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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11218

Mr SCHULTZ (12:39 PM) —I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2], a bill that threatens Australia’s jobs and competitiveness in almost every industry in Australia, particularly in the agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. The CPRS bill sets up an emissions trading scheme as part of a framework allegedly designed to reduce the pollution caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, collectively known as GHG emissions.

The primary purpose for the reintroduction of this bill now, though, is so that this Prime Minister can continue to strut the world stage and boast to the Copenhagen conference that Australia is taking a leading role in saving the planet from suffocation from CO2 emissions. A Labor policy document from the 2004 election campaign stated on 7 October 2004 that a federal Labor government would ratify Kyoto and introduce an ETS that would be operational no later than 2010. These themes were carried over into the 2007 election campaign where ALP policy was to introduce an ETS commencing in 2010. During the 2007 election campaign the then Labor opposition stated:

A Rudd Labor government will:

  • Ensure that Australia’s international competitiveness is not compromised by the introduction of emissions trading.
  • Consult with industry about the potential impact of emissions trading on their operations to ensure they are not disadvantaged.
  • Establish specific mechanisms to ensure that Australian operations of emissions intensive trade exposed firms are not disadvantaged by emissions trading.

We are now in 2009 and the Rudd Labor government are hell-bent on having this bill approved without properly ensuring that these three key 2007 election campaign commitments have been thoroughly investigated. I will quote from a comment by one of my sons:

The Prime Minister’s ETS is brilliant policy for Australia if you wish to destroy industry and shut down agriculture. Australia will of course cease producing greenhouse gas emissions as a result of this policy and make us the greenest country in the world. We will, however, be dependent on the rest of the world for everything we consume.

The scheme is rushed and bungled. It is deeply flawed because it has been rushed to suit a political timetable and an insatiable appetite for new taxes needed to reduce $315 billion of government debt.

Even the architect of the Prime Minister’s report into the effects of climate change on Australia, Professor Ross Garnaut, is now considering the validity of this legislation. There is one constant surrounding the global warming debate: there is no shortage of self-styled climate experts to make diabolical predictions and cast shadows of doom and gloom. The climate change debate is not new. On 4 June 1940, Sir Winston Churchill warned of the perverted science of national socialist ideology when he uttered the words:

… the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

That is just as applicable today to the perverted science of global warming. Based on the prophetic projections of some experts, Professor Ross Garnaut has accepted that Australia, being a relatively dry continent, is particularly exposed to global warming. The reasoning goes that projected higher temperatures will increase evaporation and thus further the drying of the continent. Never mind that higher temperatures will also increase evaporation from oceans at a rate of about seven per cent for every degree celsius, increasing the water vapour available in the atmosphere for precipitation. The more than 100 years of Australian climate records suggest an inverse correlation between rainfall and maximum temperature—years of widespread good rainfall are cooler than drought years. The recent dry decade and the pressure of overcommitted water resources on the Murray-Darling Basin have galvanised public attention to the need for sustainable utilisation of the limited and highly variable rainfall. However the argument that a reduction in carbon dioxide will somehow prevent future drought, or even increase rainfall, is entirely spurious.

In tackling future climates, planners and policymakers have two options: they can learn from past climates, tempered by known uncertainties about the causes of variability and slow change, or they can commit their destiny to the projections of computer models. Variations in past climate have been natural and little influenced by humans. The hazards of climate, including drought, flood, rains, storms and killing frosts, are well known and destructive. The past, augmented by rational science, is an excellent guide to the future. Knowledge, planning, structural design and early warning are effective tools that are used to reduce loss of life and destruction of property associated with severe events. The suggestion that future hazardous climate events could in any way be mitigated by the control of carbon dioxide emissions is absolutely in the extreme.

I will not support a bill that will directly affect the agricultural sector or, for that matter, which will directly affect and threaten the livelihoods of the constituents that I represent. The electorate of Hume encompasses the rural areas of the Southern and Central Tablelands of New South Wales as well some of the Riverina. One of the main sustainable industries in the electorate is agriculture, including the farming of beef cattle. As many as 25 per cent of Australia’s cattle producers could be forced out of business by 2030 if agriculture is included in the CPRS.

