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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11491

Mr SECKER (11:03 AM) —I am pleased to rise this morning to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and cognate bills, which have certainly captured the imagination of newspapers and people all around Australia. The problem with what is being proposed here is that the Labor government scheme is flawed and will have a devastating impact on Australian jobs and trade-exposed industries. The badly designed CPRS will force jobs overseas, will severely damage Australian business and will not make any positive difference to the environment.

The Labor government has again dismissed the needs of regional Australia. The CPRS will destroy regional Australia, it will destroy Australian industry and it will destroy jobs. This CPRS will send farmers bankrupt, if they are forced to buy carbon permits, and it will shift the market share to other countries. No other country in the world is yet to put agriculture into the system and I do not trust this government not to make that decision in 2013 or even before. Agriculture cannot pass on the cost of buying carbon permits, unlike other large companies and retailers. Therefore, they will be left with the financial burden. Given that there is very little scientific research on emissions produced by agriculture, it is unfair to include them in the scheme. The government is rushing this legislation through before Copenhagen and, frankly, it does not need to. The United States will not have anything before Copenhagen, and they are the largest emitters of CO2 in the world, so why does Australia?

This legislation has been poorly thought through and, as usual, it is up to the coalition to put in the hard yards so that Australia does not suffer. The Labor government has left the Australian public in the dark about CPRS, with 90 per cent of Australians admitting that they have very little understanding of this scheme. There are 40 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted globally on an annual basis. Australia emits about 560 million tonnes, which represents 1.4 per cent of total global emissions. Whether you are a believer in anthropogenic climate change—that is, that CO2 causes global warming or climate change—one has to ask whether this system will have any effect on the emissions of CO2 on a global basis. Europe has had an ETS system since 2005. I will give you some examples of what has happened in Europe.

In Cyprus in 2005 the level of emissions was 5.078 million tonnes. That has risen to 5.396 million tonnes in 2007, an increase in the two years of an ETS. In the Czech Republic, it has gone from 82.454 million tonnes in 2005 to 87.834 million tonnes in 2007—yet another increase. In Germany with an ETS it has gone from 474.990 million tonnes in 2005 to 487.004 million tonnes in 2007. In Denmark it was 26.475 million tonnes in 2005 and that has risen to 29.407 million tonnes in 2007. Estonia has gone from 12.621 million tonnes in 2005 to 15.329 million tonnes in 2007—another increase. In Spain, the country that has probably done more than most to bring in the so-called green revolution, it has risen from 183.626 million tonnes in 2005 to 186.495 million tonnes in 2007. Finland has gone from 33.099 million tonnes in 2005 to 42.541 million tonnes in 2007—quite a substantial increase, in the order of 30 per cent. Poland has gone from 203.149 million tonnes in 2005 to 209.601 million tonnes. And in the United Kingdom, where we hear all about their Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, saying that we have to do something about CO2 emissions—he is a great believer in it—they have had an increase from 242.513 million tonnes in 2005 to 256.581 million tonnes. Those are all countries that have an ETS in place, and yet their CO2 emissions are rising.

The coalition has proposed amendments to the CPRS which are designed to save jobs, lessen the impact on industry and consumers and achieve some carbon dioxide reduction targets. Our amendments will protect key export industries and save thousands of jobs in trade-exposed industries. These proposals will cut the price increases for small businesses and households by at least half. Benefits to agriculture under the coalition’s amendments will be the permanent exclusion of agricultural emissions and an agreement with the government to introduce an agricultural offset scheme so that farmers do not get all the penalties of the scheme, even if they are not in it, but they have the ability to offset the costs. Food prices are predicted to rise, although in my experience as a farmer—which I have been all my life before coming to this job—the prices paid to the farmers will be less as the extra costs for food retailers and wholesalers will mean they will pay less to farmers rather than absorbing those extra costs from the ETS tax.

It is interesting to note, as previous speakers on our side have noted, that farming is probably the only industry in Australia that has already reduced its emissions. Farmers have done that through zero- or minimum-till sowing of crops. They did not do that to reduce CO2; it was actually about reducing costs, using less moisture and having better control of weeds. Those are things farmers have achieved by using that sort of new technology.

