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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 649

Mr TUCKEY (5:34 PM) —I have just listened to the member for Kingston and I could spend the next 20 minutes responding. I will give some time to addressing the comments she made. I happen to visit her electorate from time to time. I know it well—my wife was raised in Adelaide. I happen to know that the electorate of Kingston has a significant body of residents who gain their living in agricultural areas—wine and many other things. I thought she might be interested in an article published in the Perth Sunday Times on 27 December, in which the Australian Food and Grocery Council disputes her government’s estimate that the cost of a shopping trolley would only increase $68 per annum. A noted economist from ABARE called that ‘rubbish’. The Food and Grocery Council suggested a figure of $520 a year. This is the point for the member for Kingston. I quote from the council:

It seems the only way the government could have got this figure would be to base their modelling on significant reductions in Australian manufactured goods and a significant increase in supplies from cheaper priced countries such as China.

The member for Kingston has a constituency based to a great extent in South Australia, a state heavily reliant on food production and food processing. There are 300,000 Australian workers in the food industry—and the Food and Grocery Council says, ‘If you want to do what they have claimed, you better get everything from China.’ That is not a bad starting point.

The member for Kingston lectures, as everybody does—including someone from my side—that this is a market response. How can it be a market response if the government has about 10 or 15 centimetres of legislation? A market is cold turkey. If you are going to compensate everybody who turns up with a case, where is the discipline upon those people to reduce their emissions? The member for Kingston put the argument for a ‘pay to pollute’ response to the climate change legislation. She ran off all the repetition of her colleagues. Japan, she said, is going to have an ETS and then she said ‘or might do’. I think New Zealand has some form of legislation but it is not happening.

The minister got up the other day and said that there are 32 countries with an ETS. Well, the next speaker after me might name those countries. But I can tell you that they do not include Japan, they do not include India, they do not include China, they do not include Brazil and they do not include South Africa. They were the group who showed the door to our Prime Minister—who was going over to Copenhagen to run the show. They showed him the door. They made their decisions in his absence and would not give him the time of day—he and his 114 public servants—and a group of Third World countries set the agenda at Copenhagen. And what was their message? It was: ‘We will advance our economies and, if that means more CO2 in the atmosphere, it is up to you, the so-called developed countries. I love the fact that even our Prime Minister thinks we are so rich that we can donate to China, India, Brazil and all these countries, but the reality is that they took no notice of him and would have taken no more notice if this parliament had passed this legislation prior to Copenhagen.

It is said that the coalition is out of touch, but it is offering incentives not penalties. As I have been saying for decades, there are great technological opportunities for Australia and most of them exist today and we may like to take the opportunity to be involved. The member for Kingston also accused us of picking winners. What is the compensation fund that is proposed by the Rudd government but picking winners? At one stage the electrical generators were going to get $3 billion. They asked for $10 billion and suddenly they are getting $7 billion. Is that picking winners? After the election, were the ACTU and associated unions winners? Were the employers winners? They are trying to keep this economy afloat with exports, and what is happening to them? There is a strike going on during the building of the biggest industrial program in Australia because the workers involved want to keep a motel-style room empty to store their toothbrushes in while they are away for their six days off. And do not tell me that they hang their clothes in there. I get on the same planes as they do—and they wear them up there and they wear them back. I sometimes wonder if they ever take them off. So do not give me that sort of stuff.

Mr Champion interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—Order! I warn the member for Wakefield that, if he persists in interrupting, I will deal with him. You will have your chance to speak in the debate in a very short period of time.

Mr TUCKEY —I am very grateful to you for reminding me that there is another South Australian MP in here, representing another district with a significant agricultural component, who is voting for a tax on farmers and voting, as the Food and Energy Council says, to replace production in his own electorate with product from China—because they are not having an ETS and they will be the ones who can achieve these figures. Please remember that in Treasury modelling, they have gone as far as to say: ‘These certificates will not be that expensive. They might be expensive in Australia, but you can buy them from China.’ That is in the white paper. That is in the modelling. So, anyhow, we know we have two South Australians in here who do not give a damn about the people, jobs and productivity in their own electorates. I will make sure my relatives, who live around that country, are well aware of those points.

But let me just touch on a few of the generics associated with this legislation and the claims that it will work. Firstly, it is said that we have a situation where this legislation has been backed rock-solid by scientists. I have stayed out of that argument because I do not have the competence to say yes or no. I might add that I got very high marks in chemistry and physics when I was at school but I did not proceed to climate change technology. But what I can tell you is that, recently, the media has been full of examples of very dodgy science—like the 15,000 glaciers of the Himalayas that are all going to melt completely by 2035. Apparently that was taken out of some schoolkid’s composition. So, if you are worried about the reality, the science is still in play.

I have heard the Great Barrier Reef mentioned about a thousand times in this debate. The reality is that, if you evacuated Australia and there were no significant decisions or responses taken in other parts of the world, whatever is going to happen to the Barrier Reef will happen. It appears from some of the comments of scientists that it is doing pretty well—but we will disregard that! Then, of course, we are going to be confronted with these terrible cyclones—they are going to increase in intensity. I had the roof blown off my hotel in 1961 and nobody said that that was the result of climate change. But let me remind you what the last two highly intense ones have done. They have flooded western New South Wales and Queensland. They have broken the drought. There is a chance for the two members I have so far mentioned that some of that water will get to Adelaide. If that is a problem, write me a letter about it. It is only the big cyclones that get into that hinterland—and that has been for as long as the history of the Australian climate.