Respected Central Queensland University resource economist Professor John Rolfe, who is also a beef farmer, has done some serious research, using calculated emissions from grass-fed cattle operations, into how an annual carbon permit system in the CPRS would affect beef producers. Present science indicates that methane, or flatulence, from beef cattle accounts for about 7 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions—adult beef cattle emit about 74 kg of methane each per year, dairy cattle emit about 115kg each per year and sheep about 6.6 kg each per year.

Using a central Queensland cattle enterprise running 1,000 breeders and 850 calves as a case study, Professor Rolfe said these animals would emit about 134 tonnes of methane in a year, which is about 2,817 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Using an initial introductory annual carbon permit cost of $10 per tonne, buying a permit in the first year would cost such an enterprise $30,000. This is just one example of how such a flawed design will seriously damage the competitive position, and indeed the viability, of many of our industries, not just agriculture. We will see Australian jobs, investment and CO2 emissions being exported to countries where no price is being imposed on carbon.

In his report, Professor Garnaut said that in Australia, while coal makes the second largest contribution to climate change, enteric fermentation provides the largest contribution. Being a former meatworker, I was interested to learn where this particular issue was taking us in this climate change debate. Enteric fermentation is the process in ruminants’ digestive systems which produces methane gas. The main ruminant livestock are cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep, deer and camelids—camels, alpacas, llamas et cetera. Non-ruminant livestock—horses, mules and asses—and monogastric livestock—swine—have relatively lower methane emissions because much less methane-producing fermentation takes place in their digestive systems.

Professor Garnaut proposed that as our predominant ruminants—cattle and sheep—produce the bulk of the methane, their population could be cut by about 24 per cent and 39 per cent respectively to help Australia reduce its emissions. Based on current numbers, this represents a reduction of approximately 29 million cattle and 93 million sheep. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that in 2007-08 the total value of beef exports was $4.42 billion and of lamb exports $824 million. Around 65 per cent of Australian agricultural production is exported and exports of agricultural products account for about 18 per cent of total Australian merchandise exports. Those are ABARE figures from 2008. If we reduce these herds does Australia reduce meat exports or reduce its meat consumption?

The Garnaut report estimates the increased cost on meat production of a $40 a tonne carbon permit. The cost of sheep-meat production would increase by 67c a kilogram and beef by 96c a kilogram. Professor Garnaut predicts that households would move away from these products, because of higher prices, and would move to less emissions-intensive meat, such as chicken and pork. Some who advocate switching to kangaroos from sheep call for this to happen in the sheep rangelands rather than on higher rainfall cropping land. This would mean that the 70 per cent of Australia’s livestock, that is, 18 million cattle and 69 million sheep, that lives outside this area would not be affected. Far from being a kangaroo farming operation, harvesting would occur from a wild population. For example, the kangaroos would be owned by the Crown with harvest quotas allocated to properties. There would be no need for fencing, yarding, fodder, parasite control, purchasing new genetic material or other animal husbandry costs. One wonders how in these circumstances a farmer might improve his earnings through skill, planning and hard work? Given the way state governments currently operate their crown land responsibilities, it is difficult to believe that this quota system would be anything more than a tax grab, with little or no assurance that kangaroo health, location and numbers would be appropriate to the harvest needs.

A 2008 article by Wilson and Edwards suggested that kangaroo numbers would be allowed to rise from 34 million at present to 240 million by 2020 along with a gradual de-stocking of sheep and cattle. There would also be an increase in the kangaroo harvest rate to 22 per cent of the total population, from 15 per cent at present, and males would be the target of the harvest. How many of these preferred animals will it take to produce the same amount of meat? For the purposes of this calculation only the domestic consumption of meat was used, not export quantities. Assuming an average carcass weight of 247 kilograms a head for beef cattle, 20.5 kilograms a head for sheep and 12.5 kilograms a head for kangaroo, and assuming a total carcass weight of 786,000 tonnes for beef cattle and 288,000 tonnes for sheep, we can estimate that there were approximately 3.2 million beef cattle slaughtered and 14 million sheep and lambs slaughtered for meat. The total tonnage of mutton, lamb and beef consumed in Australia in 2006 was 1.074 million tonnes. Substitution of this quantity of beef, lamb and mutton with kangaroo meat would require 86 million kangaroos, 15 million pigs and 565 million chickens or a combination of those three. To achieve this ETS-induced nonsense by 2020, the shape of farming and harvesting would need to undergo a remarkable change in the next 12 years.

