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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 960


Ms KING (11:54 AM) —In my contribution on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills I would like to start by reflecting a little bit on what the member for Gilmore had to say. If climate change was so simple and so cheap to fix, why didn’t you do anything in the 12 years that you were in government? If it was so simple and required such a quick, magic solution, which the coalition now seems to have come up with, why didn’t you do something in the 12 years that you were in government? Climate change is complicated, It is a really hard, tough problem and it is a hard, tough problem to fix. And, yes, the solution to fixing it is complicated, and it is hard to explain how an emissions trading scheme works. It is a difficult, complex issue. But if we do not do anything, if we bury our heads in the sand, if we as a government try to con the Australian people by saying: ‘Don’t worry too much about it. It is really not that difficult. We have got the solution, this magic solution over here. It is not going to cost you anything,’ we would be lying.

We understand the trouble people are having grappling with this complex policy. It is hard. The problem is hard. But what we are trying to do is to be absolutely honest with the Australian people and say, ‘This is the problem we are facing as a country and as a nation and, when you talk to all of the experts across the world, this is the cheapest and most effective solution we have before us to fix it.’ We know that it will cause some costs to rise. We have been honest about that. But we have then said that we will compensate people for those rises. So I want to say to the member for Gilmore that it is great to see people in here actively having a proper debate about climate change, and she is clearly someone who believes that climate change is happening, unlike some of her colleagues. But if it was so absolutely simple to fix surely someone would have done it by now.

I rise, obviously, in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and the associated bills, and I do so for the second time in this chamber. The debate surrounding these bills has obviously generated a lot of interest in the media and in the community. That has been for a very good reason: the debate is in fact probably one of the most important that this generation of politicians has had to grapple with in this parliament for some time. We live on the driest continent on this planet, a planet that has experienced an extended period of lower than average rainfall and higher than average temperatures. This decade is expected to be the hottest on record. We live on a continent that, while it is true that it is nowhere near the scale of China and India in its emissions, is in the direct line of fire for the most dangerous effects of climate change, and we are already seeing them in this country.

Climate change is real. It might be tough to deal with. It might require us to make hard decisions. But if we do not, if we, like the opposition, bury our heads in the sand, the consequences for this country will be very serious indeed. The situation in which we find ourselves in this place today is no different to when I debated the passage of this bill last year. The science has not changed. If anything, the information now available to us today is even more concerning. The advice and recommendations about the best way to turn economies from high-carbon-polluting ones into low-polluting economies has not changed. Emissions trading continues to be internationally regarded as the cheapest and most effective way of reducing emissions. Yet one thing has changed in this debate. That one thing is the political opportunism of the new Leader of the Opposition. In the past we have had people on the other side of this House who firmly believed in climate change saying that they supported an emissions trading scheme. They might have quibbled around the edges at what that scheme would look like—about the prices—but they were absolutely committed to the best and cheapest possible way of reducing emissions, which is through an emissions trading scheme.

Some of those people, including those who are pretty desperate to keep their positions on the frontbench under the new leadership, are now saying something completely different. The member for Paterson said:

I would like to make it clear: the coalition will support an emissions trading scheme ...

The member for Boothby said:

The opposition are in favour of an emissions trading scheme ...

The member for Herbert said:

I remind the parliament that, even under John Howard, our policy was to have an emissions trading scheme. We still have that policy and no amount of Labor spin can alter our resolve.

The member for Cook said:

Australia needs an ETS that suits our circumstances and addresses our needs, a scheme that will cut, not export, emissions and a scheme that will protect, not export, Australian jobs.

The member for Mayo said:

I believe that an emissions trading scheme is one of the policy levers that can be used to change the energy mix in Australia.

One of my favourite quotes is from the member for Groom—all of these are quotes from members of the opposition:

There is a need for an emissions trading scheme. Few of us doubt that. I am certain of it, and I have been certain of it longer than the member for Flynn.

The member for Groom went on to say:

I remember quite vividly John Howard ringing me and saying, ‘I think we’re going to have to have an emissions trading scheme.’ In 2007 I had already realised that. We worked to introduce an emissions trading scheme and in fact took an emissions trading scheme to the last election.

That is merely a snapshot of those members opposite who have previously spoken in support of an emissions trading scheme. What has happened to all of those voices supporting an emissions trading scheme? We still have one, and that is the member for Wentworth who sought to show leadership on the issue of climate change and he lost his job because of it. The members opposite have no credibility when it comes to climate change because fundamentally a large proportion of them just do not believe it is happening. They have changed policies and changed leaders or, in some cases, they have changed leaders in order to change policy. It has been pretty confusing to get a picture of where they sit on this issue. The end result has been a party who now stands for nothing and a leader who believes climate change ‘is absolute crap’ and who is delivering to the Australian people a climate change con job.

