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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 450

Ms SAFFIN (12:33 PM) —I speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills, bills that are necessary to put in place a legal and regulatory framework around the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—a scheme that in my analysis is based on three key elements. The first one is that big polluters pay, and we understand that. The second one is that low- and middle-income families right across Australia will be looked after by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme fund and by having the big polluters pay. The third key element is that a limit will be put on harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

In his second reading speech, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change articulated the five foundation principles that give strength to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the legislative and regulatory framework. I would like to restate the principles for the record. First, the scheme reflects the scientific consensus accepted by governments around the world that climate change is real, it is happening now and it will inflict severe costs on this country. Second, the government’s target for emissions reduction is both responsible and achievable and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the best mechanism to achieve those targets. Third, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions for Australian households. Fourth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most globally responsible approach to the threat of climate change. It ensures Australia meets its emission reduction targets. Fifth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme reflects a consistent policy of the government that formed a key element of our 2007 election platform, which was supported by the Australian people.

I would like to turn to those five principles and make a comment. There is scientific consensus despite some of the pseudoscience and innuendo being peddled about that at the moment. There is a clear scientific consensus. We only have to read what the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, our own respected and well-regarded institutions, have to say about the science and climate change. That is who we are listening to and that is who we should be listening to. It does not mean that we do not question—that is our job as elected members of parliament and representatives of our communities. We have to question, but we also have to recognise that there is good science, and we as responsible parliamentarians and policymakers have to act on that. That is what the Rudd government is doing.

It is very clear in reading the literature and the Garnaut report that if we do not act, and if we do not act sooner rather than later, the cost that the Australian community, households and people will have to bear will be more and it will be more extreme. That is why responsible action is needed now and that is why the government is taking responsible and decisive action.

The second of the five points is that the government’s target for emissions reductions is both responsible and achievable and that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the best mechanism to achieve those targets. Yes, there is a debate about it. In my seat of Page there are some people who say that they want 350 parts per million and not 450 parts per million, and I understand where they are coming from with that. They want to reduce emissions as quickly as possible to the lowest level possible. But, when introducing a major economic reform which has to protect both the economy and the environment at the same time to protect jobs but lead us to a low-emissions future, as the government is, we have to have a responsible and achievable target. That is what the government is committed to.

The third point is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions. That is what this is about; it is about reducing emissions. It is quite simple. People say it is complex; they can dress it up in what they like but it is really very simple. We are emitting too much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. It is causing problems—it is causing the climate change that we talk about. We know that climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon, that the impacts of it can cause damage to our environment and that it has been accelerated exponentially by human activity and by industry. Again, that is all in the science. But this scheme is the lowest cost way to reduce emissions. It means the big polluters pay and the households do not pay. The households can be involved in doing their bit, and they are, and there are other measures to help bring emissions down.

The fourth point is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most globally responsible approach to the threat of climate change. Yes, we might be a great big island and a continent, but we are not in this alone. We cannot quarantine Australia from the rest of the world in this debate. We do have to work with other nations to try to encourage them to bring their emissions down. That is why it is important, at that level, to be part of the international debate and work together. One of the things that I saw come out of Copenhagen—and it was a big thing that people will do in a variety of ways—was a commitment to keep the rise in temperature to under two degrees. It was important that there was that commitment. Yes, it is always better if that is in a legislative commitment and is in some sort of treaty, but those nations committed to it and it is a positive way forward.

Fifth, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme reflects a consistent policy of the government that formed a key element of our election platform. That is absolutely correct. There is nothing new about it; it was out there in 2007 and it was something about which the community said: ‘Yes, we want you to do it. We want you to take this action on climate change.’ That was important.

The Leader of the Opposition said, first of all, that climate change is ‘absolute crap’, but then he released a policy on climate change. You cannot have it both ways. It is either absolute crap, meaning that you do not believe in climate change, or you release a policy on it. That is confusing; it confuses me and I am sure it confuses the community, including the community in Page, where I live. ‘Absolute crap but, yes, we’ve got a policy on it.’ When you look at the policy, there are clearly three fundamental flaws in the policy, apart from the fact of not believing in it. First, the coalition policy slugs taxpayers instead of big polluters. I cannot see how that is popular. One of my constituents sent me an email about that last night. He said, ‘Janelle, that is the only question.’ When you put it to the community that big polluters will not pay but taxpayers will, he said, ‘I think the proof is in the pudding.’ It is there and it is answered. People can see that they get it. That is the first flaw.

Second, it is unfunded, meaning that there will be higher taxes. It is totally unfunded and it is not costed. I heard the shadow minister for finance talking about some ways in which it could be funded, and they really were within the realms of fantasy. Senator Joyce spoke about the way it could be funded. He was talking about the Henry tax review. It is a review. He was saying that it could be funded out of that. I do not know how anything could be funded out of a review. It is a document—it is paper. How could you fund it? It is not a budget; it is a review. There were a few other gems as well but I do not want to waste my time on them. The third fundamental flaw in the policy is that it does not require anything of the big polluters, so there will be no lowering of emissions. I just do not see how it can work.

