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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10540

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (18:30): I would like to begin by sharing a letter I received earlier this year from a group of primary school students in my electorate: the Vardy's Road year 4 reading group. It reads:

Dear Ms Rowland

We are worried about our future. We want you to help our country to reduce greenhouse gas production. Climate scientists tell us that we only have ten years to turn things around. If we don't, by the time we are adults in 2020, it will be too late.

We will still be alive when your life is over. We want to have a good life like you have had. We don't want to live in a mess.

On 3 May I had the pleasure of meeting with and spending time with these young students. These young people, the future leaders of this country and the future mums and dads of Australia, wanted to know what I am doing to address their concerns. I told these young people that I am committed to taking action to safeguard our environment from the effects of climate change, to sustain our society, to support our economy and to create the jobs of the future. I could tell these children that I am a member of a government that cares about their future; that I believe climate change is real, that human activity contributes to it and that it has a detrimental effect on our environment, which will only get worse if we do not take action now; and that I am committed to doing something about it, something that is economically responsible as well as environmentally sound, that recognises that the most vulnerable in our society need a helping hand and that creates and grows jobs in the future. The biggest polluters in our economy will now pay to pollute, something that today they do for free. The cost of that pollution is borne by the environment and in turn by each of us.

I speak today in support of the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills. I do so as a proud member of this government, as a local member and as a mother-to-be. Everything has a cause and effect. Everyone in this place knows that if we drive our car recklessly we endanger society and we should pay a price for it. If we rely on obtaining energy by burning irreplaceable fuel and the consequences threaten the safety of our society then surely those doing the polluting should pay a price for it also. It is the right thing to do for this country both environmentally and economically.

Western Sydney is already embracing a clean energy future that recognises the environmental and economic realities. You can see it in action. The TAFE New South Wales Western Sydney Institute's GreenSkills Hub in Quakers Hill is revolutionising the way our tradespeople are being trained. Last year I was honoured to officially open the GreenSkills Hub, which was later visited by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to see how the green jobs of the future are being created in the fastest-growing region of Sydney. The Western Sydney GreenSkills Hub was funded under this government's Training Infrastructure Investment for Tomorrow initiative. It is a living laboratory designed to model sustainable practices and provide innovative training in subject areas that include green electrical engineering, plumbing, refrigeration and information technology.

For anyone in this place who wants to see how the new green-collar jobs are being created under this government, I strongly recommend a visit to the Quakers Hill GreenSkills Hub. It is the first vocational education and training facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The young apprentices there are literally the first of their kind to become qualified in the green skills trade.

Speaking of young people and jobs of the future, I also have a special obligation to support this legislation because of the reality that exists in my electorate of Greenway. I often refer to our region in west and north-west Sydney as Australia's nursery and that is because in nearly every age category the electorate of Greenway ranks as one of the youngest in Australia. As an example, 8.2 per cent of Greenway's population is aged zero to five years old, making it the second youngest electorate in the entire country.

There is a particular demographic in our society which occupies the time and energy of many a marketing consultant or public office holder—young people who feel disenfranchised from the policy and legislative process that impacts on them and their future and indeed the non-franchised young people who have not yet reached voting age. We spend hours in this place making decisions that affect these young people. Any public office holder worth their salt struggles to find mechanisms to communicate and engage with them. The problem is that by and large these young people do not have the loudest voices on the airwaves or the opinion pages of the newspapers.

As I said in my first speech in this place, I recognise my obligations to these young people. There are occasions when I spend more time with them, their parents and their teachers than any other single group in my electorate. That is why I know that the Clean Energy Future package encapsulated in these bills, which is about transformational change for a positive future, is what these young people, their parents and their families are focused on.

We do not have to look far outside our region to see why we must act on climate change. Countries in our region stand to be hurt the most by changes to our climate. Indeed, Pacific countries such as Kiribati are already being impacted by rising sea levels brought on by climate change. As documented by the World Wildlife Fund:

The people of Funafti in Tuvalu and on Kiribati island are lobbying to find new homes: salt water intrusion has made groundwater undrinkable and these islands are suffering increasing impacts from hurricanes and heavy seas. In the village of Saoluafata in Samoa, villagers have noticed that their coastline has retreated by as much as 50 metres in the last decade. Many of these people have had to move further inland as a result.

Not only in the Pacific are nations being adversely affected by man-made climate change but Asia's low-lying nations are subjected to sea level rise also. The impact of climate change in these parts is well-documented, including as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010:

The low-lying delta region that makes up much of Bangladesh and the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal are acutely vulnerable to climate change.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts rising sea levels will devour 17 per cent of Bangladesh by 2050, displacing at least 20 million people.

…   …   …

The Bangladesh non-governmental organisation Coastal Watch says an average of 11 Bangladeshis are losing their homes to rising waters every hour.

These regional examples demonstrate that not only is it in our domestic interest to tackle climate change but it is also in our national interest, for Australia holds itself out as the leading nation in the Pacific region. We must take the leading diplomatic steps to tackle climate change. These bills will reinstate our authority on this issue and reflect our leading economic, environmental and social status in the Asia-Pacific.

