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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11202


Mrs D’ATH (11:26 AM) —Today I rise to speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills before the House. Through these bills Australia will establish a carbon pollution reduction scheme by which, if the international agreement reached meets the conditions the government has set out, Australia will agree to reduce our national emissions to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. The Rudd government’s target of 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 provides strong support to ambitious global action to minimise the risks of dangerous climate change.

It is also one of the most ambitious emission reduction targets in the world. It represents a 32 per cent reduction on our Kyoto target. If there is a fair contribution from all emitters around the world to take strong action to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change by restraining atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to 450 parts per million, that reduces the average emissions of every Australian by almost a half over the next 10 years. If the world is unable to reach agreement on a 450 parts per million target, this government will reduce emissions in Australia by between five and 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. The government has already introduced the renewable energy target legislation to complement the CPRS. Through this legislation the government has set a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020.

And the alternative? We have heard today from the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, that they have called for delays again. This is certainly not the first time. The Liberals and the member for Wentworth have called for delays seven times. They have promised to make a decision on their policy on climate change and seven times they have delayed. In December 2007 they said, ‘Let’s wait for the Garnaut report.’ In September 2008 they said, ‘Wait for the Treasury modelling.’ In September 2008 they said, ‘Let’s wait for the white paper.’ In December 2008 they said, ‘Let’s wait until the Pearce report.’ In April 2009 they said, ‘Let’s wait for the Senate inquiry.’ In May 2009 they said, ‘Let’s wait for the Productivity Commission,’ of course forgetting that the Productivity Commission had already made a submission on emissions trading to the Howard government’s Shergold report. Then they said, ‘Wait for Copenhagen and for President Obama’s scheme.’ For 12 years the Liberal Party have failed to act. They went to the election with a promise to implement emissions trading but they stand here today again asking for delays.

This has not always been the case. The member for Wentworth used to believe that an emissions trading scheme would strengthen Australia’s position going into Copenhagen. Mr Turnbull said in the Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece on 9 July 2008:

… our first hand experience in implementing … an emissions trading system would be of considerable assistance in our international discussions and negotiation aimed at achieving an effective global agreement.

Turnbull also used to believe in domestic action come what may. The member for Wentworth, on Lateline on 9 July 2008, said:

… the Howard Government’s policy last year, was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012. It was not conditional on international action.

…            …            …

… John Howard decided and the Cabinet decided last year that we would move on an emissions trading scheme come what may.

It is certainly different to what we are hearing today.

Of course, I have to say in relation to the Nationals and the member for Wide Bay that at least the Nationals have been consistent from day one. They oppose a carbon pollution reduction scheme, they have since the beginning and they continue to now. They may be wrong in their approach, but they have been consistently wrong. I acknowledge that. Of course, what is more important is that there are others out there in the international community who do believe that it is better that Australia go forward to Copenhagen with a firm position. Mr Yvo de Boer, the executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 August 2009 as saying, ‘I think it helps Australia’s credibility to say, “This is the target Australia is willing to commit to and this is how we are going to achieve it.” That will be good for this country’s credibility, yes.’

Of course, we know the science. We know that the science says that the globe is warming. Warming of the climate is unequivocal and is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea levels. Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century. These are widely held views across the mainstream of climate change scientists across the world, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released its most recent report, the Fourth assessment report, in 2007, touching on all of these elements.

I also touch on the House of Representatives Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts Committee’s report that they released yesterday in relation to the effects of climate change on coastal regions. I acknowledge their great work. I was part of that committee during 2008, and I congratulate them on releasing this report. Petrie is a coastal electorate, with Moreton Bay and the Redcliffe Peninsula. These are low-lying areas. There are many homes and businesses along these coastlines. What this report clearly shows is that there will be significant impact. Climate change, as noted in the report released yesterday and tabled in this House, impacts on coastal zones, including through rising sea level, more intense storms, larger waves and storm surges, altered precipitation and run-off and ocean acidification. This has been reinforced by the climate change committee’s report yesterday, but of course it has been widely spoken about and put into reports by climate change scientists across the world.

We have heard from the opposition about jobs and business, but it is businesses out there that are asking for certainty. Russell Caplan, chairman of Shell Australia, was reported in BRW on 6 August 2009 as saying:

… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue. This would create a climate of continuing uncertainty for industry and potentially delay the massive investments that are required.

Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group said on Sky News on 5 May 2009:

Business also needs to be making very big decisions if we are going to be able to make the transition—

to the CPRS—

and to do that they need certainty. Uncertainty is death for business.

Katie Lahey, the Business Council of Australia CEO, was reported in the Age on 6 May 2009 as saying:

To drag on the debate whilst we have got this global financial crisis is just one more complexity that business has got to factor into its planning cycle, and for some businesses it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

These are the things that we need to be dealing with. These are the reasons why we need to act now.

We have heard a lot of misinformation, including from the member for Wide Bay, who has spoken on these bills today, about the impact on households. Yes, we have said that the CPRS is expected to raise household prices by 0.4 per cent in 2011-12 and 0.8 per cent in 2012-13. Electricity prices for households could rise by around seven per cent, around $1.50 per week on average, in 2011-12. Gas prices could rise by four per cent, around 60c per week on average, in this same time frame. Food prices could contribute around 0.1 per cent of the 1.2 per cent overall increase in household prices. The Treasury modelling found that the CPRS scenarios show a one-off rise in the CPI of one to 1½ per cent.

What those on the other side fail to acknowledge is that what these bills do and what the government has promised is that the government will provide up-front support to low- and middle-income households from 2011-12 through a package of direct cash assistance, tax offsets and a 10 per cent reduction in the fuel excise tax to help adjust to a lower pollution future. Direct assistance through the tax and transfer system will fully meet the expected overall increase in the costs of living under the CPRS for low-income households and will help to meet the increase for middle-income households. Around 90 per cent of low-income households, or 2.8 million households overall, will be eligible for assistance equal to 120 per cent or more of their cost of living increase over the first two years of the CPRS. Around 97 per cent of middle-income households will receive some direct cash assistance in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Motorists will be protected from higher fuel costs from the CPRS by 10 per cent reductions in fuel tax for the first three years. The government has also made a commitment that each year it will review the adequacy of the household package in the context of the budget. In 2011-12 the level of assistance will be adjusted to align it with lower estimated cost of living impacts resulting from an initial fixed $10 per tonne carbon price.

The Liberal Party’s time is up. They need to stop making excuses, support the CPRS and provide certainty to business and the broader Australian community. This is certainly what my local community wants. As Australia is one of the driest continents on earth, its environment and economy will be among the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. The evidence on the economic effects of climate change is widely known. The environmental impacts are widely known. The future that our children, our grandchildren and future generations face if we do not act now is widely known. The longer we wait to act on climate change, the more it will cost and the worse its effects will be. I commend these bills to the House.