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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7284

Mr TUCKEY (10:59 AM) —These bills, the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Amendment Bill 2009, make amendments that are primarily technical but nevertheless deal with one of the great issues under debate in this House at this time—that is, the various aspects of greenhouse gas emissions and particularly, on this occasion, greenhouse gas storage. I find that a matter of great interest.

It is also of interest that, when one consults the explanatory memorandum to the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill, under items 41 to 49 there is significant reference to, and extensive advice regarding, negligence as a fault in the criminal code that applies to certain matters of occupational health and safety. This is an ongoing trend in laying blame for negligence, particularly negligence by employers or other people in a position of responsibility, as part of protecting people and the generation of a safe environment.

I will take the opportunity to draw to the House’s attention the well-reported fact that we have an ongoing royal commission in Victoria relating to the tragic wildfires that occurred there last February. I have made a submission to that inquiry, but I have not yet had a phone call: ‘When are you coming to expand on your views, Mr Tuckey?’ It is all about the responsibility of the owner of the property to maintain a safe environment. I go as far as to say that blame must be apportioned.

If the government of Victoria were a corporation, there would be no doubt that the members of the Parliament, as board of directors, would be currently being charged with criminal acts, because they ignored all the science of a hundred years or, if you like, of centuries of known and recorded Aboriginal practice. It happens to be a Labor government that is there now and they have been there long enough to have fixed the problem, but the blame goes well beyond that. In fact I have given evidence to a meeting of state ministers that I called to warn them of this, based on advice from our own firefighters who went to America. The ministers have known about it and at that meeting they refused to act. To use the words of one minister, applauded by the others, ‘If we’ve got to touch one tree, in terms of prevention, we won’t do it.’

So here it is: more legislation in this place to apply criminal sanctions to certain people under occupational health and safety rules and still not a mention of it down at the royal commission. They want to tear apart the firefighting services and everyone for their failure to protect people from a nuclear event. They could not be protected if they were anywhere near it. Total evacuation may have been a solution, but not to property, only to person. I just make that point because the opportunity is given to me by those words in this legislation.

As the previous speaker from this side has been saying, the issue arises about greenhouse gas storage and the issue arises about greenhouse injection licences, which are specifically dealt with in this legislation. There are some interesting statistics,  which I have developed, tested and had peer reviewed, if you like, regarding how we might achieve genuine greenhouse emissions reductions of 20 per cent without imposing a silly emissions trading scheme.

It is referred to as a carbon pollution reduction scheme when all it is, in fact, is a derivatives trading scheme, the value of which I can only see accruing to the hedge funds and the screen jockeys who will be able to recover some respectability by practising, under the label of saving the planet environmentally, all the things that sent the world broke. I find that response to what I accept is a problem to be patently ridiculous.

It is in fact a system that issues certificates to pollute. Some will be sold by the government accruing revenue apparently of about $11 billion, but we are told that the ordinary consumer and businessman will suffer no ill effects from that withdrawal of $11 billion from money that would otherwise be circulating to their interest. And then of course there is a significant and ongoing debate about the issuance of free certificates to industries principally referred to as trade exposed. As the previous speaker from this side said, nobody thought to put the car manufacturing industry into the mix and yet it is patently obvious that the American legislation will be much more generous in terms of the issuance of free certificates, exemptions or whatever you want to call them. That is the proposed legislation now before committees in the American congress.

Therefore, for companies like General Motors that have now told General Motors Holden that they are on their own but ‘Good luck; we think you might make it’, the reality is that, with a renewed business structure with gigantic capital subsidies from their government and relief from their employees health system that was costing them $1,500 a motor car, the suggestion that they are not going to come out and compete with their own subsidiary is laughable. Considering their mass market and everything else, they will knock spots off us. Even in its endangered state, the Chrysler company is, from my observation, on the roads already penetrating the SUV market, particularly in Australia with their jeeps. I cannot drive down the road for 10 minutes without passing a couple of jeeps or having them pass me.

What I am saying is that the threat from this proposal that is in the Australian parliament has to be considered on a global basis. By the way, I have some admiration for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in some of the initiatives he has taken, but when he stands up in this place and says that farmers can be helped by initiatives in Australia and that their weather pattern is only going to change if we are able to reduce our emissions by 100 per cent it is of course farcical and it should not be said. We have an international obligation; we should not be the world leaders. Our emissions as other nations grow will be one per cent, not even the existing 1.4 per cent.

When you look at those facts of life, it is questionable that we should have a system that allows people to buy certificates to pollute and make a judgment what they do thereafter. If you are running certain businesses with a captive market, what are you going to do? You are going to pass on the price. They cannot get away. Of course, you eventually get down to the household consumer or the primary industry farmer and they pay up because they have no-one to whom they can pass on those costs.

I laugh when we hear these business calls for certainty, so they can make up their mind whether they stay or leave the country, so that they can start to reorganise their investment because China are not going to have an ETS. China are going to have, as already ordered, 20-odd nuclear power stations which do not emit greenhouse gas. China have built the Three Gorges Dam as a huge resource of hydropower and now they are building a 2,000-kilometre high-voltage DC line because they know they can transmit energy along that line with practically no energy losses and therefore of course no associated emissions.

We are talking particularly about greenhouse gas and we are talking about greenhouse gas storage. On a scale of one to 10, I have had to ask myself: how would you best achieve outcomes in this regard and where would you invest government money? Please remember we have just had a disposal through borrowing of $24 billion by way of $900 cheques to the citizens of Australia. Has anybody asked themselves: had that money been invested in practical measures for the reduction of greenhouse gases would that not have been a better outcome for our kids? We could have invested it in jobs in Australia. Most of the technology would be developed in Australia, notwithstanding that none of it has to be invented.

