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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 10284


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (10:54): What a dreadful contribution from somebody who has no idea of what the government is trying to achieve with these bills—that is, to tackle a major issue for the planet. Here is a political party engaging in the cheap political exercise of sending out postcards when we are trying to deal with a major issue that confronts the world and finding innovation that will take our nation forward to be a leader in this process. But, of course, they are just interested in playing a political game. I listened to the honourable member for Gippsland's account. It was just attacking the Prime Minister and the Labor Party and claiming that everybody would be paying more and more taxes. He did not deal with the issue; he did not say what his side of politics would do; he does not seem to think there is a problem; he evidently does not believe in the climate change science; he rejects all that and just thinks the world will go on as it is.

The world will not go on as it is and we need to tackle these issues. If we tackle them properly we will set our nation up for the future. That is where I believe this government is going. I do not believe that these clean energy and related bills should be treated as a political football, as the other side is doing. These are landmark pieces of legislation that will define the government in years to come. The legislation will help investment, allow greater development of renewable energy, assist in the cleaning up of our local environments, as well as the planet. It will help drive the innovation that those dairy farmers the member for Gippsland was talking about need. It will help drive the new energy that this country needs into the future. It will help us to meet the challenges we face. The Clean Energy Bill 2011 creates the carbon price mechanisms; it sets out the structure and the process for its introduction. It sets out the entities and emissions that are covered by the mechanism and the entities' obligations to surrender eligible emissions units. It limits the number of eligible emissions units that will be issued and defines the nature of carbon units. It deals with many other related issues as well.

I want to deal with the issues raised by the member for Gippsland. I believe in farming and rural Australia. I believe Australia has always been an innovative nation and I believe these bills set us in that direction. For the rural sector the Carbon Farming Initiative will provide an opportunity to grow many more trees and to store carbon. It will help provide a store of timber into the future and put more wood into the market. Here I have a piece of horizontal scrub from the Tasmanian forest. It says on it 'Worth more than its weight in carbon'. It is a solid piece of wood that is full of carbon; it is storing carbon in its present state. Wood, of course, uses much less embedded energy than other substances and is made into objects which are useful for mankind. The opportunity to use trees to sequester carbon is a terrific approach and should be given full support.

The object of the mechanism that we have in these bills is to give effect to Australia's international obligations on addressing climate change under the climate change convention and the Kyoto protocol. They support the development of an effective global response to climate change consistent with Australia's national interest in ensuring that average global temperatures increase by no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It is a sensible and proper way to go. These bills take action directed towards meeting Australia's long-term target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050 and take that action in a flexible and cost effective way.

We have always been good at coming to grips with challenges—maybe that is because of how this nation was first settled and how we came about. We had to be innovative; we had to meet the challenges. These are some of the new ways that we have. I was reading a publication called New technologies for your changing future. It is a government publication that talks about innovations in our future. There are a couple of very good quotes in it. One is:

'Tomorrow belongs to the people who are prepared for it today.' An African proverb.

It was a pretty good African who put that together. It also quotes the French philosopher Paul Valery, who said:

The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.

The honourable members opposite have no idea about the future. They do not seem to think that it is significant or important to think hard about this problem and to deal with it. In this innovation publication it says:

But we will need a culture of continued innovation to be able to respond more rapidly to rapid and unexpected changes to be able to continue to strive for a fairer, richer and more sustainable society.

That is quite right and that is what this government is endeavouring to do to meet our future needs.

Listening to the previous speaker and listening to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, they did not deal with their policy position. The Leader of the Opposition, I think, spent a minute and a half on his policy—a very sad amount of time when it comes from a party that once would have said that it was at the leading edge in generating policies for the future.

These bills take action directed towards meeting Australia's long-term target and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as I said, to 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050 and take that action in a flexible and cost effective way. They put a price on greenhouse gas emissions in a way that encourages investment in clean energy, support jobs and competitiveness in the economy and support Australia's economic growth while reducing pollution.

The carbon cycle, of course, is important to life on earth and we have good and bad gases in that process. Carbon dioxide is a minor one in all those other gases, but it is important as it is one of the gases that helps to keep our planet and us warm and helps us not to freeze to death. We need to understand that and make it work for us. That is what it is all about. Of course, there is a bad side to it. Too much carbon dioxide will cause the earth to heat up. It is this that is causing us to query the growing carbon content within our atmosphere and in the air around us, as it is said that the world has been growing warmer since man has discovered how to use materials to manufacture such things as steel and to process things into fuels.

To have some sort of control over the release of carbon dioxide, pricing carbon emissions has been identified by the Stern review, amongst many others, as a critical policy tool for achieving carbon reductions. Therefore, how carbon pricing is implemented is critical and will have a crucial effect on whether Australia meets these new carbon targets.

One way of coping with an unduly high level of carbon emissions is to examine how one can reduce their impact. One of the answers that we have in Tasmania is our timber industry. As I said, timber absorbs carbon and when you have a solid piece of timber you have a solid piece of carbon. We need to continue to produce many more trees. As I said, there are great opportunities in the future to grow trees. I believe that the farming communities of Australia will have a great opportunity to grow more wood, therefore also tapping in to the opportunity of storing carbon but also producing wood and all the other products that come out of it for the market. In the future there will be a lot more from things like biodiesel and there are many other things which are on the edge of coming into play. It is important to continue to open up and drive opportunities for innovation. The nation was built on innovation. We have solved so many problems. So many people in the early days of this country had to deal with issues and overcome them by being innovative and making things happen. These bills will help us do that in our energy sector. They will drive us towards a more effective, efficient and sustainable nation. I believe these bills are of great importance.

I am very disappointed that the other side cannot even come up with a decent policy position. It is a sad reflection on them to come in here and abuse the other side without really putting in place anything which could give an opportunity. Because there is possibly going to be an increase in the cost of living, people are going to be compensated. A total of about 38,900 people in my electorate of Lyons will receive household assistance through the transfer system, whether they be pensioners, families, self-funded retirees, job seekers, single parents or students. On top of this, taxpayers in Lyons with an annual income under $80,000 will all get a tax cut, with most receiving at least $300 per year.

We have the opportunity to make ready the threshold changes to our economy while helping to maintain a sustainable environment. We will offset costs by ensuring that those who pollute the most have to pay for that privilege, and this is the correct and proper way for us to go about it. We have been discussing the content of what is in these bills for four or five years. I heard one of my colleagues say that, if John Howard had won the 2007 election, we would have a carbon price in place now and, of course, we would. It is a nonsense for the other side to argue otherwise. It is just a political process they have embarked upon, and I am sure people will see through that. History will judge them and judge them, I think, very badly. I support the bills.