Members of the Rudd government do not doubt that climate change is real. The climate science is there and, because we know that the science exists, we know that we have to act. Scientists across the globe are telling us that carbon pollution is contributing to climate change—that we are contributing to climate change. We recognised this a long time ago. We understood that Australia would feel the impacts of climate change more severely than many other countries. The risk to this country is great. More importantly, we also understood that the longer we take to act the greater the potential harm.

That is why members of this government have a clear way forward. In contrast to the Liberal Party, we have a clear position on climate change and, more importantly, we have a united position on tackling its most dangerous effects. Our scheme is a simple one. We make polluters pay, we provide incentives for investment in cleaner technology and we compensate the majority of families for increased costs. Our scheme is the lowest cost way of reducing emissions. Our scheme will see 92 per cent of households compensated for the impact of the scheme. We have been upfront about it with the Australian people, with Treasury modelling showing that there will be about a one per cent increase in household costs overall. Our scheme is widely recognised as the best approach to reduce carbon pollution, an approach that John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey have all previously supported and that some of them continue to support. We have outlined an approach that is accepted by governments across the world, one that is supported by scientists and that recognises the reality of climate change. Many members opposite argue that with this bill we are acting all on our own, but they fail to recognise that an emissions trading scheme is widely recognised by all major economies as the best way to tackle and reduce carbon emissions. Our carbon emissions trading scheme is the strongest way to meet our carbon emissions reduction target and keeps our 2007 election commitment that we would tackle climate change, a commitment that was overwhelmingly supported by the Australian people in that election.

Let me briefly outline some of the details of this bill. The government is proposing to establish a carbon pollution reduction target. We are making a commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by five per cent by 2020, and that commitment is unconditional. We have also committed to reduce carbon emissions by up to 15 per cent or 25 per cent conditional on the actions of others. I have made no secret in this parliament that I am in favour of having a higher carbon emissions reduction target. Let me remind the House that these are targets the Liberal Party supported last year. Therefore, if we are to assume that these targets have bipartisan support then we should assume that both parties have a plan to achieve these targets, although with the announcement of the Abbott plan we see that the coalition are no longer serious about climate change as under their plan these targets will not be achieved. In fact, under the scheme proposed by the opposition, we have already heard reported in the media that emissions will rise by 13 per cent. They will not go down by the five per cent that they claim is their target, the same target as ours, but in fact will go up.

Our plan, the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, will enable the federal government to set a target to reduce our carbon print. Our scheme will provide a mechanism whereby companies that emit carbon pollution will need to buy a permit to produce that pollution. We put a price on carbon and we create an incentive for those producers to therefore reduce their costs. We also provide an incentive for polluters to invest in renewable energies. This is what the government is all about—we are setting our nation up for the longer term and to do this we must provide industry with the means to achieve it. Furthermore, the revenue received from the sale of these permits will be given back to businesses and households to assist them with the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. As I said earlier, under our scheme households will be compensated for the impact of the emissions trading scheme. Under the Liberal Party’s plan costs will go up. They have to pay for it somehow. The only way they can pay for it is by either increasing taxes or cutting services to hospitals, education, defence, infrastructure and roads. They have to pay for it from somewhere, but they have not made their plans transparent about that. People’s costs will go up, but there is no compensation in their scheme.

The Liberal Party have a long history of ducking the issue of climate change. We started with the Howard policy No. 1: ‘Climate change doesn’t exist or, if it does, I really don’t want to talk about it.’ Howard policy No. 2 was: ‘Climate change does exist—maybe I’d better cobble something together before the 2007 election because I could lose it.’ The Nelson policy on climate change was—well, frankly, what policy? We had the Turnbull policy, which was to support an ETS with the backing of half his colleagues. Unfortunately, he lost his job as a result. And now we have the Abbott policy—slap something together to try and score a few votes with no real thought about what they are actually going to be doing in relation to climate change itself.

There are some real problems with the opposition’s policy. Firstly, if you think climate change is ‘crap’—and again I quote, because it is not language I use myself—maybe you are not the best person to be developing your party’s climate change policy, frankly. I find this passing strange when eminent scientists across the globe are overwhelmingly telling us that climate change is real. They may have some disagreements about its impacts—it is a pretty imprecise science to project exactly what is going to happen—but they are all pretty adamant that climate change is real.

