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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 672


Mr RANDALL (7:24 PM) —This is now the third time that I have spoken on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation, and I welcome the opportunity—in the debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills—once again to call the Labor government scheme what it really is: a great, huge new tax. As I have mentioned in my previous speeches, an effective and responsible approach to tackling climate change is needed, and that is exactly what the coalition has proposed. We will support and encourage direct action, unlike the great big new tax put forward three times by the Prime Minister, which will cost jobs, drive up inflation, inhibit business growth and investment and hit household budgets.

The government’s motives are purely political; we know that. Australia accounts for only 1.4 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions and is one of only a handful of countries meeting their Kyoto targets. Just to put this in perspective, both the government’s plan and the coalition’s plan will cut emissions by five per cent. For $40 billion, though, the government will reduce Australia’s contribution to global emissions from 1.4 per cent to 1.3309 per cent, cutting our contribution by only 0.07 per cent, not a wise investment when you consider that the coalition can achieve the same result for a fraction of the price—in fact, less than 10 per cent of the price, at $3.2 billion.

Mr Rudd wanted to lock Australia into this reckless scheme before Copenhagen. Australia should breathe a sigh of relief and look at how that turned out. If Mr Rudd had had his way, households would be feeling the pain of an ETS when there is clearly no global consensus and most likely never will be. It is true that per capita Australia is one of the higher emitters, but it should not be surprising; we have a strong manufacturing and industrial sector, we are a strong economy and of course we can expect to have higher emissions than, say, Third World countries such as Burma.

This plan is the equivalent of raising the GST by almost three per cent, creating an enormous government slush fund. It will have the same history as the petrol parity pricing scheme, which was introduced in 1977 because of an apparent oil shortage and which aimed to ensure further exploration and ensure supplies. But, in reality, such schemes do not create a culture of investment but a huge government money pit, massive revenues that are administered by a huge government bureaucracy. Governments never give all the money back; they skim and use it for their own purposes. In the case of parity pricing, they now treat that as revenue.

Labor’s ETS would hurt exactly those people Mr Rudd centred his election strategy on during the 2007 election campaign, the working families. In fact, you do not hear him talking about working families much these days because he has put so many out of work. They have every right to feel betrayed by the Prime Minister, who vigorously pursues his plan to drive up the cost of living. There is no finite figure on Labor’s action. There are no answers as to how much costs really could go up on everyday items like bread and milk. We at least know that electricity would soar by almost 20 per cent, a horrifying reality for ordinary Australians who are already burdened by a 15 per cent price hike this year and are facing the prospect of more.

Evidence shows that a working couple earning $140,000 with two or three dependent kids would be $620 worse off under the ETS. These figures get worse. Single-income families bringing in $120,000 would be $950 worse off every year. Labor said they would give the money back. Compensation which the government cannot exactly explain or calculate will be of no comfort to the 120,000 workers in regional Australia who will lose their jobs. There are no answers to the most basic questions. The Minister for Ageing cannot detail the impact on a pensioner’s costs of living, and the small business minister laughed off a genuine question about electricity costs for dairy farmers.

Not even those opposite trying to sell the scheme to the Australian public understand it. Mr Rudd continues to say, ‘Well, it’s very complex.’ Every time he gets bogged down on a figure or an explanation, he says, ‘Oh, but it’s complex.’ He is basically saying, ‘Well, you wouldn’t understand; I understand because I’m quite intelligent, but you wouldn’t understand because it is so complex.’ There are no answers to the most basic questions, as I said. The feeling in the electorate is one of frustration. People want to do their bit for the environment, but they do not want to get slugged with a massive tax that will have little impact on the environment and will ship their jobs and emissions overseas.

Let us put it into perspective. Labor’s plan allows polluters to pay to pollute. This tax that they want to put on industry will not reduce carbon in the atmosphere by one tonne. They will say, ‘Well, the incentive is that, if we charge them all this extra money, they’ll stop their emissions.’ These are the people, as we continually hear, that keep the lights on, and they are not going to stop keeping the lights on; they are just going to pass the costs on. So, at the end of the day, this supposedly so complex program that the Prime Minister wants to introduce is not complex at all; it is just going to make the polluters pay to pollute.

While the rest of the world changes its tune, our own Prime Minister pursues his massive tax. The Canadian Prime Minister is on the record as saying that developing technology is the answer, not setting targets. United States President Barack Obama has backed away from a cap-and-trade scheme and is considering direct action similar to that which the coalition is planning. Perhaps when President Obama comes to Australia next month he might persuade Prime Minister Rudd to his way of thinking during his visit—though I doubt it. The world’s biggest emitters—the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia—do not have emissions trading schemes.

