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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Page: 8803


Senator SIEWERT (11:25 AM) —I rise to comment on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills. I will not take the full 20 minutes because I commented on the bill extensively when it was in the chamber previously, but I do want to point out a number of the deficiencies in the bills, particularly the impact climate change is already having on my home state of Western Australia and why it is imperative that we have a decent bill for a CPRS—or ‘coal profit retention scheme’, as we are now referring to it—and not a scheme that solely delivers billions of dollars worth of compensation and support to industries that are now dinosaur industries, instead of delivering the sorts of investment we need in renewable energies to take us into the future. Only today we were reminded in the news about the impacts of climate change when the IPCC scientists released their further work that shows the impact that the speeding up of the melting of the Arctic ice will have, potentially, by 2030 and the fact that it is melting much more quickly than they had anticipated. You only have to look at the vision of the ice melting last summer to see how fast it is melting and the impact that it can have.

If you were not persuaded by the other science, the science again this morning about the impact that climate change is already having is very compelling. It is also clear from the evidence that we are in the hottest decade and we continue to set records across the planet. We in Western Australia already know what impact climate change is having on agriculture. In some areas agriculture is becoming more marginal. Also, I have articulated in this place several times now what has happened with water supplies in Perth and the drop-off of rainfall in Perth. Fortunately Western Australia recognised the decreasing rainfall in the 1990s and made a decision about how we would manage our water. I am not saying it is perfect so I do not want the WA government or the Water Corporation in Western Australia thinking that the Greens think their water management is perfect. But they certainly took very important steps in terms of starting to manage our water resources, realising that we were living in a changing climate and what impact a decrease in rainfall would have. We have had a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall, which has led to a 64 per cent decrease in run-off and of course that changes very significantly the way we manage our water supplies.

I must say that I get very disheartened about the ways that people are interpreting the science—whether they are doing it on purpose or whether they just cannot face the fact that we have to significantly change the way we manage our resources and the planet. Perhaps they deliberately do not read the science or they misinterpret it. But these people are failing the constituents they claim to represent and, in particular, they are failing farmers. Farmers are at the forefront of feeling the impacts of climate change. They are the ones who have to change their day-to-day management practices in order to survive and in order to grow crops. In the future Australia needs to change the way we carry out agriculture in this country. We are missing a golden opportunity to be at the forefront of development of crops and of a new way of doing agriculture in this country. We are missing that opportunity because we have these sceptics and because of climate deniers. They are then denying the fact that we need to change the way we manage agriculture and develop new crops so that the amount of money that is invested in research to look at ways to change our farming systems is reduced—it is nowhere near enough.

Instead we are investing billions of dollars in old industries—in keeping the coal industry going by subsiding it to a massive extent—when we should be investing in renewable energies, in agricultural research and in protecting our water resources. As we know climate change is already having a significant impact on biodiversity in this country, particularly in my home state of Western Australia, where the combined impacts of overclearing, climate change and salinity are already devastating our biodiversity. As we know, Australia has the highest extinction rate for mammalian species and also for plant species.

Western Australia has up to 10 new coal fired power stations on its books. There are also plans to expand existing coal fired power stations. Industries that are starting up now want to use coal as their energy source. This is an old way of thinking; it is a dinosaur way of thinking. Here we have this deal—I do not know whether it has or has not been agreed to; I presume it will be rolled out again today—where billions of dollars more are being invested in dinosaur industries while billions of dollars are being taken away from household investment. Over $5 billion will be taken away from households and transferred into the pockets of the coal industry and the old polluters.

This scheme, the coal profit retention scheme—formally known as the ‘continue polluting regardless scheme’—is now the new deal in which further resources are being handed over to the old polluting industries. Where is the vision for this country? Where is the vision for where we could be going in developing new renewable energies and a future that our children and grandchildren can be proud of and be significantly advantaged by? Instead, the scenario that is rolling out here is one where our children and our grandchildren will be significantly disadvantaged into the future.

We will have massive numbers of environmental refugees. Day after day after day, we have been hearing from some people in this chamber who are obviously anti Australia taking asylum seekers or who are anti supporting asylum seekers. We are going to have so many environmental refugees on this planet. How are we going to deal with that? How are we going to deal with the issue of people who have to move? People in the Pacific are already having to abandon their homes. Their food sources are being threatened and, in some cases, they have been destroyed. These people are unable to grow the crops that they used to because of sea water inundation. This situation is going to multiply into the future.

But yesterday a deal was made, which we expect to be voting on today or tomorrow, whereby billions of dollars will be taken away from householders and transferred into the hands of the old polluters. We do not know what impacts the changes that were announced yesterday will have, because we have not had time to review them properly. There has been no Senate inquiry to review the impact of those changes. What will the impact be from the changes that were announced yesterday? What do they mean for the CPRS? We cannot answer those questions because we have not had time to look at the deal. We have an idea but we have not seen the economic modelling. We still have not seen the modelling that Senator Xenophon has been talking about. We have requested to see the government’s modelling on why it does not think the modelling that the coalition and Senator Xenophon undertook is realistic. We still have not had answers to those questions.

I will be moving a second reading amendment that the bills, the multi-billion dollar adjustment to the bills, as agreed by the coalition and the government in November 2009, and the amendments required to implement that agreement, be referred to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 12.30 pm on 1 December 2009; that the minister representing the Treasurer provide to that committee by 30 November 2009, for consideration as part of that inquiry, any modelling or analysis commissioned by Treasury and/or the Department of Climate Change and all documents prepared by Treasury in relation to the August 2009 Frontier Economics report on the economic impact of the CPRS; that the Senate meet from 1 December to 3 December 2009 to consider the bills; and that further consideration of the bills be an order of the day for the day the committee presents its report.

We believe that amendment will enable a Senate committee time—short though it may be—to review any amendments and the adjustment money that was announced yesterday that is being given to the big polluters in this country. This will enable a review of that information. It will enable a review of the government’s modelling in relation to the Frontier Economics report. This will give senators time to effectively analyse that information instead of them being pushed into making a decision about something that those on the crossbench were told about only at lunchtime yesterday. That is not an adequate process when you are talking about the future of not only this country but the planet. It is the future of the planet that we are talking about here.

This place has to be informed effectively so that senators can make a decision in an informed way. At the moment we are not informed. At the moment we do not know what impact this legislation will have and we have not had chance to review it. Yet, we are supposed to rush that decision through this place. How can we look our grandchildren in the eye and say, ‘We made the right decision,’ if we do not even sit down now and consider the information properly? I do not want to be in that position. I do not want to be in the position where I have to explain to my grandchildren how this place worked in making a decision in November 2009 that affected their very futures. We need to take time to look at this information and we need to consider it in an appropriate manner. We should not rush it through because the government thinks it needs to take this flawed coal profit retention scheme to Copenhagen. That is an artificial deadline for a flawed scheme that in the future we will all be embarrassed about. We will all be embarrassed about this poor scheme. We believe that it needs to be reviewed by the Economics Legislation Committee. We also believe that the Senate should sit again to give this bill and the amendments announced yesterday adequate scrutiny, which is our job. As I said, I foreshadow that I will be moving a second reading amendment.