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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5535


Ms BURKE (8:07 PM) —I rise to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related legislation. In my 11 years in parliament this is some of the most seminal legislation I have had to talk to; this legislation will impact on our environment, our country and indeed our globe more than other legislation I have had to speak to. The only other legislation I can relate as being as important as this was the time we did not get to debate legislation when the Howard government sent us to war. The Rudd government understand that climate change is real. We understand and accept mainstream scientific opinion in respect to this issue. We understand the consequences of a failure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and the implication that it may have for future generations. We have a responsibility to the Australian people and to future generations to act on climate change and to act now. That is why we have designed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a scheme that gets the balance right between reducing carbon pollution and supporting economic growth.

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election we made it clear that once in government we would do what is in the national interest and take action on climate change. That is exactly what we are doing with the introduction of this bill into parliament. It is clearly in the national interest to get on with the job of tackling climate change; it is in the interests of business, the economy and above all the environment to move forward with the implementation of the scheme, and that begins with the passage of this legislation.

Much has been said by the opposition recently about the debt and the burden we will place on future generations by our borrowings to sustain the economy at the moment. What all of them have failed to talk about is the debt and the burden they are placing on future generations by failing to pass legislation dealing with climate change. They have failed to admit that, in their 12 years in government, they did nothing on this and they are passing on the burden of that neglect to future generations. If we do not get it right we will be the first generation to leave behind a scenario that is worse for the generation to follow than the scenario we inherited.

Climate change is an issue that has resonated on a local level with the average citizen across Australia and this is certainly the case in my electorate of Chisholm. People are genuinely concerned about this issue and they want to see their government introduce reform to bring about change. They want to see change to a lower pollution and a lower carbon economy that reduces Australia’s contribution to climate change. In many instances members of the public are showing tremendous initiative and proving that we can all individually make a difference in the transition to a greener economy.

Whitehorse 2 Solar is a group that covers the City of Whitehorse, one of the local councils in my electorate. Whitehorse 2 Solar is an excellent idea, enabling individual environmentally conscious households to join together and significantly reduce solar panel costs, making solar energy more affordable to working families in the community. This group was an initiative of two Whitehorse locals, Maria Anastasi and Lea Caasari, who must be commended for the initiative displayed in their efforts to promote solar energy within the community. Caring for our environment is a responsibility of each and every one of us and the current times of financial hardship have not dented resolve or deterred people from making an effort to reduce their impact on climate change. Whitehorse 2 Solar is an example of how ordinary people are making a real difference in our community by channelling a passion for the environment into practical ideas.

Just last week I had the pleasure of presenting a petition to the parliament from one of my constituents, Mary Whiteside, who is a passionate advocate for the environment and a real grassroots campaigner. She is steadfast in her quest to promote clean energy and on the need for both the government and individuals to take action on climate change. She spent considerable time doorknocking house to house in Box Hill and surrounding suburbs, inviting people to sign her petition which calls for the development of alternative energies to support the move to a low-carbon economy. Mary is not part of an established group; she wanted to demonstrate that individual citizens are concerned about this and need to stand up for the environment.

Many of my constituents have shown a strong interest in the government’s generous incentives for households to embrace environmentally friendly initiatives. My office has been inundated with inquiries about energy-efficient homes, a key feature of our Nation Building and Jobs Plan that offers government funded ceiling insulation and rebates for solar hot water systems. These are practical measures from the government aimed at setting Australia up for a low-carbon future. They are initiatives that have proved highly successful due to public demand and public support for change. The success of this scheme is reflective of the community sentiment that climate change is real and that it is imperative we act to mitigate its effects.

Many of my local schools are embracing environmental education and doing their bit on a practical level to move towards a greener future. Syndal South Primary School has undertaken several projects which reflect their commitment to establishing, maintaining and promoting sustainable environmental practices in the community. The school is fortunate to have large grounds, which have been enhanced through years of planting trees and undertaking environmentally appropriate projects. One of the school’s great environmental features is a large greenhouse supported by a water tank with a solar powered pump and a capillary-fed watering system. The greenhouse is used by students to propagate vegetables and native plant seedlings for the school ground. They also use two other large 10,000-litre tanks that collect rainwater to help establish native plants. As a result of the school’s commitment to environmental education they have gained recognition within the wider community and have been promoted through the Monash Sustainability Centre at Monash University.

