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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 9560

Mr NEUMANN ( Blair ) ( 12:37 ): I rise to speak in support of the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2012. The speech we heard from the shadow minister is not a speech he would have made at any time during his student days when he wrote a thesis urging a price on carbon. It is not a speech he would have made as a candidate in 2007 when he stood with John Howard, the then Prime Minister, and urged a price on carbon. It is not speech he would have made when Brendan Nelson was the Leader of the Opposition when he urged a price on carbon. It is not a speech he would have made when he was the spokesperson for the member for Wentworth when he was the opposition leader. In fact, it is not a speech he would have made in this place three years ago.

All through his life he has been a passionate supporter—correctly—of putting a price on carbon. As the Productivity Commission has recommended, it is the most environmentally effective and economically efficient way to deal with the challenges of dangerous carbon emissions in our atmosphere which have an impact on our environment and our economy. For all his life, he has been an advocate for doing that. It is not a speech he would have made just three years ago in this place. Let us not kid ourselves: that speech was made in the political interest of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister and not the national interest. It is in the national interest to put a price on carbon because it is good for our environment and, long term, it is good for our economy.

We believe it is important to do this. Those opposite have the same targets with respect to reducing carbon emissions by 2020. A carbon price will see reductions in annual emissions of 159 million tonnes by 2020. It is the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road. I do not know where the shadow minister was when the information was circulated, but it does not come from our caucus. It comes from those who assess these things. It comes from Treasury and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Those opposite will impose a tax on our economy of about $48 billion, hitting every household with a tax slug of $1,300. It is effectively a carbon price of about $62 a tonne. He did not say that when he came in here. We have an emissions trading scheme. It will be a fixed price for a few years and then a sliding price. On one hand, there is the carbon price. On the other hand, there is the legislation that we are dealing with today. It complements what we are doing.

Australians are already acting. We know that. They are switching off their lights; they are switching off their appliances. We know they are looking to invest in efficient products and appliances. We can see that. In ads on TV, in brochures in the mailbox and on internet sites you can see that there are appliances and products being sold by retail outlets that advocate this because obviously consumers are discerning. They want to be energy efficient. They know it is good for their pocket and they know it is good for the environment, so they are taking steps already.

ABARES thinks that 55 per cent of our target to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 can be effected by energy efficiency measures. This is an important thing. We have seen already in the last few years a 13 per cent reduction in emissions this way. Business as usual is not what Australians believe. In their personal lives—through recycling, insulating their homes, putting solar panels on their roofs and looking at energy efficient hot water systems—they are taking steps in a practical way already. What we are doing here is putting in a national framework, getting rid of the inefficiencies of state based arrangeĀ­ments. We applaud those arrangements. We know that they have had an impact. But when I have a Queensland retailer like R.T. Edwards who wants to distribute its products into New South Wales and Victoria, I want to make sure that it does not have to deal with eccentricities, inefficiencies and regulatory burdens. I want to make sure that there is a national framework. This will have the impact of adding about $5.2 billion to our economy. That is $5.2 billion added to our GDP that we can have in our economy that lifts the burden on business.

Those opposite always claim that they are the champions of business and free enterprise. But it always takes a Labor government to do these things. We are the real champions of the business community and small business. It is quite clear that that is the case. We stood up for business during the GFC. We stood up for them when those opposite were asleep at the wheel. We are standing up for business with respect to the carbon price and energy efficiency.

We think this is particularly important. As I say, we will see about $5.2 billion being added back to our economy by 2020 through these particular measures. This is part of a commitment that we took to the 2007 election and a commitment that was made through COAG in 2009—that is, to establish this national framework, the Equipment Energy Efficiency Program, known as the E3 Program. We are replacing those state based legal frameworks with a single national framework. We are replacing the four state based regulators with a single energy efficiency regulator. It is an important step, ensuring consistency between the states and territories and getting rid of what I call the energy dingo fence between the states. It makes sure that the burden of regulation can be lifted so that when one company, like R.T. Edwards in Ipswich, has its products labelled we know that it can sell it interstate.

The E3 Program consists of two elements. I will deal with them briefly. They are the minimum energy performance standards, which set the mandatory requirements for energy efficiency, and the energy rating labels to assist consumers to choose the most energy efficient appliances.

We love appliances. We have them all throughout our houses. There are air conditioners, TVs—often multiple TVs—DVD players, stereos and the like. They are all through modern Australian homes; you can see that whenever you go into them.

The benefits are quite clear to consumers. Energy bills are reduced and consumers have informed choices, and they will make choices. I can recall that years ago in Queensland, in south-east Queensland in particular, we thought demand for water was inelastic. But we knew that during a seven-year drought water demand became elastic. We took steps to make sure that we reduced consumption of water. We made sure of that. That is clearly the case, and when we lifted the burden of restrictions, what happened was that Queensland consumers kept the same consumption of water.

We know energy is the same. We know people have taken steps to reduce their consumption of energy. We have seen, for example, that since the energy rating labelling began in New South Wales in 1986 the energy used by domestic refrigerators and freezers has decreased by 67 per cent. That is a very significant reduction over a period of time. Delivering these efficiencies is important for consumers. I think we need to reduce the barriers to a national framework that have been set up by state based arrangements. I think consumers want this and this goes hand in glove with putting a price on carbon.

I think the member for Tangney is speaking next for those opposite, and I would be interested to see his passionate support for the coalition's attempts to reduce carbon emissions, because from every speech I have ever heard in this place from him I am not necessarily convinced that he even believes that we should be taking action on climate change. I will be fascinated to hear his speech in relation to this matter. I am not even sure whether he thinks it is going to be a waste of time doing this, but we think it is important. On one hand we are putting a price on carbon and on the other hand there are energy efficiency measures. Lifting the burden of regulation is in the national interest. While we are pursuing the national interest, the economic interests and the environmental interests of this country, those opposite are pursuing their own sectional and political interests and running a reckless, irresponsible campaign against what is economically efficient and environmentally friendly for our economy.