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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 459

Mr TURNOUR (1:13 PM) —I rise today to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related legislation. Australia’s emissions trading scheme is an important part of our response to climate change. Emissions trading schemes are recognised around the world as being the right way to tackle climate change. They establish a cap on carbon emissions, and if we are serious about tackling climate change then we need to implement caps. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, our ETS, makes the big polluters pay and that is important. It stands in stark contrast to the opposition’s policy, which is all about making the taxpayers pay. Billions of dollars are going to go to the big polluters from the taxpayers of this country.

Importantly, as part of our bill there is real compensation to households. The impacts of our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are that, overall, the average cost of living is expected to increase by about 1.1 per cent in the first two years of the scheme. Under the CPRS a total of 8.1 million households, or 90 per cent of all households, will receive assistance. On average those households will receive around $660 of assistance in 2013.

So we put a cap on carbon pollution; we make the big polluters, not taxpayers, pay; and we provide compensation to those who are really in need in the community, those on low to middle incomes—in particular, people like pensioners and working families. The shadow minister was interjecting before, a bit upset about this, because I think this is the really stark difference between our policy and their policy. We are about making the big polluters pay the cost of their emissions and providing a market based framework that will see business, innovation and research implement ways to reduce carbon pollution, and their approach is to regulate and then use taxpayers’ money to fund big polluters who may, in appropriate circumstances, reduce carbon emissions—starkly different approaches.

It is no wonder that an emissions trading scheme was agreed to by the former Howard government and by many of those opposite in statements made in public over an extended period of time. The shadow minister has even done a thesis on this, I understand, and is quoted as saying that our market based system is the right way to tackle climate change. But they have moved away from that. There are no other countries around the world adopting policies like the opposition’s. Thirty-five countries either have implemented or are committed to implementing emissions trading schemes, including many European countries and the United States of America.

Climate change is a problem here—it is a problem in my electorate of Leichhardt, and I am going to come to that—but it is also a global problem, and we need a global solution. We need to adopt climate change policies that tackle the unique challenges Australia faces as a result of climate change, but this needs to be part of a global solution if we are to make real progress on climate change. That is why the government has an unconditional target of five per cent by 2020 but will increase the target to 15 per cent or 25 per cent depending on the international community’s response.

The opposition is supposed to agree with these targets, but it has no plans to reach them. If you are going to be responsible in this debate and establish a target, you have to have a plan to actually achieve that target. We do and the opposition does not. We have to have a framework that allows us to take action in this country, but this is a global problem, so we need to have a framework that also enables us to work with the international community. The businesses in this country—many of them are export or import businesses—operate in a global environment, and we need a response to climate change that also works within a global framework. An emissions trading scheme does. That is why countries all around the world are adopting or committing to adopting it—as I have said, European countries, the United States of America and many others.

Until late last year there was bipartisan support for action on climate change. The legislation that we are presenting today represents negotiations in good faith between the Rudd government and the Liberal opposition last year. It was supported by the coalition caucus late last year, before the climate change sceptics took control of the Liberal Party and anointed Mr Abbott as leader. I know there are many in the Liberal Party who still want to see Australia adopt an ETS, with Liberal senators crossing the floor last year when this legislation was brought to the Senate. It will be interesting to see who joins the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull, who I understand is reported to be going to cross the floor and support this legislation, because it was negotiated in good faith.

The Liberals that I hear talking publicly are always banging on about individualism and free thought in the Liberal Party. Well, it will be interesting to see how many of them are prepared to stand up to the conservative faction in their own party that has taken control of it and anointed Mr Abbott as opposition leader. That is the real challenge for them: will other responsible members of the Liberal Party who want to see action on climate change stand up to the conservative leaders in their party and cross the floor on this legislation? We negotiated in good faith with their shadow minister, Ian Macfarlane, and the leadership at that time of the Liberal Party. We negotiated in good faith, and this legislation represents that, because the Australian people want the Liberal Party, the Labor Party—this parliament—to come together and take action on climate change. That is what this legislation represents. It represents an agreement between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party prior to the conservative forces in the Liberal Party taking control of that party. We can look at that. We know that.

