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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8000


Mr LINDSAY (4:49 PM) —I note we have a number of young people in the gallery this afternoon. What we are discussing here in the parliament this afternoon affects your future as it affects all of Australia. This particular issue is highly significant. That is why there has to be very significant debate and very significant agreement on both sides of the parliament about what we as a parliament might do about clean energy. There has been a very significant amount of discussion about the Senate refusing to pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation last week, but I remind those in the gallery that all of the non-government senators, from the far left to the far right, would not support the government’s legislation. That must say something. It must say to you and to the people of Australia that perhaps things are not right.

It was fine for the member for Moreton to talk earlier about dinosaurs on this side of the House. Some, like Professor Bob Carter, who looks at the earth in terms of millions of years, including when the dinosaurs roamed the place, say that what is happening now may have been happening then. I do not subscribe to that view. I do believe that we are seeing global warming. I do believe that humankind is suffering from carbon pollution and that we must do something about it, but what we do has to be very carefully thought through, and that is why the Senate would not accept the government’s position and would not accept the coupling together of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009, which we are talking about in the parliament this afternoon, with the CPRS legislation.

The CPRS legislation effectively has the support of all of the parliament and we want to see that passed. I will say more about that in a minute. But it is very important that we carefully move forward and get it right for Australia and also in relation to what other countries are going to do. We will not know that until we see what is happening in the United States, China, India and Copenhagen at the end of the year. We do not need to rush. We need to have a view and we need to be ready, but we do not need to ram something through the parliament right now if it might damage Australia. Of course, one of the sorts of things that might happen under the government’s current proposal is 80,000 jobs being lost, a lot of those in regional Australia. If you have a job, how would you like your job to be lost because the parliament rammed something through without proper thought?

We will also see very significant cost rises across the economy. For example, food prices, transport prices, fuel prices and electricity prices will all go up. We will see trade-exposed industries lose their capacity to compete and we will see carbon exported offshore to another country. Some of you will have been to the major emitters. Two weeks ago, I was in Beijing. When we were landing in Beijing, it was not until we were 1,500 feet above the runway that I could actually see the ground because the pollution was so bad. Many kids in Beijing have never seen a blue sky. We have to address that. That occurs across Asia. It occurs across Europe. It occurs in the United States. Look at what it is like in Washington. The world truly as one has to move forward and address the issues of carbon pollution, renewable energy and clean energy.

I get a bit tired of the government giving the coalition a flogging and saying that we are all dinosaurs and we do not believe in this. Perhaps they ought to sit down with us, talk to us and hear our views, and take up our good ideas. The people of Australia know that one side of the parliament does not have all the good ideas and the other side all the bad ideas. They know that each of us can contribute, and that contribution should be allowed to happen. We should be able to negotiate with the government. We should be able to speak to the government and say: ‘Here’s a good idea from our side. How about you adopt that and we’ll adopt your good idea?’ That is the way the parliament works best. That is why the shadow minister, the member for Flinders, will be moving 16 amendments to this particular bill. All of these amendments are sensible and are well argued in the shadow minister’s response to the second reading speech on this bill. I urge the government to consider these 16 amendments. I urge the government to adopt all of these sensible matters that have been put forward. I urge the media to recognise that the coalition does have a view and it is prepared to contribute, and it is prepared to listen to the government. In return, it expects the government to listen to the coalition. The amendments will seek, for example, the full decoupling of the RET from the flawed ETS. They will see the inclusion of renewable gas or waste coalmine gases as a recognised zero emission source of energy, as it is in the US and Germany. They seek coverage of the aluminium sector for both its existing MRET and its expanded RET liabilities to the 90 per cent already offered by the government for the latter. They will ensure that food processing is categorised for assistance under the renewable energy target.

The primary bill that we are discussing this afternoon sets in place a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020. The majority of the parliament supports this and certainly the coalition support it, and strongly support it. We want to see this happen. We want to see this pass through the parliament, and hopefully it will be through the House of Representatives by the end of this evening. But there has been a lot of hypocrisy on these sorts of issues. We saw that when the government came to power. After a lot rhetoric at the last election, it immediately means-tested the former government’s $8,000 solar rebate. That was a broken promise from budget night 2008. Then we saw that solar rebate completely abolished without notice on 9 June this year. The former government introduced the Remote Renewable Power Generation Program, which the current government abolished without notice on 22 June at 8.30 am. Not a very good record for the current government in relation to renewable energy, and it is renewable energy that we are talking about.

The other thing that would underline a poor record is that the government has been talking about what we are discussing this afternoon since 2007. This legislation could have been in the parliament and passed 12 months ago. It could have been, but there has been inordinate delay and then there was its coupling with the CPRS bill. It left all of us shaking our heads and saying: ‘Why is this happening? Is this a political device? Is this a way of trying to wedge the coalition?’ It was, and that is unfortunate for such a great debate in our country. It is unfortunate that we have kept the renewables sector waiting for such a long time. On 16 June this year, the head of the Clean Energy Council picked up on this and said:

Any political tricky manoeuvre to hold the legislation up now will simply end up being a remarkable own goal.

That is what has happened. I think the media are now making that observation, that the government has been forced into a backdown. I do not enjoy seeing the government backing down. I would rather get the bill through parliament in a timely fashion. I would rather get on with looking after our environment and setting these clean energy targets.

The Whip has asked us to limit our remarks. I will do that. I will close with a summary which simply says that I am strongly supportive of the 20 per cent target by 2020, and I do hope that the government will see fit to support the coalition’s amendments.