The Australian economy even in these challenging global conditions is diverse and dynamic. Sixty years ago it would have been inconceivable that the agricultural sector, for example, would shrink to where it is today as a proportion of GDP—a topic that rightly continues to occupy many debates in this place. Conversely, nobody would have predicted even 20 years ago what the ICT sector in Australia would look like today, how it would become the primary driver of GDP growth in our economy and the way in which it would spawn new markets we had not even dreamt of.

As has been noted time and again, the single most indicative feature of a healthy economy is change. If you are not driving it, if you are not continually transforming it, you are as good as standing still. It is this fact that the opponents of change—the opponents of transformational public policy—have sought to destroy since time immemorial. And of course we have seen scare campaigns on environmental and economic challenges before in Australia. We have seen how they have been exposed as baseless.

Twenty years ago a Labor government introduced a superannuation guarantee. At that time, those who were sitting opposite made a number of predictions about the supposed damage, with no corresponding benefits, that universal superannuation would wreak on Australian workers in the economy. By revisiting some of the uninformed claims made on superannuation, we can draw some revealing comparisons with the current carbon pricing debate.

Mr Secker: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that you bring the member back to what we are debating. What she is talking about now has absolutely nothing to do with this legislation at all.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The member for Greenway is speaking to the bills and she may continue her speech.

Ms ROWLAND: Thank you. By revisiting some of the uninformed claims made on superannuation, we can draw some revealing comparisons—

Mr Secker: How can you possibly say that this has anything to do with the carbon legislation? Superannuation has nothing whatsoever to do with it, and I ask you to bring her back to the legislation.

Mr Clare: Further to the point of order, this is a debate about a major piece of reform legislation in this parliament, and what the member is doing in this debate is making the points that scare campaigns now, like scare campaigns in the past, have been proved false and how important it is for us as legislators to look past those scare campaigns to the best interests of the people of Australia. That is what this member is doing in her contribution, and I ask you to rule that it is in order.

Mr Baldwin: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. On the first point of order, the point of order raised by the minister is absolutely ridiculous and irrelevant. The second point of order is that the speaker is not addressing the bill. She is not referring to the legislation about the carbon tax and that planned imposition; she is talking about superannuation. There is nowhere in the 19 bills of the carbon tax legislation that specifically addresses superannuation, so I ask you to bring her back to the bills before the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I see that there is a determination here this evening to play ping-pong with the debate.

Mr Baldwin: As members are requested not to reflect on the chair, I think it is also incumbent on those occupying the chair of Speaker. This is not about playing ping-pong; this is about, to quote the Speaker during question time last week, making sure the standing orders are upheld.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Greenway is within order. I will ask the member for Greenway to continue with her speech.

Ms ROWLAND: Thank you. It is therefore no wonder that the forward-looking nature of the superannuation industry reflects an endorsement of these bills. Richard Mattison, the CEO of Trucost—

Mr Baldwin: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Again, this member is going into issues such as superannuation. The only effect these bills may have on superannuation is a negative effect. I ask you to bring her back to the bills before the House.

Mr Clare: Madam Deputy Speaker, you have ruled on this matter and the member is now canvassing your ruling. Your ruling was correct at first instance, and I ask that the member be deemed in order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Greenway has the call.

Ms ROWLAND: As Richard Mattison, the CEO of Trucost has said:

Superannuation investment managers can manage carbon risk by integrating carbon metrics into investment processes and identifying opportunities from companies that are better positioned for a low-carbon economy

Similarly, Fiona Reynolds, the CEO of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, said that 'moving to a carbon price reduces investment uncertainty and means super funds can look to manage climate change without speculation on the price of carbon pollution'. She added that the three-year transition period would be enough time for funds to prepare for market based pricing of emissions. And the Industry Super Network has welcomed this government's announcement of the introduction of a price on carbon.

We ask ourselves to what lengths our opponents would go to stoke a fear campaign today. The answer is we need to look no further than the concoction of the Premier of New South Wales and the Leader of the Opposition, a story that made the mass media and is now the subject of media scrutiny: how New South Wales Treasury modelling showing train fares would rise by only 0.12 per cent was replaced with a completely made up story from the premier that public transport fares would increase by up to 3.6 per cent under a carbon price.

These baseless scare campaigns have not just been confined to big economic challenges; they also occurred with previous environmental challenges such as the chlorofluorocarbon debate in the 1980s. As history proved, the world acted on CFCs and prevented further environmental damage. The sky did not fall in as those with vested interests promised it would. Businesses and the scientific community innovated and developed real alternatives to CFC just as they will with high-carbon-emitting practices.

The reality is that both sides of this House have policy which purport to seek the same carbon emission reductions in the same time frame, yet time and again speakers opposite in this debate have shown how they refuse to believe those reductions will have any positive environmental impact. As Robert F Kennedy Jr so eloquently stated in his book, Crimes Against Nature:

We protect nature not for sake of the trees and the fishes and the birds, but because it is the infrastructure of our communities. If we want to provide our children with the same opportunities for dignity and enrichment as those our parents gave us, we've got to start by protecting the air, water, wildlife, and landscape that connect us to our national values and character.

I came into this place to improve the community I represent, and I plan to do this. As an expectant mother I want my child to grow up in a world where they can see all the beautiful things it has to offer, a world where they can breathe clean air, live a healthy and happy life, and enjoy the benefits of a strong and dynamic economy. I commend the bills to the House, for my child and for the future of this country.