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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 10319

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (13:40): I come to this debate on the premise of just three things: that climate change is real, that there is something we can do about it and that that is affordable.

It is happening now and it is also having a real impact right across the globe. There is something we can do and there is something that others can do; there are things that we are already doing now in this country, that we have been doing for a number of years, and there are things that are being done in other countries. The strange part about this debate is that while we are in here debating the issue of whether we should do anything about climate change both sides of politics—the government and the opposition—actually believe the same thing. There is no question that everyone actually believes that climate change is real. Every opposition member who stands in here repeats it ad nauseam, that they believe in climate change.

In fact, it is so real that we both have the same targets. That is right; the government has a target of five per cent reduction by 2020 and so does the opposition. The only real point of contention and argument is our method—our system—versus yours. It is not a question really about climate change and all the arguments that you hear in this place from the other side. They rarely talk about anything else, but that is what we hear in here. We are really just debating what type of system it is going to be.

I think that a longstanding credible position that governments have taken in this country when they introduce policy or change is that you do things that are market based. You do things that are in the national interest, economically sound and which work on a range of fronts. You know that it is always difficult because in politics it is about compromise, it is about getting the balance right and it is about trying to do more than one thing at one time. It is the old saying: you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

But it appears that on the other side they are struggling with that basic premise: walk and chew gum. How are they possibly going to achieve this? On this side, in government, we believe that you can not only walk and chew gum but that you can breathe at the same time—that you can actually do something about climate change. It is real, yes, and we can do something about it, and that is affordable. We actually have bills in front of this House right now which address all of those three premises—the affordability issue about who should pay and who should be compensated.

We say that the 500 biggest polluters in this country should have a disincentive to pollute the environment and the air that we breathe for the first time. For the first time the big polluters should have to stump up and pay something. It reminds me of a debate that took place more than 100 years ago—an analogy of what is taking place today about cleaning up the environment and the air—with exactly the same thing about rivers.

You could cast your mind back to what people used to do with rivers. Rivers were seen as sewers. Every business and industry would set up on a river for one reason: the river was the sewer system. But we woke up to it one day that water was precious and so were our river systems, and we had to do something about it. What did we do? We started cleaning up our river systems so we could protect the environment and water quality, and that cost money. We forced industry to clean up. We still do today; industry is no longer allowed to pollute our river systems.

Guess what? The next cab off the rank is the air environment—pollution into the environment through the air. This carbon tax system, this price we are putting on pollution, actually puts in place for the first time a measure, a mark—a level somewhere where you can say, 'There is now a disincentive'. And who will pay that directly? It is clear: it will be the big polluters.

Mr Buchholz: Taxpayers! They won't be able to afford it!

Mr RIPOLL: I hear the arguments about lights going out and that councils will not be able to afford electricity and power and all the rest of it. That is just a garbage argument that we hear from the other side. The reality is that electricity prices have gone up 40 per cent in the last three years, but we have not had a carbon tax—so who has been paying the 40 per cent increase? When you actually look at the economics of this, we hear a lot of wind and a lot of hot air on the other side but not at lot of facts.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour, and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.