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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6054


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (19:13): I rise to voice my strong support for the clean energy bills before the House with a little bit more vigour than those opposite and than was evident in the member for Flinders's speech. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012, Clean Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, Clean Energy (Customs Tariff Amendment) Bill 2012 and Clean Energy (Excise Tariff Legislation Amendment) Bill 2012 are all part of the Gillard Labor government's commitment to move Australia towards a clean energy future.

Obviously, we have seen bipartisan support for these endeavours at the 2007 and 2010 elections—the same targets in terms of combating dangerous climate change gases, and the same clean energy targets of 20 per cent, on both sides of the chamber. It is good to see this bipartisan support in acting to ensure that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a world to inherit. I welcome the creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation as part of a raft of government initiatives designed to support the way we combat the impacts of dangerous and costly climate change. Investment in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will go a long way towards delivering major new private investment in clean energy projects and the supply chains that feed into these projects.

The bills outline numerous measures that serve to improve the Carbon Farming Initiative, enhance the security of the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units—which I think might have flowed from some Howard government initiatives from 2007—and develop working relationships with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Clean energy is a concept that has been much debated in this chamber, despite that bipartisan support for the same targets. Time and time again, the Labor government has taken action to set Australia on a course to a clean energy future, a gentle change in direction, but an important economic change of direction in terms of the glide path of where we will end up. As everybody knows, there are lower costs if we act now rather than later, but unfortunately time and time again the coalition has tried to sabotage these efforts in an attempt to score cheap political points rather than considering the nation's interests.

Today I went on the web to have a look at the coalition's direct action plan on environment and climate change—I presume the policy came out before the 2010 election—to get an idea of the details embraced by those opposite. I will be generous and say that the direct action plan is probably a little bit outdated, but it does seem to be very costly—over $3.2 billion forecast over four years. I am not quite sure whether that has moved on or whether it is going to be compressed, but it is the current policy as seen on the Liberal Party webpage. It is a little bit unrealistic, outdated and perhaps even counter-productive. I would be gravely concerned for our nation's environmental legacy and our economic preparedness under an Abbott-led coalition government.

A nation's environmental legacy is what these clean energy bills before the chamber are all about—that is, what we leave behind for our children. The decisions we make in this chamber and the decisions voters make at the ballot box shape this nation for our descendants to inherit. I want my sons and their children and grandchildren to live in an Australia that did what was needed and when it was needed, even if it meant losing a bit of political skin. We need to do this to preserve the environment and work with the rest of the world in addressing climate change. Australia, while a young nation, has always had a proud record of being a good global citizen, whether it be Billy Hughes' actions after World War I—there was a lot of skin in that game after 60,000 Australians died in that conflict—or Doc Evatt in the first days of the United Nations. More recently, we can look to the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his actions in Antarctica or to the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the member for Griffith, with his endeavours in Libya. As a nation we do our bit and a little bit more, I would suggest. That is why this nation is putting a price on carbon in 30 or so days. It is about cutting pollution, creating clean energy jobs and making sure our economy is ready for this transformation that the world is undertaking. We proudly play our role in reducing global greenhouse emissions, and we will be well positioned to compete in a world moving to lower carbon technologies.

As a Queenslander, Madam Deputy Speaker Livermore, you know that we as a state, the worst per capita polluter in the world, are taking some action to prepare our economy. We will not be alone. We are joining many countries around the world that are already taking action. In fact, 89 countries have already committed, and many are acting right now to take steps to address climate change. We saw the courage of the Koreans, one of our major trading partners—I have certainly heard the member for North Sydney talk a lot about Korea—which overnight committed to putting a price on greenhouse gases by 2015. Globally, more money is now invested in renewable power than in conventional high-pollution energy generation. The rest of the world is acting, and we must act with them and, more importantly, not be left behind.

We are doing the right things for the right reasons, but it has not been easy. As anyone would know, there is a big scare campaign that is confusing and frightening many Australians with exaggerated cost estimates and exaggerated claims and hyperbole about what is going to happen. It suggests that the sky will fall in at midnight on 30 June and the world as we know it will end. That is not the reality. We are talking about a gentle change in direction, a glide path that will gently shape the Australian economy. This fear mongering, I would suggest, will be proved a foolish fallacy, come 1 July. In 20 years or in 50 years we will see just how stupid it was, just as if we look back 20 years ago to how people reacted to the High Court's decision on 3 June about Mabo. At the time there was hysteria—backyards were going to be taken—but, 20 years on, we look back and see that it was the appropriate thing to do at the time. It was a tough thing for Prime Minister Keating to do at the time, and perhaps he did not reach the decision as easily as he might have, but he then had the courage to lead the nation into doing the right thing.