The current Leader of the Opposition—these are not my words but his own words—has described the science on climate change as ‘crap’. It is not the way that I describe it; he has described it as ‘crap’. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Nick Minchin, is on the record as saying on a Four Corners program that he does not believe that human beings are responsible for climate change. Their finance spokesman, Senator Joyce, whom we have seen this week making some unbelievable comments in public about how they might fund their con job policy, was out last year publicly campaigning against action on climate change and against an ETS.

The Rudd government sat down with the Liberal Party last year and worked out what we believe is an emissions trading scheme in the national interest that will work within a global framework, and we did that in good faith. It will be very interesting to see how those members opposite who really want to take action and be serious about this issue vote on this legislation, because Tony Abbott is quoted as saying he thinks it is ‘crap’; their leader in the Senate, Senator Minchin, has said that he does not believe humans are a part of the reason we are suffering from climate change; and they have appointed a finance spokesman who is an active campaigner against any action.

We need to look at their policy. I have already mentioned that it is going to cost $1.2 billion a year, and I gather that over 10 years that is $10 billion through to 2019-20. It is a hell of a lot of money—a lot of schools, hospitals and programs that can be implemented to actually tackle climate change in a serious way. We have had, not from us—the government—but from the Department of Climate Change, an analysis of this policy released earlier this week. As I said, it is not an emissions trading scheme; it does not put a cap on carbon pollution. Over there they are supposed to have committed to a five per cent target.

Mr Hunt interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! The shadow minister is on shaky ground.

Mr TURNOUR —What does the Department of Climate Change say on this? Their brief shows that emissions will actually increase under Mr Abbott’s policy to be 30 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020 rather than the five per cent reduction he promises. Why would you expect the opposition to bring forward a policy that takes action on climate change? Mr Abbott is quoted as saying it is ‘crap’. The leader in the Senate does not believe it is happening. They have a finance spokesman in the Senate in their economic team who has actually campaigned against it. Why would we expect them to bring forward a policy that was about taking action? It is a climate change con and no wonder the shadow spokesman is upset, because he is on the record with his thesis as saying ‘a market based system’—which is what we have introduced in this legislation—is the right way to tackle this issue.

What the government is bringing forward is legislation that not only fits with the best interests of this country—as negotiated between the Labor and Liberal parties last year—but also works internationally. It makes sense to me. The world’s population has increased to over six billion people. Over the last 100 years we have seen the world’s population increase significantly. We have seen the industrialisation of the world. This is a good thing in that our standards of living have been increasing. We in the First World have a wonderful standard of living. People in China and India and around the world also want to live like that. It is no wonder then that emissions are increasing and that we face a significant challenge in tackling climate change. It is no wonder then that we need a global solution, but First World countries like Australia need to be taking action.

The IPCC, which has been much maligned by sceptics and critics, has made it clear that the science recognises that there is a real threat of climate change and it will impact on icons like the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics rainforests and the Murray-Darling. There are real threats to tourism operators, to people’s livelihoods—whether they are farmers or small business owners—and to people’s ways of life such as those living in coastal communities in Cairns or in the Torres Strait and other parts of the country.

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2007 were nearly 40 per cent higher than they were in 1990. As I said, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, said in their 2007 report that the world has already warmed as a result of human emissions of carbon pollution. The IPCC has already recognised that humans are having an impact. The key findings of the IPCC include: average surface temperatures have risen 0.74 degrees in the last 100 years; globally 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2009; and projected global average surface warming in 2100 is around 1.1 to 6.4 degrees. It is a significant range but, because it is a long way off, we can take action and make a difference, and that is what this legislation is about. I know that the sceptics say that there is some grand conspiracy within the IPCC on this issue.

Let us look at what has been said recently by groups like the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which, I know, is a very well-respected organisation. In my electorate of Leichhardt it provides forecasts on cyclones and droughts. I come from a farming background and the bureau is very well respected in the farming community. The bureau found that the last decade was one of the warmest on record. I will quote from an interview on the ABC with Bureau of Meteorology climatologist David Jones. He said:

… each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the previous one.

And he has warned that this year is set to be even hotter, with temperatures likely to be between 0.5 and one degrees above average.

“There’s no doubt about global warming, the planet’s been warming now for most of the last century,” he said.

