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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5514

Mr ADAMS (6:32 PM) —It is always good to follow such a good speaker for regional Australia as the member for New England. He is a prime example of the difference between somebody who gives good representation and leadership on this important issue of carbon pollution reduction and those people who claim to represent regional Australia but are showing the woeful leadership both in this House and out in the general public that I think in the long term will be the end of them.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills currently being put forward to deal with climate change are some of the most important bills that have come before the parliament. Whether you agree with the concepts put forward for the global warming argument or you are still sitting on the fence, which we know some are, you would know that change occurs, and when natural change occurs we as a nation have to be prepared to face it head-on and ensure that we can adapt to that fickleness. In designing the Carbon Pollution Production Scheme, the government’s primary objective has been to look at getting the balance right. We need to reduce carbon pollution but not forget that at the same time we need to support economic growth. There has been much discussion around the world, and the general opinion of both those fully in favour and those still sitting on the fence is that we should do something. The argument then comes down to when, and that is what seems to be in dispute.

I must say I am very surprised at the Greens in this debate. To oppose a carbon pollution reduction scheme on the basis that the targets are not high enough is nonsensical. For pity’s sake, we need a scheme. If and when they get into government, they could set a greater target. In the meantime, let us get the scheme ready and operating. The coalition is obviously not going to do anything. By opposing it, the opposition sets the plans back years, if not decades.

At this stage we need to have a practical target, as we must consider the impact on jobs, especially during these difficult economic times. That is why the Minister for Climate Change and Water and the Prime Minister have decided to delay the start of the scheme for one year and commit to a fixed-price phase from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. This gives a trial period, if you like, a period when industry can work out the best way to deal with this legislation and make properly informed decisions. Industry need that certainty so they can plan investments in new technology and they need a time line so that they can bring it into operation as the targets come into full force.

Australia has done a lot to be a leader in many fields. We have the opportunity now to set the agenda in dealing with climate change in many areas. In clean coal technology, for example, the Prime Minister has set up an institute which many countries around the world are joining. We do not want to crawl after other nations. We want to drag some of them up with us and forward with us, and probably to sell them some of our technology and create new jobs into the future. So Australia should go to Copenhagen from a position of strength and certainty, with strong targets but ones that we can deliver.

For trade exposed industries the government will be providing free permits to guard against the risk of carbon leakage and, of course, to support their jobs. It will also provide a global recession buffer as part of the assistance package for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries for the first five years of the CPRS. It will also provide an additional five per cent free permits for the EITE activities eligible for 90 per cent assistance and an additional 10 per cent free permits for EITE activities eligible for 60 per cent assistance. And there will be ongoing assistance for those companies to ensure that there is a smooth transition while they remain fully productive.

Change happens, whether it be climate related or not, and it is sensible to plan for the future. I know from my work with my House committee—where we have an inquiry going on that relates to the rural industry and climate change—about all the issues that come before us which we need to deal with. The rural sector is taking the issues very seriously now, as it is the farmers who are on the front line of climate change. They are looking to manage risk through renewing farm management practices, by improving seasonal forecasting and by spreading risk to sectors better adapted to climate change. It is clear that we need more accurate data and we need to be able to fund more research into rural and regional areas. I believe we need government to be aware of the need for training and modern communications to get the research to those who are struggling to make the necessary changes to improve their viability and productivity. As one of the submissions states:

Australian agriculture has a long history of resilience and innovation, adapting to one of the world’s harshest and most variable climates while supplying dynamic global markets.

Climate change is no stranger to the man on the land but we require constant and ongoing assistance in the form of research and development to ensure we continue to be competitive.

Going back to the business environment, if one starts delving into the direction of many companies, we find that they have already factored climate change considerations into their business plans. Renewable energy has been around for some time now. In Tasmania we have had renewable energy since 1914. We are the ultimate green, renewable energy state. Hydro Tasmania, originally the Hydro Electric Department, was established in 1914, when it was given the task of developing the Waddamana Power Scheme in the Lyons electorate to oversee the general electrification of Tasmania. All over Australia wind power is now being developed through wind farms, and a few wave power projects have also been trialled. I think that the south-west coast of Tasmania would be an ideal place for some of the trialling to occur. I understand that the wave movement there is what they look for in these trials on wave power.

Many are looking for alternatives to the petrol engine too—not just diesel or gas but also electric cell cars, either powered by traditional electricity, or partly fuelled and partly powered by electricity, or even of course hydrogen power and fuel cells splitting water. None of these are out of the question now. The time has come to really produce alternatives both in transport power and the types of energy required for domestic, commercial and industrial use.

I know we have not got long to go so I will say that there is no option but to support these bills. We must get these bills through both houses of the parliament so that communities, businesses and industries have a baseline from which to work in lowering carbon emissions across our nation. I support the bills.