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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10024


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:02): I rise to voice my strong support for the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and 18 related bills before the House. It is an honour to do so with you in the chair, Deputy Speaker Livermore, because I know you feel passionately about this as well. I note that this is the third time I have risen in the House to speak in support of a system that will set Australia on a course to a clean energy future.

Mr Randall interjecting

Mr PERRETT: The opposition have wrecked our previous two attempts to put a price on carbon emissions, although I should commend the member for Wentworth, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, for his courage to cross the floor on those occasions and also the two very brave Liberal senators, Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth, who had the courage to also cross the floor in the Senate. I saw them do so on the day that the Greens voted with the National Party against that legislation. Who knows what would have happened if a few more people had had the courage to support the CPRS then, but that is history. We cannot change our yesterdays, but we can influence our tomorrows.

Mr Randall interjecting

Ms Plibersek: I rise on a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If the shadow parliamentary secretary for roads and transport is going to continue to interject, you might wish to ask him to listen in silence.

Mr Randall: Is that a point of order?

Ms Plibersek: Yes, it is a point of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I take the Minister for Human Services' point. I ask everyone in the chamber to listen to the member for Moreton in silence.

Mr Randall interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Canning will not start up again. Listen in silence please.

Mr PERRETT: It is very easy for me to ignore him, but I know it is harder for others. The member for Warringah has won some positive headlines lately as a result of his opportunism and opposition, but this debate is not about the polls or tomorrow's headlines; it is about our future. One hundred years from now our descendants will face the consequences of our decisions in this place. I hope they can be proud that as a parliament we put egos, political divisions and ambitions aside to come together as one on this issue of climate change.

As the largest polluter per person in the world and the 16th overall, Australia must not shirk from our international responsibility to reduce our emissions. We cannot continue to ignore the science that tells us that excess carbon pollution is causing the climate to change in dramatic and previously unseen ways. Extreme weather events, higher temperatures and deaths associated with those, more droughts and rising sea levels are just some of the things that are happening. In Australia, the driest continent, our environment and climate are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

While so much of the political debate focuses on our differences, we should also acknowledge what the major political parties have in common. We have much in common. Both major parties agree that climate change is real and that human activity through carbon emissions is contributing to it. Former Prime Minister Howard took this notion to the ballot box in 2007, and so did I. The Hon. Tony Abbott took this to the ballot box in 2010, and so did I. The major parties agree that now is the time for Australia to act, and the major parties agree that with sluggish global action we need to start with a modest reduction target of five per cent. That is what the major parties agree on.

I note that in his speech the Leader of the Opposition was trashing his own five per cent target and in the same breath misleading us about China's growth. The 500 per cent figure for the projected growth in China that Mr Abbott used is completely misleading. The 500 per cent growth figure is for the years 1990 to 2020. Now, I have not been to China for a while, but a little bit has happened in China since 1990. There has been quite a lot of development since 1990, so we are actually talking about the next eight years. It is quite misleading for Mr Abbott to suggest that there will be a 500 per cent increase—totally misleading.

Mr Baldwin: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I would ask you to remind the member that he is to address members by their correct titles.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you. The member for Moreton will address ministers by their correct titles.

Mr PERRETT: The member for Warringah. Of course, where we differ is on the best way to achieve this target. It is ironic that the once great defender of the free market, the Liberal Party, is advocating a centralist state solution through its direction action plan—although, to be honest, I have not heard the Leader of the Opposition or anyone opposite talk about this plan much lately. There is actually a deafening silence on either side of that shrill 'No!' In his 30-minute speech on these bills, the opposition leader devoted just 15 seconds to his direct action alternative—and I notice the member for Groom, who followed, was actually a little bit duplicitous there as well. The member for Groom said that this mirage of green jobs is not real, but his own direct action policy document says:

The Coalition recognises the potential for clean energy to underpin future employment growth in key regional areas.

The member for Groom, based in Toowoomba, needs to read his own document.

The Labor government is introducing a market based carbon pricing mechanism. Hearing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I was surprised to hear that the member for Curtin no longer supports a price on carbon. Just a few years ago, the member for Curtin said:

The Liberal Party has a policy of both protecting the planet and protecting Australia. We support, in principle, an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of a three pillar approach to climate change which also includes clean energy and ongoing international pressure for reduced world emissions.

