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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10127


Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (17:51): It is with the greatest pleasure that I rise tonight to speak on Clean Energy Bill 2011 and associated bills and the need to take strong, positive and effective action to tackle climate change and drive a clean energy future—a future the next generation of Australians deserve. I have been waiting for three years for this opportunity and I am delighted that I am able to stand in this House today and add my support and the support of the many Canberrans who have phoned me, emailed me, written to me and spoken to me personally, calling for strong leadership and strong action on this issue. The science is in. It is clear. It is beyond reasonable doubt. The world is warming, the oceans are becoming more acidic and the biodiversity of our planet is at risk. This is the clear message of the research. I believe what the scientists say. I believe the Australian Academy of Science when it says that there has been widespread melting of glaciers and icecaps, when it says that the Greenland icesheet is losing more than it gains through snowfall and when it says that the Arctic sea ice has decreased significantly. I believe the scientists when they say that the average surface temperature in Australia has increased by about 0.7 degrees since 1960. This warming has caused an Australia-wide average increase in the frequency of extremely hot days and a decrease in the frequency of cold days.

It is also clear that the leading cause of this rapid degradation of our climate and the broader environment is the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a result of human activity. I say this because I have read the science and I have spoken to the scientists. The ice-core samples I saw during a visit to the University of Tasmania, with the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, clearly showed that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased since the rise of the Industrial Revolution and the increase in the burning of fossil fuels that started at that time.

To support this, I offer again the words of the Australian Academy of Science, which says quite clearly, 'Human activities are increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.' Anyone who has worked with a scientist or an academic will know that such clear, unambiguous declarations are rare from people who are very considered in their statements. The academy also says, 'It is very likely that most of the recent, observed global warming is caused by increasing greenhouse gas levels.' These statements—and statements by others—have convinced me completely that we must act to address the emissions of carbon.

I agree that there are a number of ways we can do this and I agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But the experts are clear and consistent in their agreement on the best way to reduce carbon emissions. The experts agree that the most efficient and effective way is to place a price on carbon and to move towards a carbon trading mechanism. Once again, I do not make this statement unsupported or uninformed. I am informed and swayed by the people who know best: the experts in their areas. According to Macquarie Bank Chief Economist Richard Gibbs, consumers need a price on carbon to shift economic behaviour towards lower carbon and more energy-efficient options. These experts, both the scientists and the economists, have convinced the esteemed magazine the Economist. Once again, the government has listened to the experts and has acted on their advice.

The package of legislation introduced yesterday will do precisely what the economists, academics, climate scientists and even the Australian have been urging us to do for years. Our package will put a price on carbon. It will reduce carbon pollution and it will drive investment in a new cleaner economy. Our package will grab the opportunities of a clean energy future. Our package will create new jobs and ensure that Australia remains the envy of the world for decades to come. Our package will transform and modernise the Australian economy, at the same time supporting the people Labor has always supported: workers, pensioners and low- and middle-income Australians.

Our package will see Australia's annual emissions reduce by at least 160 million tonnes by 2020, which will be the equivalent of taking around 45 million cars off the road. Our package will drive investment in cleaner industries through the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program, a program that will improve energy efficiency in manufacturing industries and support research and development in low-pollution technologies. Our package will ensure builders, tradies, engineers and apprentices get the specialised green skills that will be increasingly in demand in Australia through the $32 million Clean Energy Skills program. (Quorum formed)

Our package will support small business and action at the local government and community level. Our package will encourage farmers to explore carbon credit options. Our package is good for every Australian, every arm of the Australian economy and the economy as a whole. The modelling done by Treasury—and I know those opposite do not like the opinions of experts who disagree with them, but nonetheless they are indeed the experts—shows that this package will see 1.6 million new jobs by 2020 and gross national income per person increasing from today's levels, which are around $56,000, by around $9,000 per person to 2019-20. By 2050, the increase is expected to be more than $30,000 per person in today's dollars.

