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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8021

Ms SAFFIN (6:19 PM) —I speak in support of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009. Climate change is a fact, global warming is a fact and major catastrophic weather events are becoming more common and more intense. Floods and droughts are more frequent, more catastrophic and more intense. Over the last couple of years in the seat of Page, we have experienced the worst frost in 27 years and the worst hailstorm on record, which was followed by a flood that year’s end, then another flood and, a few months ago, major flooding. Farmers notice it. They know something is up. They know something is different. Farmers are pretty good watchers and knowers of the land, the seasons and how things work.

The community expects the government to take decisive but considered action. That is what the government is doing. We know we are moving to a carbon constrained world and we have to be prepared to meet the challenges. We know that we are moving to a lower greenhouse gas emission world and we have to be prepared to meet those challenges. The government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is the whole policy framework and the legislative framework to deal with this, does just that. The CPRS legislation that was introduced in May was the first key plank. When that passes the Senate it will do a lot to move us to lower greenhouse gas emissions. But the amending bills that I speak to today are the second plank of the government’s salient institutional set of changes in environmental and economic policy, and the two have to go hand in hand as we move to combat climate change. The government’s commitment to a renewable energy target whereby 20 per cent of our electricity supply is drawn from renewable sources by the year 2020 is a major action of the government’s comprehensive 10-point plan to tackle climate change.

There are some people who want us to go to 100 per cent almost immediately. We know that we cannot do that, but this is a wonderful start. It means that by 2020 20 per cent of our energy supply will be renewable, particularly in the area of electricity. The government taking the lead by setting the legislative target of 20 per cent is the key measure that helps set us on the path to a lower pollution future. We live in the land of plenty when it comes to renewables, but not when it comes to the non-renewables, and we have used the non-renewables at an unsustainable rate.

The renewable energy target scheme does another key thing: it brings a mandatory renewable target and current proposed state and territory schemes into one scheme—a national scheme—and it will facilitate the Victorian scheme which is already established. We know that electricity generation makes up more than a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. This scheme means, then, that one-fifth of the biggest greenhouse gas emissions must be gone by 2020—indeed a good start. That has been one of the points about this whole debate. We have to get it started. We cannot wait any longer.

I want to say some general things about these amending bills within the framework of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in which they are located. Firstly, I want to say thank you to the minister in this place, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Water, for his excellent work in this area and the discussions that I have been able to have with him on issues arising in this area, such as on how to assist households and how to have household actions brought into the overall Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We have discussed the science and the work of people like James Hansen and other scientists who are all part of this debate, the various books that we have read in the area—some of which have been given to me, such as Climate Code Red and Scorcher—and a whole range of other things.

I get exposed, as we all do, to views that run right across the spectrum from deniers to sceptics to the almost fundamentalism at the other end that says that, if we do not do something tonight, things will drastically change forever. But it is really the incredible science—and the science that exists in Australia comes out of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that is driving this debate. That is the science that the government’s policy and plans are based on and that forms the basis of the legislative and policy approach that the government has taken. With those comments, I commend the bills to this House.