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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11482


Mr CHEESEMAN (10:22 AM) —It is with some pleasure that I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2], and cognate legislation, which is very important for my seat of Corangamite but also, of course, for Australia. It also is extremely important for the rest of the world. I would first like to express my thanks to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, for a fantastic job in getting this bill here today. This is extremely complex legislation dealing with extremely challenging issues of both an economic and environmental nature. I do not think there would be too many politicians who would have the capacity to drive the reform in the way that the minister has. It has been an epic and incredibly difficult task and the minister has done an incredibly good job in getting the legislation to this place today.

I want to make some clear and unequivocal statements so that they go on the record for the people in my electorate to judge me on this matter. But I do not want to be judged as many in the Liberal Party have been. It is a party that currently is very divided on this question and one that continues to duck and weave on having a sensible and practical debate on this issue—one of the great challenges to people of our time. I believe people, and industry, have contributed very substantially to the greenhouse effect that Australia and the rest of the world face. I believe that we have moral responsibilities that go to that challenge. I believe Australia is a country that has one of the highest carbon footprints proportionally anywhere in the world. It has a moral responsibility to lead on this matter.

We have a responsibility to help rectify the damage that we have done. We have a responsibility to future generations and, of course, we have a responsibility to respond to the challenges that this places on peoples across the world. We have a responsibility for the impact that we are having on our fellow Australians. I believe that advanced countries of the world, which have done the overwhelming amount of damage, have a responsibility to lead and to set an example for the rest of the world.

My seat, Corangamite, is a perfect example of the difficulties of putting together this legislation and the importance of getting it right. In Corangamite we have hundreds of kilometres of ocean bordering the electorate. We have the Great Ocean Road which is both an engine of the tourism industry and a huge social monument that was built by 3,000 returned servicemen post the First World War. Modelling that I undertook immediately before the 2007 election showed that sea level rise, driven by climate change, will see the Great Ocean Road breached in place after place. In my seat we have incredibly important environmental assets, such as the Otway Ranges, the Lakes District and our very unique volcanic plains that scatter across western Victoria. These assets are now at far greater risk due to fire, and the lakes have been drying out for the last decade, I believe, in part because of climate change.

In Corangamite we also have a very substantial farming community. Everybody should be very well aware of the challenges that a changing and drying climate has placed on our farming communities in Corangamite, in Victoria, and across large swathes of the Australian continent. Less rain is causing enormous challenges to our farming communities. I am also aware that there are some very big challenges as to how we might include farming in a CPRS into the future. As most people know, farming is within the top three emitting industries in Australia. In my view that means that, of course, farming has to be included in an ETS for us to drive the reduction in carbon that we need. It is also important because if we do not include them we have just put that extra pressure, that extra responsibility, onto the jobs of people in other industries.

The Liberal Party and National Party argument that farming should be excluded from the CPRS is just about playing favourites. It is shallow and it is shabby politics. Doing this means choosing to put more responsibility on Shell workers and Alcoa workers in my seat. It will make it harder for Shell and Alcoa workers and harder for those industries. I believe all industries should be included in a CPRS if we are to have a system that has integrity and that will work to stabilise our climate. Every person, every industry, in my belief has a responsibility to contribute.

The key question is how do we include agriculture? Again, I think Minister Wong has got the approach just right. The CPRS includes a well calibrated policy for the farming community. Putting together an expert panel of farmers, economists and scientists who have the time to look at the question and make recommendations makes a hell of a lot of sense to me. Then there is also the time required for implementation.

It is a good policy—a sensible, balanced policy. It is just what the farmers in my communities tell me is required. The minister and the whole of the Rudd government are aware of our responsibilities regarding the jobs of farmers, the jobs of Alcoa workers, the jobs of Shell workers and the jobs of many workers in the tourism industry in my seat and many other seats across this nation.

We have to recognise the need for industry transition. We are providing the industry assistance that is required and the time that is required to implement it. These bills balance the overriding need to act on climate change with the need to put in place mechanisms that will allow our industries to adjust. What we are doing here I believe is historic. We are showing leadership. We are providing some certainty to business. I believe a world carbon market is inevitable and will be created. We are readying our country with some well-calibrated legislation for our time.

These bills have clear aims and targets. The government has an unconditional commitment to reduce our carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020. We are also making a commitment to reduce our carbon pollution by 15 per cent by 2020 if major developing economies commit to substantially restrain emissions and advanced economies take on commitments comparable to Australia’s. There is a quite clear target to reduce our carbon pollution by 25 per cent by 2020 if the world agrees to a global deal to stabilise levels of CO2 equivalent at 450 parts per million or lower.

There are no more important bills in this place than these bills. This is about how we can turn around the terrible legacy of unfettered industrialisation that we have had that has led to such enormous carbon dioxide emissions—a legacy that now threatens to engulf islands in the South Pacific; a legacy that threatens to decimate biodiversity; a legacy that is threatening human life and creating fire, storm and flood events of unprecedented ferocity and scale, as witnessed in Victoria last summer; and a legacy that will leave future generations with a shell of the world that they of course did not create.

On the other side of this chamber we continue to see a coalition that is in a shambles. It is a sad thing to watch, particularly given the importance of these bills. As we know, there are people over there who deny climate change is happening, and I think that is a great shame on this nation. There are people who want to pick industries to be left out of carbon pollution reduction processes. Of course, there are those on the other side who do not understand that the planet’s climate is changing rapidly and understand that we have to act. I say to those people: it is time to stand up. These are defining bills from both economic and environmental perspectives. Future generations will look at these bills and judge all of us. This is where politics does make a difference.

As I have said before, I am very proud of these bills. We are now a world away from the shameful Howard years when climate change continued to be denied. This is Australia saying that we are prepared to stand up and make a difference. This is Australia saying we are committed to stabilising our planet’s climate. This is Australia saying to the rest of the world we are fair dinkum about the role we can play. I commend these bills to the House.