This package will also support Australians as we transition to this new cleaner economy, though CPI is only expected to rise by 0.7 per cent—less than the impact of the GST—and the assistance to the average Australian household will outweigh the costs. Nine in 10 households will receive a combination of tax cuts and increased payments to help them with the cost of living. Almost six million households will be assisted through tax cuts or increased payments to cover the average expected price impact. Over four million households will get assistance that is at least 20 per cent more than the average expected price impact. Over one million Australians will no longer need to lodge a tax return.

This is a comprehensive package that is supported by evidence and experts and has been extensively modelled. Contrary to what some in this place may be saying both here and in their communities, it is a package that has been in the public domain for discussion and comment for several months now. It is also a package that has received strong support from my electorate. I quote now from some of those supporters. Tara from Isabella Plains emailed me to say:

I am writing as a constituent and a strong supporter of action on climate change. The scare campaign has confused people, but I wanted you to know that I want a price on pollution and I'm talking to others in your electorate about it.

I urge you to vote in support of the price on pollution and the Clean Energy Future legislation and speak out in support of taking action on climate change.

Jeanette from Conder said:

I would like to support the government's initiative on the carbon tax, in strong opposition to the campaign being waged against it.

I do not want to see my grandchildren's future held hostage by ignorance.

Gerard from Gowrie said to me:

I want you to know that, as a member of your constituency, I say yes to a price on carbon pollution, and Yes to new money for clean energy.

Please support this important step forward for Australia - by voting Yes.

Rona from Yarralumla wrote:

I believe history will applaud you, and that those who come after us will feel respect and gratitude for your stand.

I believe the majority of Canberrans want this package, particularly the women—the grandmothers, the mothers, the sisters, the daughters. I was deeply moved by the audience in the public gallery yesterday who had come to witness the historic introduction of this package by the Prime Minister. What moved me most was the number of women who had taken the time out of their busy lives to be part of that significant moment—women young and old, women with toddlers and babies in slings. In fact, I understand one woman travelled from Adelaide to be part of history.

Most of the people in Canberra want this package and want it for their children's future. Now is the time for leadership. Now is the time for considered action to protect our future prosperity. Now is the time to put aside the gross partisan politics that has gripped this current parliament and to act in the national interest. Now is the time to think big and long term; to be bold and innovative; to walk in the footsteps of Labor legends like Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Button, Peter Cook and John Dawkins; and to transform and modernise this economy so we can flourish in the future.

As with the transformation and modernisation of the Australian economy in the eighties, we know reform is tough. But reform is part of the Labor DNA, and we know that this reform is right for this country today and tomorrow. Imagine what Australia would look like today if we had not undergone the reforms of the eighties. We would probably still have four banks and we would probably still be paying a premium for money if we could get it. We would still have protected industries clinging to the past with outmoded and inefficient work practices. We would probably just be entering the open and liberalised world now, as we see with some other countries throughout the world, having wasted decades of opportunities, decades of prosperity, decades of a possible future—the future that we have today.

A failure to act—a failure to put in place the best policy for the future—risks not only environmental catastrophe but economic ruin, as Australia will find itself unprepared to compete in the industries and the world of the future. This country has always been a leader in adapting to changing times. We have always been able to absorb the changes to the economy, and we are more prosperous as a result. Now is not the time to allow our economy to atrophy.

I would like to remind those opposite that now is not the time to look backwards. Now is not the time to say no. Now is not the time for the leader, rather than being a Leader of the Opposition, to be more the leader for opposition. Now is the time to look forward and plan to ensure our future prosperity. At the moment, what we have opposite is an opposition that has a 'plan'. I use the word lightly because it will cost Australia and Australians an extraordinary amount of money—some $1,300 per person—to pay polluters so they can kindly agree to stop polluting.

In closing, I would like to say that I commend the government for introducing this bill. I intend to be able to look my nieces and nephews in the eye in 20 years time and say I showed leadership today. I intend to look them in the eye and say I was bold and innovative and wanted great leadership—that I did it for their future, their children's future and Australia's future. (Time expired)