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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5519

Ms REA (6:53 PM) —I rise to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills this evening. Can I say in response to the previous speaker’s comments: if he describes the government’s legislation as a ‘crayon drawing’, I suggest that the coalition’s position is more like the famous Rorschach test, where you have an ink blot thrown on a piece of paper and every individual is asked to look at it and tell us what they can see. It seems that their position as a coalition is one of individuals looking at unrealistic drawings and trying to dream up something that comes out of their imagination, rather than dealing with the real issues of climate change.

I support this legislation because the sooner we face the economic reality of climate change the better. It is something that I have believed for a long time—and, indeed, was very strongly supportive of as an election commitment during the election campaign. But I do also support the changes in this legislation which accept the reality of the global economic recession and actually put in place a scheme that delays the start by one year, and reduces the price per tonne of carbon to $10 for one year, in acknowledgement that while we are going through difficult economic times our business community, and in fact the whole community, needs a greater period in which to transition towards this scheme.

But for the reason why we need this scheme I need go no further than my own electorate of Bonner, an electorate that is right in the south-eastern suburbs of Brisbane, the fastest growing area in Australia, and a significant part of what makes up the third largest capital city in the country. I often describe the electorate of Bonner as the lungs of Brisbane. It contains some of the most beautiful environmental areas that you would find in any major capital city, particularly at Moreton Bay and on Moreton Island, which is in the bay. It also contains beautiful environmental areas that have been protected over time. It is part of the Koala Coast. It has wonderful creek catchments that provide very significant environmental areas for that local community, all bordered by the Brisbane River. At the same time the electorate of Bonner contains some of the fastest growing suburbs in the city. It has suburbs in areas like Gumdale, Wakerley and Manly West that have grown rapidly—by 3½ thousand people in three years in one suburb. It also contains the Port of Brisbane and Australia TradeCoast.

So what my electorate shows is a snapshot of the challenges that we face—the lifestyle, both environmental and social, that we want to protect within our cities but also the challenges that we meet through population growth and the need to continue to stimulate economic activity and provide local employment. That is why I am very pleased to see the government take the initiative of introducing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

But what I cannot support is the amendment that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I think if you look at this amendment you will see that it demonstrates what we are really debating in this House tonight. We are not debating the need to protect our environment; we are actually still debating whether climate change exists. We are still debating the fundamental science, even though it is now the prevailing view of experts across the world that climate change is a reality, that it has been sped up by human activity but that it can actually be reversed by human action—and that is what we want to see happen. But, instead, on this day, 3 June 2009, we in Australia are still debating whether climate change even exists and we are still responding to the majority of climate change deniers who exist on the benches opposite within the coalition.

What we are also obviously really dealing with is the massive division that exists within the coalition parties—indeed, I suspect that even within the individual parties, the Liberal Party and the National Party, there are major divisions. So we are listening to speaker after speaker talk about political divisions, denying a fundamental issue, when we should be debating how we can move this country forward to support a global solution on climate change. We must remember: this is the party that would not sign Kyoto.

As a result of those discussions, and as you listen to the debate, particularly from those opposite, you will see many smokescreens put up by those who desperately want to see action on climate change but who are obviously being held back by the forces within their own parties that will not even accept the need to move. So we hear a lot about voluntary action, about the need for environmental initiatives: ‘Let’s put money into renewable energy; let’s recycle; let’s get people to change their light bulbs; let’s get people to save water.’ But we are not just talking about small changes in human behaviour to deal with environmental issues; we are actually dealing with a massive economic challenge, and that is why the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme must be supported.

The reality, as I have said, is that climate change is real. Although individuals and households throughout this country deserve much praise for the change of behaviour that we have seen—from our children up we have seen a whole range of ways in which people are taking individual initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint—the reality is that we need an economic strategy, because unless we start to fundamentally change the way that our industries operate and the way that we do business we will not get the sorts of reductions in emissions that we need to preserve our planet and to sustain our lifestyle.

We also know that there is international action on climate change: there is legislation before the United States; there are 27 governments that have employed emissions trading schemes; and there are all sorts of initiatives across a number of countries, both western and indeed even in the Asian economies, which are in their own way acknowledging that industry has to change its behaviour if we are really going to deal with this issue.

Because of what is, I think, a redundant debate—a lot of time spent on diversions around whether or not climate change exits—we are not as a parliament and as a community actually having the sort of debate on this legislation that we really should be having. What should we be debating? We should be debating the achievable and realistic targets that we can set. We should be debating what the best way is to give certainty to businesses about this change, in terms of introducing an emissions trading scheme, so that they can start to plan for the transition that will be required within their own businesses and for all of us as a community to in fact move this scheme forward.

We should be debating what is the best bargaining position that we can take to the table at Copenhagen. I love this argument put forward by the opposition that we should wait and see. They said, ‘Let’s wait and see,’ on the economy; we actually said, ‘No, we need to take action now to buffer us against the impacts of a global recession.’ And I think that the figures released today have demonstrated that when governments take action, acknowledge a problem and deal with it, you actually get positive results. If we had waited to see what was going on, as the opposition leader wanted us to do, we would be in a very different economic position today.

The same applies to climate change and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We cannot go to an international bargaining table without a position. We cannot walk in and say, ‘We want to take leadership on this; we as a country are desperate to participate in the global solution to this problem,’ without even being able to put a real position on the table. By the way, this is a lot more than a crayon drawing and definitely not just an ink blot on a screen saying, ‘You tell me what you see in that picture.’ We have got some real details. We need to present them to the international community.

I say in conclusion that I think it is a shame that this debate is still at such a basic level and that we as a parliament cannot actually rise beyond that to have a real, genuine debate about detail. I think it is a major shame that the opposition party in this parliament can create a furphy such as this amendment to justify their own political divisions.

In conclusion, I do support this legislation. This legislation is of course focusing on the very significant green issues that we must face as a country and as a globe. Can I also say: go the Maroons!