The 2007 consensus of the Australian public was that climate change is a critical issue and it is one that the government has to tackle. We are in 2010 and the consensus now of the Australian public is that climate change is still a critical issue that the government has to tackle. This is despite the reckless and irresponsible fear and smear campaign that is run by the coalition. But it is worse than that, because a lot of it is based on lies, lies and more lies. I have to ask: how could a mob that presents itself as an alternative government have a leader who says climate change is ‘absolute crap’ and then produces a policy on it? How can they say they are credible on this? The Leader of the Opposition truly is not fair dinkum and he is being duplicitous and dishonest with the Australian public.

But I know that the Australian public wants us to take action, and the Rudd government is taking action on climate change. That is exactly what the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is about. The federal Labor Party in the 2007 election went to the people with a 10-point plan to tackle climate change and that has been implemented since we have been in government. There are also some extras that came with the stimulus: the insulation package, for a start, with 2.3 million homes across Australia, many of them in my electorate of Page, being insulated. That is a great initiative and I have heard the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, say that that is equivalent to taking about one million cars off the road in terms of what it means for lowering emissions.

But there are more initiatives. There are actually about 80 initiatives that the government has taken to tackle climate change and that will lead us into a lower emissions future. I will speak about just a few of them: there is the Advanced Electricity Storage Technologies program; Australia’s Farming Future, which I will come back to; the Australian Carbon Trust; the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy; the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System; the Bilateral Climate Change Partnership Program; the enhancement of the Bureau of Meteorology’s capacity to monitor and deal with climate change; the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program; and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum. Just on the latter issue, at Southern Cross University in my area there is a lot of work being done about capturing carbon into the soil and plants—not just soil, but into plant stones. The member for New England and I jointly held a forum on this particular issue at which we had farming and industry leaders present. Other initiatives include Caring for our Coasts, the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, the Clean Business Australia initiative and the Clean Energy Initiative. There will be a Climate Change Action Fund and there is a Climate Change Adaptation Program. These are just some of the 80 initiatives. Some of them are being implemented now and some of them will be implemented as part of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that we are discussing today.

I said I would come back to farming and I now do so. The Australia’s Farming Future initiative comprises a number of elements: there is the Climate Change Research Program providing funding for research projects and on-farm demonstration activities; there is FarmReady, helping industry and primary producers develop skills and strategies to help them deal with the impacts of climate change; and there is the Climate Change Adjustment Program to assist farmers who are facing financial difficulty in managing the impacts of climate change. There is farm business analysis and financial assessments, professional advice and training—which is individually tailored to the particular farmer—and transitional income support. There are also community networks and capacity building activities. So it addresses lots of issues around farmers.

I just want to say one thing about farming that is really important, because farmers are a big part of the thinking and the policy initiative of the government in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. When you have a look at the initiatives, and when you look at the government’s policy and at the coalition’s policy, it is clear that farmers will get less for the actions that they take on their farm under the coalition’s policy than they will under the government’s policy. In fact, they will get three or four times less. Also, with the coalition policy, the emissions will be about 13 per cent higher. It will not be lower. So I don’t see how this sort of mythical figure of five per cent that they are talking about will be reached in any capacity.

I would like to turn to the economic credentials of the government and then look at the economic credentials of the coalition, and to set that against the issue of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I think it will be very clearly seen who is to be trusted in this area. The Rudd government has performed superbly in the face of the worst global financial crisis since the Depression. The world went into recession, although it seems at times like the coalition just conveniently ignores that fact. We, Australia, did not, and that was not good luck or happenstance; it was good policy and good management on the part of the Rudd government. I would particularly like to acknowledge the team: Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner, or, as I should say, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. That is big. Can you imagine where we would be today if the Prime Minister had not ‘gone early and gone hard’, as he put it, and ‘gone households’? That saved us. It saved well over 200,000 jobs. It saved our local regional economies. In areas like mine it saved some small businesses. I know we are not out of the woods yet but we are not in recession. The jobs were saved, small businesses protected and households looked after at the same time as the budget delivered tax cuts to working families.

The coalition, on the other hand, voted against every stimulus measure that has kept us out of recession and has saved jobs and small businesses. If we had followed the economic policies of the coalition, we would be down the drain, and it is no different with the coalition policy on climate change. It is economically irresponsible and reckless. It will slug taxpayers, not big polluters. It is unfunded. It does not limit greenhouse gas emissions. It will see a rise in greenhouse gas emissions of 13 per cent. It will give less to farmers. It is committing us to being run over by our neighbours, by some of our important trading partners, and it will give less to farmers for the actions that they want to take.

The shadow minister for finance, Senator Joyce, really has lost the plot on this. I reiterate that he said that they would fund it from the Henry tax review. It is just astounding that someone in that position could say that. Whereas, if you look at the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, you will see that it is funded, it is economically responsible and it is a major economic reform that will protect both our economy and our environment. It will lead us into the future that we need to be led into. But it is not a future that we can say is five or 10 years out there down the road; it is here now, and that is why we have to take that action now. This Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme of the Rudd government is the one that will do that, protecting our economy and protecting our environment.