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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6085


Mr SIDEBOTTOM (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the Australian government’s actions to address climate change and how they will drive the low-pollution jobs of the future?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for Braddon for his question, as I know climate change and the response to it is such a matter of continuing disunity on the part of those opposite, where the Nationals and the Liberals are yet to reach a common landing point on anything! What the government has done in the 18 months it has been in office is, first of all, ratify Kyoto and bring Australia back to the global negotiating table. Those opposite had taken Australia away from that table for year after year after year.

Secondly, we established an ambitious set of carbon pollution reduction targets. To that effect, we have introduced into this House and passed through this House the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, of which the government is proud—doing our bit to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, providing necessary adjustments for industry and for families and also ensuring that we are doing our bit to bring about a better future given the challenge which climate change represents to the Australian economy and to so many of our communities.

On top of that, we have also indicated that, in the course of this week—in fact, tomorrow—we will be introducing two bills that will deliver a fourfold increase in renewable energy in Australia by 2020. This is legislation around the renewable energy target. The government is committed to 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply to come from renewable energy by 2020 through establishing an expanded renewable energy target—a matter upon which those opposite received copious advice when they occupied the treasury bench, advice which they systematically ignored.

In addition to the introduction of this legislation for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the renewable energy target, the government has, through the budget, announced a $1.365 billion measure: the Solar Flagships program. What we seek to do through this measure is, with the private sector investment, to get behind investment in 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity generation capacity in Australia, which once constructed would represent three times more power than the existing largest solar energy project anywhere in the world, currently in California. This would see Australia occupying, as it should, a position of leadership on solar energy given the copious supply of sunshine in our country and therefore the ability to rise to a national and international challenge to bring solar to the forefront.

In addition to that, there will be an Australian centre for renewable energy and further, of course, the measures we have taken through the Solar Homes and Communities Plan. A figure which was mentioned yesterday by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts was that, after 12 years in office, some 10,000 max—or 10½ thousand, I think—solar panels were produced on people’s roofs courtesy of the pre-existing government’s program. In 18 months in office, we have provided support for 80,000 solar panels right across Australia in addition to what will be the energy insulation program being rolled out across owner occupied dwellings across the country. This is a $4 billion investment to again reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the future and, of course, we will do our bit through the solar panels program to do the same.

The solar credits system, which will exist under the renewable energy target, will take the place of the existing Solar Homes and Communities Plan. We, therefore, await with interest what happens with the voting on the renewable energy target legislation because it will contain within it the mechanisms through which solar credits will be delivered to Australian households to support solar panels in the future. That is where the vote which will occur in the House and in the Senate is of direct relevance to mums and dads across the country. Their ability from 9 June to access those renewable energy credits for the purposes of obtaining a further reduction in the price of solar panels which they would purchase for their homes in the future rests entirely on the vote to be taken in the Senate.

Today the Clean Energy Council released a report by Access Economics which shows that renewable energy and energy efficiency policies would create an extra 28,000 new full-time jobs by 2020. According to the report by Access Economics, the government’s expanded renewable energy target by 2018 will support an additional 4,000 full-time equivalent positions in that year.

These are important measures—important measures for our international negotiating posture around the Kyoto table, important measures in terms of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, important measures in terms of the renewable energy target and important measures about the future of the Murray-Darling, the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu, as well as about our place in bringing about a global solution to the problem of climate change presented to us all. For these measures to have effect will require support on the part of those opposite in the Senate. The government does not control the numbers in the Senate. This goes right to the question: what will be the future of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme under the voting which will be undertaken in the Senate through the Liberals and the Nationals opposite?

I was advised today that there is a Senate inquiry report back from those who were looking at the CPRS. Normally there is a majority report or a minority report, a government report or an opposition report. I am advised today that not only was there a government report and an opposition report but there was a Liberal report and another Liberal report—one saying, ‘Yes, we’ll have a bit,’ and one saying, ‘No, we believe that climate change is something which does not exist. You just need a few shade cloths to make it better in the future.’ That is what happened on the CPRS with the Senate report which has just come in.

Then you go to the RET, the renewable energy target. I would have thought that those opposite would have embraced this with open arms, yet our good friends over there in cocky corner, the National Party, have gone out there and said they are going to knock it—the renewable energy target—on the head as well. I do not understand why. Let me say to the Nationals: when you have got the Liberals divided from the Nationals on the renewable energy target and the Liberals divided against the Liberals on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, is it any wonder we have not had a single question in this place on climate change in recent weeks when this legislation is making its way through the parliament?

This is where the rubber hits the road: renewable energy certificates will be necessary for Australian households to obtain deductions for their future purchases of solar panels, and that depends on the passage of this legislation through the Senate. As those opposite all bury themselves in their books at this point, this is a very important matter for working families. Working families want to know whether they will have support or opposition in the Senate to the renewable energy target legislation, because that will determine whether or not there is going to be support for credits in the future to bring the cost of solar panels down. These are the options we face. The government’s legislative agenda is clear: we ratified Kyoto, we have got CPRS legislation in the House and we have got RET legislation in the House. This is in our first 18 months in office, after 12 years of obfuscation by those opposite. I would say to those who want solar panels on their roofs that we need the Liberal Party and the National Party to get behind the government and support us on this measure and the CPRS. Our collective future and that of working families depends on it.