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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10017

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (10:31): I note the previous speaker has had a road to Damascus conversion on this issue, because he previously was the chief negotiator for the member for Wentworth when he was the Leader of the Opposition. He said on Lateline on 30 April 2007, displaying his climate change scepticism:

… what I am sceptical about is some of the more exaggerated claims that are being made about the connection between CO2 emissions and climate change.

So he is another sceptic. He has gone from being a supporter of taking action on climate change under the opposition of the member for Wentworth to being someone who is an Abbott devotee and a paid-up member of those people who listen to the ravings of British hereditary peers who present the case that we are engaging in some sort of communist conspiracy. It is a nonsensical attitude that they are undertaking.

The absurd, misleading and deceptive aspects of the coalition's scaremongering on this issue are appalling. It is deceitful, unprincipled and reckless. Once again the Leader of the Opposition demonstrates he is unfit to lead this country, and we saw that on display again today. He was a senior minister, and so was the member for Groom, in the Howard government. They went to the election in 2007 advocating a carbon pollution reduction scheme. We saw, for example, that the Leader of the Opposition had position after position after position on this issue. He is a complete weathervane. He came in today and talked with such unctuous and righteous indignation about this when he supported this type of arrangement under John Howard when he was the Prime Minister and under Malcolm Turnbull when he was the Leader of the Opposition. He was on the public record on numerous occasions supporting an emissions trading scheme in this country. And now, today, having had this road to Damascus conversion himself, he tries to claim that he now never believed in this sort of thing. This is what the opposition are about: constantly campaigning on fear, never on the facts.

In relation to political issues, I did not principally come into politics to advance green issues. In my maiden speech nearly four years ago you will barely find a word in relation to climate change or environmental issues. I got into public life to advance the cause of the Labor Party and the labour movement by ending Work Choices and replacing it with a new, fair, simple and balanced industrial relation system; to build better schools and universities; to improve health and hospital systems in my area and my state; and to fix the Ipswich Motorway locally and create a more sustainable, job-friendly, healthy and environmentally-effective community in Ipswich, a fast-growing area in South-East Queensland. I did not stand for preselection to build some green utopian Jerusalem but to achieve practical and pragmatic outcomes to help families and individuals in Ipswich. My sympathies have always been with the jobs of law-abiding timber workers and their families rather than lawless people who chain themselves illegally to trees.

But my decision to support the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and its associated bills comes not from some green, pantheistic passion but from two sources: firstly, my faith; and, secondly, the facts. First, I believe we are placed by providence on this planet and have a responsibility to care for it. We are stewards or custodians of it. We need to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. Second, I prefer not to respond to the rantings and ravings of shock jocks. I accept the findings based on evidence of the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Academy of Science. I accept the recommendations of reports and reviews by Stern, the IPCC, Garnaut and the Productivity Commission. They tell us that climate change is real, that it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, that human activity contributes to climate change and that, if we do not act, there are serious adverse environmental, economic and social consequences to our country and our communities. The most environmentally effective and economically efficient way to deal with dangerous climate change is by pricing carbon and by an emissions trading scheme, and that is what we are proposing to do today.

The clean energy legislation before us does indeed introduce a carbon pricing mechanism. It is a market based scheme we are going to. In the Labor Party we believe in the market and the national interest, and we believe in the market in the national interest on climate change. But take a look: we have 18 related bills, far more than just a carbon tax. The real issues we are debating are real action on climate change, protection of Australian jobs and assistance with cost of living. The clean energy legislation is part of one of the most significant reforms this country will ever face, and one of the biggest challenges we will ever face is climate change. I challenge those opposite to avoid the trap of mindless nay-saying. It is time to investigate this legislation, it is time to pass this legislation, it is time to act on climate change.

Since 1994 we have had 35 parliamentary inquiries, numerous reports and reviews into climate change. I charge that those opposite will not be distracted from the duty they have to act in the national interest. Before us is a raft of legislation designed to transform this nation's future into a sustainable one, to transform the way we live, to sustain the environment, jobs and households. The experts say that since the 1940s every decade has been warmer than the one before and that the 2000s were the warmest decade on record. Australia happens to be one of the world's largest emitters of carbon pollution per capita, equating to about 27 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person.

About 30 countries in Europe are already participating in an emissions trading scheme. Ten states in the United States already participate, with California joining next year. Even across the Tasman, New Zealand has an emissions trading scheme. We have heard businesses questioning these reforms locally. Three-quarters of New Zealand's businesses were sceptical, according to surveys in 2008, but three years later about two-thirds of them now support the scheme. And China is transitioning to emissions trading schemes in many provinces with hundreds of millions of inhabitants. China invests more in renewable energy than any other country and has some of the most ambitious emissions targets in the world.