On a more practical note, Australia produces 1.3 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. India produces 5.3 per cent, Russia produces 5.5 per cent, the USA produces 20.2 per cent and China produces 21.5 per cent. China alone relies on coal as a primary source of energy; it is opening two new coal fired power stations every week with another 500 under construction. By 2030 China’s emissions will grow by 139 per cent and make up 26 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. So much for Australia’s commitment to reduce its emissions. China has no intention of signing or introducing an ETS, nor do Australia’s coal-exporting industry competitors, Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia. According to mining industry sources, an ETS would jeopardise 23,500 jobs in the resource industry alone. It is also estimated that electricity costs alone will increase by between 26 per cent and 46 per cent and increases in food prices are yet to be identified.

As a rural based member representing rural Australians, I am not prepared to support an ETS which places Australia’s agriculture sector at a disadvantage to the rest of the world and puts rural and regionally based industry jobs at risk, be it now, in the short term or, indeed, in the long term.

Removing our competitive advantage, either individually or as a nation with a high-taxing, job-destroying piece of legislation, is most certainly not on my agenda. Carbon dioxide, for the information of the House, feeds plants. It is a potent fertiliser—we can thank the extra CO2 in our atmosphere for increasing plant growth by about 15 per cent over the last century. Market gardeners pump extra CO2 into their greenhouses to increase their crop yield—and we are not talking about a piddling two parts per million extra a year. It is like asking, ‘Will we double CO2 or increase it fivefold?’ In other words, there are people alive today thanks to extra carbon in the atmosphere. The only certainty about climate change propaganda is that government funded committees will keep going long after their use-by date.

I want to use the time available to me to quote from a very interesting book I read, Unstoppable Global Warming, by S Fred Singer and Dennis T Avery. I will read part of the prologue to put on record the facts behind so-called climate change:

When Eric the Red led Norse families to settle on Greenland at the end of the tenth century, he had no idea that he and his descendants were about to demonstrate dramatically the Earth’s long, moderate climate cycle.

Sailing their longships west from Iceland in circa 985, the Vikings had been pleased to find a huge new uninhabited island, its shores covered with green grass for their cattle and sheep, surrounded by ice-free waters where codfish and seals abounded. They could grow vegetables for their families and hay to feed their animals through the winter. There was no timber but they could ship dried fish, sealskins, and tough rope made from walrus hide to other Norse ports to trade for what they needed. The colony thrived, growing by the year 1100 to three thousand people with twelve churches and its own bishop. The initial settlement split into two: one on the southwestern coast and one further north also on the west coast.

The Vikings did not realize that they were benefiting from the Medieval Warming, a major climate shift that lasted approximately four hundred years that made Northern Europe about 2 degrees C warmer than it had been previously. Nor did they realize that after the warming ended, their grassy domain was doomed to five hundred years—the Little Ice Age—of icy temperatures unmoderated by the Gulf Stream that warmed the Norse settlements in Norway and Iceland.

As the Little Ice Age progressed, the colonists were increasingly hard-pressed to survive. The pack ice moved closer to Greenland. Supply ships had to take a more southerly route to avoid the deadly ice. Less and less hay could be harvested in the shorter, cooler summers to feed the livestock through longer and colder winters. The storms got worse.

In closing, may I quote from a very eminent Australian, the Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC, who was a Justice of the High Court from 1998 to 2007, because I think it is pertinent to this discussion. He said:

Emissions regulation offers government an irresistible opportunity to centralize and control every aspect of our lives; on our roads, on our travels, in our workplaces, on our farms, in our forests and our mines, and, more threateningly, in our homes, constructed as they will be compelled to be, of very specific materials and of prescribed sizes. It is not difficult to foresee a diktat as to how many lights we may turn on and when we must turn them off: the great curfew. The new regime has the capacity to make wartime National Security Regulations look like a timid exercise of government restraint.

I leave that to the thoughts of my constituents and the rest of Australia. Thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—It is always given. Thank you for your contribution.