The new Leader of the Opposition, in a road to Damascus moment when he was out touting his book at a Liberal Party fundraiser with a less than representative sample of a very small community—a fantastic community in the town of Beaufort—suddenly declared as a result of this meeting with Liberal Party members in Beaufort, ‘Climate change is crap but the politics are against us, so I’m going to support it.’ A bit later on he thought: ‘I might be on a bit of a winner here. I actually think we might entirely change our whole position in relation to supporting the government, because I think the politics are shifting.’ This is great leadership—really impressive leadership. Instead of maybe talking to the community members at Beaufort about why climate change is real and why it is important to act, understanding that they have some concerns about it but convincing them of what the evidence says, let’s forget all about the evidence. Let’s take this small, unrepresentative sample of Liberal Party members sitting out there in the great town of Beaufort and let them convince the Leader of the Opposition that climate change is crap, the politics have changed and they should absolutely overturn not only the ETS policy but their leader as a result.

The coalition’s policy is fundamentally flawed because it does not tackle climate change, it costs taxpayers more and it is totally unfunded, which means that members opposite are going to either increase taxes or cut services. Members opposite should be clear with people in my electorate whether they plan to increase taxes or whether they instead plan to cut vital government funding in areas such as health, schools or even infrastructure. My concern is that members opposite are going to slug taxpayers in my own electorate or they are going to cut vital services. The Liberal con job is three times more expensive than the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and will do nothing to reduce emissions.

The Department of Climate Change has found that the Liberals’ policy will increase emissions, not reduce them. Bloomberg New Energy Finance yesterday said that the price of carbon under the opposition’s scheme will result in a massive impost on business. The opposition are trying to tell the Australian people: ‘You won’t have to pay anything under our scheme. There’ll be no cost.’ If the price for carbon under the opposition’s scheme is going to be a massive impost on business, you are going to pay for it, and there is no compensation under the opposition’s scheme. The Abbott climate con job fails to put a cap on pollution because it gives polluters an absolutely free ride. Our plan sets a price for the pollution that is produced by industry, therefore creating an incentive for business to, firstly, reduce emissions and, secondly, invest in renewable energies. The fact that the coalition have failed to address this fundamental element is mind-boggling and will subsequently result in the failure of their policy.

The next major concern that exists in the coalition’s proposal is in the maths. What you can see from the coalition’s plan is that it is not funded. They are trying to say: ‘Don’t worry about this plan. It’s not going to cost you anything at all. It’s going to reduce emissions. It’s this magical cure that we’ve got for climate change. It’s really simple. It’s not going to cost you anything.’ Again, you have to pay for it by either raising taxes or cutting services, and you should be honest with people about what you are planning to do. It is only fair for people across the community to be aware of what it is we are debating and what they will be paying for.

I want to finish on a few of the reasons that I personally am supporting these bills. As a federal member of parliament, I recognise the importance of decisions that I make in this place on behalf of the community that I represent. Not all of the community agrees with the decisions I make—I know that—but I have to make those decisions on the basis of the evidence I have before me. That is what leadership is about. I recognise the importance of this decision and the effect it will have on future generations—our children, our grandchildren and their children. That is fundamentally what this debate is about. My decision to support these bills is vital for our children, our grandchildren and their children. It goes to the heart of what we represent as political leaders. These bills seek to structurally change our economy to support jobs for our nation for the longer term. The legislation does not represent a bleak future, as members opposite would lead us to believe. Our plan will provide an opportunity for new jobs, new possibilities and a cleaner future. It will put Australia ahead of the race to tackle climate change. The legislation will ensure our nation steps up to tackle climate change, it will set our local economies up for the long term and it will give Australian families a competitive advantage compared to our international counterparts.

The answer to this debate is pretty simple: the Rudd government plan that addresses climate change at a minimal cost to households or a backwards coalition con job that slugs taxpayers and will in fact increase emissions? Our plan will reduce our nation’s carbon footprint. The Liberals’ plan will see taxpayers cough up $10 billion for a climate change policy that has been developed by a leader who thinks climate change is ‘absolute crap’. The Rudd government’s plan will make polluters pay for their emissions, and the Abbott con job plan will give polluters a free ride and slug households instead. Our plan delivers assistance to families with money raised from polluters, and assistance to pensioners and low- and middle-income households. I would like to finish by quoting the member for Wentworth. When he put the question, ‘Is the CPRS the best policy?’ he said the answer absolutely ‘must be yes’. I urge the members opposite to listen to their colleague, to show the leadership that their colleague has shown and to support these bills.