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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 10313

Ms COLLINS (FranklinParliamentary Secretary for Community Services) (13:13): What a privilege and pleasure it is to be able to stand up to support action on climate change, as I have twice before. I believe in climate change; I believe it is real. This parliament has been debating this issue for the whole time I have been a member of parliament. The opposition, as we have heard, have had many positions on climate change and we know why they have had so many positions. We know it is because some of them still do not believe climate change is real. We know a large group of them—in fact, at least half—support a market based mechanism to price carbon, because they had their leadership challenge on it. But, as we know and as we have seen, some of them are much more interested in short-term political gain and point-scoring rather than what is in this nation's best long-term interest. In fact, I have worked in and been around politics and campaigns for a very long time and this most recent debate has got to be one of the most deceitful, deceptive debates I have ever seen. It has not been about the facts or the science; it has been about politics and personal attacks and, in my view, it has been disgraceful.

The confusion generated by the scare campaign mounted by those opposite is so great that many people in my electorate and, I am sure, many Australians do not even realise that the opposition are supporting action on climate change and they actually have a policy. Why? It is because they never talk about it because they are so divided on the right course of action over there and they are blindly following their leader at the moment, when many of them actually believe in a market based mechanism to put a price on carbon. They are only doing that because of party politics, not because they have the best interests of the nation at heart.

What have we actually agreed on? We have agreed that climate change is real and happening—most of us have agreed, anyway; I know some of them over there look a bit doubtful. We have agreed on a five per cent reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. Of course, there is a disagreement on how we get there. We know what our policy is. It is here, it is clear and it is in the pages of the bills that we are debating, but the opposition never mention their plan, as I say. We have all seen their document with the carbon tax legislation talking points—34 pages of them—that they have been mounting their scare campaign on. On how many pages do you think they talk about their own policy? The answer is three. The policy gets three pages because they are so committed to it. Their leader even barely mentioned it when he spoke on these bills. Their speakers barely mention it. That is because all they want to do is say no to everything rather than put Australia's best interests first.

Let us lay some facts on the table and look at what these two policies do. We have the government policy over here, supported by the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee and supported by the majority of people in this House. It is a policy that will actually get the big polluters to pay. We are going to send a signal out there to the marketplace that pollution has a price on it. We are doing that. We are giving big polluters an incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. We know, given that they are businesses, that they will take that opportunity and they will indeed find ways to lower their costs by lowering their emissions.

In comparison, what do we have on the opposition side? We have the coalition using taxpayers' money to subsidise big polluters to continue to pollute. What a great policy. If it were that simple, why hadn't somebody thought of it before? Why have we been debating action on climate change for so long? Why are we in this chamber yet again talking about carbon pricing? It is because those on the opposition side do not care about the facts around what is actually happening. There is a plan that the economists have predicted will cost each Australian family $1,300. That is $1,300 that those opposite will have to raise in extra tax or cut current spending. We have all heard how much that might be—they might need to cut two years of the age pension. Where are they going to find money for this plan? It is on top of the $70 billion black hole that they have. It is not just me who is saying that there are problems with their policy. We have Matt Grudnoff, the senior economist at the Australia Institute, who, when he explained the coalition's direct action plan, said:

If we use the average cost of abatement for competitive grant schemes previously conducted in Australia then by 2020 the Fund would have to allocate around $100 billion. That is, on average, $11.1 billion every year to 2020, or … $1,300 per household per year. This is far in excess of what the Coalition has budgeted for.

It is time that the coalition were held to account for their policy. It is time that they stopped this reckless scare campaigning and actually listened to the scientists, listened to the economists and debated this seriously. We are acting because we believe the scientists; we are acting because we believe the economists; we are acting because we know it is the right thing to do. From CSIRO to NASA, all the world's leading scientists agree that climate change is real and it is caused by human activity.