This legislation of associated bills will deliver a reduction of 160 million tonnes of carbon pollution by 2020, the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road. But we are going to protect jobs, as we did during the global financial crisis, because that is in our DNA. Unlike what the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition said in relation to this issue, we supported jobs during the global financial crisis and we are going to create jobs in the future. Treasury tells us there will be 1.6 million jobs by 2020 and 500,000 jobs by the middle of 2013. Those opposite tell us this legislation is bad for the economy, but I say it is time to act. It is not bad, it is important for the economy. They say it is not time to do this, but they have always said it is not time to do this because they are always nay-sayers. Whether it was universal superannuation, the pension or Medicare many years ago, they have fought reform tooth and nail. They always have, they have always been on the side of reaction. They are not liberals, they are reactionaries.

We have created under our watch 750,000 jobs since being elected in 2007. We are going to support jobs in high-polluting industries with competitors in countries where those industries do not yet have comparable carbon constraints. Over the next three years we will devote $9.2 billion of the carbon-pricing revenue to assist those industries and to help jobs in those industries most affected. This includes $300 million to help transform the steel industry, $1.2 billion to support the coal industry, $1.2 billion to clean energy technology and manufacturing. The jobs and competitive program we are undertaking will support activities in those areas that generate about 80 per cent of emissions in the manufacturing sector.

They say all politics is local, and I want to talk about one of the major employers in my area, JBS Australia. They are the largest meat-processing company in Australia. They will certainly be among the top 500 polluters, mainly because of the power they use. The largest meat-processing plant is in Dinmore, in my electorate of Blair. I can assure you that JBS Australia is already acting to reduce its impact on the environment. In Dinmore they have invested millions to develop ways to recycle water, to minimise waste and odours, to minimise the amount of power they use. The water they release back into the Bremer River is much cleaner than the water already in the river. The Dinmore plant is an example of best practice in meat processing in Australia, if not the world. This is a company that will take advantage of the food and foundries investment program, worth up to $150 million in the food processing industry. They will be able to apply for grants to support them and other businesses as they invest in research and development.

The carbon-pricing mechanism will not apply to 9,971 small businesses currently operating in Blair, in Ipswich and the Somerset region. These small businesses will not have to monitor carbon pollution or electricity use. They will not have to fill in one additional form as part of their reform package. This government recognises the contribution of small business, with over two million businesses employing about five million Australians. The government is legislating to make changes to benefit business with tax reforms designed to improve cash flow while allowing small businesses to depreciate assets more quickly, while reducing compliance costs, and by simplifying depreciation rules.

I ask again: when is a good time to introduce this legislation? When is a good time to act on climate change? It will cost us more if we do not act. I can assure you, Deputy Speaker, we have a responsibility to the Australian people to act, because a coalition government could not and would not act and procrastinated for 11½ years under John Howard. What we know is that the coalition continue to flip and flop on this issue, salivating slogans as the Leader of the Opposition goes around the country, whipping up fear, when in reality their plan would cost people in my electorate and across the rest of the country about $1,300 a year. That is right: families and communities would pay, not big polluters. The difference between us and them is that big companies—the big polluters—pay and the community is supported and assisted under our scheme. Under the coalition's scheme the community pays and the big polluters and their supporters get subsidies and assistance. It is once again a demonstration that the coalition is not on the side of the market or small business or families and individuals. They will not create jobs. Their plan will not work. As the member for Wentworth said: it is the plan you have when you do not want to have a plan. This accords with what they did in the last election and since then: their failure to respond to the Queensland floods and come up with the savings they needed, their failure in relation to their costings before the last election—the $11 billion black hole—and the $70 billion budget black hole that they have also talked about. The depth of the gap between their promises and Australia's fiscal reality—not to say action on climate change—is stark. The coalition would tax every man, woman and child in this country in relation to climate change. And they have not ruled out cuts to pensions and the cuts that we will make to taxes.

We will give assistance in my electorate. Of the 53,000 taxpayers in my electorate—taking in most of Ipswich and all of the Somerset region—about 47,000 taxpayers will receive a tax cut, and 40,000 of them will receive a tax cut of a least $300 a year. Those tax cuts, and the assistance we provide, will be permanent in the future. In my electorate 42,800 people will receive some form of household assistance through pensions and family assistance payments. About 14,100 of my local families will receive household assistance through family assistance. This assistance provided is greater than the anticipated cost increases caused by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the carbon-pricing mechanism.

I have 23,000 pensioners in my electorate and I am pleased to say that every single pensioner will be $338 better off while couples will receive $510, and they will be better off. The pension increases will come in next year. They will be better off because we will put a buffer in to assist those on low incomes and fixed incomes. We are Labor, and we support those in need. We support them and we want to make sure that they are not left behind.

It took the Leader of the Opposition 25 full minutes in his speech to finally talk about the coalition's policy in relation to this. As the member for Wentworth has said, it is not possible to criticise the opposition's policy on climate change because one does not really exist. When it comes to climate change there is only one party that will act right now. Across the country, we need to take steps in relation to climate change. We are the party that will undertake this reform. We are the right people, on the right side of the Speaker's chair, to take action. It is the right package at the right time. It is a bold step. It is acting in the national interest. Other countries—South Korea, China and the USA—are acting as well. This legislation is important for the future of this country and it is in the national interest. (Time expired)