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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5525


Mr GEORGANAS (7:24 PM) —If there is any single issue on which members of the electorate of Hindmarsh write, telephone, lobby, campaign, invest their own hard-earned savings or simply express their opinion in virtual unison, it is our need as a nation to collectively tackle the causes of climate change. Again, if there is any single issue on which the constituents of Hindmarsh speak as one, it is our need to do what we can to leave our world for future generations in a state of which we can be proud.

My electorate of Hindmarsh—and I am sure it is the same with everyone else’s electorate—is not shy about expressing itself. Whether it is through surveys completed during the days of the previous government or during subsequent years—with hardly a blip on the radar to suggest an alternative interpretation—the issue of climate change has consistently been the most concerning and important issue identified by constituents around the electorate as requiring government action. The community has said in no uncertain terms that it does not just want action on climate change; it demands action on climate change. Nothing could be clearer.

As the elected member responsible for representing the good people of Hindmarsh, I am here today to express their views and to represent their desire and their demand that Australia bite the bullet and get on with a substantial and comprehensive plan and framework with which to decrease the pollution we have been spewing out into the environment for so many years. We need to get on with the legislation to guide the Australian community away from increasing pollution—on which the global scientific consensus is that it is contributing to global warming and the resultant climate change and intensified climatic variability, of which we already have so much alarming evidence. The evidence we are hearing is now regularly, almost invariably, worse than the worst-case scenarios projected by the scientific modelling applications available around the world.

Members of my electorate of Hindmarsh hear this. Members of the communities within Adelaide’s western suburbs hear this. Members of communities all around Australia read this and take it on board and, in good faith, resolve to adopt what measures are accessible by them, to support what actions are known to them and to invest their confidence in a commitment to genuinely reshape the Australian energy market to decrease our national carbon pollution to the levels required for a sustainable future for ourselves and successive generations.

Over recent weeks, one fact has become crystal clear: no Australian can expect any national action to decrease climate-changing pollution from anyone other than the Australian Labor Party. We know that energy demand will be met under Labor’s framework for tackling climate change, and it will be met responsibly, with due regard for the state of our nation, our evolving economy, our fragile agriculture sector and our natural landscape. Energy demand will be met by Australian inventiveness marrying natural and sustainable resources—in which we are so rich—and by the private sector making the strategic investments that will position our economy and our society well for the benefit of future generations. This is a period of our nation in which 20th century technologies, last century’s technologies, are increasingly replaced with the more advanced, effective, efficient and reliable technologies being developed now for the future.

Opposition to action on climate change comes as no surprise. Elements of the energy sector have campaigned on what they have described as the ‘loss of jobs’ that they say will result from the carbon emissions trading scheme. Recently, there was a report that stated as much, but it contained figures that revealed strong and ongoing growth in jobs within their own employment projections. The claims of calamitous ruination are unfounded, pronounced as a device, a tactic, to try and position themselves for unwarranted public assistance. Such assertions clearly deserve no further consideration. Similar campaigns have attempted, and will no doubt continue to attempt, to dissuade the public from continuing their support of action against climate change. Attempts to generate fear of economic penalties among the most vulnerable in our society—those on fixed incomes and government benefits, for instance—and assertions that all the financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions will be passed on to consumers, who will be financially penalised for companies’ continuing reliance on coal, for instance, are equally disingenuous.

Key to Australia reducing our carbon footprint is the domestic sector—the households throughout the nation who consume power in the course of living their everyday lives. The government has included in the architecture of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme a system by which households will be compensated for anticipated increases in the cost of power. The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs introduced the bill written to cover the increasing power bills of those Australians needing additional support. As the minister said:

This bill delivers on the government’s commitments, that:

  • pensioners, seniors, carers, veterans, people with a disability, the unemployed, students and others will receive additional support, above indexation, to fully meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the scheme;
  • low-income households will receive additional support, above indexation, to fully meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the scheme; and
  • middle-income households will receive additional support, above indexation, to help meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the scheme.

This is what the government promised low- and middle-income earners, this is what the government has delivered in the legislation here before us now and this is what the government will ensure accompanies the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, protecting those in our community who need the protection of the government from power price increases.

It is not just Centrelink and Veterans’ Affairs clients and low-income and middle-income families that the government is committed to assisting. Self-funded retirees are front and centre in Labor’s positive thinking and action on this issue of assistance. The senior Australian tax offset will be adjusted to compensate self-funded retirees for future power price increases—those who have worked and saved throughout their lives, dedicated their working lives to saving and investing more than they consume and who are preparing to provide for their own retirement. These are savvy Australians and they will continue to be rewarded for their efforts by this Labor government through the increase in the senior Australian tax offset, which will rise to a level whereby, from 1 July 2011, eligible senior Australians will have no tax liability until their income reaches $31,474 for singles and $27,680 for each member of a couple. From 1 July 2012, eligible senior Australians will have no tax liability until their income reaches $32,948 for singles and $29,547 for each member of a couple.

The domestic sector is vital for the effective decrease in national carbon emissions. Households represent a highly substantial portion of the national energy consumer market, and that is the sector that is capable of making the most substantial, most immediate and most affordable contribution to decreasing our overall power requirements and consequent greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government has already shown its commitment to assisting Australian households to decrease emissions through numerous measures including, but certainly not limited to, the $1,600 subsidy in home insulation purchase and installation. It has been terrific to witness the development of complementary schemes coming from state governments. In South Australia, the Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme has been steadily taking shape with the specific aim of assisting households increase their domestic power efficiencies using less power, smarter. As similar schemes roll out around the nation, we continue to see an amazing uptake of federal government assistance in the purchase and installation of photovoltaic power cells to increase households’ energy self-sufficiency.

It is not just young, green idealists that are active in this area. If there is one group of people within the electorate of Hindmarsh who passionately embrace photovoltaic and similar technology, who are most passionate about making their own personal contribution towards decreasing our national dirty power consumption, it is the 50-plus age group. Just the idea that their commitment and investment in renewable energy generation may somehow make it easier for the big polluters to continue polluting our world, that their decreasing pollution may just increase the extent to which others can pollute, riled and angered these people and they have demanded political action. Labor is in the business of decreasing greenhouse gas pollution, not just in swapping one sector’s portion for another. The electorate is clear about their expectations, clear in their support for action against climate change and the pollution that contributes so much to it, and clear in their belief that Labor will stick by our principles and commitment to chart a course into a system that will serve us and future generations well for many, many decades to come. I commend the bills to the House.