This is what the government is going to do. We are going to talk about the future. We are going to act now in the best interests of our children and our grandchildren. If our best scientists are telling us that we have a problem, we are going to act because, as I said, it is the right thing to do. So what are we going to do? We are going to put a price on carbon and we are going to return the income generated by this price to support jobs, assist households and transform our economy into a cleaner one. We are going to start with a fixed price for carbon and we are going to move to an emissions trading scheme, a market based mechanism that we know at least half of the opposition support.

We know that jobs will grow in the renewable energy sector. We have a very comprehensive set of bills. We have the Jobs and Competitiveness Program to protect those emissions-intensive trade-exposed large companies. We have support for manufacturing jobs, including the $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program. We also have the Low Carbon Communities program to assist low-income households to make energy efficient changes to their homes so that they can reduce their power bills. Grants will be available to local councils, community groups and small businesses to improve their own energy efficiency. I have seen firsthand the start of that in my own electorate, where one of my councils has been one of the first in the country to change its light bulbs over with a loan from Low Carbon Australia to save money for its ratepayers and also to reduce its emissions. It is happening as we speak.

We are also going to provide the assistance for households which is so important. Nine in 10 households will receive assistance through tax cuts or increased payments. Almost 6,000,000 households will get tax cuts or increases in payments that will cover the entire average price impact of a carbon price. Over four million Australian households will get an extra buffer with assistance that covers 120 per cent of the average price impact of the carbon price. Over one million Australians will no longer need to lodge a tax return because of an increase in the tax-free threshold. In my own electorate of Franklin 36,000 taxpayers will receive a tax cut and 31,400 people will receive household assistance either through income support payments or family assistance payments. A large proportion of my electorate will receive assistance. I have been going around my electorate talking to people specifically about the assistance package and what it will mean to them. There is quite a clear understanding from many people in my electorate that they will be better off under the carbon price because of the assistance they will receive. One of the only few concerns that comes up is that tenants of public housing do not want their assistance to be clawed back by state governments in increased public housing rents. I take this opportunity to call on the Tasmanian state government to quarantine the carbon price assistance that we will be providing households in Tasmania from public housing rent increases.

My home state of Tasmania really has been at the forefront of renewable energy. We know at the moment only around eight per cent of Australia's electricity is generated from renewable sources. Around 86 per cent of Tasmania's energy is from renewable sources. The next best state is Queensland with only eight per cent. This shows that Tasmania really is in a unique position to take advantage of some of these changes. Tasmania opened its first hydro-electric power station in 1916 at Waddamana in Mr Deputy Speaker Adams's electorate of Lyons in central Tasmania. We currently have 27 hydro-electric power stations and a very significant wind farm. We have had jobs in the renewable energy sector in Tasmania for decades. The majority of our power stations and dams were built in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Thousands of Tasmanians have been employed in the renewable energy sector for more than half a century. These are real jobs putting roofs over the heads of families and putting food on their tables.

We also know Tasmania will benefit from this price on carbon because our generator Hydro Tasmania, which is publicly owned, will not pay a price for carbon as it does not pollute. It will be able to return some of the benefit from not having to pay that price to the Tasmanian people. It will be able to reinvest in renewable energy and will also be able to give some of it directly back to Tasmanians, and that is certainly my wish. I again call on the Tasmanian state government to look at the dividend that will be returned to Hydro Tasmania to see how it can be best returned to the people of Tasmania who have invested in renewable energy over almost a century. I want to see Tasmania continue to be at the forefront of renewable energy research, development and generation for years to come. This policy will only assist in that.

In summary, it is really important for Australia's future that these bills are passed. It is important for my electorate of Franklin and it is important for Tasmania. There are two policies being debated out there in the public that deal with climate change. It is time for honesty in this debate and for the facts to be on the table. I think it is about time those on the other side are guided by their conscience about what is in the best interests of Australia and they make a decision to vote for what they know is right and what they know is in Australia's best interests. I call on them to come over here and vote with us for a market based mechanism, which so many of them believe in, to put a price on carbon. I commend these bills to the House.