So too has the Glen Waverley Campus of Wesley College, which is a proud participant in the Sustainable Schools Program. Initiatives such as paper, glass, plastic and aluminium recycling, planting noni trees and using calico shopping bags are second nature at the campus. They also collect rainwater to water the plants propagated in their greenhouse, which they then use to regenerate the school grounds. Wattle Park Primary School recently received a Sustainability in Schools award from their local council for their proven commitment to the environment. Students from all levels of the school have been involved in planting and looking after a vegetable garden, the produce of which is sold back to the school community. Grey water is collected from drinking taps and piped directly to the vegetable gardens, whilst student toilets are supplied with rainwater. The school also uses solar panels, which have significantly reduced its electricity costs. They are implementing a number of initiatives which have reduced packaging and rubbish.

Individual schools and community groups in my electorate are taking action to sustain our environment and highlight the implications of climate change. They are thinking globally by acting locally. It is time for this parliament to ensure that public sentiment is reflected on a national scale. That can happen with the implementation of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme before the parliament tonight. This overwhelming public sentiment to act on climate change is something shared by the Rudd government. We have a clear-cut position: to implement a scheme that will reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of five per cent by 2020 with a capacity to increase that to 25 per cent if there is an ambitious global agreement to achieve the 450 parts per million goal.

Our proposed scheme is also very mindful of the potential impact on jobs, particularly during these difficult economic times, and this is reflected through the industry support and various other measures detailed in this legislation. Our position supports jobs today whilst putting in place a scheme that will create low-pollution jobs for the future.

Treasury modelling shows that all major employment sectors in the economy will continue to grow out to 2020 as we reduce our emissions through this cap-and-trade scheme. Importantly, the government will provide sustainable assistance to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, particularly in the first five years of the scheme, which will include additional assistance in the form of a global recession buffer. According to the Treasury modelling, this will ensure that employment in these industries will continue to grow once this scheme is implemented. We can play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to grow the economy.

Contrast the certainty of the government’s position with the huge confusion and disarray of the coalition. The inconsistencies we have seen from the Liberals and Nationals in regard to this climate change policy stem from one core factor: they have a coalition littered with climate change sceptics, climate change deniers and climate change uncertainty. Whilst the government is getting on with the job of legislating a scheme to mitigate the effects of climate change, the coalition are having a very public debate about whether or not climate change even exists. In doing so, they are ignoring mainstream scientific opinion and conventional logic and rationale. More importantly, however, they are ignoring the economic cost of inaction, failing to provide business with any certainty and damaging the chances of a global deal at Copenhagen in December.

Indeed, as we in the government have said time and again, the cost of inaction will have a greater impact on jobs and the economy than reasonable action on climate change. Treasury modelling has again demonstrated that economies that defer action face long-term costs around 15 per cent higher than those that take action now. We also know the potentially devastating effect inaction will have on our iconic environmental assets such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling Basin. We cannot afford to run the risk of allowing that to happen.

Indeed, the Australian today reports that the Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear on the Insiders that an emissions trading scheme will come into effect one day. He made it quite clear he is hoping and praying that the US administration will get their scheme up; somehow that will lead the way for the opposition to make a decision. I think it is poor policy, on something as vital, something of such national significance and importance, to sit back and wait and hope and pray that, somewhere, somebody else will lead the way and somehow we can just follow in their wake. I am reminded of when we went into the war in Iraq. Again we watched and prayed and then went the way of the US, as opposed to standing on our own two feet and making our own decision based on how that initiative impacted on our nation at that time.

As a parent of young children you get the joy of going to some very amusing animated films. The most recent one I went to was Monsters vs Aliens. One of the funnier jokes in that involved a prehistoric sea creature who had been taken out of the ocean and locked up in the bowels of some great bunker by the US for years and years, and suddenly he was allowed out to fight the aliens. He jumps out of the tank and he says: ‘Oh! The earth is warming. That’s a convenient truth!’ The adults in the audience all thought it was amusing and laughed. The children did not get it, but they get climate change. They get that the environment is warming and they get the fact that if we do not do something now their future is in jeopardy.