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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 982


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (09:54): Sadly, it will be a very dark day in Australian history when we vote later today on this Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013. It is quite Orwellian to have legislation before the chamber that will give polluters a licence to pollute, yet those opposite have the temerity to call it 'clean energy legislation'. Once this vote occurs today, the reality is that this side of the chamber—the side on the right side of history—will lose. We will have to take a step backwards, a regression. We all know the facts. No-one doubts them. The reality is that humankind is creating a change in the climate. Look at the CO2 emissions and the parts per million—the Keeling Curve information. Those facts were not in dispute when I was first elected to this parliament back in 2007. Everyone elected at that time made a commitment to act on climate change. Today we are going to see a backward step. I hope that in years to come, in 20 or 30 years time, the grandchildren of those opposite will track them down to their retirement home and give them a good head butt and say: 'What were you thinking? You ignored the science, ignored the facts and ignored our future.'

I have a four-year-old son and an eight-year-old son. I have to look them in the eyes today and say, 'I am worth more than you.' I have to say to them that their children will not be worth as much as me. That is effectively what we will be doing today if we vote to support this repeal. The reality is that all Australians, and me as a Queenslander, are the highest emitters per person of any developed country in the world. My understanding is that Queensland is the worst state in Australia per person. That is why we need to make a serious change with clean energy legislation.

Let us look at the facts, not the hysteria we saw from Henny-Penny running around before the election. We have seen a 6.1 per cent decrease in emissions in the electricity sector which is the equivalent of 12 million tonnes. For the sake of the Prime Minister, I will clarify that: 12 million tonnes of CO2 weighs 12 million tonnes. It is gas that is invisible to the naked eye. But I am assured by the scientists that 12 million tonnes of CO2 weighs 12 million tonnes, which is the equivalent in layman's terms of taking about 3.5 million cars off the road.

The price that we put on pollution is working. But it does impact on people's wallets. That is the reality and we have never shied away from that. That is why we have called on people's better nature to understand that if we do not act to kerb emissions, the planet will pay a price, your children will pay a price, your grandchildren will pay a price and your great grandchildren will track down your names and say, 'Shame, shame, shame.'

The reality is that we are going to get another mechanism, this indirect inaction plan. It is untested. There is not one economist who says it will work. Scientists and farmers understand that there are serious concerns about it. When we questioned the bloke who did his thesis in this area about this, he said: 'We'll find soil carbon will work. That will deliver 85 million tonnes.' The science is out there on soil carbon. I think they are drifting into magic dirt territory if they think that soil carbon is going to be the only answer. Some experts are saying it could be as low as five to 10 million tonnes. In terms of planting trees, let us get real. You would have to plant the entire area of Victoria and Tasmania with trees to have that sort of offset. I am all for planting trees—I am a big fan of it—but let us get real. To get that sort of offset you would have to get rid of all the grazing land in Australia and put it under trees. To think that the Liberal Party, the party created by Menzies, the man who believed in markets, would run away from a market mechanism and say, 'No, the public servants in Canberra will be able to get the best deal in terms of offsets'! With all due respect to those wonderful people in Canberra, a market is the most effective mechanism.

The other problem for those public servants is: all the low-hanging fruit has gone. Because we have had effectively a price on carbon for a year, all the great mechanisms have already been taken up. So these public servants are going to be scrabbling around. I can understand why it is a vagrant scheme, because there is no obvious means of support. No-one is able to say how it will work. I do not know how the free marketeers opposite are able to still cling to it when all the facts they have talked about have turned out to be a complete fabrication. That odour of mendacity about their election campaign has been exposed. The price of a lamb roast has actually gone down. They said the economy was going to come to a screaming halt. The last time I checked the stock exchange had gone up by about 33 per cent—a third—with a price on carbon. We always were committed to having a market price rather than a fixed price. That is the reality. In fact, I seem to recall we had a deal with the Leader of the Opposition at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, negotiated by the member for Groom. We had a deal until the leadership change.

We believe strongly that climate change is real. We do not just say it because it is politically expedient—which is what John Howard has revealed. He said it in 2007 because it seemed like it might get him some votes. Believe me, this is not something that is necessarily a vote winner but it is the right thing for the nation. Those opposite who have a heart and believe in science and believe in their children's futures know that that is the case. The market mechanism that we believe in would operate much more efficiently.

I am particularly worried about this commitment to our 2000 targets being achieved under the indirect inaction plan, because both the Prime Minister and the minister responsible said, 'We will not put extra money in if indirect inaction does not achieve those targets.' It is almost like window-dressing of the worst kind if they are not prepared to put extra money in to reach those targets. The reality is: since the legislation came into effect on 1 July last year, carbon emissions have dropped 7.4 per cent. Renewable energy generation has surged 30 per cent, and more than 150,000 jobs have been created. I heard for three years that it was going to be the end of our economy. Hydro-electricity, gas and other renewable energies have also had a surge. The reality of this indirect inaction plan is that it will be a major stuff-up. It will not produce an emissions reduction. If we cannot go to climate change negotiations and say, 'We have done our bit', we cannot be the middle-power leader in this area—with our proud history of being a nation that leads the rest of the world, going back to Doc Evatt and the setting up of the United Nations. I will even mention Billy Hughes after World War I. We have always been a middle power that has helped lead the world in terms of doing the right thing. The onus on us to do the right thing is even more severe because we are such a heavy per-person emitter.

This is populist politics of the very worst order. The appeal to people that 'You don't have to think of your neighbours' is very short sighted. The reality is that we are surrounded by islands. We are an island continent and we are surrounded by low-lying islands with lots of people. When sea levels start rising in the next five, 10, 15 or 20 years, where will they be heading? Will they just drown quietly, waving politely, saying, 'Tough luck for us?' No, of course they will head for higher land. And Australia, as a wealthy country, will be the first port of call. So it makes economic sense for us to do the right thing by our neighbours as quickly as possible. The reality is that we have higher wages in Australia. The best way to be competitive is not to lower wages but to have technological advances by investing in things like the NBN. Technological advances in a carbon-constrained economy means that we will be able to compete and lead our neighbours and the rest of the world. Instead of those scientists moving to China, India or one of the other countries that are investing so heavily in carbon pollution reduction, those businesses could operate here and we could be a world leader.

Obviously there are a million defence reasons that I would have been prepared to talk about a few weeks ago but, in the current climate, I will not talk about them. The reality is that it makes sense to do what we can to be able to look our neighbours in the eye and say, 'We know you are island nations and we are doing what we can to protect your environment.' You could argue that we need to do it because there is a moral responsibility; however, for economic and defence reasons, we need to get this right. The policy that those opposite, who are on the wrong side of history, are going to vote on today will be a great individual item of shame for them when they look back on their political careers and note that on this day they voted against history, they voted against their children, they voted against their grandchildren. As I said at the start of my speech yesterday, it is like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and they are only listening to the devil.