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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11500

Mr JOHNSON (11:40 AM) —I am always pleased and honoured to speak in the House of Representatives of this great country, this great democracy of ours, as the member for Ryan representing the western suburbs of Brisbane. I pay tribute to the people of my electorate for their concern on this issue, for their interest on this issue and indeed for their desire that their government and their opposition, their elected members of the national parliament, get it right.

Australia is a great country. For the century since Federation we have had prime ministers from both sides of the parliament, from both political parties, and elected representatives from all parts of our country come to this chamber to do their best to formulate policy and to come up with ideas that take our country forward. They have tried to find policies and programs that empower our people, enrich our nation, give opportunities to our young people and deliver platforms for businesses to improve their bottom line, because we all know that at the end of the day it is small- and medium-sized businesses that employ people; it is not government.

In that context and against that background, I am pleased to speak on these Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills because in my view the federal Labor government is doing a disservice to itself and our country in relation to the way it has gone about this issue. I am sure that I speak for the people of the western suburbs of Brisbane, the Ryan electorate, that I represent, and indeed the constituents I will represent in the new year—those Australians living in the suburbs of Ashgrove, Bardon, Ferny Grove, Keperra, Enoggera, Upper Kedron and Mitchelton—when I say that they want their government to produce a policy that is in the interests of this country’s economic prosperity and its environmental security. I am not sure that this government is doing that. The emissions trading scheme which the federal Labor government wishes to pass ahead of the international meeting in Copenhagen is one that has enormous implications. It is one that has enormous ramifications for every family in this country, for every Australian and for every young person who lives in our country. I notice that in the public gallery there are some young people from some part of our country. They are certainly not from my constituency but I am sure that they come from some school in some state of this great nation. The emissions trading scheme will have an incredible impact on them as they become members of the working constituency of Australia.

This emissions trading scheme has enormous impact on the Australian economy because it imposes enormous structural change on the architecture of the Australian economy. The emissions trading scheme is a fundamental redrawing of the economic architecture of the country and therefore it will have enormous consequences for Australians in employment and for Australian families. At its heart it seeks to impose a tax on industries that by their very nature are emissions-producing industries. At its heart, the emissions trading scheme seeks to put a financial penalty on industries that collectively employ tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of people. Simply by their nature those industries produce energy and they produce emissions.

This emissions trading scheme is effectively a tax. It is essentially a financial penalty that will have a massive impact upon the profitability, the commercial viability, of those key and, indeed, strategic industries in our country. I will mention some of them: coal had a value as an exporter in 2008 of some $46.4 billion; iron ore value as an exporter was $30.2 billion; gold was $14.7 billion; crude petroleum was $10.4 billion; natural gas was $9 billion; aluminium ores were $6.5 billion; beef was $5 billion; copper ores and concentrates were $4.2 billion; and passenger transportation was $4 billion. These are just some of the industries that have enormous significance in our country. They generate billions of dollars of revenue for the national government, they collectively employ hundreds of thousands of people and in many parts of Australia they make the economy tick in those respective areas and across the national economy.

I want to put on the record that this bill is one that I have great reservations about, and that also reflects the largely held sentiment, I believe, in the Ryan electorate. I want to take this opportunity to reflect the view of a handful of constituents that have written to me. I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails and lots and lots of letters about the federal Labor government’s proposed emissions trading scheme, so I will reflect the views of a few. Geoff Layton of Taringa, who has kindly given me his consent to mention his name, said:

Dear Michael …

I’m writing about the emissions trading scheme the Parliament will vote on in November.

The Government’s proposed scheme (the CPRS) puts a new tax on coal mines that won’t reduce global carbon emissions.

Why damage Australia’s most successful export industry, cause mines to close prematurely, reduce mine investment and see thousands of jobs lost?

We need a fair law that does more to cut emissions, not jobs.

Geoff Layton writes about coal and, as I mentioned, coal is worth some $46.4 billion in revenue to Australia. I also want to thank and quote Alex Vikulov, who has also given me permission to mention the words he emailed to me. He said:

I am a professional meteorologist. Water vapour is by far the main contributor to green house effect (100 times more than CO2). CO2 has nothing to do with climate change. Do not waste resources fighting the wrong cause. Climate has always been and will always remain changeable. Instead of creating Climate Change Ministry and wasting resources, concentrate on real issues, i.e. developing renewable energy not because of “climate change”, but because current energy sources are not renewable.

Alex Vikulov has a different angle to this issue. He is focused on the aspect of energy and the fact that we should be focusing more on trying to promote the renewable energy sector in this country. I want to also quote Craig Woodman, who has also kindly given me his permission to reflect his views. Craig, who is a Ryan constituent living in the suburb of Kenmore Hills in the western suburbs of Brisbane, said:

Michael, I work in the mining industry and the proposed emissions tax (it is not credits or a trading scheme—it is a tax) does not make sense. How can a mine be taxed for something it cannot control. Will China, Columbia or Indonesia impose taxes like this on their operations. Two of the mines in the organisation I worked for are marginal now, so with the added impost of additional taxes—these will close, with the loss of over 1,500 direct jobs. The flow on effect to electricity, transport, etc will be enormous. This is a stupid scheme, which is ill thought out. Why do Alumina refineries and smelters get 90% exemption as EITE’s, but coal mining does not.

That is Craig Woodman’s view. I randomly picked those constituents of mine. I do not know any of them and I look forward to meeting them in the weeks ahead. They reflect an overwhelming view in the Ryan electorate. They go to renewable energy, they go to the impost of this tax and they go to security of jobs and security of employment. They also touch on what is supposed to be the purpose of this legislation at the end of the day, which is to reduce greenhouse emissions, to try and protect our community and to protect our country, because we as one nation in the international community contribute to greenhouse gases.

