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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11363

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (10:42 PM) —I rise behind the member for Cowper and endorse some of the very strong points he raised because the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2], and the related bills, which we are debating here tonight, are fundamentally flawed. They are nothing more than a revenue raiser that the government is trying to raise against the backdrop of its budget deficits. It is going to ask the people of Australia and the exporting industries of Australia to pay a new tax when the rest of the world have not even come to an agreement as to where they want to go in relation to the issue of carbon emissions globally.

One of the fundamental flaws with this scheme is that it is a new tax and the tax, while it is proposed in this bill will initially be set by the government, it will, under the proposal put by the government, eventually be set by the market—by the traders. To have any market to operate you have got to have fluctuations. When you have fluctuations in the price of carbon—in other words, the price of the tax, which is going to go up and down—it will certainly have an impact across the board.

As the member for Cowper said, you can buy carbon offsets right now in Chicago for 85 cents a tonne. Yet this government proposes to set them at $10 a tonne. There is not even an international comparison.

The Prime Minister seems to want to go to Copenhagen with a legislated ETS that has been passed with a Labor majority in this place and with some others being brought onside in the upper house. He wants to go to Copenhagen in December with legislation in his back pocket. Countries from all around the world are going to participate in Copenhagen and very few of them will arrive there with a legislated position in relation to the way they intend to deal with carbon emissions or reduce global carbon emissions. So why is it that Australia has to arrive with a legislated scheme? We already know that New Zealand is not going to go with one. We understand that Canada is sitting back to see what the United States is going to do. We understand that that United States will not be arriving with a legislated scheme, given what is happening in the senate—there is a disagreement between the senate and the congress. So why do we in Australia have to go to Copenhagen with a legislated scheme? Surely the democratically elected governments—the sovereign nations—have a responsibility to go to Copenhagen and negotiate. That is what this nation should do—negotiate. We should not go with something in the back pocket, but to negotiate.

If there is an agreement reached representatives will go back to their sovereign nations and then bring legislation forward, in whatever form it might take. But, no, this Prime Minister wants to go there with a legislated scheme. Ours would be one of the few countries in the world that would arrive with a legislated scheme. We know from what we have heard globally in the meetings leading up to Copenhagen that there is a diversity of opinion. Some countries want to reduce carbon emissions but certainly do not intend to introduce a tax into their economy. All countries will want to go back and discuss—as I am sure this place will discuss—what happened in Copenhagen. So this scheme that the government is bringing forward, fundamentally flawed as it is, will not be the scheme that is agreed globally by participating countries in Copenhagen. Quite typically, as we have so often seen, this government—and particularly this Prime Minister—is putting the cart before the horse.

One of the fundamental flaws of this legislation—it is one of the problems that I have with it—is the effect on the agricultural sector. I represent probably one of the largest food-producing regions in Queensland. I will not say it is one of the largest food-producing regions in Australia, because my colleague from the Parkes electorate would probably interject. We will talk about that later.

If this ETS is implemented, what we do know is that it will be very hard to reverse. I know that if this scheme is implemented, if we are sitting here in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years time—when we have been living with this tax for decades—there will have been very little headway, globally, in reducing emissions and we will have to ask ourselves what we achieved, apart from introducing a new tax which provided revenue for governments to distribute as they wished in certain sections of the economy.

If we are to reduce emissions and can get an agreement at Copenhagen we should be acting multilaterally, not in isolation, because the process of this bill has the potential to destroy many Australian jobs and make very little impact on carbon emissions here in Australia. The influence we will have in Copenhagen on global emissions—of which we contribute only 1.5 per cent—is going to be negligible.

I know that one of the great challenges confronting this nation and the world today is the global food crisis. That underscores the reason I want to see agriculture not included—as the government proposes it will be by 2013, 2014 or 2015—in an emissions trading scheme. We know—these are United Nations figures—that in 50 years time the world’s population will have reached nine billion people. That is a third more mouths to feed than we have today. At the rate of population growth in the world today, there are another six million mouths to feed every month. That is the rate of population growth globally. That means that by Australia Day next year we will have had a population increase in the world equivalent to the total population of Australia today. Those people will have to be fed, otherwise populations in many parts of the world will be confronting a situation like we see in Ethiopia today—widespread famine.

We also know that by 2050 most of the world will be urbanised. Australia is on the way. Recent figures suggest that by 2050 we will have a population of 35 million people, whereas we now have a population of 22 million. Around 70 per cent of those people will live in urban areas. Already, half the world lives in urban areas and by 2025 there will be something like 29 megacities in the world—cities with populations of more than 10 million. There are 10 of those megacities today and there is going to be something like 30 of them within 15 years. Half of them will be in Asia.

