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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10134

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (18:21): I will be going home this weekend, very proud that I have spoken on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills. I believe that we all come to this place—all of us, on all sides of politics, from whichever political party—to make our electorates a better place. I heard the previous member speak about his agricultural area. I truly believe that he does care about his electorate and about agriculture in this country. But, if we truly look at this issue, we would be saying to those farmers and to those people the member for Calare was speaking about on this particular issue of our climate changing drastically over the next few years, and the next generation, that it will mean there will be no agriculture—absolutely zilch—if we do not do something about it. I think that, as members of this place who have been elected by our constituencies to be here, all of us want to ensure that when we leave this place we have done something for the betterment of the future generations of Australia. If we do not pass this bill, it would be remiss of us to think that we are doing our jobs. Our job is about the present but also about ensuring a better place for future generations, whether it be our children, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren. That is why I will be very proud to go back to my electorate this week.

It gives me great satisfaction to speak on these bills and to support them. They go towards correcting in Australia what is arguably the greatest market failure of all time: the historic ability of people to pollute our atmosphere with greenhouse gases without limitation, and that is what we have—without fee or fine, with complete impunity, to the detriment of us all and, even more importantly, to the detriment of future generations of Australians. The consequences of this market failure, as we are increasingly seeing, are promising to be dire. (Quorum formed)As I said, the market failures we are increasingly seeing are promising dire consequences for our world—our coastlines, our rainfall patterns, our ability to feed ourselves, and the composition and dynamics of our world. This market failure has to be corrected.

The volume of hot air emitted by politicians, commentators and the like on this issue over time is itself a potential health hazard, I am sure. The number of ridiculous statements, contradictory statements and misrepresentations that we are hearing is enough to make many members of the public turn off from this debate and this issue. But the reality of our situation, our recent history and what is happening around the world needs clarity of perception and lucidity in thought. We need to recognise our reality and act appropriately based on the best available advice, as each of us strives to do in our own private lives.

Here are a few quick facts. Yes, the world is moving on this issue. This includes, of course, not just the UK, Europe, Canada, South Africa, South Korea and very large blocks within the United States; it includes China, and no amount of camouflage from those opposite can conceal this fact. China is moving to introduce a carbon trading scheme in its three industrial powerhouses of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, from where it will be rolled out across the country, and this is a reality; this is happening. So we are not leading the world on this issue, as opponents claim—as if that would be a bad thing anyway. We are seriously at risk of being left behind, to our own detriment.

The assertion by the coalition that Australia is so insignificant a nation and a people that what we do does not matter is highly flawed and more than a tad insulting. Australia is one of the 21 highest-polluting nations in the world. We also emit more per head of population than any other country; we are the highest polluters in the world per capita. Also, we are one of 14 nations that emit similar volumes of carbon pollution: we are one of the 14 countries that each emit between one and two per cent of global emissions, which add up to 20 per cent of the world's emissions. So if we expect South Korea, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Canada and others to act—which they are doing—then how on earth can we argue that we do not need to? If countries the size of Australia were to sit back and do nothing, the global effort would be most seriously compromised and simply would not work. So we need to be smart in doing what is in the world's best interests, which is also in our own interests. With our climate, it is even more in our interests than for most. As I have said, more and more countries are pricing carbon emissions and moving to price carbon. The suggestion that it will destroy or even damage our economy is absolute rubbish. What will destroy our economy is if we do nothing. Apart from our trading partners pursuing similar policies, our trade-exposed industries will be generously protected from adverse consequences. They are facing challenges to their profitability that are much greater than this. There is more risk in the price of the Australian dollar, for example, than anything in this collection of bills.

