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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 987

Ms LIVERMORE (1:54 PM) —I rise once more to give more support to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and the related bills, which will put in place the government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions and transition Australia’s economy to a low-carbon future. The Labor Party went to the last election with a promise to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and to do that by way of an emissions trading scheme. This legislation honours that promise. We made that commitment based on the scientific evidence that the world is warming and that Australia is one of the countries most at risk from continued climate change. We made that commitment based on economic advice that an emissions trading scheme is the lowest cost way to achieve reductions in carbon emissions. The opposition can pretend otherwise, but there is no zero-cost way to achieve the changes in behaviour and the structural changes in our economy and our way of life that are needed to limit the rise in temperatures. The question is: how do we pay for the change that is needed?

The government thinks the big polluters should do their bit while households are protected from the extra costs that might flow through to them from the scheme. The opposition, on the other hand, thinks that the big polluters should keep doing whatever they like and the cost of reducing emissions should be picked up by taxpayers. Taxpayers will be paying for an opposition scheme that does not even promise to reduce carbon emissions. They might even be paying for emissions to rise. That is opposition value for money for you. I believe that Senator Joyce must have come up with that one.

Our scheme puts a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide allowed to be produced in Australia each year and requires the biggest polluters to buy permits for the amount of carbon dioxide that they each produce. The supply of permits prescribed by the government and the demand for permits from those big polluters creates a market and therefore a price per tonne of carbon. There will therefore be a carbon price built into the economy which will create an incentive to reduce carbon and a penalty for producing carbon. A carbon price will influence investment decisions and drive the transition to a lower carbon intensive economy through greater energy efficiency, renewable energy and other technologies for reducing carbon, such as carbon capture and storage.

In our scheme, the revenue collected from polluters buying permits will go back to households and in some cases to industry by way of assistance and adjustment measures. Low- and most middle-income households will receive direct financial assistance out of the revenue from the sale of permits to big polluters. Households will receive money to cover the extra costs of electricity and other goods and services that may be passed on to them as a result of the CPRS. The CPRS is a transparent market mechanism that will provide business with the certainty that they need right now to start making investment decisions that will shape our country for the next 20 to 50 years.

On the other hand, the opposition has come up with a grab bag of initiatives that may or may not reduce emissions at a huge cost to the taxpayer, and business does not know what it will mean for them from one year to the next. There will be a lucky dip for well-connected businesses that can get the ear of the minister and get grants for their projects if they are in the right marginal seats. We saw how that worked under the previous Liberal and National government with Regional Partnerships and the Water Initiative. Other businesses will be subject to penalties the opposition cannot even quantify.

The opposition is having us on. This is a political fix for the opposition, not a rational piece of policy making in an area of vital importance to Australia’s future. Once upon a time, the opposition did have a credible and rational plan to address climate change. It is this plan that we are debating now. These bills, amended since the last time that they were debated in this House, are to some degree the opposition’s plan. The bills incorporate the sensible and responsible amendments negotiated between the government and the opposition last year—things like the dedicated funding available to meat processors like Teys Brothers and Swift in Rockhampton or Borthwicks at Bakers Creek to support the development and deployment of technologies to reduce emissions from their waste water. There will also be assistance to convert their operations from coal to natural gas or perhaps even to move to co-generation.

The amendments also include things like the exclusion of agriculture from any liability under an emissions trading scheme while at the same time allowing farmers to earn credits for the carbon stored on their properties or carbon abated as a result of their farming practices. There is more assistance to the gassiest coalmines and measures to support the expansion of electricity generation from waste coalmine gas, a growing industry in my electorate. These are sensible and responsible amendments. ‘Sensible’ and ‘responsible’ are two words no longer associated with the Liberal Party and the National Party.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Capricornia will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.