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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 640


Mr HAYES (4:54 PM) —Prior to question time, I was commenting that the government has put forward an economically credible and prudent proposal that ensures it is supporting the jobs of today while substantively putting forward a scheme that will create the low-pollution jobs of tomorrow. I spoke about my involvement with renewable energy technology businesses and also their frustration at presently trying to commercialise their technologies without a price of carbon being established on a market base and without having their technologies taken to the share market with a view to raising capital to commercialise those technologies.

Mr Deputy Speaker Kelvin Thomson, I know you are fully across this; I heard your speech earlier today. You understand what these commercial and environmental innovators, renewable energy technology developers, are going through. Each and every member of this parliament would have had either a coffee or a tea with people from these renewable energy technologies who have gone to great pains to explain their frustration in developing low-emission technologies in this country at the moment, and that frustration has been at not having a market mechanism in place.

I think that is something crucial that comes through this suite of bills before us on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills. As I say, the scheme is vital for commercialising these technologies, and these technologies are vital in our ability to combat climate change. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to come out and say, ‘We’re going to mandate this and mandate that; we’re going to encourage people to do these various things,’ but the fact of life is that government itself—the bureaucrats—will not be out there determining what technologies go forward. What we need to do is make sure the commercial realities are that people can actually take these low-emission technologies forward to the marketplace to be able to back projects over the next 20 years. That is critical for having investment in the renewable energy sector, the sustainable energy sector and the whole gamut of low-emissions technologies that are currently subject to research and development.

Importantly, our actions on climate change will help protect and secure the economy and industries like agriculture and tourism, which account for thousands of people employed in this country. I say to the members opposite from Queensland that they will be only too well aware of the numbers involved in terms of the Barrier Reef, but agriculture accounts for a lot of people in this country. That is why our CPRS, our energy-trading mechanism, is supported by business groups like the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and also the National Farmers Federation. They see why we are going down this path and they encourage certainty being developed in the marketplace.

I would also like to congratulate the member for Wentworth for the forthright and considered views that he put earlier today. I know that as a former Howard government environment minister he commissioned the Shergold report. I understand that through the development of policies leading to the 2007 election, when the establishment of an ETS was the current opposition’s policy, Mr Turnbull, the member for Wentworth, had a central view. I have to say that, unlike other people opposite, this fellow has stayed pretty consistent with the views that he expressed in this parliament from 2005 through to 2007. He has seen that there is a need for developing technologies and for having certainty in the business place. His considered view is similar to that of the Shergold report, which recommended the development of an ETS mechanism. Mr Turnbull, in his contribution earlier today, said:

This legislation—

referring to the CPRS—

is the only policy on offer which can credibly enable us to meet our commitment to a five per cent cut to emissions by 2020 and also has the flexibility to enable us to move to higher cuts when they are warranted. So for those reasons I support this bill. The arguments I have made for it are no different to those I have made, and stood for, for the last three years.

It probably takes a lot of guts to get up and view the circumstances and do that. But it is plain that these are the views that he has held, the views that were mutually developed in a bipartisan way in the last election and the views that led to bipartisan support of an ETS. I recall only too well when the Shergold report came down that these were the considered views of all sides of politics, before the issue of party politics got involved. What a great thing leadership politics is.

We are now prepared to put the viability of environmental controls, to put the threshold issues associated with climate change, on hold to support leadership. I guess that was not quite what the member for Higgins had in mind when she gave her first speech earlier today on wanting to make a difference. The only difference that is doing is highlighting to the Australian public that some people in this place are prepared to put into jeopardy future generations of this country to maintain a position of leadership today. That is not leadership and you would not even call it head-in-the-sand politics.

This was not just something that occurred; this was something that was very decisive. This came from a man who after the last 2007 election urged people to vote for the CPRS—just support it and get it off the table. This also comes from the fellow who is now the Leader of the Opposition and has had seven different and inconsistent positions when dealing with one of the most serious matters faced by our generation, that being climate change. He is not alone. With fairness to Mr Abbott, he is not alone in this. Bear in mind the position of Senator Nick Minchin, who obviously challenges the climate change science. Moreover, he actually summarises the view that underpins all those scientists out there and the world’s concern about climate change. He reckons it is a communist conspiracy designed to deindustrialise the Western world. They are not my words; they are his words or words pretty close to that effect. He may not have said ‘communist’, he may have said ‘leftist’, but this is the leader of the government in the Senate, that place over there, who summarised the position as being some form of communist conspiracy when we talk about climate change.

Certainly it is no surprise when the Leader of the Opposition refers to climate change as being, to use his words, ‘absolute crap’. You would wonder why you would take on a position of leadership addressing an issue as important as climate change—and there is no question that this is regarded as important to the voters out there—and yet treat with it such disdain. I suppose to some extent we have also seen those sorts of general out-there views now being supported by the chief opposition finance spokesman, Senator Barnaby Joyce. I have to say that, when he refers to things such as ceiling insulation as being that fluffy stuff in the ceiling that rats and mice urinate on, it shows how little they are concerned about taking steps to ameliorate the effects of climate change and to protect our environment.

I do not know whether Barnaby Joyce had a slip of honesty in the process, but it was very interesting when he came out and told us why the opposition would have a climate change policy if his leader thought it was absolute crap and if the leader in the Senate, Senator Minchin, thought it was a communist plot and he was clearly on the record as not having any regard for the science of climate change. He explains it with words to the effect that, to have a policy on climate change, you need to have something to pander to the views of the community. ‘Pander’ makes that sound pretty cheap, but pandering to the community is essentially what Senator Joyce rationalised as to why the opposition would not under any circumstance have a policy on climate change.

When he was pressed about how he was going to pay for the opposition’s position on it, it rolled off his tongue just like that: ‘Cut the Commonwealth Public Service and look at our aid placed overseas. We had better fix our own place up first so we can cut overseas aid projects.’ Clearly, that is an embarrassment to the opposition. He was obviously jumped on from a great height; but, as I say, he probably had a rare moment of honesty at the Press Club and decided to be open and honest with everybody and tell us his genuine views. We have the impression of Senator Minchin’s communist plot, the Leader of the Opposition’s view of it being absolute crap and Senator Joyce now having the view that you just have to have a policy if you want to pander to the electorate.

The choice is pretty clear on this. This legislation is a development of a policy which was supported by the opposition. We have embraced each and every one of their amendments. We have reduced that into the current CPRS bills. The population at large now has a very, very clear choice. It is a choice between the Rudd government’s position on climate change—one that caps emission levels through the CPRS, makes the big polluters pay, provides a mechanism to commercialise renewable technologies and provides financial compensation for families—and the opposition’s position of really wanting no change in support of their con job and in support of their leadership. This is what it is about—the protection of the Liberal leadership and nothing more and nothing less.