Frankly, the ETS is nothing more than a system that gives or sells permits to continue emitting CO2—or, as many people term it, pollution. That is not a term I agree with, but it is certainly one that is used quite widely. Ordinary citizens apparently will not have to pay extra for their fuel at first because the extra cost from the ETS will be compensated. One has to ask: how does no change in the price of fuel change people’s habits? I have always been amused by the title of this scheme: the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Are we are talking about carbon or are we talking about carbon dioxide? The relationship between carbon and carbon dioxide is no closer than the relationship between hydrogen and hydrogen dioxide or water. They are completely different elements. But this government thought it would use the name CPRS as a marketing tool, rather than ETS, emissions trading scheme. It called it the CPRS in the hope that people might think somehow we are improving the health of our environment, as a CPR does in medicine. Frankly, I think it should be renamed the carbon reduction and pollution scheme: initials C-R-A-P.

One of the problems with an ETS system is that we will have industries simply moving overseas to countries that do not have an ETS or a CPRS, as they have done in Europe. Cement factories, for example, have relocated just outside of the EU so that they do not have to comply with an ETS. That could quite easily happen in Australia, and what would be the point of that? We would be exporting our jobs in the cement industry and we would in fact increase our CO2 emissions as we would then have to import cement—you cannot get it from overseas to Australia without increasing your CO2 emissions. We hear that the jobs lost and exported overseas will be replaced by green jobs. That is the great mantra of the Labor Party. Anyone who believes that must also believe in Father Christmas. In Spain, for example—a country that, as I mentioned earlier, has gone a long way down the track of renewable energy—for every so-called green job created, 2.2 jobs were lost, so there was a net loss. There will also be severe effects on farmers even if they are not included in the system. University submissions have shown that costs for farmers are estimated to increase by 14 to 27 per cent even if they are not part of the system because of the extra costs for transport, manufacturing and so on.

I hear people use the line that the oceans will rise by six metres. That is interesting because we spoke with a group of scientists in this parliament on Monday and they were very pro the need to take action, but even they do not agree with that prediction. The IPCC report talks about 30 centimetres over the next 100 years, one foot in the old measures. That is what the IPCC is suggesting, but some people have been quite happy to use this six metres line, as indeed the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, did earlier this week during question time. It would not happen in this millennium. It would not happen in the next millennium. We are 2,000 years off six metres, even if the present rate continues.

I have heard Tim Flannery say that the oceans will rise by 100 metres. According to the present theory expounded by the IPCC, that would take 34,000 years. So it is no wonder that I might be somewhat sceptical about what Tim Flannery writes and says. I hear people saying that global warming might cause deaths from heatwaves. I can assure you that in fact more people will die from global cooling because coldness causes more deaths than heat ever does and ever will. So whenever you hear that argument that global warming might cause extra deaths, you must sit back think that, if we go the opposite way, we will actually have more deaths than we would from warming.

Like the member for Herbert, I was present on that trip to the US and I thank the parliament for bestowing that honour on me. The US will not have a bill passed in the Senate before Copenhagen. In fact, it may never have a bill passed for an ETS. Even the promoters of the bill in the US—and we spoke to them—think that their best chance is a two-vote victory. So there is no guarantee that there will be anything coming from the US on this.

I think there is considerable scientific evidence to show that aerosols of particulates, such as soot and ash, do affect the climate locally. In fact, when Indonesia could not sell its rainforest timber because they were told that nobody would buy it, they actually burnt it and replanted palm oil trees because they could make some money out of palm oil. The problem with that was that it actually affected our climate in Australia. I think there are quite a few scientific studies—in fact I tabled one in parliament in February last year—that show the effect of those aerosols created by the burning of forests in Indonesia. I do not think any scientist rejects the idea that aerosols can have quite a considerable effect on our climate. In fact, we have had volcanoes explode and that sort of negative effect has come about as a result of those volcanic eruptions.

We do have lots of variability about the science. I have no doubt that there will be believers and non-believers in anthropogenic climate change. But, as I said earlier, the question you have to ask is: does an ETS actually reduce global emissions? It has not in Europe, and I gave those figures earlier. In California they have actually levelled off their emissions without an ETS. So there are other ways that you can actually achieve it. I make no apology for the fact that I oppose an ETS. It would be disastrous for my electorate. It would be disastrous for Australia. This ETS, or CPRS as the Labor government have renamed it, simply will not do the job that they say it will. I will leave it at that. There has been a lot of debate on this subject but I can certainly say to this House that I have no intention of voting for this CPRS.