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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11278


Mr CRAIG THOMSON (4:54 PM) —I rise to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and the related bills before the House. I support this bill, having followed the member for Canning in his contribution to this debate. It was interesting listening to the member for Canning’s contribution because it was a reflection of where the opposition is in relation to climate change. He started by questioning the timing and so forth and then he made the incredible leap that what was required was a global solution. I am not quite sure how that is inconsistent with the legislation before the House at the moment, but he concluded that we need a global solution. After reaching that conclusion, he said, ‘We don’t need to do anything else until there is a global solution that we can join.’ That was the logic that the member for Canning brought to this debate.

But it got worse. He then went on to say that ratifying the Kyoto protocol was a mistake—it was wrong. One has to ask: how, when you are arguing for a global solution, you can on the one hand say, ‘That’s what we require and we won’t do anything until that happens,’ and on the other hand say that, where there is an international treaty opportunity, namely Kyoto, it is a mistake to ratify it? It clearly shows the schizophrenic nature of the opposition. The member for Canning was able to illuminate us in terms of all those multiple personalities in one speech, which is quite an achievement.

The time for action is now. It is not a time to put up another excuse as to why we cannot act against climate change. It is not a time to say that things are too difficult; we need to move ahead and make sure that Australia plays a role in dealing with climate change. We need to do it for future generations, we need to do it for our children, we need to do it for our communities. I have only just come from the Main Committee, where I was speaking on the very timely bipartisan report of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts entitled Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate. When one reads the recommendations of the report, one asks where the opposition’s commitment to tackling climate change has gone. One of the key recommendations, recommendation 2, is:

The Committee notes the importance of mitigation measures in addressing climate change impacts and accordingly recommends that the Australian Government continue to take urgent action to ensure that Australia can best contribute to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions

Almost every recommendation in the report is, ‘It’s time to act now.’ The importance of the report is that it takes the debate away from the theoretical and brings into play real-life situations, like in my electorate of Dobell, where communities are actually now being threatened by climate change. This report is so important because it puts a human face on what is happening to climate change.

My electorate is subject to far more than the frequent storm surges that it has seen in the past. In fact, in June 2007 a storm surge came up the east coast, washing away lots of the sand on the beaches but also going up through The Entrance into the Tuggerah Lake system, flooding much of the residential area around the Central Coast and causing over 1,000 people to be evacuated. These are some of the practical, real situations that are happening as a result of climate change, and that is why this report is so important.

I made two submissions to this inquiry. The committee visited the Central Coast as its first port of call. It is not as if these are once-in-50-year storm surges. We had a further storm surge since that 2007 event, which is why I made a supplementary submission—in the time that this inquiry was taking place, there were two significant events, both washing away beaches and affecting the community on the Central Coast. In the most recent storm surge, we saw people’s backyards being washed out to sea. We saw people’s houses with only part of the porch left because the rest had been washed out through the storm surge. One gentleman, at North Entrance, was telling me that he estimates he lost four to five metres of his backyard through the actions of this storm surge. This is real evidence of climate change affecting communities now. This is why the Australian government is acting. This is why this parliament should act to tackle climate change—because in electorates like mine the effects are being felt now.

The Central Coast is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. I do not think that anyone here would disagree with me when I say that. But it is a fragile environment, an environment that is prone to the elements, and as climate change affects our world it affects some areas more than others. We are prone to bushfires. We are prone to floods. We are prone to beach erosion. We are also prone, surprisingly, to a lack of water. It was only two years ago that the water supply on the Central Coast reached levels of only 13 per cent. We were having to buy and pump water from the Hunter down to the Central Coast because of the low levels of rain that were falling on the Central Coast.

These are real examples of real communities that are being affected by climate change and for the opposition to say these things are too difficult, they do not exist, we need to wait, we need someone else to lead, we need to take a different tack is really to ignore the problem. It is a difficult thing to deal with the effects of climate change. It is difficult to change people’s habits and behaviour, but it has to be done. We owe it to our communities. We owe it to the world to make sure that is in fact what we do. Anyone in this debate who is trying to run some political argument should get out and read this report and look at the good work that is being done, particularly by the chair of the committee, the member for Fowler, and the deputy chair, the member for Moore, who was able to agree with the government members of this committee as to the effects of climate change and the need to act quickly after seeing the evidence.

This debate today is about taking action while we can, taking action to ensure that we live in a better world and taking action to make sure that we are able to reduce the effects of climate change on our communities. I do not want to be the member of an electorate that finds itself some way out in the Pacific Ocean, which is a real threat to my electorate. The F3 going up to the Hunter is the western border of my electorate on the mountain range, but below it are the lagoons, the lakes and then the beachfront. All of these areas are incredibly vulnerable to climate change, and if we do not act now and sea levels rise then we are in all sorts of trouble on the Central Coast. That is the picture up and down the coastline of this great country.

We are taking strong action to tackle climate change by introducing this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, while also making sure the targets we put in place are appropriate and responsible given the need to support our economy and jobs during this global recession. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will ensure Australia invests in industries of the future like renewable energy—solar energy and wind farms—and in jobs using new technologies, like clean coal and geothermal energy, thereby creating thousands of new, low-pollution jobs. The Rudd government will establish the $75.8 million Australian Carbon Trust to help all Australians to do their bit to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution and to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings and businesses. We will also take into account the contribution of individual households that purchase accredited GreenPower in setting Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme caps.

Time has run out for those who are opposed to this scheme. There are no more excuses. Carbon pollution is causing the world’s climate to change, resulting in extreme weather, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. I have already spoken about the effects of this in my community and in my electorate. Everyone needs to do their bit to tackle carbon pollution and by introducing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Australia will be a part of the solution, not just part of the problem. With one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. Australia pollutes at high levels for a country of our size. In fact, on a per capita basis we are the sixth largest polluter in the world. We need to act in terms of climate change. That is what this bill is about and that is what we need to do. I commend the bill to the house.