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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11324

Mr MURPHY (8:08 PM) —I rise to speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills. Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, as you know, the Rudd government is committed to reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. These bills outline the government’s proposed measures to fulfil this commitment. The Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, has warned that these bills are crucial to our nation’s economic and environmental future. Respected economists such as Professor Garnaut also warn that continued inaction will be far more costly in the future if we do not take action today. In fact, based on treasury modelling, future generations will pay 15 per cent more for inaction compared with those nations who take action now. Treasury modelling also suggests that under this scheme output will increase, real wages and jobs will increase, and GNP and GDP will also increase. It is imperative that these bills be passed without further delay, not only to protect our beautiful environment but to ensure a prosperous, sustainable economy too.

As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the CPRS will measure the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions of liable entities and put a price on those emissions. The CPRS includes transitional assistance measures to ensure a responsible approach, supporting businesses, jobs, community organisations and households. The CPRS and our renewable energy target will encourage and support businesses and jobs through the investment in future industries such as renewable energy. This is a very good thing. Thousands of new low-polluting jobs will be created through new technologies like clean coal, geothermal energy and increased investment in renewable energy such as solar, wind and tidal power. I repeat: this is a good initiative.

Households will also be assisted through the household assistance package, to help our citizens meet or offset the increase in energy costs. The devastating effects of extreme weather conditions, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and more droughts will be far more damaging to our economy in the long term if we do not join in a willing effort to mitigate the effects of climate change now.

I take this opportunity to applaud the member for Throsby, who led the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts inquiry and its report: Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate: the time to act is now. This is a fantastic report. It really reveals the seriousness of the issue that we are debating here in this House tonight. If you do not believe me in relation to this report: I have never seen such a response in the media as in yesterday’s paper. Look at page 1 of the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Make evacuation plans’. Full marks to the environmental editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Marion Wilkinson, for putting this story on page 1. If you have a look here on page 7 there are a number of articles which deal with the serious issues associated with climate change. And then in the Age, page 1 again—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! I point out to the member for Lowe that newspapers are prohibited from the House.

Mr MURPHY —I am only making the point—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I am making the point of the standing orders, honourable member for Lowe.

Mr MURPHY —I understand the point you are raising. I will also draw to the attention of the House the publicity that appeared on page 1 of the Australian and page 1 of the Canberra Times in respect of the committee’s report. I commend that particularly to opposition members. They will find that they will be better equipped to participate in this debate. This is a very serious issue that we are debating tonight. As an island nation the report makes it very clear that Australia will be hard hit if we sit on our hands and do nothing. Homes, businesses, important infrastructure, trade and livelihoods are all at risk. My electorate of Lowe enjoys beautiful foreshores. It is very relevant to the people whom I represent in this place that extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels could affect the areas that so many of them call home.

At a local level, the City of Canada Bay has taken the initiative to tackle climate change. Canada Bay is not sitting on its hands. It has some of the most extensive foreshore of any local government area in Australia. And well done to the Mayor of Canada Bay, Councillor Angelo Tsirekas; the other councillors; and the general manager, Mr Gary Sawyer, and his staff for supporting this initiative. I take this opportunity to also congratulate Canada Bay council and the community, which recently won gold at the United Nations endorsed International Awards for Liveable Communities. The council won gold in the Whole City Awards and was the overall winner of the Environmentally Sensitive Practices project award. The awards recognised the council’s future vision, including targets for carbon neutrality, the climate change action plan, its own greenhouse gas targeted projects and the water savings action plan and other environmentally sensitive initiatives. Well done to the City of Canada Bay Council. Canada Bay has shown us how we can lead the world in our efforts to tackle climate change at a local level.

