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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11283

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (5:15 PM) —It is great to be back here going in to bat, for the second time around, on this legislation. It is critical that we now enter the endgame for this legislation. The circumstances have changed since the last time I spoke, in that we are now, thankfully, engaged in true negotiation with the coalition, and I certainly welcome that. It is great to finally have the flywheel engaged. It has been two years spinning on an axis and it is great to get down to business.

I am deeply disturbed by the comments we have heard, to great note, in the media and around the country from many of the members of the Nationals. This is deeply concerning when we consider that these people are supposed to represent the interests of farmers and our people in the regions and in rural Australia. What a disservice they do to them through their opposition!

I will come back to that, but firstly I would like to say that my region, Eden-Monaro, continues to embrace the science and to do something about this issue at a local level. Just recently it was a great pleasure for me to be at a fundraiser for a film which will be shown at the Copenhagen conference by a group of filmmakers from the Merimbula area in my region—in particular, Toni Houston and Bettina Richter, who have worked together with natural history filmmaker Tina Dalton and the Emmy award-winning cinematographer David Hannan on the Great Barrier Reef. They have also had the assistance of Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland. This is a magnificent documentary of 75 minutes—and piece of art in addition to that—which traces, explains and illustrates beautifully the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and reef systems worldwide and the risks we run through not dealing with this issue and meeting this challenge.

In particular, at the heart of this is the issue that, at the current rate of climate change, reefs worldwide may be dead as soon as 2050. This would be a great tragedy. Their work has been acknowledged by the Danish government and their film, Aqua, will be the only Australian event to be included in the official cultural program of the Copenhagen conference, known as COP15. It will be shown in Copenhagen on 16 December. A short version—15 minutes—will be screened at the biggest music venue in Copenhagen in the Pumpehuset. It will be a live, multi-screen, immersive audio and visual experience which will also be supported by the Australian Embassy in Copenhagen. So I really do salute Bettina, Toni and all the team who have worked on Aqua. I hope to be able to stage a screening of that film here in Parliament House in November before the final vote is taken on this legislation and before we head off to Copenhagen.

I would also like to highlight some of the initiatives at the grassroots level that are going on in my region. It is just amazing to see how widespread that has been. One of our solar power companies, Pyramid Power, has had a great initiative, which basically involves rounding up a group of, say, 30 people, who will sign up to a group purchase of solar panels on their homes, as a consequence of which Pyramid Power undertakes to install a 1.5 kilowatt system on a community asset. That can be a church, a rural fire service station or any of these types of assets. It has been so well embraced that our area, I believe, has one of the largest take-up rates of solar panels in this country, through this process.

Most inspiring for me was the fact many of my constituents used that $900 cash bonus to engage in these schemes and purchase solar panels. It was incredibly inspiring to see that. They did not lash out on consumer goods et cetera; they applied it to this scheme. It was wonderful to see this community response. It sends a message that, if anyone wishes to contest Eden-Monaro in the future, they will have to show their credentials on climate change. That is the strongest message. I think that message is resonating around the country in many key seats. It is well to take that message on board.

I want to come back to this issue of the Nationals: some of the comments we have seen from them and the irresponsibility of those comments. Just recently—last week—Senator Barnaby Joyce was in my electorate in Cooma. He got some coverage in the very fine local paper down there, the Cooma Monaro Express. I was really disgusted to see the line he took. I am very fond of Barnaby. He is a great bloke, but on this issue I am extremely disappointed in him. We all know that our farmers are under great stress at the moment. There is a real mental health issue in the bush because people are dealing with the consequences of climate change and drought. Certainly, most of my electorate is under exceptional circumstances status. It is a real concern to me that no greater burden, in terms of anxiety, be added for the farmers. But there was Barnaby coming down and saying that he took exception to the coalition involvement in the negotiations. He said:

I was ashamed about it.

Those were his words. He also said that the government’s emissions trading scheme was going to ‘send people in the room tonight broke’. He completely denied that any aspect of climate change was occurring and told farmers that they were about to be ruined and sent into bankruptcy by these schemes. This is really disturbing, because I do not understand why Barnaby, as someone who represents farmers, would want to spread this sort of fear and anguish amongst them. I think it is cruel, given all they are going through at the moment. Farmers are the one sector of our community and economy who stand to lose the most from climate change inaction.

I have seen this firsthand in my work in the portfolio to which the legislation is relevant—in relation to the water issues. It is relevant all up and down the Murray-Darling Basin, in places like Moree, Griffith, Deniliquin, Shepparton, Mildura and Renmark. It is really a crying shame to see something like the magnificent rice mill at Deniliquin—the largest in the southern hemisphere. It has been lying idol for a few years and 400 jobs are unable to be exploited by that facility.

