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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11583

Ms HALL (5:54 PM) —I commend the member for Chifley for his fine contribution to this debate and the very strong words on which he concluded his contribution. I am rising, as all the other speakers have in this debate, to talk on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills, but before I commence my contribution there is something I must say first. Reluctant though I am to put this on the record, I must. I was absolutely disgusted when, just before question time today, the Leader of the Opposition tried to gag this debate. He tried to prevent me and all the other people who have spoken this afternoon from making a contribution to this debate. Not only did he try and gag members of the government, he also tried to prevent members of the opposition speaking—so he himself was one of the people he sought to gag.

For a number of years in this place I was a member of the opposition and I used to get very upset when I had prepared a speech, I was ready to present and I would be walking down to the chamber to give my speech when, the next thing I knew, the government of the day decided that the debate should end. It seems to me that those on the other side of this parliament have not learnt from being in opposition. The people of Australia want to hear what the members of parliament have to say about this piece of legislation. Trying to gag the debate shows the Australian people, the people we represent in this parliament, that we are not taking them seriously. Thankfully, members of the government joined together to ensure that all members who wished to speak in this debate could do so and, as such, I am making my contribution now. Hopefully, some of the members from the opposition will now feel they are able to pull their speech out of the drawer and come down here into the House and make their contribution.

We on this side of the House believe that climate change is a real fact of life. We believe it is a great threat to our very existence. We believe that unless we act—and act now and act quickly—we will end up in a situation where the consequences of not acting will both be very expensive and have an enormous impact on our way of life. It is because we take the issue of climate change so seriously and because we recognise that climate change needs to be acted upon globally that the first act of the Rudd government was to sign the Kyoto agreement—unlike the Howard government that buried its head in the sand.

Following that signing, the Rudd government commenced the process of looking at the best way to address climate change. That process started with the Garnaut report, which found that the current emissions trend would have a severe and costly impact on our economy. It would affect agriculture, infrastructure, iconic environmental assets and tourism destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef which are very important to our way of life and our economy. The report concluded that the cost of inaction would have a greater impact on jobs and the economy than taking responsible action on climate change. What we have before us today is legislation that does just that: it puts in place a blueprint for responsible action.

Australia has adopted a three-pillar approach to climate change: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change we cannot avoid, and helping shape the global solution. The Rudd government believes that a CPRS is the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution whilst minimising the impact on businesses and households. We believe that you have to have the strength to put a CPRS in place.

What we have seen in this parliament over the last month or so is an opposition that does not have the strength to address the issue of climate change. What we have seen is an opposition that is divided and a government that is united in its intent to address the issue of climate change. We have an opposition that is more intent on fighting amongst itself that it is on addressing the most pressing issue facing Australians today.

We believe it is in the nation’s interest to pass this legislation and to immediately address the issue of climate change. Every sector of our society—be it businesses or environmental groups—looks to the parliament to act, to create certainty so we can move on from this impasse we are currently at. The legislation, put simply, places a limit, or cap, on the amount of carbon pollution industries can emit. It requires effective businesses to buy pollution permits. The mandatory obligation under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will commence from 1 July 2011 and will encourage action to reduce carbon pollution from 2010.

The scheme includes greenhouse gases included under the Kyoto protocol. Emissions from stationary energy will also be covered from the start of the scheme. The scheme will cover around 75 per cent of emissions. Assistance in the form of administrative allocation of permits will be provided to new and existing firms engaged in EITE activities. Permits will initially be provided at a 90 per cent rate for most emissions-intensive activities and a 60 per cent rate for activities that are moderately emissions intensive. The global recession buffer will apply to allocated baseline emissions per unit of output for activities. The scheme recognises voluntary action, and a household assistance package is covered by the legislation before us today.

I will now move away from the details of the bill, which is being discussed at great length by a number of people in this parliament, and address some other issues that have been raised during the debate. Members on the other side have emphasised their belief that this legislation will cost jobs. I would argue that there is plenty of information available to show that it will not cost jobs. Rather, it will face the economy in a new direction and lead to the creation of many, many new jobs and many new industries.

