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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 669

Mr CHEESEMAN (7:11 PM) —I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related bills. In doing so, I highlight the importance of these particular measures in my own seat of Corangamite. They are also very significant nationally and globally.

I would like to start by formally putting on the record my thanks to Minister Penny Wong for her tireless efforts in calibrating these bills to meet the needs of working families and their employers. The minister has put together what I believe to be a fantastic package that will enable us to counteract the worst aspects of climate change through these particular measures. Of course, it has been an epic and incredibly difficult task that the minister has undertaken. I believe she has done it in a first-class way.

I want to add some clear and unequivocal statements to those I made before Christmas. These statements will be judged in our electorates and in my electorate of Corangamite—it is important that we all recognise this. Not that long ago the current opposition leader described climate change as crap. I actually believe in the science; I believe action on climate change is a necessity in my electorate of Corangamite. I believe the Leader of the Opposition is an embarrassment to this parliament. He starts with the argument that climate change, in his view, is crap. Then he goes on to present a policy that I believe does not deliver in any way whatsoever any emissions reductions. He then puts those costs onto Australian families through taxation and our normal government arrangements for raising revenue.

As I said earlier, I believe climate change is real. I believe the science is real. I believe people and industry have contributed very substantially to climate change. I believe Australia, as a country, has, proportionally, one of the highest carbon footprints anywhere in the world. And, as a consequence, I believe we have a moral responsibility to lead the debate on carbon pollution reduction and take the necessary steps to achieve that. We have a responsibility to help rectify the damage that we have all done. We have a responsibility to our future generations. We have a responsibility to take the necessary steps to reduce our carbon pollution. We have a responsibility to other nations on this planet. We have a responsibility to lead, and that is what I believe these bills will do. I believe that advanced countries like Australia have a moral responsibility to lead on climate change.

Corangamite, my own seat, faces some very substantial risks. Corangamite has hundreds of kilometres bordering the ocean. We have the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road links coastal community to coastal community, and was built by 3,000 servicemen who had returned from the First World War. Modelling shows that sea level rise driven by climate change will see the Great Ocean Road breached in place after place. Other parts of my seat, such as the Bellarine Peninsula, Queenscliff, Ocean Grove and Point Lonsdale, also face very significant inundation challenges if we do not meet the challenges of climate change.

In addition to that, we also have some very significant environmental places within my seat, such as the Otway Ranges, the lakes district in western Victoria and our magnificent volcanic plains. These assets now are at far greater risk due to fire, and over the last 10 years we have seen a large number of those lakes drying because of drought. And we do know that climate change will lead to further periods of dryness and drought. Our flora and fauna and our people are also at further risk due to climate change.

In Corangamite we have a very substantial farming community. The farming communities now face very significant challenges because of climate change and drought. Less rain is posing enormous challenges to our farmers and our farming communities. The CPRS will allow farmers to generate additional income. It will enable farmers to take meaningful steps in producing an income that will be good for our environment and good for their families. I think this is very significant and good news for our farmers. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party wants to take away from farmers this opportunity to derive additional income for their families. The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists reported that the Leader of the Opposition’s con job would cost farmers. Farmers in my electorate do not need any more costs imposed on them. They need ways in which they can generate sustainable income and make a difference. The Labor government’s CPRS will deliver new income streams for farmers.

The minister and the whole Rudd government are aware of the need to protect jobs in dealing with climate change. Farming jobs, the jobs of Alcoa workers, the jobs of Shell workers and the jobs of the cement industry workers in my electorate are all very important. The Rudd government’s CPRS is carefully calibrated to protect their jobs so that they can continue to participate in a low carbon economy with a lower carbon footprint.

We also need to make sure that we have a vibrant tourism industry, particularly of course in my seat of Corangamite. Climate change is one of the biggest risks to the tourism industry in my region. It is the primary reason why we have to act. The consequences of Black Saturday are only just becoming clearer for the tourism industry, particularly as areas like the Otway national park become more threatened by wildfire events because of climate change.

If we compare that to Abbott’s con job, the government has got the balance right. We have recognised in this legislation that there are trade-exposed industries. We have recognised the need for industry transition. And we are providing the industry assistance that is required and the time which is required for them to be able to participate. These bills balance the overriding need to act on climate change with the need to put in place the mechanisms that will allow our industries to adjust to a lower carbon footprint. Unlike the Liberal Party’s con job, we have thorough policy that will help to lead us through the challenge of climate change. My region, the greater Geelong region, is showing leadership on climate change. We are providing certainty through the mechanisms in this bill. A world carbon market is inevitable and it will be created. We are readying our country with some well-calibrated legislation—legislation that will future-proof us. This bill has clear aims and clear targets—unlike the opposition leader’s con job. The government’s commitment on targets is an unconditional commitment to reduce our carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020.

This is the most important legislation that this parliament will have to deal with. This is about how we turn around the terrible legacy that unfettered carbon pollution has left us—a legacy that now threatens to engulf island nations within our Asia-Pacific region through sea level rise; that threatens to decimate biodiversity; that is threatening human life, creating fire, storm and flooding events of unprecedented ferocity and scale; and that will leave future generations the question of why we have not acted in this place.

On the other side of the chamber, of course, we only see a policy con job. Their policy is nothing short of a joke. Their policy will not cut emissions. Their policy will cost Australian families. I urge those members on the other side that get the need to act on climate change to support these bills. Stand up for what you know is right. These are defining bills. These will be the bills that future generations judge our generation on. These will be bills that future parliaments will judge this parliament on.

As I have said before, I am very proud of the efforts that Minister Wong and this government have gone to to get the balance right. We are now a world away from the shameful Howard years. We cannot let policy con jobs continue to set our climate change debate. This is Australia saying we are up for the challenge. This is Australia saying we will act. This is Australia saying we are leaders on climate change policy. For those reasons, I commend these bills to the House.