Farmers continue to suffer from the effects of climate change. They are the ones who stand to lose the most so it is imperative that we act on climate change for their benefit. Why do not the Nationals see that? The key point to notice is that agriculture will not be included in the scheme at all before 2015, and the government has not made a decision on whether the sector will be included at all. That final decision will be left until 2013. I feel it is legitimate for Nationals and people who represent farmers to try to get the best deal they possibly can for farmers but it should be understood that it is in their interests to participate in the scheme on the credit side. There are a number of aspects of the CPRS legislation which would facilitate that for the benefit of farmers.

The key is that we still can, and must, pursue reductions in emissions in farming. There are many ways in which that can occur and ways in which that will improve farmers’ productivity. I have been in discussions with proponents of schemes that would assist farmers—schemes that already exist and are working well in other parts of the world. In Germany, for example, using biogas techniques utilising the emissions and the waste products from the livestock industry, they have now managed to provide six to seven per cent of their base load electricity from this biogas source using livestock. Farmers in Germany are diversifying, using the opportunities of renewable energy to divide up their land so that in one corner of their paddocks they might have solar panels and in other areas they might be growing crops or grazing cattle. The opportunities are there and are already being exploited overseas. Farmers are obtaining greater productivity as a result of measures taken to reduce emissions in that sector. We can also achieve that sort of productivity and drive forward our farming industry.

This has been well evident in my region in particular. Renewable schemes and projects in my region include the Capital Wind Farm near Bungendore—$300 million worth of investment, great jobs and a great contributor to our renewable energy objectives. That scheme will be dwarfed by the Boco Rock project near Nimmitabel which will be twice that size—another few hundred million dollars coming into the region. There is the exciting new Dyesol solar technology industry happening in Queanbeyan; and Lloyd Energy in Cooma is doing great things in new schedulable solar-thermal technology which I believe has great potential and is creating spin-off jobs in industry in other parts of the region. There is also Eraring Energy and, of course the granddaddy of all the renewable project in this country—the Snowy hydro scheme, which is certainly a key employer and economic driver in the region. Other companies I have mentioned include Pyramid Power, who started with five employees. They now have 60 and are expanding rapidly throughout the region. We also have solar companies around this area, including Solartech, in Queanbeyan, and there are many more.

Farmers everywhere will stand to gain from participating in the credit side of the scheme, such as planting trees—we have heard that mentioned. I took on board the comments of the member for New England in relation to where this will drive our agricultural industry. The bottom line is that, with market forces, if there is a shortage of food then certainly the price of that food will make that a more competitive crop to grow. It is not as though you will see the situation where all farmers will devote all their land to one particular product such as forestry, or growing trees. This will give farmers the opportunity to diversify so that they minimise their risk during rough times for particular crops. It is not a question of one aspect of their industry overtaking another.

Barnaby also mentioned in his speech at Cooma that we have no influence in the world and that our efforts in reducing carbon pollution would make no difference. This is simply not true. I really think that Barnaby not only is betraying our farmers but also is selling our country short. The influence of Australia has been reflected in the way that the Prime Minister has driven his influence, and Australia’s influence, in world affairs through the utilisation of the G20 mechanism. We also have recognition of his status globally, and Australia’s status, in his appointment as ‘friend of the chair’ in Copenhagen by the Danish Prime Minister. I think Barnaby is completely wrong. As a large country with an economy highly dependent on carbon emissions it is important that we show leadership. Our leadership will be recognised and will help to drive the objective forward at Copenhagen and afterwards.

Basically, it is important that we get a market mechanism in place now to drive the changes that we need. Whatever happens at Copenhagen, every nation will need a tailored solution. We are producing our tailored solution: it suits our economy, it suits our national dynamics and it suits our geography and other aspects of our country that are unique.

Finally, the attitude of the opponents of this scheme reminds me of a past age which I recalled recently at the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Snowy hydro scheme at Adaminaby the weekend before last. At the launch ceremony for the Snowy scheme 60 years ago there was a Labor Prime Minister in Ben Chifley, a Labor state Premier in New South Wales in James McGirr, the local federal member was Labor’s Alan Fraser, and the state member was Labor’s Jack Seiffert. It was an all-Labor affair and it was the vision and boldness of those Labor leaders that brought on the Snowy scheme. At the time, the ceremony was boycotted by the Liberal Party, as Robert Menzies opposed the scheme. It was, in fact, just before the 1949 election.

It is that same blinkered ignorance that we can see in some sections of the coalition today. We do not need shallow political opportunism and scaremongering. What we need is the boldness and vision of that great generation to help this country navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. KJ Andrews)—Before calling the next speaker, I say to the previous speaker that I understood that his references to a senator were good natured, but it would assist the decorum of the House if references to senators were by calling them Senator with his or her surname.