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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11571

Mr HALE (4:53 PM) —It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills and to outline the significance of the scheme to the people of Australia, and specifically the hardworking people in Solomon. This scheme strikes the right balance between supporting growth and jobs now and delivering carbon reduction. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will ensure Australia invests in industries of the future like renewable energy, solar energy and wind farms and in jobs using new technologies like clean coal and geothermal energy, which will create thousands of new, low-pollution jobs. We on this side of the House have been very mindful of the potential impact on jobs, particularly during these difficult economic times. That is why we have taken responsible action by delaying the start of the scheme for one year and committing to a fixed-price phase from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.

Our government, through the fantastic work of both the Minister for Climate Change and Water and the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, is delivering strong action to tackle climate change. The Rudd government is committed to creating low-pollution jobs for the future as part of our comprehensive approach to combating climate change. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will see, for the first time, a cost put on carbon pollution, which will encourage major polluting businesses to lower their emissions. Funds raised will assist households to adjust to the scheme, making sure Australian families do not carry the cost of climate change. Through us tackling climate change, Australia will see the renewable energy sector grow to 30 times its current size by 2050, creating thousands of new jobs—green jobs, smart jobs.

With that in mind, we have committed over $13 billion to programs that will increase the demand for low-pollution jobs, products and services. As the Deputy Prime Minister said in her speech to celebrate National TAFE Day, last night:

In all the desperate debate that’s occurred over climate change, something has been forgotten. It’s about jobs.

Treasury modelling shows that Australia can continue to achieve strong trend economic growth while making deep cuts in emissions through the CPRS and that almost all industry sectors across the economy will continue to grow. From an employment perspective, all major employment sectors will grow over the years to 2020, substantially increasing employment from today’s levels. National employment is projected to increase by 1.7 million jobs from 2008 to 2020 at the same time as our carbon pollution falls. Jobs will be created in new and established industries alike and will be spread throughout Australia. We have introduced the CPRS legislation back into the House of Representatives. This is the first step. We are determined to pass the legislation this year. Australia has waited too long for action on climate change.

I got our wonderful people in the Parliamentary Library to do some research for me, and I would like to commend Ann Rann and Chris Lawley for their contribution to my speech. I asked them to have a look at all the parliamentary committee reports on climate change that had been made during the period of the last government, because what the opposition have been trying to do in this debate—and I listened closely to a lot of speakers today—is to give the impression to the Australian public that this is something that has just crept up on us. It is as if it has only just occurred since 24 November 2007. That is when this climate change thing started! I heard one member from the opposition saying that we should be going around Australia and consulting on climate change. On 24 November 2007, the consultation was done with the Australian public, when they decided—after 12 long years of denial and of the then government saying that climate change did not exist—to throw the Howard government out of office. The consultation had been done. Let me tell the member for Bowman, who brought that up: the consultation was done.

The opposition go on with the scare stuff. We also saw today a member bringing in loaves of bread and cartons of milk and wanting to know how much the prices for them would go up. Members were looking up into the gallery and saying, ‘Your kids will not have jobs.’ All this was scaremongering, like the sort of stuff they used about Work Choices and about things that you are going to buy at the shopping centre. That is their way of doing business. They also do it with regard to asylum seekers. It is their way of doing things. So I had a little bit of research done for me by the good people in the Library, because I believe that climate change has not snuck up on us. I believe that there have been some reports done in the past. What have we got here? It is a list of House of Representatives standing committees. The first one was an interim report, Regulatory arrangements for trading in greenhouse gas emissions. That was tabled on 23 November 1998. That was 10 years ago.

Mr Bidgood —Who was in power?

Mr HALE —That was when the Libs were in power, but I will not go through who was the chair and who was on that committee. They had a second inquiry. The report was called Between a rock and a hard place: the science of geo-sequestration. That was tabled on 13 August 2007, just prior to the election. Then there was Sustainability for survival: creating a climate for change, tabled on 7 September 2007. The fourth one was Sustainable cities, a report on the inquiry into sustainable cities, tabled on 12 September 2005. Then there was Australia’s uranium—greenhouse friendly fuel for an energy hungry world. That was a ripper. I do not have a date for that one—they might have just put it in the bottom drawer! The next one is The heat is on: Australia’s greenhouse future, tabled on 7 November 2000, nearly nine years ago. The seventh report was on the Kyoto Protocol Ratification Bill 2003 [No. 2]. As we know, that was never ratified by the former government. That was tabled on 25 March 2004. The eighth report was on the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007—a fantastic inquiry—and was tabled on 6 September 2007. Then there was the report of the inquiry into the energy white paper, tabled on 16 May 2005. The final one was the joint committee’s Report 38: the Kyoto protocol—discussion paper, tabled on 4 April 2001.

