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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11312

Mr DREYFUS (7:13 PM) —The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is contained in Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills, is a means to a low-carbon-emissions future; it is a means to a low-carbon-growth trajectory for Australia. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is not an end in itself. Anyone listening to some of the contributions to this debate from those opposite, including the hysterical contribution we have just heard from the member for Hughes, could be forgiven for thinking that it was an end in itself to introduce in Australia a carbon pollution reduction scheme—which is of course an emissions trading scheme, no different indeed from emissions trading schemes which have been introduced already in a number of countries, notably in the United Kingdom, where there has been a carbon trading scheme in operation since 2004.

I mention this at the start of my remarks about the legislation simply to make the point that there are a range of means available to reduce carbon emissions just as there are a range of strategies and means that are needed to deal with the effects of climate change generally. Part of the government’s approach to the dangerous climate change we know to be occurring is reducing carbon emissions from Australia. Another part of the government’s strategy is to take adaptation measures to unavoidable climate change. A third part of the government’s strategy to deal with climate change is working to craft a global response, a global solution, to the problem of dangerous climate change.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is one means that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions. There are others, and of course the government has already embarked on a range of measures which are also directed to reducing carbon emissions. I include in those the renewable energy target, on which the government has acted to increase very substantially the renewable energy target after years of inaction in that area by the Howard government. I include the massive investment, contained in the last two budgets, directed at encouraging the development of renewable energy sources in Australia. I refer also to the large investment that the Rudd Labor government has made in developing viable carbon sequestration, which of course is directed at allowing the continuing use of coal in our country but with much lower emissions.

I spoke on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bill when it was first introduced back in June—I spoke immediately after the Leader of the Opposition. One of the things I referred to in my speech on 2 June was the long list of excuses—repeated excuses—that the opposition had used in order to suggest that there was some reason or other for this House not dealing with legislation to introduce an emissions trading scheme for Australia. It is very pleasing to be able to say that the opposition no longer takes that position. Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition spoke on these bills. He gave a bit of history which put the debate in context and must make anyone in Australia wonder what on earth the opposition have been going on about for the last several months. He said:

Most economists and policymakers agree that a well-designed emissions trading scheme is the most economically efficient means of reducing greenhouse gases.

He went on to say:

That is why in 2007 the Howard government commenced work on an Australian emissions trading scheme. It was based on the Shergold report, the report of the committee chaired by the then permanent head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with other secretaries represented as well as industry.

He followed that by saying:

It is why both the coalition and the Labor Party went to the 2007 federal election promising to implement an emissions trading scheme.

As the Leader of the Opposition correctly points out, both the former government and the then Labor opposition, the present government, went to the Australian people saying that an emissions trading scheme was necessary. Since the 2007 election we have had backsliding, retreat and a long litany of excuses from the opposition.

When one listens to the member for Hughes one can only feel sorry, deep sympathy indeed, for the Leader of the Opposition as he attempts to marshal the bizarre attitudes that have been expressed by members opposite in relation to even the existence of climate change, let alone the hysteria that we heard from the member for Hughes to this effect: threatening the legal and social fabric of our nation. That came at the end of a speech in which she had suggested that carbon emissions were going to be responsible for a beneficial greening of the planet. Whoever heard such nonsense? So again I say, one can only feel sympathy for the Leader of the Opposition as he attempts to bring some rationality to bear. He did this in his speech earlier today, when he quite correctly noted the fact that the former government and the then opposition, the Labor Party, took to the people at the last election a proposal for the introduction of an Australian emissions trading scheme.

It is also pleasing that the opposition is engaging in negotiations with the government over the detail of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. That is not before time. Many of the details of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme have been on the table since the government’s white paper in December last year. One could go back earlier than that and look at the debates which we have now been having in this country for some years about what an emissions trading scheme would look like.