The world is moving on in its efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change at all levels of responsible government. While those opposite are still arguing the science of the matter, our government is taking responsible action. I know that the vast majority of my constituents in Lowe support this position. My constituents’ concerns are warranted. It is a fact that Australia is the hottest and driest inhabited country on earth. We have experienced a series of the hottest years on record in the last 10 years, with drought affecting much of our land. The Murray-Darling Basin, referred to as Australia’s food bowl, could well see irrigated agricultural production drop by almost 90 per cent by the end of the century. This is alarming.

Australians are rated among some of the worst polluters in the world. If we are part of the problem, we must be working hard to be a part of the solution. It is simply not reasonable to be one of the worst polluting countries and demand action from other nations without a clear commitment from our own government. As a developed nation, we should be showing leadership in reducing our carbon footprint and fostering low-polluting industries. That is the very thing that this government is doing with this legislation.

The government is sensitive to the current economic climate. While there is a need to ensure we set emission targets, we must also protect jobs and the economy. As previously mentioned, Treasury modelling indicates that the measures contained in the CPRS in fact assist in increasing jobs, output and GDP. This will be assisted by the substantial assistance outlined in the bills. The bills provides substantial assistance to firms engaged in emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities, with the allocation of free permits and transition periods as well as the creation of the Climate Change Action Fund to assist community sector organisations and businesses with the proposed changes.

The CPRS will monitor, report and audit the greenhouse gas emissions of liable entities. It will encourage major industry to invest in more sustainable technology and practices. As I said, this is a good thing. The funds raised through the CPRS will be redistributed to households to assist in the transition to ensure that the changes are affordable for families. The introduction of the CPRS will encourage the redirection of investment in low-carbon industries and businesses. It is estimated that the renewable energy sector will grow 30 times its current capacity by 2050 and create thousands of new jobs.

While the opposition is running a scare campaign that Australia would be alone in adopting a CPRS, this is simply not true. There are 27 European countries already operating a scheme, more than 20 states and provinces in the USA and Canada are introducing emissions trading initiatives to reduce carbon pollution, and our close neighbour New Zealand is too. If we do not act now we will be delaying progress on a low-pollution economy, delaying low-polluting jobs creation and delaying improvements to our environment, to the detriment of future generations.

Unlike the opposition, the government has maintained its commitment to crucial reform to address the serious challenge posed by climate change. As some of my colleagues have already highlighted in the debate today, the opposition continues to change its position on the environment and climate change. That was in evidence with the previous speaker, the member for Calare. Now is the time for the opposition to seize the opportunity and support the legislation. Now is the time for the opposition to show us that they are serious about the environment and being part of the most significant economic and environmental reform in Australia’s history.

There is a strong cross-section of support throughout the community for the scheme. The President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Professor Ian Lowe, said of the scheme:

It puts Australia in a leadership position along with the EU in relation to developed countries targets which will be crucial for a sound Copenhagen outcome.

The Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, who has called for this scheme to be passed by the end of the year, said:

AI Group has consistently called for the legislation to be passed this year. This is critical to establish the degree of certainty businesses require in assessing medium and long term investment decisions.

As I have previously noted in my support for action on climate change, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Climate Institute, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Council of Social Services are all in support of the proposed scheme. The diverse interests of the organisations mentioned indicates the widespread business support for the implementation of this scheme. In the current economic climate the last thing Australian businesses need is business uncertainty. In light of the current economic situation, the actions of the opposition do not assist in providing business certainty.

These bills address what is the largest economic and environmental challenge we face today. The issue of climate change was well contested at the last election and the public spoke volumes about their desire for the government to take action. There were 11½ years of inaction by the former government and I hope that we do not see further delays. The reforms seek to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously supporting jobs and low- and middle-income earners and businesses make the important transition to a low-carbon economy. Each section of society and each industry will be a part of this endeavour to make our world a better place for future generations. I again thank the Minister for Climate Change and Water for her efforts in coordinating these bills. It is undoubtedly a very serious challenge for Australia and, indeed, the world to face and it is time to take action now. I therefore encourage the opposition to show the courage needed to address this challenge. I commend the bills to the House.