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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6413

Mr BILLSON (10:59 AM) —I want to congratulate the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change on his elevation, and on the reintroduction of autumnal Melbourne fashion to this parliament building! What I do not want to compliment him on is his lack of answers to the questions from the member for Goldstein. He did a better job reading out the same response that he gave in parliament the other day—probably a little less nervous now—but he missed the material issues that the member for Goldstein raised, and they are about the economic modelling. The government seem to want to engage in some kind of theoretical debate, where they can muck around with the settings and the context as it suits them, pick up bits of change or movement elsewhere that suit them, but not actually ground this work in what is going on.

The member for Goldstein made it very clear: how can you ignore the international economic setting as the government seeks to do? How can you not put that into this modelling that the minister says is world class and comprehensive? He will not show anybody. It is sort of North Korean modelling: ‘Here it comes; be happy about it and we will all wear brown suits.’ It does not pick up the reality of the economy as it stands, the international setting or the behaviour of other actors in the issue of climate change, and then he has the gall and the front to have a crack at everyone else’s modelling, saying they are not up to scratch. A bit of show and tell, Minister! Or is this more of the monstering and shirt-fronting that industry is being subjected to on a ‘take this or take nothing’ basis? That is not an elegant, arguable position; that is monstering people, and they deserve better than that.

My questions are numerous, but in the time available I will try to limit them. My first one is: Minister, have Labor members of parliament raised with you their concerns about the impact of your scheme on their communities and economies? If so, what changes have been made to take account of those concerns? Speaking of local members, I will talk about another local member: me. My community is concerned. I look at Visy as an example. They were led by the departed, visionary Richard Pratt—condolences to the family—who invested early in adapting and changing his production cycles to recover from landfill waste that would have decomposed and released methane, by volume a far more potent and damaging greenhouse gas than CO2. They are wondering why they are being treated so shabbily, why they, because of the work they have done, do not trigger your theoretical thresholds of production output for energy consumed. They have done all the hard yards and now they are being done over because of it. What sort of address have you given to those kinds of issues—to make sure that people who have done the right thing and acted positively get recognition?

In keeping with that theme, what about the individuals? Where in your model do the goodwill and action of individuals, companies and households get a look in? Or do their actions simply make more space for the polluters to pollute? You talk about the carbon trust, where people can pledge funds. They are already doing more than their fair share and not getting recognised for that in your poorly conceived, dodgy scheme, and you want them to cough up extra money as well. What hide! Can they trust your government on the carbon trust, Minister? Your Prime Minister went to the election saying this billion-dollar building would be green and clean powered if the Rudd government were elected. Uh-uh. Nothing has happened with the carbon trust of the Australian people, because you could not even fulfil your own undertakings. It was a great sound bite but no action. Now they are talking about negotiating a share of green power when the promise was clear that this would be a clean, green building. So much for carbon trust.

Why, Minister, will you not embrace the positive and practical ideas of the opposition on voluntary action? In the opposition’s response to your scheme we outlined a number of opportunities involving energy efficiency, particularly for the built environment: soil carbons; biochar; revegetation of marginal land, including reforestation; and clean coal technologies and the like. We put forward a proposal for a voluntary trading framework that has been embraced and welcomed by industry across the country. No monstering was required; it was support based on merit and based on the quality of the idea. You saw the Green Building Council, you saw the property industry, you saw the Master Builders Association, you saw builders and you saw industry representative saying this was a constructive, practical idea to capture the opportunities that are there in the built environment and that it should happen.

My last question is: what about the stimulus package, Minister? You must lie awake at night wondering what a missed opportunity that has been. We are building buildings around the country with no interest in sustainability, energy efficiency or carbon emissions. In my own community of Langwarrin they are being monstered by state Labor officials to knock over a building the community want to refurbish just to replace it with another building. The embedded carbon and energy is being missed. This is not for real on emissions. (Time expired)