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Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Page: 9440

Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (18:45): I support the passage of the Clean Energy Amendment (International Emissions Trading and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and the other clean energy bills. Yesterday, Senator Mason made a rather boisterous contribution to the matter of public importance debate, where he made the point that it would be irresponsible for this generation of political leaders to pass on to the next generation and future generations the cost of policies and inaction. I must say that, when it comes to this particular policy area, I agree with him. But his words were hollow, because that is exactly what the opposition are doing in not supporting these bills and by pledging to wind back the emissions trading scheme should they come to government.

That was a point that was made quite well during the hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes, which looked thoroughly into Labor's carbon price regime. On 20 August 2011 in those hearings Ms Meghan Quinn, general manager of the Macroeconomic Modelling Division for the Department of Treasury, made the point that delaying will cost future generations much more. She said:

The analysis that we did suggests that a delay in global action by three years adds around 20 per cent to the first year of global mitigation costs and delaying entry by a further three years adds a further 30 per cent to the first year of mitigation costs. This suggests that, as you delay, the costs only get greater through time …

The costs of delaying action on climate change will be passed on to future generations. That is why the approach that the opposition are taking to these bills and to the regime that Labor has set up is irresponsible, and that is why the words from Senator Mason yesterday were quite hollow.

Just this week we have been reminded of the importance of taking action on climate change. Another major report—this one titled Turn down the heat—was released by the head of the United Nations climate summit in Qatar. In it, the World Bank suggests that, unless significant action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century, the Earth is on track to warm by four degrees Celsius, with potentially disastrous consequences for our environment, particularly in this nation, and our economy. The changes associated with this would have dramatic and devastating effects on all parts of the world including Australia, the bank said, but in particular on developing and poor nations. Those countries will be the most vulnerable, and many of them are our neighbours in the South Pacific. Their economies and environments will be affected by a delay in responding to climate change.

In the light of such warnings it is important that we shoulder the responsibility and that we work within the international community to reduce global emissions for the good of our planet and for the benefit of future generations. That is why I am pleased to support these bills, which ensure that Australia is doing its part—importantly, in concert with other nations and the international community—to reduce emissions through a flexible, internationally linked emissions trading scheme.

This legislation will facilitate linking of Australia's emissions trading scheme with other countries' emissions trading schemes—this includes the EU emissions trading scheme—by removing the floor price that was to operate in the first three years of the flexible price period and by restricting the quantity of eligible Kyoto units that a liable entity can use to acquit their Australian carbon price liability to 12½ per cent of that liability.

This legislation will establish the flexible registry arrangements that will ensure linking with other emissions trading schemes in circumstances where direct links between registries cannot be put in place. Linking Australia's emissions trading scheme to the international market is in our nation's interests and indeed in the interests of Australian businesses. As Treasury modelling clearly demonstrates, without the ability to access international carbon markets and without the ability for Australian businesses to purchase international permits, the cost of meeting our emissions reduction target will double. Again, this is a point that was made quite eloquently and well during the inquiry by the Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes into the carbon price, and in particular Loy Yang Power, when they appeared before the committee—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Thistlethwaite! It being 6.50, the debate is now interrupted. You will be in continuation.