As Christian Kerr reported in the Australian this week, New Zealand is the only country outside of the EU to adopt what is essentially a carbon tax, plunging New Zealanders, whose emissions reductions will make no difference on a global scale, into debt as fuel prices rise by at least 3.5c a litre and electricity costs soar. I think it is a conservative estimate by the New Zealand government that the average household will only be $165 a year worse off compared to the figures I have just told you about with ours. Interestingly, that was brought in by the previous Labour government in New Zealand and has not been enacted to this date by the current government. They have backed away from it as well. Why wouldn’t they? The rest of the world is not doing it. The biggest emitters are not doing it. They do not even want to commit to it. They saw what happened in Copenhagen: the Chinese stared down the rest of the world on a whole range of issues and our Prime Minister was left outside in the cold trying to look useful.

The best place to start on this issue is at home. Our policy is one of practical and cost-effective measures that will reduce emissions by the same five per cent by 2020 proposed by the government but, as I have already outlined, at a fraction of the price. Obviously this is a no-brainer. Why would any government choose a massive tax and cost to jobs when the same outcomes can be achieved more cheaply and efficiently? One can only surmise that the $120 billion slush fund is too much to turn down for a government that loves to squander money. The coalition aims to look after the Australian environment first, and in doing so will focus on its natural resources: soil and sun.

I recently met with Justin Byatt, a family poultry farmer from my electorate, about a company called Agriboost. Agriboost is an organisation newly established to investigate the alternative uses of chicken manure, which has focused on power generation to date. But Agriboost plans to move forward and develop other opportunities. It intends to form partnerships with the soil amendment industry and to apply new technologies, including biochar to broiler waste, to improve soil quality and fertility. Farming is the backbone of the Australian industry so there is no better place to start than encouraging farmers to use soil carbon measures. This is real, direct action by industry.

Australia’s hot, dry climate makes it an ideal candidate for solar power. With less than one per cent of power currently coming from solar energy we can—and should—do better. We will invest in solar panels for one million Australian roofs by 2020. I repeat: one million roofs around Australia could have solar panels on them. Local residents will welcome the $1,000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems. As I drive around my electorate it is abundantly clear that most houses have a TV aerial or a satellite dish on them. There is plenty of room on these roofs for solar panels, which will reduce the energy used and feed power back into the grid. Can you imagine, during a hot time in summer in Perth, when we have brownouts and blackouts because of the huge draw on the power stations through air conditioners going during the 43-degree days which we have had recently, that this would not happen if we had most of the roofs on the houses and on the industrial estates of Western Australia feeding a massive amount of electricity back into the grid on these hot days? It is only sensible, but too sensible for the government to take on board. It is probably too simple. Simple inventions are generally the best. Sliced bread was simple but it was one of the best things that we have come across.

Further, the green army will plant an astonishing 20 million trees by 2020 to re-establish urban forests and green corridors and to support large-scale renewable energy generation and emerging technologies. The coalition is serious about making a real difference, not symbolic gestures. We have to encourage business and families to make a change, rather than taxing them for doing it. We are into incentives; they are into taxing them. Our reward based approach could be as simple as planting more trees, or more elaborate technology advances for bigger businesses.

I read with interest an article in the Australian Financial Review last November about the Mountaineer coal plant in West Virginia and its massive experiment in clean coal. It aims to be the first to capture the fugitive emissions of a fully operational coal plant. The Mountaineer plant generates enough electricity to power a small city but in turn emits eight million tonnes of C02 emissions a year. Its sequestering of carbon underground is an expensive pilot on a massive scale. Projects like this support local jobs and result in real advances, not massive taxes. In Australia we have the Maitland plant working on clean coal technology. This is just another example of real action on our own shores, considering Australia gets about 80 per cent of its energy from coal.

Direct action is a responsible and proactive approach to keeping local jobs and the local economy strong, and it is supported by industry. Canning is home to Alcoa, BHP and Newmont, who make up the largest individual employers in my electorate. With BHP’s Worsley Alumina having a capacity of four million tonnes annually, it is BHP’s biggest carbon emitter in Australia, and a reckless scheme would cost many local jobs. There has been a $3.5 billion investment in the Boddington goldmine, which I attended last week when it was officially opened by the Premier. It will be the largest goldmine in Australia and will be bigger than the Kalgoorlie Super Pit. It will support around 1,000 local jobs and produce about a million ounces of gold a year. Mr Rudd wants to risk these jobs with this scheme of his—this penalty on industry.