The opposition come into this place with their scaremongering campaigns on climate change, wanting the Australian public to believe that this has crept up on them just now under Labor, since 24 November 2007: ‘Suddenly Labor have decided to put climate change on the agenda. They’re going to have these ghastly taxes and everything’s going to go up in price, and Labor haven’t given us any time to prepare for it.’ Well, there are heap of different reports that have come through this parliament. One of the real challenges for the parliament is that we have the reports and the research—the parliamentarians have standing committees, go to all these meetings and take in evidence—but we then need a conduit that takes that to where the policy is formulated. All these reports are an absolute waste of time unless we actually react to what they are saying.

Mr Bidgood interjecting

Mr HALE —That is right. I will briefly touch on the amendments that have been put forward by the good member for Groom. He is a good fella; he is a good friend of mine, actually. I have his amendments in my hand. It was said during this debate earlier today that we have not read the amendments—that we all just come out and read the script as it is delivered, straight from the Prime Minister’s office. What a load of rot. People on this side of the House actually have a bit of passion about climate change. Just because I am based in Darwin, it does not mean that I do not have feelings for those families that live in Flynn, Dawson and Capricornia—I do. We on this side take a holistic approach to being in government. I worry about the people of Page, and I see the good member for Page in the House this afternoon, because she cares about the climate change issue. There is only one person from the opposition here and he is on duty. I respect that he is, I suppose, on quorum duty for their side, but there is not another one in here. If they really cared about challenging it they would not have gagged their own debate as they did this afternoon—they were unbelievable.

So those opposite have no credibility whatsoever on this. They are broken into four groups. The first is the hesitators, the guys that sit on these reports for 10 years and do nothing. The hesitators are sitting back and waiting for some leadership to be shown on this issue. At the moment they are looking to East Timor, Tonga, Nauru or maybe the Solomon Islands: ‘Can we get them to show a bit of leadership on behalf of the Pacific? We in Australia want to sit back and do nothing.’ That is what the former government used to do: ‘Why should we go ahead and show leadership on this issue? Why shouldn’t we just sit back and wait?’ They are the hesitators. Then there are the imitators. I love the imitators; they are a good group. They are the ones who, when they are out in their electorates, are a little bit left of centre: ‘Yeah, climate change is a really big issue. I’m really worried about the future of the planet.’ Then, when they come in here, they do not say a word; they just sit there. They just leave it to the hard right. The hard right are the terminators. They are the terminators because they cut down anybody that has an opinion on climate change in the opposition party room. Bang!—they are cut straight down. So they have the hesitators, the imitators and the terminators. That is what they have on their side of the parliament. There is another bloke I will not mention who is right out there by himself in the way that he thinks of climate change. I will not even mention him.

This is a serious issue that was delayed for too long under the former government. What really annoys me about this is that they want to lead the Australian public to believe that we have just snuck up on them and put this out there, when I have just listed 10 different reports that were tabled—and I will table those—over the life of the former government that talked about climate change, the Kyoto protocol, carbon emissions and all the things that this debate is about.

As I see it, the reason it is vital that we take a position to Copenhagen is that we can fight for our high-emitting industries, fight for the coal industry and fight for the agricultural industry. We are in the room and we have our position. There is no need for us to wait any longer. We as a country should be showing leadership on climate change. We should be going to Copenhagen in a positive manner to say: ‘This is what we are doing for our industries, for our people, for our biodiversity, for our sustainable cities and for our coastal areas that have been eroded by the rising of the sea. And we are going to show leadership.’ That is what good leaders do. That is what our Prime Minister has done, not only on this issue. He is a leader on this issue but he is also a leader on the global financial crisis.

