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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7946


Ms REA (12:58 PM) —After that contribution from the member for O’Connor, one is almost tempted to talk about a ‘VPRS’, which would be a ‘verbal pollution reduction scheme’. It would be of benefit to some members in this House as well.

I am very pleased, as the member for Bonner, to rise and support this very important legislation that we have before the House, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and cognate bill.


Mr Tuckey —I said she had no brains, and she just proved it.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member for O’Connor has had his time.


Ms REA —This legislation is very important. It is very important not just to the broader Australian community but also to residents of the electorate of Bonner. As it is one of those seats based on a coastal area—we border the magnificent Moreton Bay, which is one of the most beautiful parts of South-East Queensland, and the bay islands—the issue of rising sea levels as a result of climate change and emissions pollution is one that is very dear to the hearts of many residents of my electorate. It is also an electorate that boasts a very important network of creek systems based around the Brisbane River. It is not just rising sea levels but, indeed, the rise of salinity within our freshwater creek systems that has a real impact on the many important ecosystems that depend on fresh water to survive.

I know that there are many environmental groups in my electorate—including the Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee, the Norman Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee, the Hemmant and Tingalpa Wetlands Conservation Group and many others—who are all very concerned that this government should act to deal with the very real and immediate pressure that rising sea levels are putting on our coastal areas.

This legislation is also important because it honours the view and the belief of the Australian people that we need to act quickly on climate change through a range of mechanisms, including increasing our use of renewable energy sources. By introducing this legislation and a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020, we are creating a very important framework which will see this vibrant industry emerge as a viable force in the Australian business community. So this legislation is good not just for our environment but for our economy as well. Indeed, this legislation provides certainty for business and individual consumers, which will see a real and measurable take-up of renewable energy in the Australian community. It also ensures that the take-up will increase significantly through the introduction of a range of measures: solar credits, renewable energy certificates, an increase in shortfall charges and a whole range of ways through which individuals, businesses and indeed the whole community can look to renewable energy as an alternative energy source.

It is important to remember that Australia is an energy-rich country. We have relied significantly on the abundance of fossil fuels that exist within Australia, but Australia has an abundance of renewable energy sources as well. As a result of this legislation, we will see investment in alternative energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind power, geothermal and many others. That is significant not just for our natural environment and the reduction of pollution but also in terms of the commercial and job opportunities which will arise from that. I have previously said in the House that the debate around climate change and alternatives to fossil fuel based energy provides so many opportunities which, unfortunately, the sceptics just cannot see. Mind you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I think even the sceptics would support investment in solar and wind technologies. Even if they do not believe in man-made climate change, I am sure they would not oppose investment in those very interesting and viable industries.

I have previously likened this debate to the debate which occurred particularly in the last 40 to 50 years when computers were seen to be replacing jobs. There was much fear that the new technology would see our community changed, jobs lost, people put out of work and old skills lost without any alternatives. We all know that the rise of the computer industry has not only provided us with many new and more efficient ways of communicating and interacting with each other but also led to the burgeoning of many new industries, including the internet, computer maintenance and software programming. A whole range of job opportunities and commercial industries have emerged from the development of the personal computer and computer technologies. It is now one of the biggest industries in the world and an industry on which we fundamentally depend. I believe that, with the initiative and leadership of this government and the potential $19 billion investment in renewable energies, this emerging industry sector will become as fundamental to our lives as computers are to the way we work and play and will provide as many employment and business opportunities as computers have done.

I am very pleased that the government has put this legislation before the House. I see many opportunities coming out of it. I see significant benefit for the planet and for many generations to come in terms of new job opportunities. My children will probably benefit from the emergence of this area of business as much as I benefited from the emergence of computers. In conclusion, I feel it is unfortunate that, whilst this legislation has the support of the House, we cannot see a commitment to the very long-term and substantial initiatives that are required through support for a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The measures introduced in this legislation are necessarily complementary to the longer term initiative of that scheme. I can only urge members opposite and members of the Senate not just to support this legislation but also to continue to support the government’s other initiatives which will see climate change dealt with in a much more significant way. I commend the bill to the House.