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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11643

Ms COLLINS (12:34 PM) —I am pleased to rise in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2] and cognate bills. The Rudd government is introducing these bills because we have a mandate to act on climate change. It was an election promise we made to the Australian people. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the Rudd government taking action to tackle climate change. These bills are a gateway to a low-carbon economy for our future and our children’s future. We know climate change is a global problem caused by carbon pollution. The Australian people expect us in this place to address this growing threat. They expect leadership on this issue—not bickering, fighting, disagreement or even disbelief. The Australian public want to know that the planet will be saved for future generations and that we in Australia are all doing our bit.

Climate change is a real threat. It is a threat to people and property and is a threat to our way of life. It will impact on rich and poor, young and old and those living in both developed and undeveloped countries. Climate change will not discriminate. To reduce our carbon pollution today will help the generations of tomorrow. We must act. Carbon pollution is causing the world’s climate to change. It is resulting in extreme weather, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. Globally, 13 of the 14 hottest years in history have all occurred in the last 14 years. Australia has experienced warmer than average mean annual temperatures for 17 of the past 19 years. The average temperature in Australia has increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius between 1910 and 2007. CSIRO projects an increase of one to five  degrees Celsius by 2070.

We are already experiencing extreme weather conditions. We have droughts, floods, storms, water shortages and changes in rainfall patterns that are already impacting on our people and property. Climate change will impact on agriculture. Exports are projected to fall. Our sea levels are rising. Some Pacific atolls are slowly disappearing. In Australia, climate change will result in storm surges and rising sea levels, putting at risk over 250,000 homes around our coastline. Tourism, a vital component of Australia’s economy, will be affected not only on an economic level but sadly on a level that means we could also lose many of our natural wonders. On the health front, a small increase in temperature will impact on the number of heat related deaths in our capital cities. The prediction that deaths will double by 2020 and triple by 2050 is dire indeed. The cost of inaction around climate change may well be incalculable. We literally cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

With one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit if we do not act now. Australia pollutes at very high levels for a country of its size. In fact, we are the sixth largest polluter on a per capita basis in the world. It is not really a title we should be proud of. Australians understand that climate change is a threat, and they worry about it. They understand that this problem impacts not only on the environment and our flora and fauna but also on Australia’s economic prosperity.

The CPRS is scheduled to start in 2011 and for the first time will put a cost on carbon pollution, which will encourage major polluters to lower their emissions. The funds raised through the sale of permits will be used to help households and businesses adjust to the scheme. The CPRS will build on the Rudd government’s investment in renewable energy to create low-pollution jobs of the future. Solar energy, wind energy and new technologies like clean coal and geothermal energy will see the renewable energy sector grow to 30 times its current size by 2050. This will create thousands of green-collar jobs. If we do not act, Australia’s economy will be left behind. Australia is not the first country to introduce a CPRS or a carbon cap and trade system. Schemes are already operating in 27 European countries and 28 states and provinces in the USA; also, Canada is introducing schemes, as is New Zealand.

I would like to give you a local perspective on the potential costs and impacts in my home state of Tasmania if we choose to do nothing. For those of you who have not visited Tasmania, it is a unique place with a unique environment, but like many places in this country Tasmania will be exposed to more extreme weather events due to climate change. It is predicted that Tasmania is likely to experience moderate rises in temperatures. Rainfall is likely to increase by seven to 11 per cent in the west and central areas, while in the north-east there may well be a decrease of around eight per cent. This year we have just experienced one of our wettest winters in 50 years. Changing rainfall patterns will be a constant worry for our farmers and small business operators and owners who rely on consistent weather patterns to produce crops, and there are those who require a reliable water source to continue their businesses. Tasmania boasts viable primary industries: agriculture and aquaculture. Scientists predict that climate change will impact on Tasmania’s output.

Now I want to talk about something quite bizarre in relation to my electorate. A couple of weeks ago we had a visit by a rogue iceberg that was visible from Macquarie Island. Macquarie Island is part of my electorate. So, from part of my electorate you could see a large chunk of Antarctic ice, around 50 metres high and 500 metres, floating by.

A report released last weekend showed that three out of the four local government areas worst affected in Tasmania are in the electorate of Franklin. Seventy-five per cent of Tasmanians live in local government areas on the coastlines. The report estimates that between 8,700 and 11,000 residential buildings could be at risk. The current value of these buildings is between $2.4 billion and $3.3 billion. Between 1,850 and 2,000 residential buildings in the city of Clarence may be affected by 2100. This is equivalent to approximately 10 per cent of existing residential dwellings in the city. The city of Clarence has 191 kilometres of coastline and much of that is low-lying. That is why it is going to be affected badly.

Nobody said developing a carbon pollution reduction scheme was going to be easy. There is a challenging balance between reducing carbon pollution and supporting economic growth. To delay implementing a carbon pollution reduction scheme would be irresponsible for our economy and environment. We have been upfront with the Australian people: acting now to introduce a carbon pollution reduction scheme will cost money. But in saying this, if we act in five, 10, 20 or 30 years time, it will cost Australians much, much more. There will be some costs to Australian consumers as we transition to a low-pollution economy, but we will provide assistance to those who need it most: pensioners, seniors, carers and people with a disability will receive additional support. Low- and middle-income earners will also receive support. Motorists will be protected from higher fuel costs for the first three years. Community organisations and small businesses will be eligible to apply for assistance to invest in energy-efficient equipment and Australian workers will be supported through targeted assistance for industry and investment in the green economy. So it is not just about putting in place a carbon pollution reduction scheme; it is also planning, developing and implementing other supportive measures that will assist us to move forward towards a low-carbon economy. Our renewable energy targets will also support the introduction of the CPRS.

The Rudd government is establishing the $75.8 million Australian Carbon Trust to help all Australians to do their bit to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution and to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings and businesses. We will also take into account the contribution of individual households that purchase accredited green power in setting carbon pollution reduction scheme caps.

I put on the public record that I am a firm believer in the science around global warming, the impacts of climate change and the urgent need to reduce our carbon pollution. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the right thing to do. Australians know there are significant challenges ahead. Regardless of these challenges, Australia needs to be part of the global climate change solution, not part of the problem. I urge those opposite to support these bills so they can tell their children that they were part of the solution, not part of the problem. Otherwise I believe it will be hard for them to face the Australian people who have given their trust to their federal representatives to act decisively and immediately on climate change. We should not leave this place in the knowledge that we could have made a difference but did not. These bills give certainty to the Australian people and Australian businesses. It will not be easy, but we must act and act now. I commend these bills to the House.