I expect that local governments and schools will take up the coalition’s million roofs initiative. The City of Mandurah in my electorate has already installed a 2.1 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the Falcon e-library that generates around 3,720 kilowatts of electricity and saves approximately four tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Similar projects will be embraced throughout Canning. It is all part of the direct action needed at the grassroots level to make a difference. Imagine what a million roofs and solar cities would do. That is what I really call direct action.

Scare campaigns about climate change have been well fronted, but there is a growing shift, and despite this the Prime Minister remains adamant about locking Australia into a plan that could be based on suspect data. There is no doubt in the world that since Copenhagen there has been a shift on this whole issue not only internationally but also in Australia. We have seen that even in the latest Nielsen poll today. At a local level, I have people coming to me, emailing me and writing to me when they did not come to me before, saying, ‘Don’t allow us to get sucked into this; don’t allow us to have this as a millstone around our necks forever.’

So what is really causing global warming? Is it really carbon emissions or is it something else? In his book The Real Global Warming Disaster, Christopher Booker contends that, rather than the apocalyptic scenarios promised by Al Gore, the real disaster of global warming will be the strangulation of the world economy by measures imposed by governments around the world based on false information. Eminent academics offer some persuasive arguments about the science and truth behind global warming. Even the head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is under fire now. We know that Rajendra Pachauri’s credibility is under attack after the IPCC inaccurately claimed that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 if nothing were done about climate change. He was outed.

I have spoken with prominent scientists and recently met with climate change experts Joanne Nova and David Evans, who maintain that the climate change alarm is founded on information that is fundamentally flawed. In the last 100 years the climate has warmed only about 0.7 degrees. In fact, in the last decade the climate, some say, has cooled. In periods throughout history there have been warm spells—none warmer than the medieval period. Long-term weather forecasts are impossibly inaccurate; as experts say, a forecast for 30 or 40 years in the future is not a forecast.

No-one can deny that global carbon emissions have risen with industrial growth since the First World War. Carbon is reportedly at higher levels than at any time in the last 650,000 years. But, if you accept the fact that the planet has not warmed dramatically during a time when carbon emissions have peaked, the conclusion is that our emissions may not be responsible for the warming of the planet. Dr David Evans says that the shift in views came in 1999 and by 2007:

… the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

In the last 20 years, the world has spent $50 billion on global warming research and has not found hard evidence that carbon emissions cause global warming. Joanne Nova puts it simply:

Everything hinges on this one question. If carbon dioxide is not a significant cause, then carbon sequestration, cap-and-trade, emissions trading, and the Kyoto agreement are a waste of time and money.

…           …           …

Hoping for a good outcome while acting on something for all of the wrong reasons is called policy-by-accident.

I am by no means an expert, but the reality is that there is conjecture about what really causes the planet to continue to warm. Despite this, the Prime Minister remains gung-ho about locking Australia into a scheme which will have no impact on global emissions, will cost Australians dearly in jobs and income and will send the pollution offshore.

Can you imagine if something like Alcoa in my electorate were to be penalised as this system would do to them? They would quite easily go to somewhere like Indonesia, which does not have the same rigorous checks and balances on emissions. First of all, we would export our jobs. Secondly, we would export our incomes through the aluminium produced and the taxes that the workers would be paying as they earned. Worse than that, we would export the pollution, because the Indonesians, as I said, do not have the same rigour in their environmental assessments. As a result, this exporting of pollution into a country which does not have to comply, because countries like Indonesia are called ‘developing countries’ and do not have the same obligations, is quite irresponsible for Australia to do.

The former head of the National Climate Change Centre, William Kininmonth, said last year that the basis of the Rudd scheme is:

… an unsustainable hypothesis that dangerous global warming will be an outcome of continued burning of fossil fuels …

Yes, we need to look after the environment and explore alternative energies. But the point is that we may not have all the answers about climate change, and should that not be enough to take the direct action that avoids economic suicide for Australia? The choice is clear and the public is starting to realise this. It is not so complex, Prime Minister Rudd. The public now are starting to understand that we have a solution of direct action. We do things by recharging our soils. We are going to have a program of planting more trees. We will have a million solar roofs around Australia putting electricity back in. The Labor Party just wants to give us a great big tax and not reduce one tonne of carbon in our atmosphere.