In the remaining minutes available to me, I want to take the opportunity to point out what you can do to reduce greenhouse emissions just by changing your business pattern. Australia has 25,000 kilometres of natural gas pipelines and the gas is put through a compressor stationed every 1,000 kilometres along the line. They are used to keep the gas moving in the pipelines. Gas will not travel on its own. The compressors literally suck gas out of the pipeline and drive gas turbines to recompress the gas and move it on for another 100 kilometres or whatever down the pipeline. Those compressors emit 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per 1,000 kilometres—in other words, some 7½ million tonnes of emissions are associated with those natural gas pipelines. A significant amount of that gas—in the case of Western Australia it is about 30 per cent of the gas pumped down from the Pilbara to Perth—is then turned into electricity in gas turbines. Along that pipeline, 250 megawatts of electricity is burnt up, which is equal to one Collie powerhouse in our state. Having burnt up the gas, the gas is then taken out at the end of the pipeline, turned into electricity and, in some cases, sent a third of the way back up that pipeline in the form of highly inefficient high-voltage AC power—not DC power. AC power is known for its inefficiency. It is known that a transformer must be placed every 20 or 30 kilometres, and that consumes energy. Why would you do that?

The Premier of WA, recognising the need for additional electricity for the Perth metropolitan area—and there is nothing wrong with that—is proposing another 200 megawatts of power generation at Kwinana, just south of Perth. He has just learnt a lesson, and that is: to send any more of that power up to the mid-west region in my electorate, he needs to spend $700-odd million on an AC powerline that is going to waste a lot of electricity. The other day in a flash of inspiration, he said, ‘Why’—considering, of course, that the gas pipeline travels through that country—‘don’t we build the powerhouse up here?’ Fine. But the real question is: why not build it on the beach where the gas comes ashore? Instead of using a highly inefficient gas pipeline to pump the energy to where someone wants to consume it, why not use a highly efficient electrical line known as high-voltage DC? I might add that currently such a line crosses Bass Strait for the simple reason that you cannot put transformers in the sea. It happens to be an electrical system that can carry electricity transmissions in either direction.

Just by changing that system, you no longer need to have emissions involved in the construction of gas pipelines. You do not build these steel pipelines without emissions. The member for Solomon would probably not like to be reminded that, if they take that gas across the sea from Inpex’s deposit in the Browse field to Darwin, there will be a huge emission requirement during the construction of that greatly elongated pipeline. I hear greenies standing up every day saying, ‘The Browse gas shouldn’t go to the Kimberley coastline’—the shortest possible distance—‘it should be pumped under the sea all the way to the Pilbara.’ I have just stated the sorts of emissions that will achieve. But does that worry Missy Higgins?

Missy Higgins has a tax deductible house in Broome, where she goes to get inspiration in the wintertime. She wants to be a protester—excuse me—and there are two or three others standing beside her. Of course, if she got swine flu while she was up there she would expect the Western Australian taxpayers, who are denied payroll tax and things if these projects do not go ahead in their state, to fund the Flying Doctor Service to get her to a hospital—yet to be built. And good luck to Darwin in getting the Inpex project, but that has cost Western Australia the funding of the Fiona Stanley Hospital in the lost payroll tax.

These protestors sit up there and want the roads and want the hospitals, but want the area to be left as a pristine environment. I think the beach involved at James Price Point is pretty, but let me say that there are 6,000 kilometres of coastline in the Kimberley—1,000 as the crow flies and 6,000 if you walked it. Someone wants two kilometres of it to invest in our future, and these people are up there carrying on about it. Excuse me—it is quite silly. It is to the credit of the new government that they have that project going forward.

What I am really saying is that we keep reading so much—the member for Hasluck made mention of it—about carbon capture and storage. I only went to school until I finished my leaving, but I was lucky enough to go to Perth Modern School and I came out with distinctions in science, physics, applied maths and English, if you like to know. I shudder in this place when I hear the grammar that is used these days. But what I learnt—and I passed in economics too—from my physics was that you cannot destroy an element, and carbon is an element. The fact is that you can at considerable cost, and the technology is yet to be proven. The last time I heard from the CSIRO they said, ‘Oh yeah, you can do this; it will only consume 20 per cent of the production of the power station.’ That is a matter of physics. It is not a matter of getting the accountants in to find out how you can reduce that by half; it is a physical fact. So why would you be rushing around trying to prove that point?

There is certainly a place for coal in generating power and energy for Australia. All we have to do to meet international commitments is reduce the relative amount we use. The gas people in Darwin said the other day, ‘We can give you a 20 per cent reduction if you just go on progressively using the gas.’ We want to achieve a massive reduction in automotive emissions and we move to electric cars, and hydrogen fuel cell cars still require electricity. We are going to have to double our generating capacity.

So, in the process, why not use renewable power like the Kimberley tides that have genuine substance, why not use natural gas, why not use the other forms of renewable energy, as unreliable as some of them might be, so that by 2020 the relative component of coal-fired emissions is dramatically reduced?  Nobody in the world is talking about reductions of 50 per cent. But of course if 50 per cent of your electricity was produced from renewables and you retained the benefit of the other 50 per cent being used by the cheapest possible product, coal, you have an outcome, and you have not taxed industry into submission and you have not put people out of business. In fact, over time you will achieve lower electricity prices from those renewable resources as the capital is written down, which nobody contemplates.

We keep having this silly argument that somehow you can have an emissions trading scheme and immediately the business community will comply. They will stop emitting carbon. No, some will pay for it and some will leave town and make their emissions where there is a more compliant regime. And take it from me there will be plenty by one means or other. (Time expired)