We have heard that people will be worse off as a result of the carbon price flowing on to consumers who will receive most of the revenue raised by the carbon price's compensation. That is the scare tactic being used by those on the other side. We have also heard the other side say that people will receive too much compensation. Nine in 10 households will receive compensation. The cost will be on average $9.90 per week, 50c or less per $100 of groceries, 70c per $100 of outlay overall. Compensation will on average be $10.10 per week more than the cost passed on to the average consumer. If that represents overpayment to pensioners, as we have heard from those opposite, then I am happy for the pensioners in my area to receive that payments and be better off under this policy. If people argue against these bills for fear of pensioners getting too much money, I will argue in their favour, as will all of us on this side. I do not object to that at all.

Consumers, the public, have nothing to fear from this policy. Compared to the rising cost of our health system, for example, which has threatened to overwhelm our states' budgets and compared to the future costs of Medicare, aged care and other public services systems, this is not an especially large amount of money. We need to keep it in proportion. As I said, $9.90 per week for which compensation will be $10.10 on average.

There has been an increase in the recognition of our need to address, individually and collectively, the issue of pollution. Support for this policy has been widespread amongst political parties as it has been amongst the public. This is evident in our recent history. Our previous conservative government grappled with the issue and ended up signing the Kyoto protocol. They did not ratify it, but they signed it and by signing it they adopted the policy of acting on greenhouse gases. Ultimately they supported the policy of a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme which is what we have in the bills before us.

Labor came to power in 2007 promising action on climate change. Soon we were developing our cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme. This ETS, named the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, was supported by all of us on this side. Evidently it was also supported by the Australian public through most of the last parliamentary term. After being blocked by the oppositionist Greens, Liberals and Nationals in the Senate on three occasions, the CPRS was withdrawn. But its future as Labor policy, the future reintroduction of an emissions trading scheme, has never been in doubt and was never in doubt. When former Prime Minister Rudd announced that Labor recognised the Senate was hopelessly divided on the issue such that the bills would not pass in the foreseeable future, he said that the scheme would be delayed; in his words he would 'extend the implementation date', clearly not Labor's choice, but due to a hostile Senate.

Labor has been the party of consistency on the issue of climate change. We have been the party of consistency on our need to deal with it meaningfully and our support for a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme as the way to do it. This has been constant throughout Labor's two terms in office, from 2007 when Labor first formed government to now. There has been absolute consistency that we need a cap-and-trade ETS and that we will introduce a cap-and-trade ETS. Everyone has known this since at least early 2010. It has been a matter of when not if. It has been as clear as crystal. This has been the government's position and the position of all of us on this side of the House. Back in 2009, a number of constituents argued in support of the opinion expressed by a few high-ranking US officials who advocated for a flat-rate carbon tax instead of a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme. Conservatives who do not want Labor in power argued for a flat-rate carbon tax principally because Labor opposed one.

A carbon tax does not limit the volume of pollution. It has no cap on pollution. A cap-and-trade scheme does and a cap-and-trade scheme cap can be lowered over time to decrease emissions. This is a pretty fundamental and glaring difference between the two approaches. They could not be more dissimilar. We need Labor's plan, a scheme which caps emissions by use of a finite number of pollution permits which are decreased over time, to lower the cap on pollution and decrease the volume of pollution.

The public's view of anthropogenic climate change has been with the government. Over the period 2006 to 2009, Morgan polled public support for action on global warming at around 60 to 70 per cent consistently and, in 2009, recognition of human contribution to global warming at 83 per cent. In 2009, a Nielsen poll showed 65 per cent support specifically for the CPRS. The 2011 Lowy Institute poll showed 81 per cent of the Australian public supported action on climate change: 40 per cent supported action at low cost and a further 41 per cent supported action even if it was at high cost. That is 81 per cent support for action.

We all know the overwhelming economic advice that a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme is the most low-cost, meaningful action that a government can take. There is 81 per cent support for the government's strategy. People may cite other numbers derived in response to other questions and other perceptions of consequence, but the fact remains that the Australian public has and continues to recognise that human induced climate change is an issue and we need to deal with it. The Australian public has supported this action. (Time expired)