On Tuesday there was a climate change forum in Newcastle. At this forum we had speakers like Sharon Burrow, ACTU President, who talked about one million new jobs that would be created in the energy revolution; Don Henry, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, who talked about strengthening the economy and cleaning up the planet; and Tony Maher, president of the CFMEU—that is the mining union—who spoke about ‘the future of coal: fact and fiction’. I have heard Tony Maher speaking on ABC Radio in the Hunter. He has emphasised that he does not believe that this legislation will lead to a loss of jobs in the coal industry. There was also Clare Martin, from the Australian Council of Social Service, who talked about a clean energy future and how it can create opportunities for low-income and long-term unemployed Australians.

Whilst I am referring to Clare Martin and the contribution she is making to this debate as CEO of ACOSS, I note that she wrote an article for the Newcastle Herald. In the article she emphasised that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our society and our nation. She went to great lengths in the article to say that major climate change risks will escalate unless we move towards a low-carbon economy. As with other people who have made influential contributions to this debate, she has emphasised that if we do not act now—if we do nothing—the cost to our nation will be enormous. She emphasised the need to act locally and globally. From a local perspective, it is imperative that this legislation is passed so that when we go to Copenhagen we have something on the table.

Unlike those on the other side of this House, we do not believe that if you sit back and wait and see what the rest of the world is doing then everything will be okay. We believe that we need to act now and that we need to be leaders, not followers. In her article in the Newcastle Herald Clare Martin emphasises that the CPRS is an important mechanism, a critical step towards a low-carbon economy.

I cannot understand how those on the other side of this House cannot grasp the concept that it is a critical step and that we need to move that way. We cannot afford to amend the legislation to an extent where it is useless. The opposition must settle differences, they must calm the climate change deniers and they must recognise the fact that 90 per cent of the scientists worldwide accept the fact that CO2 is the cause of climate change.

By investing in technologies for the future and in green, clean jobs we will set ourselves up as leaders and we will develop new technologies. This legislation will allow appropriate assistance for regions and industries. It will provide assistance for low-income earners and for the industries that it affects. This legislation will foster investment in organisations such as the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle and the University of Newcastle. These are great assets and this investment will place the Hunter, the region I come from, at the forefront of this new age. That is what I like to think of it as—a new age with green, clean jobs. But at the same time this legislation will not in any way destroy existing jobs. It has been emphasised that this legislation could lead to the creation of between 4,000 and 10,000 new jobs in the Hunter. The sceptics, the deniers on the other side, say that all it is going to be about is losing jobs. It really shows that those on the other side of this House are more interested in fighting with each other and protecting special interest groups than they are in looking at what is best for the future of Australia and our planet.

I will address again the issue of the coal industry because the coal industry is very prominent in my region. When Tony Maher, the General President of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, was speaking at the climate change forum on Tuesday, he emphasised that this legislation will not destroy the coal industry in any way. That shows that many of the arguments put before us by those on the other side are superfluous. They are arguments for doing nothing except keeping the peace in their party.

I will touch on a couple of the costs of inaction. In the last 10 years, inflows to five of the eight catchments in the southern Murray-Darling Basin have been around or worse than the CSIRO’s worst-case scenarios for 2030. That is incredible.

Mr Price —Wow: it’s happening now?

Ms HALL —Happening now. Globally, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2008. That figure comes from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the UK. We listen to those on the other side of this House saying that is not true. The facts and figures are there. The record is there to be examined. We can see that everything that the opposition is saying is a furphy. The average temperature in Australia increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius between 1910 and 2007, and is projected to increase by one to five degrees Celsius by 2070, compared with 1990. The implications of that are enormous because a small increase in temperature will cause widespread changes in the climate and will lead to increases of diseases such as Dengue Fever moving south and the possibility of even malaria and other diseases beginning to impact on Australia. It will have an enormous impact on agriculture. Climate change will also result in storm surges and rising sea levels, putting at risk over 70,000 homes and businesses around our coastline. You have only to refer to the report that was brought down by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts this week—

Mr Price —Hear, hear! Terrific report.

Ms HALL —As the member for Chifley says, it is a terrific report. It highlights the challenges that are being faced by coastal communities. As a representative of a coastal electorate I know just how important it is to address the issue of climate change. We need to ensure that we can preserve our way of life. This legislation gives certainty, it gives us something to go to Copenhagen with and it will absolutely act now to ensure that the future of our nation and our planet is taken care of.

Debate (on motion by Mr Byrne) adjourned.