Living standards, we know, will improve. We know that the world’s arable farming lands are going to decline. To feed the world’s nine billion inhabitants and to make sure that they do not go hungry, we will have to increase global food production by 70 per cent. I was very fortunate to join you, Mr Speaker, to meet the Chief Executive of the CSIRO, Dr Megan Clark, who spoke to us two nights ago here in this place. She gave me a startling figure. I asked her to repeat it to me just to make sure I had it correct. She said that we will have to produce, in the next 50 years, the same amount of food that humans have produced since ancient Egyptian times. I said, ‘Could you say that again?’ You might recall that, Mr Speaker. She said that in the next 50 years we are going to have to produce the same amount of food as has been produced since Biblical times—over the last 2,000 years. It is an incredible number; I find it hard to get my mind around it.

During the next 50 years, with the global population increasing and rising living standards, we will have to produce as much food as has been produced since ancient Egyptian times. That is the challenge that is confronting us. Yet this bill, fundamentally flawed as it is, wants to introduce a tax and impose it on Australian farmers. We know that America has already decided, ‘We are certainly not going to tax our agricultural sector; in fact, we are going to take them out permanently.’ That was their proposition as they debated their legislation in the congress, which passed with a very narrow majority. But the bill before this parliament tonight, which was debated a little short of three months ago, wants to include the agricultural sector.

Australia will have a role to play in helping meet the global food challenge. Already, through their own food production and the food that we export to many parts of the world, Australian farmers feed over 60 million people a day. The demand for food is going to grow. The demand on Australian farmers is going to grow. We can play a role in this but it is going to be very hard if the playing field is tilted against our farmers. Other farmers in the world will not have the same tax on their production that is proposed by this government. That is why our amendment to permanently exclude the agricultural sector must be accepted.

I often quote Dorothea Mackellar and her wonderful poem My Country—a country of beauty and terror, droughts, floods and bushfires. This nation has sadly seen them all fairly regularly. Yet our farmers continue to prevail. Ninety-three per cent of the food consumed in Australia is produced domestically. That is a great success in some of the toughest agricultural farming lands in the world, on top of feeding 60 million people a day.

Another aspect of the coalition’s amendment is to allow farmers to participate in voluntary carbon offsets. Our farmers have employed farming methods that have changed over time. I introduced zero tillage on our farm when I was farming in the early 1980s, 25 years ago. It is in widespread use in many agricultural farming areas today. Zero tillage, incorporating residue into the land, reduces nitrogen use. All those procedures and agricultural practices will reduce carbon emissions. We need to allow farmers to participate in voluntary carbon offsets by being able to store carbon in the soil to increase its fertility and its moisture retention capacity. That is why carbon is an important commodity in agriculture and that is why, in the interests of global food security and because of the global challenges ahead of us, we must permanently remove agriculture from the CPRS scheme but also allow farmers to participate in voluntary carbon offsets. We need to put an incentive in place for them to utilise those carbon offsets for the benefit of the soil, which ultimately is of benefit to all Australians.

We know we can measure carbon emissions from motor vehicles, trucks and power stations. But how are we going to measure methane from livestock? We cannot. This bill is going to bring the agricultural sector into the scheme by 2013 or 2014 and apparently we are going to be able to measure emissions from an animal—a living, breathing being. That is why this bill is so fundamentally flawed. If it were not so serious it would be laughable.

We know that the global demand for meat is going to increase by some 80 per cent by 2030. Here is the catch-22, and I am sure you can appreciate it, Mr Speaker. Under Labor’s proposal, do we increase our livestock numbers to meet this global increase in demand, or do we reduce the number of livestock to meet the emissions targets? That is why it is so ludicrous that the Labor Party includes agriculture in this proposal. This goes to the absurdity of this part of the bill.

Our amendment states that our trade-exposed industries should compete on a level playing field. My own electorate of Maranoa, as I said earlier, is a great food-producing bowl, whether it is the pig meat, goat meat, sheep meat or kangaroo meat industries, the beef abattoirs, cotton mills, milk processing plants, peanut processing plants or wineries. All of those are first-stage processing and food production. Most of them supply not only the domestic market but also export markets. Whether they are dairy farmers in the South Burnett and the Darling Downs or kangaroo harvesters in western Queensland, all of those industries, as first-stage food processors, should be taken out of the Labor Party’s proposal.

I have very limited time before the House rises tonight, so in conclusion, whilst I have a great deal more to say on power, the natural gas industry, coal seam methane and the opportunities for a green energy revolution as part of the solution in Australia, can I say that we must wait for an outcome on the negotiations that take place at Copenhagen. To move before that if Labor’s bill is passed will impose a huge impact on Australian jobs. It will not cut emissions. It will tilt the playing field against all our export industries. Ultimately we will see jobs, as well as well as carbon emissions, exported to other countries. I urge the government to listen to what we have said, go to Copenhagen and come back next year when we sit in early February and bring forward legislation in line with an international agreement.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 pm, the debate is interrupted.