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Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Page: 891

Mr SECKER (7:48 PM) —It seems to me that this legislation is an admission by the Rudd Labor government that they got their first legislation quite wrong. We came along with some suggestions to improve it, and that is what they have now introduced. They have admitted, by putting this legislation before the parliament as amended by our side of politics, that they got it wrong in the first place. That gives a very bad message out there that Labor cannot even get their original legislation right.

There are two arguments that I have heard ad nauseam from the Labor Party, although I do note that so many speakers from the Labor Party have actually dropped out of this legislation. I hope they have not just gone out for dinner, because there was a whole heap of Labor members who were to speak on this legislation but now are not doing so. There are two arguments that Labor have been trying to put to us. The first argument is that the ETS is the most efficient and effective way to reduce emissions. I will speak later on that part, because the examples in Europe have clearly shown that it has not been efficient or effective in reducing emissions. The second argument is that, apparently, business needs the certainty of an ETS. The only certainty that businesses will get with this ETS is that they will be slugged with a great big new tax that will vary enormously with trading. You have seen that with the voluntary market in the United States, which has clearly collapsed. There is no certainty to business with an ETS. Frankly, if the government were looking for certainty they would put up legislation that said, ‘It will be $10 a tonne in the first year and rising a dollar for every tonne per year afterwards’ or something like that. That is the only way you could get certainty. Were you to do it that way, you would not have property rights problems, which you would have with an ETS. Once an ETS is passed as legislation—which I hope it will not be—you can never get rid of it. It is like getting rid of the share market. Of course, there is no way you can get rid of the share market now, because of the entitlements and the property rights that are involved.

I rise tonight to speak for the second time on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate legislation. I was prevented from speaking on the CPRS the first time the legislation was debated but certainly was able to put forward my point of view the second time it came before the House. Of course my point of view has not changed. This is the third time that the Rudd Labor government has tried to get some sort of flawed legislation through this House. I hope that Labor likes disappointment because this time round is going to be no more successful than the last.

The Prime Minister has produced legislation that penalises the Australian public, forces a great big tax on them and does nothing to actually improve the environment—whereas our scheme does, and I will explain it later. Labor claim that they are compensating families. But they have already admitted that 50 per cent of middle-income families will not be fully compensated, and of course there will not be any compensation for those on quite modest wages, both single people and married people with children. A married couple with one person earning $35,000 and the other working part-time and earning $15,000, a very modest income—and I would consider that to be quite a low income in terms of a family—will actually be worse-off according to the figures that have been produced by the government. The government have produced legislation that penalises the Australian public, forces a great big new tax on them and does nothing to actually improve the environment. We all know that the only reason the Australian public need this compensation is that the government will have penalised them in the first place. Over the last couple of days Labor have been trying to say to us that under our scheme we have not got any compensation. We do not actually need compensation under our system because we are not imposing on the Australian public the penalties that there are under the ETS.

Under the coalition’s direct action plan there is no great big tax, there is no forcing the Australian public to pay for this government’s mismanagement of money and there are no job losses. Labor’s policy is unsubstantiated, it is expensive and much of the detail is unclear—or has in fact not even been produced when it comes to the regulations. In fact, Labor themselves are as confused, if not more so, as the general public on their policy. Even the Prime Minister has to date been unable to explain his own policy. It would seem that his Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, has no more idea, admitting in an interview last week that she was unsure what would happen to electricity prices under the proposed CPRS. There is a complete lack of knowledge of the detail of the effects of the CPRS on everyday Australians.

We have even had the absurd situation where emissions from the one million feral camels do not count but the emissions of the camels used in the tourist industry in Broome do. I was part of an inquiry—along with you, Mr Deputy Speaker Adams—on this with the standing committee on agriculture. We actually recommended a very severe cull of the camel herds running feral—not because of the CO2 emissions but because of the danger they pose to the environment in very marginal lands and the desert. A very severe cull of those camels would not only reduce the CO2 emissions—even though, apparently, the CO2 emissions from those camels do not count under the Kyoto agreement—but also be of very great help to the environment.

Kevin Rudd has been struggling to come to terms with the cost of his ETS. He is so afraid in fact that he does not even want to calculate how much a litre of milk or a loaf of bread will cost under his ETS. What we are certain of is that an ETS will have devastating effects on small business, on families and on the farming sector. This policy will destroy regional Australia, it will destroy Australian industry and it will destroy jobs. It will send farmers bankrupt if they are forced to buy carbon permits, and it will shift market share to other countries. No other country in the world has yet put agriculture into the system; and frankly I do not trust this government, if it is re-elected, to make a decision in 2013 or later to actually include agriculture. Agriculture cannot pass on the cost of buying carbon permits, unlike other large companies and retailers, and therefore will be left with the financial burden. Given that there is very little scientific research on emissions produced by agriculture—and they vary so much—it is unfair to include them in the scheme. Frankly, Labor have never really cared for fairness where rural and regional Australia is concerned.

The arguments over the ETS have certainly captured the imagination of Australia. One has to wonder when Labor will stop with the fluff and make with the facts. I have heard just about every Labor speaker refer to ‘crap’, and I note that the member for Mackellar found that a bit off. I actually wondered when I first heard it in this parliament whether it was unparliamentary, but apparently it is not. Indeed ‘CRAP’ would be a good acronym for something called a ‘carbon reduction and pollution scheme’.

For a government that is so concerned with saving the environment, or so they say, Labor have really got it wrong on this one. If the Prime Minister is prepared to sell himself as a greenie to the Australian public then it would probably be a good idea to put forward policy that is actually pro environment, not pro tax. Labor has exerted much effort to package this policy up to appear to be environmentally friendly yet the Greens will not back it. No-one in the parliament will back it, bar Labor. Now it seems that the latest person to start questioning an ETS is the US President Barack Obama. He has decided to side with the coalition’s direct action plan.