The honourable member for Warringah has neglected to mention that many vulnerable Australians, including many pensioners, will end up coming out ahead after the carbon price starts in little over a month from now. In Moreton alone, 16,000 pensioners—I note Minister Macklin at the table—will receive a cash payment over the coming weeks ahead of the introduction of the carbon price. All full and part pensioners in Moreton will receive a lump-sum payment of $250 if they are single and $380 for couples. Local pensioners will get another boost with an ongoing increase to their fortnightly payments from March 2013. In total, local pensioners will get around $338 extra a year for singles and $510 extra for couples. About 93 per cent of all pensioner households will be at least 20 per cent better off because of these new payments. We are talking about a gentle tax to change behaviour. If they are like many seniors that I know—people who do know where to find their jumpers, do know where to turn the lights switches off—they will find that it will not be the fear and doom and gloom, the jeremiad that those opposite would suggest. And, obviously, the money that the member for Jagajaga is putting in their pockets will be a reward for their years of service to the Australian community.

The member for Warringah does not want to hear about that and he certainly does not want to admit this to the Australian public. He more than any other member of parliament at the moment can hear the clocks in this House ticking loudly, because he knows that, as the days tick down towards 1 July, his campaign, his house of cards, the flimflam attack, the flimflam man, will find out that the world is different. His continued negativity on tackling climate change unfortunately has created a little bit of uncertainty in some markets, particularly the electricity market, which has hurt our economy and damaged the efficient functioning of the NEM and our energy markets. He has come a long way from his 2009 Lateline statement, where he supported an emissions trading scheme. He said:

We don't want to play games with the planet. So we are taking this issue seriously and we would like to see an ETS.

I agree with him. It would have been great to have an ETS. Obviously, that was before the member for Warringah knocked off the member for Wentworth in the leadership change early in December 2009 on that climate change sceptic ticket. I think the votes were 42 to 41, from memory. One person was absent, so did not actually vote, and one person could not bring themselves to vote for either of them, so I am not sure what their intentions were, even with two people on the ticket. Unfortunately we have not seen that sort of commitment from the opposition leader. As I said, the direct action plan that I have had a look through is quite different.

Like many other MPs I do have serious questions about Mr Abbott's direct action plan, particularly in the context of our shared Renewable Energy Targets. I have a lot of concerns about how this will impact on investment in solar, because I do believe as a Queenslander that we have great opportunities in solar. I was a bit disappointed to see one of the solar programs of the Queensland government scrapped the other day. I also think we have great potential in geothermal. I look forward to the Queensland government and the federal government working together to develop some of those geothermal resources. I would like to snatch some of those projects away from South Australia, hopefully.

We are only 30 or so days out from the start of our price on greenhouse gases. It is at this moment that I would like to have a look at some of the direct action plan policy. They are talking about creating a band within the Renewable Energy Target which would be reserved for emerging technologies such as big solar. I have a bit of a concern about that. If there were an addition to the 20 per cent target I could see the logic in that. If the coalition were to introduce a banded RET it would see solar built at the expense of other projects that are already in the pipeline—perhaps some of those geothermals, perhaps some of those other renewables like wave. That would create instability for renewable energy investors, and that is not a mature investment sector at the moment, even though, as I said, there is a lot of global money being pumped into this area.

The other policy in the direct action plan is to invest $100 million each year for an additional one million solar energy homes by 2020. As I said, this is the 2010 election policy, so it is slightly out of date. We are already on track for one million rooves by the end of 2014, so this plan as printed today is out of date and behind the times. As at April 2012, we are already in excess of 677,000 solar power systems, whereas the direct action plan estimates 275,000 by the end of 2012. I think they might need to update this document.

In their solar cities program, which I think was touched on by the member for Flinders, projects were announced for Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown, Alice Springs and Central Victoria, 'providing practical benefits for the community, including PV, solar hot water and smart meters on public and private buildings'. The reality is that these are already solar cities, so I am not sure why we would need to go back and have a policy where we are going to try and take lessons from these. I think we should just let the industry get on with what it is already delivering.

The other surprising commitment is to fund 125 mid-scale solar projects in schools and communities. But we had 784 schools provided with solar power systems in the last funding round of the National Solar Schools Program, and already over 4,000 have been installed. I know this, because it is something I have been trying to push in my electorate. The schools are already ahead of the politicians. When complete next year, 70 per cent of schools will have a solar power system.

I would suggest there are some serious funding questions as well in this direct action plan. That cost of $1,300 per household is too high. It is time for the coalition, obviously, to reconsider this policy. I would ask for it to reconsider the scare campaign, although I would suggest it is going to be ramped up on the shrill factor to 11 in the lead-up to 30 June.

As a parliament everyone agrees—both sides of the chamber—that we need to take climate change seriously. There are really not too many sceptics that have got a voice on that side of the chamber. We need to do more so that we take action. The bills before the House are part of this plan. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012, Clean Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, Clean Energy (Customs Tariff Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Clean Energy (Excise Tariff Legislation Amendment) Bill 2012 are another step in the right direction and I commend them to the House.