That takes me to another point I want to mention about the contribution to global emissions by various countries in the world. I have the 2006 table from the National Energy Authority showing various percentages that nations contribute to greenhouse emissions. Let me say first of all—and I think this is widely known—that China is the No. 1 country in the world and contributed the most in greenhouse emissions, with 21.5 per cent, as shown in the table. The United States contributed 20.2 per cent. The European Union contributed 13.8 per cent, and that does not include Germany, the UK or Italy, which have been given separate percentages. I will come to them in a minute. Russia contributed 5.5 per cent. India contributed 5.3 per cent. Japan contributed 4.6 per cent. Germany contributed 2.8 per cent. The United Kingdom contributed two per cent. Canada contributed 1.9 per cent. South Korea contributed 1.7 per cent. Italy, a member of the European Union, contributed 1.7 per cent. France also held a separate line item and is No. 14 on the table of global emissions contributors and contributed 1.4 per cent. Even Saudi Arabia is above Australia at 1.3 per cent.

Where does Australia rank in our global emissions? On the 2006 table that I have here, Australia contributes 1.3 per cent of world emissions. So, even if Australia were to switch off overnight, even if Australia were to not have one single power light on in any home in this country or if not even a single vehicle were to start its engine in Australia at any given time, Australia’s contribution would be a reduction of 1.3 per cent annually. Yet here we are with the federal Labor government seeking to compromise the Australian economy and the Australian people’s standard of living and economic prosperity by signing us up to an emissions trading scheme that is effectively a tax. It is effectively a penalty on employment, a slap in the face to enterprises and industries that, by their very nature, contribute to emissions.

Let me say on the record for the House and for any of my constituents that might be listening, and also for the entire electorate when I have the opportunity to engage with them, that I am not a sceptic of climate change. I happen to think that climate change is a genuine issue, a real issue. It is one of deep concern for the world and indeed for Australia and Australians to tackle. I am not a scientist. I am not an expert. I have no technical background. So who am I to say that this is fundamentally 100 per cent absolutely correct or fundamentally 100 per cent absolutely incorrect? I am just a regular guy that has an interest in my community and my society and a deep desire for my country to deliver to its people the very best livelihoods and the very best opportunities we possibly can.

As a regular guy, what do I do as a legislator? Where do I go for opinion? Where do I go for advice? I go to the experts. I have to make a judgment in the end. I also have to back my own intellectual abilities and my own sense of judgment. I take the view that, if I do not absolutely know what the case is, I have to go along with the majority of scientific opinion. If that is not a compelling enough case, I take the view of it being an insurance policy, of giving the issue the benefit of the doubt. It may well be that science and technical know-how in a century’s time prove this is all just a complete con. Conversely, it may prove that this was indeed a substantive issue. Therefore I take out an insurance policy today. I hope very much that my house does not burn down. I hope very much that my home is safe and secure. But there may be a moment where circumstances collude and my house catches fire. In such circumstances I would be relieved that I have taken out an insurance policy. So let us give the planet the benefit of the doubt. It is better to be prudent and cautious, to be safe rather than sorry. It is better to be prudent and cautious rather than regretful, wishing we had done otherwise. I put firmly on the record for the electorate of Ryan that climate change is clearly an issue for all of us to do our bit on, as individuals, households and nations.

That is very different from our doing so as part of a global solution. I read out before the percentages that countries contribute to global emissions. We simply cannot tackle this issue on our own. We must come together as a global community to tackle this issue of global climate change. This is what Copenhagen is all about. It is technically about the targets, which both the government and the opposition have signed up to: a five per cent reduction on our 1990 levels by 2020. That is what Copenhagen is technically about. But Copenhagen is also a platform for the leaders of the world—the heads of government and those with the know-how—to come together, hopefully in goodwill, to carve out and to craft a global solution.

In the absence of that happening, it just defies logic that Australia should run a million miles in front of everybody else and beat our chests and say: ‘Look at us. Look how great we are. We have legislated an emissions trading scheme in Australia that will tax all these industries that employ so many people, that contribute to the livelihoods of so many families, that contribute to the economic activity of so many communities.’ It just defies logic that we should do that. I remind those that would contend with me about the significance of Copenhagen, in terms of its timing, that there are only 40 days to go. It is only a matter of weeks. Why should we legislate this right now when we have no idea what the great emitters are doing, what the great countries, in all their wisdom, are doing—countries like the United States, China, India and others? We do not know what they are going to do. So why do this now?

What we should be focusing on is the renewables—and I regret that time is getting away from me. We should be focusing on renewable energy at home. We should be investing in solar. We should be investing in wind. We should be investing in tidal. We should be investing in ethanol. And one that has come to my attention is algae. I suspect that not many people know about algae, but we should be investing in it. We should be looking at those alternative and renewable sources of energy, because one thing is for certain: the world today has six billion people; in decades time, in 30 years time, there will be nine billion human beings on the planet. The desire for energy will increase. The desire for energy consumption will increase. We must look at that. We must also look at nuclear energy. We cannot put our heads in the sand and say, ‘It’s okay for France to have nuclear energy and the UK and Russia and China and America—but not Australia.’ South Africa is going down the nuclear path. Let us also do so. This is a source of incredible revenue for our country. It is an emissions-free source of energy. We have to do something in the renewable energy and alternative energy space.

We must not put a tax right now on Australian industry and jobs. I am for climate change measures. I am for energy security. I am for renewable energy and alternative energy. I am for doing something to secure the prosperity of our country, the employment of our young people and the empowerment of our industries and our businesses to go forward, to shine and to innovate in the world. (Time expired)