“Occasionally it takes a breather, during La Nina events for example.

“But we’re getting these increasingly warm temperatures—not just for Australia but globally—and climate change, global warming is clearly continuing.

“We’re in the latter stages of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean and what that means for Australian and global temperatures is that 2010 is likely to be another very warm year—perhaps even the warmest on record.”

The Bureau of Meteorology, that great bastion of global conspiracy, is saying that climate change is happening and is real. In my electorate of Leichhardt we also have the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, which is a great organisation that I strongly support. Their briefing outlines some of the potential threats that impact on the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics rainforests and places like the Torres Strait. Last weekend we saw king tides in the Torres Strait and we were very lucky that the weather conditions were calm and that houses were not damaged and people’s lives were not lost as a result of those king tides. Combining storms and bad weather with those king tides is extremely dangerous. I recognise that we need to take action on climate change for the longer term, but there are things that we also need to do to mitigate climate change. The government has a whole range of direct action policies that it is implementing to do that.

I want to talk a little bit about the Torres Strait. We have committed $300,000 to do some digital elevation modelling to gain a better understanding of the real threats of climate change, particularly sea level rises in that part of the world. There is a real need to look at creating and building new infrastructure such as, for example, sea walls in the short term. We need to look at the longer term scenarios about what is the long-term future of some of the populations of those islands. People want to stay living there and I would like to see them stay there but we need to look at the scenarios.

One of the scenarios is that the global community takes action; that governments like ours are enabled to implement our emissions trading scheme, join with the United States, India, China and other members of the international community and take real action on climate change to reduce the risk of global warming and a sea level rise. That is a real scenario, a scenario that we are debating today in this House, and if we get the agreement that we negotiated in good faith with the opposition through we will be demonstrating global leadership.

That is a real thing that we can do for people in the Torres Strait, because in the long term that can make a difference. If we do not take action, and if we get stuck with the con job that the opposition has brought forward, then it is likely that sea levels will rise higher than they should and the islands in the Torres Strait will suffer a situation where people may have to move. That would be very sad, and that is not what I want to happen. We need to start working with those communities to make sure we plan for the longer term. That is what I am committed to do. Legislation like this today is very much about ensuring that the longer term gives a scenario where those people can stay living where they are, which is what I want to happen. But we need to take action, and it is very important that we start doing that today.

As I said, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre has made a number of predictions. The latest climate change projections generated under the MTSRF program that funds that are: by 2030 the regional average annual temperature will increase by between 0.6 of a degree and 1.2 degrees, and after 2030 the rate of increase is highly dependent on emission levels. So after 2030 it is dependent on what we do. They go on to talk about average annual rainfall: it will be smaller and we will be drier. Transitional seasons will become drier and wet seasons will become slightly wetter. Cyclones are likely to be stronger and to create greater damage, not only to infrastructure like houses in Cairns and coastal communities—rising sea levels and higher impact cyclones are a real threat to those houses—but also to forests and those environmental assets that we all depend on in terms of our local economy.

It is critically important that we take action. The IPCC has made it clear that humans are impacting on the rate of climate change. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has made it clear that we are doing that, and local research organisations like the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre have made it clear that climate change is happening.

I understand that there are sceptics out there who could be concerned about the extent of some of the claims. The reality is that it is prudent to take action. That is why the opposition, prior to the conservative faction in the Liberal Party taking control, wanted to work with us in good faith and support an emissions trading scheme. We are now left in a situation where the real conservatives in the Liberal Party are running the show. Mr Abbott said recently that a four-degree rise in temperatures would not be significant and would not be a real concern. The reality is tourism operators, farmers and people living in the Torres Strait or in coastal communities will suffer the real impact of rising sea levels, higher cyclones, droughts and floods and the like. It is prudent to take action.

That is what this legislation is about; it is about action, and it is part of an overall plan that we have that also includes our 20 per cent renewable energy target and a lot of direct action programs, whether they are ceiling insulation or packages for small- and medium-sized business to fit energy efficiency measures. There is the work we are doing with farming communities. In my own electorate there is the natural resource management group, Terrain, which is looking at how we can make soil carbon part of the solution for climate change.

I support this legislation strongly. (Time expired)