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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 708

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (18:46): It is a great pleasure to follow the member for Boothby. I find it extremely interesting listening to him talking about electricity prices, particularly coming from New South Wales, where there have been massive increases in the price of electricity—not because of the price on carbon but because of the state government ratcheting up the price of electricity. It is to do with the poles, the wires and the fact that the state government does not shy away at any stage from increasing the price of electricity. Nine per cent with the price on carbon and something like 50 per cent at the hands of the state government in New South Wales. And I believe that similar events have happened in other states. So I think it is very interesting that the member for Boothby can argue that there is going to be a massive deduction in electricity prices, when all we have to do is see where the major increase in the price of electricity comes from—not from the price on carbon but from the ravages of the state governments.

I would argue that there is no guarantee that prices will be reduced. That was really brought home to me when I was listening to the ABC, where there was a fact finder presentation. It showed that it is very dubious as to whether or not the price of electricity will be reduced as a result of this legislation. But we will see that in time to come, and I will be interested to hear the excuses that those on the other side of this House put forward.

The legislation that we have before us today, the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and related bills, is based on flawed assumptions, with disregard for the science of climate change and disregard for Australia's future economic prosperity. We heard the member opposite speaking a moment ago—obviously, a climate change denier. This legislation is regressive and lacks any vision whatsoever. It will fail to deliver a reduction in carbon emissions, and modelling shows that it will in fact lead to an increase in emissions and cost more for Australians.

The estimate is that Direct Action is going cost all Australian households $1,200. We heard the previous speaker talking about a reduction of $200 a year, and yet we are looking at introducing legislation—the government's 'vision', if you could call it a vision, a 'vision' that takes us back to the past—that will cost the Australian people $1,200. So we have before the House legislation that is not based on any science, and it will cost more. That is not good legislation, and I am sure that there are many on the other side who are quite embarrassed about the fact that this legislation is being put to the House.

We on this side of the House accept that there is such a thing as climate change. We believe that it exists and that this is demonstrated by the increase in temperature that has been evident over the last five decades. Since 1950 the temperature has increased in each decade. It has also been made quite apparent by things like the melting of the polar ice caps, and I also refer to a number of extreme weather events: we have had flooding, we have had cyclones and we have had a number of extreme events.

In the electorate that I represent, over the last very short period we have been faced with torrential rains, storms and adverse rain events that have been greater than at any other time. I believe that over yesterday and going back into Sunday there was the highest rainfall that has ever been recorded in November and yet, a month earlier, the electorate was on fire. There were bushfires ravaging both the Central Coast part of my electorate and the southern part of Lake Macquarie. I would really find it hard to stand in this House and say these extreme weather events are normal. They are not. We have had the highest temperatures recorded for this time of year. We have had adverse weather event after weather event after weather event, and this year is set to be the hottest year on record.

Labor's position is that we accept climate change. We really believe that Australia needs to do something about it. Unfortunately, Tony Abbott and members on the other side are intending to remove the legal cap on pollution and allow big polluters open slather, instead of paying for pollution. So on the one hand there is a policy designed to be a disincentive for people wishing to pollute and on the other hand there is legislation such as we have before us today that will encourage people to pollute. The Prime Minister and his colleagues are setting up a slush fund of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money and that money is going to be handed to the polluters—putting money aside to pay the polluters and taking away all the incentives that have been put in place to reduce pollution.

Before I moved sideways to talk about the opposition's policy I was talking about the extreme weather events and the impact that climate change has had in my local area. One very tangible way that has been demonstrated in the electorate I represent is that the local council and the New South Wales government have made it a requirement that people living near the sea have to elevate their buildings. There has been a change to the building code, and insurers are refusing to insure people living in areas around the lake and lower coastal areas. This is a direct result of climate change—and still we have the deniers on the other side of this House giving money to polluters, paying people to pollute, rather than tackling climate change. I think that is an absolute disgrace. I am sure there are many members on the other side of this House who are very embarrassed about the direction things are going.

This month the OECD released a report confirming that countries could achieve higher levels of emissions reductions at a much lower cost if they relied on an emissions trading scheme. We agree that it is time for the current scheme to be repealed, but it should be replaced with an ETS. It is by far the best scheme that you can put in place to reduce carbon. It has been noted worldwide and accepted as the best approach to reducing carbon emissions and, as such, dealing with climate change.

As I have mentioned, we know that those on the other side of this House do not accept climate change. They talk a lot about former Prime Minister Howard in this House. He went to the 2007 election with a plan to introduce an ETS. I might add that we went to that election with a similar plan; we had a mandate from the Australian people to introduce that plan and the legislation was voted down by those on the other side of the House. They did not respect the mandate that the people of Australia gave us to introduce that scheme. But John Howard has reverted to form—he told an audience recently in London that those who accept climate change is real are a bunch of 'religious zealots'. I think that probably reflects the feelings of many of those on the other side of this House, at a time when 97 per cent of scientists worldwide believe that climate change is a reality and 97 per cent of scientists believe it is imperative that we address climate change and reduce carbon emissions. But I look to some of the statements by authority figures on the other side, starting with the Prime Minister. In July 2011 he said:

One of the problems with emissions trading schemes is policing the non-delivery of an invisible product to no one …

Doesn't that demonstrate what a climate change denier that man is? It shows that our Prime Minister just is not across the science and does not understand climate change. It is no wonder that in 2009 he referred to climate change has 'crap'. Minister Joyce has said:

Australia accounts for 1.5 per cent of emissions worldwide, so 5 per cent of that is three-fifths of five-eighths of nothing. It's nothing but blatantly ridiculous tokenism.

In other words, another climate change denier sitting on the frontbench in the government. Another choice statement by Minister Joyce is:

I never believed that science is settled. If the science was settled, Copernicus would be dead. Sorry, he is dead—he would have been killed!

Honestly, quite nonsensical! And back in December 2009, Malcolm Turnbull, somebody who has had a very sensible and science based approach to climate change in the past, stated:

… Tony himself has, in just four or five months, publicly advocated blocking the[emissions trading scheme], the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and, if the amendments were satisfactory, passing it, and now the blocking of it. His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with "Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weathervane on this, but …"

In other words, what it shows is that the Prime Minister of Australia does not understand the issue. He does not understand how imperative it is that we address this issue. This is an issue that will impact on many, many future generations of Australians. This is an issue that we cannot sweep under the carpet. This is an issue that is based on science. The science of this shows that climate change is a reality and, until the government recognises that climate change is a reality they are putting not only our environment and our future at risk but they are also putting at risk the prosperity of our country. The government may like to pretend that climate change does not exist, it may like to pretend that direct action will be effective, but the bottom line is that climate change does exist and direct action equates to little action, which will be ineffective. It is not difficult to understand why the Abbott government has introduced the legislation that is not based on science or on delivering economic prosperity to Australia. When you read and listen to those statements made by the Prime Minister, you understand that he does not understand the issue. In conclusion, this legislation is flawed and it will not deliver a reduction in carbon emissions. It will cost Australian households more and it is not based on science.