I have already mentioned the extent to which the developing countries dominated Copenhagen. There is the argument that an ETS can be a market based solution. The market is when government keeps out of it. This government is setting the pattern, selling the certificates and saying who can buy them—and that includes the hedge funds who could drive the price up as they did the price of petrol, then go broke and be bailed out by the government of the day when that goes sour on them. Again, it is distorted by selective compensation payments, which will clearly undermine any discipline to reduce emissions by parties in receipt of such payback. There is a great dispute in this place as to whether or not the compensation proposed is sufficient, and the examples where it will not be are legion. But if you get fully compensated where is the market discipline? Do you consequently not buy an air conditioner? Do you consequently tell the kids to turn the lights off, and will they take any notice of you? That is it.

When Treasury modelling was conducted there was a promise that there would be a global market in emissions trading. Where is that? Just about everybody of substance in the emissions business said no. Of course, President Obama, having lost a seat that the Democrats have only held for 40 years at about a 60 per cent margin, is saying: ‘Oops, maybe “yes we can” is “yes we can’t”.’ If America is not involved, where is the international marketplace where these things are supposed to work?

The Rudd government is convinced by its own rhetoric in this third proposal to the parliament. The cost of the initial issue of certificates to consumers and exports is admitted by the government to reach $115 billion. That has got to come out. The cost to many of these so-called nasties—the thousand worst polluters—and the fact that they probably provide about 80 per cent of Australia’s employment is not even considered. They are just the nasties for the purpose of politics. Exporters can respond to this tax by job cuts and those with a captive market like the electricity generators can respond by putting up their prices. I have said before in this House that, if you are a person of considerable wealth who puts your hand on your heart and says, ‘I’ll pay more for my electricity to save the planet,’ you are paying more for your electricity so your electricity generator can buy the certificates necessary to keep polluting. The idea is that, when all this money has gone into the government’s coffers for some apparently selective picking winners-type payback, in the delaying period after you have paid the tax and completely depleted your cash reserves you are going to rush out and do something positive to save the planet. This is unlikely and possibly impossible.

The member for Throsby is leaving the parliament and she now seems to ask a few dorothy dixers about climate change. BlueScope Steel have to use coke to make steel. There is no other solution available as yet. They are just going to have to pay the tax. They might reduce their workforce. They might say: ‘We now know for certain that China and India are not going to have an ETS. Their labour force is still cheap and we will go there.’ Goodbye, BlueScope Steel. Is this a good idea? The coalition says to BlueScope Steel, ‘Look, if there is anything left in your box that could improve your efficiency and reduce your carbon consumption, come along and see us and we will participate in paying you to achieve that outcome.’ That is the difference. That is called picking winners.

Furthermore, my website has the only contribution from any member of this House that proposes practical solutions to climate change. I think there are opportunities to leverage off this debate, whether it is right or wrong.

Mr Champion —Tidal power.

Mr TUCKEY —The member for Wakefield mentions tidal power, and I thank him for that, but there is a bigger issue. It is called high voltage DC current transmission. That will be the pipeline for big ticket renewables and low emissions. It is an interesting fact that natural gas does not run down a pipeline on its own. The pipeline between the Pilbara and Perth is consuming over 200 megawatts of energy for the pumping process. That is a pretty average sized powerhouse in comparison. It is about 700,000 tonnes of emissions. If we stop taking the gas out in Perth and turning it into electricity but did that in the Pilbara, we would have more capacity in the pipeline for people who want heat, we would have the security of duplication and we could bring that electricity down on HVDC over about 1,000 kilometres into the south-west network and in the process only lose about three per cent of the power.

The Europeans are starting to wake up to this. This government says, ‘Let’s have photovoltaics all over the place in cloudy parts of Australia.’ The Europeans are going into North Africa and looking at huge gigawatt-size stations. Western Australia only has a total generating capacity of about three gigawatts. The Europeans are talking about single stations or a collection of stations of that size in North Africa, and they propose to send that power over 3,000 kilometres back into Europe. The loss of power is 10 per cent. If you used our dodgy AC system, it would be 45 per cent.

Where are the investment opportunities in this scheme to do that? If you look at the coalition proposal, you will find a $2 million commitment to further investigate an HVDC system. I see it as identical to something done by Charles Court, former Premier of Western Australia. Woodside had a find but nothing else, and Charles Court said, ‘On behalf of the people of Western Australia, I will buy more gas than they can use and I will fund the pipeline.’ Today the pipeline is overstressed and this parliament gets huge amounts of revenue from the industry that followed that initial development. His son, the then minister and former Premier, sold that pipeline to the private sector for about three times what Charlie paid for it.

What is wrong with a government statutory authority being established, after due inquiry, as our leader proposes, to undertake the original introduction of an HVDC system? I would start it on the Pilbara to Perth pipeline. I would build a line across to South Australia and I would interconnect them. As the gas comes ashore in Browse, I would build it up there too. At the end of that, with another line from South Australia to New South Wales, I would have spent about $5 billion. All the benefits of doubling the amount of power running down the wire are as good as having a renewable energy power station. If you go through the desert on the way, and you obviously do for South Australia, it then becomes practical to produce 2.4 gigawatts of wind power, because the HVDC system can accommodate the variability in the generation that comes from that. South Australia could have 2.4 gigawatts of extra power generation at a price that people could afford. (Time expired)