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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5561


Mr CHEESEMAN (9:58 PM) —I rise today to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and associated bills. I am pleased to be able to contribute to this debate. It is important for Australia, it is important in an international sense and it is also very important to my own electorate of Corangamite. This debate includes a range of bills, focusing around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009, which contains the detailed provisions of the emissions trading scheme.

As we all know, this bill is about tackling climate change. It is about how we turn around the terrible legacy of unfettered carbon emissions that now threatens to engulf whole island nations through sea level rises, a legacy that threatens to decimate biodiversity and that is leading to creating firestorms and flooding events of an unprecedented level and scale.

The point of this legislation is to finally put in place some real social and environmental rationality and values into our society’s future development. We are putting a price on carbon and creating a market that will hopefully lead to the development of new industries that are much less polluting or to substantial modifications to existing high-carbon-pollution industries.

This bill is the start of a great industrial transition here in Australia. This bill has clear aims and targets. The government’s commitments on targets are an unconditional commitment to reduce carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020 and a commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 15 per cent by 2020 if there is an agreement where other major developing economies commit to substantial restrained emissions and advanced economies make commitments comparable to those of Australia. And there is a clear target of reducing carbon pollution by 25 per cent by 2020 if the world agrees to a global deal to stabilise levels of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million or lower.

I want to say something about Australia’s role in the world generally on this question and talk about the consequences in my electorate. First, I want to say how good it is to see an Australian government that is leading on this question. We are now, thankfully, a world away from the previous government, which was stuck in official denial and did not care. That was their policy. The signing of the Kyoto treaty was a great thing and that signified a great change in Australia. I do believe that Australia has an overwhelming moral obligation to lead on this issue. I am also pleased to be a part of a government that is now leading the world on this matter.

Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world with one of the highest carbon pollution footprints on this planet per person. Victorian MPs, particularly, have a moral obligation on this matter. Per head Victorians are the world’s worst polluters because of our dependency on coal power. Australians and of course Victorians achieved our highly developed status at the cost of being one of the biggest contributors per head to changing the world’s weather patterns. So we absolutely do have an obligation.

But the whole world must contribute now. There is no escape for anyone on this question. It is up to all of us. I can understand less developed countries pointing the finger at countries like Australia. I can understand them saying, ‘We are not going to be stuck as poor undeveloped countries, because you have done nothing.’ But the fact is that unless the whole world acts the whole world will be poorer for it. Millions of people will be starving and dislocated because of climate change unless we act as an international community. Much of the beauty and the richness of our planet will be lost. I congratulate the Rudd government on the way that it is conducting negotiations to try to develop a new international agreement on this question.

I think the bill is a good mixture of leading and of providing business certainty and a clear transition that takes account of Australian jobs. The legislation goes all of this way whilst offering incentives for higher-level cuts to emissions across the world.

Before I go more to the detail of this bill let us look for a moment at what climate change will do in my own electorate of Corangamite. The impacts on Corangamite will be severe. One of the engine rooms of my local economy is of course the tourism industry and this industry could be devastated. With sea level rises the Great Ocean Road will be breached, possibly in place after place. Whole chunks of my electorate, particularly along the Bellarine Peninsula and the Surf Coast, will be inundated. The important sections of the Queenscliff Peninsula and areas from Breamlea to Barwon Heads will be severed from the mainland and become isolated islands. More important pieces of public recreational infrastructure will also be inundated. Hundreds of private homes will be inundated. Public land will be lost. The Great Ocean Road surrounds the foreshore environment of the Otways and that is of course now highly vulnerable to firestorm events. Many local farmers are already struggling with climate change. The cost of mitigation will be hundreds of millions of dollars and livelihoods and lives may all be lost. Major industries such as Shell, the Port of Geelong and Alcoa are threatened. Nobody on this planet is unaffected by climate change. We have to act.

I appeal to the opposition to stop playing political games with such an important decision in the nation’s history. Businesses need certainty. Australian businesses need certainty so that they can fully participate in responding to climate change.

The less developed world quite rightly wants to see the credentials of our government and commitments from countries like ours to take full consideration of the mess that we have left the planet. It wants certainty. It does not want a message of ‘no commitments until others commit’. The less developed world quite rightly wants countries like Australia, a benchmark country in many regards, to show where they stand. The rest of the world know that Australia is culpable and they know our record. They are looking to us for commitment and—dare I say—inspiration. Australia must take a stand. We have to show the world our credentials, and that is what we are prepared to do on this question. I believe that through this well-crafted legislation we are making that commitment.

The introduction of mandatory obligations under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will commence on 1 July 2011 to allow the economy more time to recover from the impacts of the global financial crisis. Liable entities will be required to meet their emissions liabilities from 2011-12, with emissions units being surrendered for the first time in December 2012. As a transitional measure, in 2011-12 an unlimited number of permits will be available at a fixed price of $10 per tonne. These permits will not be able to be banked or used in future years. Full trading will commence in 2012-13.

I would like to finish my contribution with a couple of simple but fundamental questions for the opposition. With Australians being some of the highest polluters per head in the world, don’t you believe we have a moral obligation to lead on this question? And if you all wait and see now how do we go forward? Finally, when you are finished up with this place and you are older, what will you say to your children about how you dealt with your responsibility to respond to climate change? What are the opposition’s answers to these fundamental questions?

This legislation is critical for establishing business confidence and of course for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. I commend this legislation to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Albanese) adjourned.