The parliament welcomed a visiting ambassador from a European country during the week and a question was asked of him by those opposite regarding the ‘global financial downturn’—I think that was their phrase. This individual said that they had to bail out one of their banks to the tune of $60 billion, which is a little more than a downturn. Another member opposite thought he would throw a question out about ‘this climate change stuff’. This guy rattled off a few things and said, ‘Our snowfields are melting at 4,000 feet and, actually, we tried to get Australia to ratify the Kyoto protocol.’ Bang, bang!—two knockout punches there. That country will get crossed off the list. They will not support the opposition’s position on climate change or the global financial crisis, so we will cross them off the list. The hesitators, the imitators and the terminators—that is all they have over there.

Scientists agree that carbon pollution is causing the world’s climate to change. This change is resulting in more extreme weather events, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. In Darwin, there used to be an average of one category 5 cyclone every 1,000 years. Three categories 5 cyclones have come through our area in the last 10 years, so there certainly has been a change in extreme weather events. We saw what happened with the bushfires in Victoria in early February this year—another extreme weather event. These events all have significant consequences for people in my electorate.

Scientific research tells us the Top End is likely to become hotter and wetter and the Centre hotter and drier. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones or storm surges are likely to increase. Rises in temperatures could lead to the loss of 80 per cent of freshwater wetlands in Kakadu. Rising sea levels, increased frequency of tropical cyclones and extreme weather events are likely to significantly impact on biodiversity, critical habitats, tourism and food and cultural values important to traditional landowners. Science suggests that uncontrolled climate change could see real threats to coastal housing and infrastructure, with tropical diseases becoming more common, particularly amongst the elderly, and more people suffering from heat related illnesses and death. That is why everyone needs to do their bit to tackle carbon pollution.

Australia is one of the hottest and driest continents on earth. Our environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. Leadership from the developed world encourages other countries to join the global fight. That is such an important point. It has to come from the developed world. The First World needs to lead the way for the developing world to make sure that we address climate change. Only yesterday the Minister for Climate Change and Water travelled to Spain for three days of ministerial talks on climate change. Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen highlighted the meeting as an opportunity to kick-start the last remaining week of formal United Nations negotiations prior to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. With Copenhagen only weeks away, these meetings are an important opportunity to make progress on key issues central to achieving consensus. Australia is actively participating and has put forward a framework proposal. By enacting this legislation, Australia will be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. We will actually be in the room and not sitting outside—we will be in the biscuit tin, unlike the parrot sitting on the outside.

The world will come together to attempt to reach a new global agreement on climate change later this year. Australia must go to Copenhagen from a position of strength, with strong targets we know we can deliver through the CPRS. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help us tackle climate change, to ensure our kids and future generations are not left to clean up the mess. We have a responsibility to the Australian people to act on climate change. The business community, environmental groups and the Australian people expect the parliament to do the right thing and pass the CPRS this year.

The passage of the CPRS will provide business certainty. The Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is tailored to our national interest. The Australian Industry Group, Shell Australia and a range of other businesses are calling for certainty on the CPRS so they can plan investments. Russell Caplan, chairman of Shell Australia, said, as quoted in the Business Review Weekly on 6 August 2009:

… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue. This would create a climate of continuing uncertainty for industry and potentially delay the massive investments that are required …

Heather Ridout, CEO of Ai Group, said on Sky News on 5 May 2009:

Business also needs to be making very big decisions if we are going to be able to make the transition and to do that they need certainty. Uncertainty is death for business.

It is in our national interest to pass the legislation this year, not wait around as some of those opposite suggested today and yesterday. Tackling the problem will not be easy—we know that—and there will be costs, but the longer we wait to act the higher those costs will be.

I know that the opposition have put amendments forward and I am glad we are negotiating with them. In the 12 long years of the Howard government, not once did they look to take on proposals by the opposition; not once did they talk to the Labor Party. They negotiated with the minor parties, but they did not once come to the table with us. This is an important issue. It cannot afford to wait any longer. After 12 long years it is time to act, so I suggest that the opposition act in the best interests of the Australian public and the planet rather than in the best interests of the Leader of the Opposition. I commend the bill to the House

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—I thank the member for reminding us of the Arnott’s biscuit tin. The member made mention of tabling some documents. Does he seek leave to do this?

Mr HALE —Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Leave granted.