copenhagen.

There is a significant event coming up at the end of the year, the Copenhagen conference on climate change, and we are committed to doing what we can. This legislation is an important part of building momentum for that conference. Also, we will take to that conference clear targets that will enable us to work with the world to make that commitment of maintaining concentrations of below 450 parts per million, if we gain the support of other countries around the world.

As the member for Leichhardt, I understand how important it is to take action on climate change. Cairns is home to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and wet tropical rainforests. Scientists agree that both are at risk from climate change. These icons are not only natural wonders but underpin our community’s economy and way of life. Tourism generates more than $2 billion in economic activity in my region and supports more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. Tourism is dependent on these environmental icons. Communities in tropical North Queensland are demanding action on climate change. Businesses and the local community where I come from want the government to take action on climate change and they want the opposition to support that. I would suggest that the opposition, with their continuing opposition and delay to our proposals, need to get out and listen to the community more.

The Rudd government are also moving to support the community to take action on climate change. We need business to do that and we also need members of the community to do that. The stimulus package contains important measures to insulate homes. The government will also be moving to roll out its $10,000 loan scheme in the next few months to assist households create more energy efficient homes. The new mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020 will also continue to support the rollout of renewable energy, including solar energy. The government, though, does recognise that you cannot introduce a carbon pollution reduction scheme without cost to the community. We understand that there will be a cost and we are concerned particularly about the cost to low- and middle-income earners from increasing power generation costs and the flow-on costs to their electricity bills. That is why we have developed a detailed package of assistance, including assistance to help low- and middle-income households adjust to a low-pollution future. We will be providing support to pensioners, carers and other members of the community who will see their power bills increase. We understand that. That is why we put in place support for those groups—low- and middle-income earners. The vast majority of them will get support and will feel no financial impact as a result of the introduction of this scheme because of the support measures we are putting in place.

Although mandatory requirements under this scheme will not start until July 2011, there are a number of measures that will need to start before then. Regulations on the rate of assistance to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries will be set, following continued consultation with the industry. The Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority will be established as a result of this legislation. This authority is critical to the functioning of the scheme and will need time to develop relationships with businesses to ensure that everything is in place when the system is scheduled to begin. Scheme caps will be set before July 2010—after Copenhagen but well before the scheme commences. Landholders will be able to earn permits from increased carbon stored in forests from 1 July next year. Auctions of permits will commence in 2010-11 for the 2012-13 financial year. There is a real need for us to get this legislation through the parliament to create certainty for business and ensure that the new regulatory environment on carbon pollution can be developed. We need certainty for business but, as we know, establishing that regulatory environment and ensuring that those auctions can take place in a timely manner—which is what this legislation does—are essential. That is why it is critically important that we continue to progress this legislation through the House this year.

The Australian government is committed to taking action on climate change. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is at the centre of this commitment. The opposition has brought forward no concrete plans to tackle climate change and, instead, continues to seek to delay action. The Australian people want leadership on this issue. There is total confusion among the opposition on this issue. I come from Queensland. I just heard a member of the National Party making a contribution a little while ago. In Queensland we have the Liberal National Party, the LNP. Members opposite belong to that party. I am quite confused about what they actually stand for in Queensland.

Malcolm Turnbull appeared on the Insiders program on Sunday, 31 May. Barrie Cassidy asked him:

Are you still in favour of an emissions trading scheme?

Mr Turnbull responded:

Yes Barrie, I am … the world is moving very solidly in the direction of an emissions trading scheme, most notably the Americans. So yes, I’ve got no doubt we will have an emissions trading scheme in Australia. That’s my view.

So Malcolm Turnbull is effectively out there saying he supports an emissions trading scheme. You would think the opposition would support this legislation, based on those words. And then there was Barnaby Joyce, a day later, saying:

I have serious doubts that we’ll ever have an emissions trading scheme …

And I’ve serious doubts that what happens in Copenhagen is going to be of any consequence beyond earnest looks and sweeping motherhood statements and promises that we will do something at some foreseeable time.

Clearly the opposition are divided. They have no policy on this. I do not know what the Liberal National Party in Queensland stands for. The Leader of the National Party in the Senate, who is from Queensland, is raving on about one thing, while the Leader of the Opposition is saying another. They have no policies. The government needs to get this legislation through the House and the Senate this year. It is clearly in the interests of business and the Australian community. I support this legislation in the House and urge the opposition to provide support as well.