I indicated in the speech I gave on 2 June that I was about to go to a climate change conference organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in London. I did attend that conference, which was attended by representatives of almost all Commonwealth countries and by invitation a range of representatives from other developing countries. These included, notably, Mexico, which has made a tremendous contribution to negotiations at the world level in developing a response to climate change. What was striking about that conference was that I heard very clearly and very directly voices from developing countries which have not been fully heard in the debate in this country. Regrettably, I go back to the member for Hughes to say that in listening to her contribution to this debate one might think that there had been no consideration of this issue around the world; that there had been no work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—not just in the last year but over the last 10 years. That of course is not the case. There has been an immense amount of work done by scientists, there has been an immense amount of work done by governments and there is an immense amount of concern being expressed by developing countries about the effect on their countries of dangerous climate change.

The President of the Maldives attended this conference organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in London. His country, located as it is almost at sea level in the Indian Ocean, is at risk from rising sea levels. The message that he gave to all of the representatives of the Commonwealth who were present at that conference was, very directly, that his country was going to suffer the consequences of dangerous climate change caused by human activity in developed countries which, of course, is producing a situation where the consequences will be most directly borne by countries like the Maldives. Other developing countries are in a very similar position. They are looking to the developed world, of which Australia is a part, to take action to reduce carbon emissions and to take that action now.

At the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference we heard also from representatives from Bangladesh. They sent a large delegation to this conference because Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world that is also very low lying, particularly in its delta areas, and it has experienced already the direct results of extreme weather events that are part of the dangerous climate change phenomenon. The particular recent catastrophic weather events that have been experienced by Bangladesh include what they referred to as two ‘super-cyclones’, which produced the result that, as at the date of this conference, which was in the first week of July this year, there were still some three million Bangladeshis living on levee banks as a result of flooding that had not subsided being caused by the two super-cyclones that occurred over the Australian summer, which was the monsoon season in Bangladesh, at the end of last year and the start of this year.

I mention those examples simply to make the point that it is not just about Australia; it is about the contribution that Australia can make to the rest of the world and to the wellbeing of developing countries—in particular, developing countries from the Commonwealth, who are all looking directly to Australia as a developed Commonwealth country to take action and, indeed, to lead and assist in the negotiations which are about to take place in Copenhagen in December, less than 50 days from now. There is no doubt, the longer we wait the greater the cost will be.

We on this side of the House are going to keep explaining the clarity of the science, how this scheme is intended to work and the need for it. I, with the member for Moore, assisted in arranging a visit last week of a group of climate scientists to provide information to members of this parliament. Listening to the member for Hughes, I can see that there is going to be an ongoing need for good science to provide answers to the sorts of myths and bad science that are propagated by climate change sceptics, which appear to include the member for Hughes.

The efforts that seem to be now being made by part of the opposition—I cannot say the whole of the opposition; but, happily, the leadership of the opposition—to negotiate changes to this legislation are to be welcomed. It is a matter of continuing regret that there has been a complete failure on the part of the National Party part of the opposition to take climate change at all seriously. That represents a complete failure to look after that part of Australia which I had always thought the National Party claimed to be their constituency, namely rural Australia, who it is accepted are those Australians who will be massively affected by dangerous climate change in the form of reduced rainfall, higher temperatures and all of the other effects that other speakers have spoken about.

Finally, I would mention the need for business certainty. The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and a whole range of other industry groups and industry leaders are calling for this legislation to be passed. They have seen that in the United Kingdom and in the European community emissions trading legislation has been passed. It has not led, to use the hysterical words of the member for Hughes, to a ‘disruption of the legal and social fabric’ of their nations and nor will it lead to even a threat to the legal and social fabric of our nation. Instead it will lead to certainty. It will lead to Australia being able to join in with the rest of the world in grappling with climate change. It will lead to an improved negotiating position for Australia at the Copenhagen conference because we will be able to speak with the authority of a nation that has enacted legislation. And, to go back to my last point, in relation to business certainty it will provide to the business community of our country certainty going forward upon which they can rest business decisions and certainty as to where the business environment in which they operate is going to be in five and, we hope, 10 years time. I commend the legislation to the House.