The opposition also claim that the government does not have a mandate to introduce this legislation. That is complete rubbish. They need to go back to the maths books and work out what a majority is. As far as I can work it out, a majority is 50 per cent plus one. They can either rewrite the laws of mathematics or rewrite the Constitution, but to suggest that we do not have a mandate is completely erroneous and specious. They seem to think that just because the Leader of the Opposition could not cajole or bully the Independents or sell anything to them to entice them into supporting him that somehow that is a reason that we do not have a mandate. This is the Leader of the Opposition who was elected, I recall, by one vote: 42 to 41. That was in a ballot where there was spoiled ballot paper—and how you can spoil a ballot paper when there are only three people in it I do not know—and a sick MP who did not turn up for the vote. But the Leader of the Opposition says, 'Oh, no, no.' I would not for one minute suggest that he does not have the right to be the Leader of the Opposition. My understanding of mathematics is very simple: if you get the majority, you have the support of those behind you, even the 41 who did not vote for you.

The Leader of the Opposition wants to bully this parliament into rejecting this bill and waiving our responsibility to secure Australia's clean energy future. As the government, we were elected to govern in the best interests of the Australian people— for today and for our future; for our children and our grandchildren— and that is exactly what we are doing. My electorate knows where I stand on action on climate change and they always have. At the 2007 and 2010 elections, I was upfront with my electorate that a Labor government would price carbon pollution—and I am more than happy to show my election materials to anyone who doubts this. The Gillard Labor government made a clear election commitment to put a price on carbon, and that is exactly what we are delivering. I know full well that my community will hold me accountable to deliver on that commitment. Wherever I go in my electorate—at street stalls, at schools, at aged-care homes, at shopping centres and at other places of business—there is strong support for action on climate change. At a community cabinet in my electorate earlier this month speakers on the floor expressed strong support for a carbon tax.

The Clean Energy Bill introduces a mechanism to price carbon and to set Australia on a course of global leadership in our response to climate change. From 1 July 2012, 500 of the biggest polluters—those that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2, will pay a charge for each tonne of carbon pollution they emit. For the first three years, the charge for each tonne of pollution will be fixed and will start at $23 per tonne. Then, from 1 July 2015, the mechanism will shift to a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme. Under this system, the market will set the price. I am sure the Liberal Party remembers what a market is. The fixed price in the initial stages will provide stability and certainty for business and enable a smooth transition to our new low carbon economy. Smart businesses will then be able to focus on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and thus reduce the costs of production. Those businesses that innovate and reduce their emissions will be the ones ahead of the game, both domestically and globally, and the ones able to pass on the savings to their customers. That is how a market works.

Once the market shifts to the flexible price, the government will set a carbon emissions cap to ensure Australia meets its pollution targets. As I said, they are targets that are the same as those set by those opposite. A price ceiling of $20 per tonne higher than the expected international carbon price and a price floor of $15 a tonne will be set in 2015 to ensure that there is no risk to long-term investment in clean technologies. The carbon price will apply to stationary energy, non-legacy waste, industrial processes and fugitive emissions. The price will encourage pollution reductions across all sectors of the economy. It will provide the motivation that industry needs to invest in renewable energies like solar, wind, geothermal and wave and build the momentum needed to get new technologies like clean coal out of the science laboratory and into the real practical solutions to climate change. In turn, these alternative energy industries will be a source of thousands of new low carbon, green jobs.

The bills before the House represent a major reform and a massive shift in the Australian economy; we acknowledge that. But they also include appropriate measures to assist households, to protect Australian jobs, to shield trade-exposed industries and to support innovation. Nine in 10 households will receive assistance through some combination of tax cuts and payment increases. On average, the carbon price will cost households $9.90 per week but, to compensate, they will get about $10.10 in assistance. Government payments, such as family payments, pensions and allowances, will increase by 1.7 per cent, well above the average price impact. Obviously, if you just went out yesterday and bought five new air conditioners, you will be disappointed, but if you are energy frugal, you will actually do very well out of this. Of course, government assistance will increase as necessary in the future.

The Gillard Labor government will devote $9.2 billion of the carbon price revenue to assist high-polluting, trade-exposed industries. These companies will receive free carbon permits to shield their businesses from the impact of a carbon price while maintaining incentives to invest in cleaner technologies. As the world follows Australia's lead—and that is what will happen as per the commitment at Copenhagen; I know it was not humanity's finest hour, but there were some positive things that came out of it—in moving to a clean energy economy, Australian industries will have an advantage on their international competitors. And we do need that advantage because, in terms of competition and productivity combined with our high wages, we need some advantages. It will be good to see Australian green steel being sent around the world. The Gillard government will invest $800 million in a clean technology program to help manufacturers invest in low-pollution technologies and processes. That is a logical investment, rather than just the Work Choices, low-cost-labour target of those opposite. We will also deliver an additional $200 million over five years to support research and development.

This government was elected to act in the national interest. We cannot turn our backs on the science. I am not a scientist, but I must believe the CSIRO. So, when the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Academy of Science stand in agreement with other scientists around the world, we must respond; it would be stupid not to. Now is the time for Australia to act to move to a clean energy future before the task becomes more costly and more difficult. I commend the bills to the House.