The first time I stood in this place to debate what a sham Labor’s ETS is, I quoted some figures on the failure of an ETS overseas and I will reiterate that point now. Europe has had an ETS since 2005, and I will give you some examples of what happened there from 2005 to 2007. In Cyprus the level of emissions rose to 5.396 million tonnes in the two years from 2005 to 2007. In the Czech Republic, it has actually gone from 82.454 million tonnes to 87.334 million tonnes, and that is over five million tonnes more. In Germany, with an ETS, it has gone from 474.99 million to 487.004 million tonnes. That is over 12 million tonnes more with an ETS. In Denmark, it was 26.475 million tonnes in 2005 and it rose to 29.407 million tonnes in 2007. That is three million tonnes more. Estonia has gone from 12.621 million tonnes to 15.329 million tonnes in 2007, another increase of three million tonnes, or about 23 per cent more—not less, more. In Spain, a country that has probably done more than most to bring in the so-called green revolution, it rose from 183.626 million tonnes in 2005 to 186.495 million tonnes in 2007, nearly three million tonnes more. Finland went from 33.099 million tonnes in 2005 to 42.541 million tonnes—quite a substantial increase, in the order of 30 per cent or nine million tonnes more. Poland went from 203.149 million tonnes in 2005 to 209.601 million tonnes, 6½ million tonnes more. In the United Kingdom, where we all hear about their Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, saying that we have to do something about CO2 emissions—he is a great believer in it—they had an increase from 242.513 million tonnes in 2005 to 256.581 million tonnes, or 13 million tonnes more. Those are all countries that have an ETS in place, and yet their CO2 emissions are rising. So what the Australian public can look forward to under a Labor government are increases in emissions and a great big tax.

Food prices are predicted to rise, although in my experience as a farmer—as I had been all my life before coming to this place—the prices paid to farmers will be less, as the extra costs for food retailers and wholesalers will mean they will pay less to farmers rather than absorbing the extra costs of the ETS tax. Unfortunately, the primary industries are price takers, not price makers. It is interesting to note that farming is probably the only industry in Australia that has already reduced its emissions. Farmers have done that through such things as zero or minimum till sowing of crops. They did not do that to reduce CO2. It was actually about reducing costs, using less moisture and having better control of weeds. These are things farmers have achieved by using that sort of new technology. There will also be severe effects for farmers even if they are not included in the system. University submissions have shown that the costs for farmers are estimated to increase by 14 to 27 per cent even if they are not part of the system because of the extra costs for transport, manufacturing and so on.

There has been so much hysteria caused by the Labor government. Many people are worrying about global warming, worrying that the ocean might rise so much that it engulfs them. I have even heard Tim Flannery say that the oceans will rise by 100 metres. According to the present theory expounded by the IPCC, under the present conditions that would take 34,000 years. So it is no wonder that I might be somewhat sceptical about what Tim Flannery writes and says on this issue. I have heard people saying that global warming might cause deaths from heatwaves. I can assure you, in fact, that more people will die from global cooling, because coldness causes more deaths than heat ever does and ever will. I have no doubt there will be believers and nonbelievers in anthropogenic climate change. But the question you have to ask is: does an ETS actually reduce global emissions? Well, it has not so far. It has not in Europe, and I gave those figures earlier. I make no apology for the fact that I oppose an ETS. It would be disastrous for my electorate. It would be disastrous for Australia.

I have always been amused by the title of this scheme: the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Are we are talking about carbon or are we talking about carbon dioxide? The relationship between carbon and carbon dioxide is no closer than the relationship between hydrogen and H20, water. They are completely different elements. But this government thought it would use the name ‘CPRS’ as a marketing tool, rather than ETS, emissions trading scheme. I believe it is called the CPRS in the hope that people might think that we are improving the health of our environment, as CPR does in medicine.

I believe that the coalition’s direct action plan is careful, costed and capped, reducing emissions without a tax on everything. These measures are based on incentives rather than penalties and include initiatives such as an Emissions Reduction Fund to provide direct incentives to industry and farmers to reduce CO2 emissions, and a once-in-a-century replenishment of our soils through investment in soil carbon. The plan also includes a New Solar Sunrise for Australia: a $1,000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems for Australian homes, $100 million for our Solar Towns and Solar Schools Initiative and $50 million for the Geothermal and Tidal Towns Initiative. In fact, I believe that we could invest more in research into wave technology. I believe there is a huge potential for wave energy, not only to produce energy but to desalinate water for our future.

We will also have a green corridors initiative that will: see 20 million trees planted by 2020 to establish urban forests and green corridors; develop the Latrobe Valley, Hunter and Central Queensland regions as clean energy employment hubs; commission a study into replacing high-voltage overhead cables in our cities with underground cables; and support large-scale renewable energy generation and emerging technologies through the RET. If you can reach the same five per cent target as the government through direct action which is carefully costed and capped, why would you proceed with a great big tax on everything? If you can get the same cuts to emissions as the government through direct and practical action for less than a tenth of the cost, why would you proceed with a $120 billion ‘money-go-round’ that will raise the cost of living for Australian families?

In summary, our policy costs substantially less than the ETS. Our policy will cost $3.2 billion over four years whilst the ETS will churn $40.6 billion over the first four years. Our policy will achieve the agreed target of a five per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. It focuses on practical, effective and direct action on climate change within Australia and it provides tangible environmental benefits, provides incentives to reduce emissions within Australia and it is not a new tax on Australian families, businesses and industry. It will not cost jobs or hurt Australian businesses and it will not increase electricity and grocery prices.