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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14464


Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (15:12): This matter is definitely one of public importance. At the end of yet another angry summer, as the community are telling all members of parliament that they expect their national parliament to do so much better, there couldn't be a matter of public importance more deserving of debate in the parliament this afternoon. There is a surge in community consciousness and expectation around climate change that I've not seen since 2007 at the earliest. I know that members opposite are hearing this as well. It's why so many of them are rebadging themselves as moderate Liberals. It's why so many of them are conducting pre-selection battles between the Left and the Right about climate change policy. People all around the country are seeing the impacts of climate change, have seen them right through this angry summer and are asking the question: why, after six years of this government, are we going backwards?

Australians know; they've heard from the scientists that 2018 was one of the five hottest years on record around the world—not an El Nino year, so quite outstanding in meteorological terms—the other four being 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. Australians have seen the angry summer unfold over the course of the last few months. We've just been told it was the hottest summer on record. The bureau only released its data over the last several hours that this March was the hottest March on record. In South Australia, my home state, we had the hottest summer on record, the hottest month on record and the hottest day on record. Two hundred and nine weather records were broken over the course of this summer. There were floods in places that don't usually flood. There were fires in places that don't usually burn.

The Australian community understand that climate change is unfolding around them, while this government does absolutely nothing. They saw the reports from the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO just before Christmas—their two-yearly report on the state of the climate—outlining in great detail the impact that just one degree of warming is already having on our vulnerable continent, which already pushes us to the limits of human tolerance: an extended and a more intense fire season; structural reductions in stream flow and rainfall in our prime agricultural regions like the Murray-Darling Basin and the south-west of Western Australia; sea level rise accelerating because of the dramatic acceleration in the melting rates, particularly of the Greenland ice sheets. All these records and evidence have been rejected by the inaction of those opposite.

This is also reflected in the scientific advice that we've received over the last 12 months at a global level. The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirmed that, with two degrees of global warming—too often regarded as a relatively safe level of global warming—more than 99 per cent of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed, including the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo. With just two degrees of global warming, the World Bank tells us—and the member for Kennedy will be interested in this—global cereal production will be reduced by 20 per cent. On a continent like Africa, which is expected to experience almost all of the net population growth around the world over the next few decades, cereal production would be reduced by 50 per cent.

Yet, against all of this evidence, this government has done nothing, and we have gone backwards on every single indicator on climate change and energy policy. Pollution has started to go up. Renewable energy investment in the first 12 months of the member for Warringah's prime ministership collapsed by 88 per cent—a cause for celebration, I'm sure, by this Minister for Energy, who has built a career opposing renewable energy. We are now the only country in the OECD that doesn't have fuel efficiency standards. We have the lowest uptake of electric vehicles in the OECD. It's good enough for the United States, good enough for Canada and good enough for the UK, Japan, Western Europe, China and so many other nations of the world, but apparently not good enough for this coalition party room to agree upon. They cannot agree on a single serious measure being adopted around the world on climate change—not a single measure.

I will go back to the issue of two degrees Celsius. The advice from all of the experts and scientists is that our position on emissions reduction is the minimum position consistent with keeping global warming below two degrees—net zero emissions by the middle of the century, and a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030. Even a 45 per cent cut will still use up more than three-quarters of Australia's remaining carbon budget between now and 2050, but it is the minimum position consistent with the responsibility that our generation of Australians around this country has to look after the interests of our children, our grandchildren and generations beyond. That is why we are taking the right position to this election—an election that we expect, in significant part, will be fought on climate change policy.

Yesterday we announced the most comprehensive climate change action plan ever taken to a federal election by a major party, building on the energy policy announcements that we made last year; building on our 50 per cent commitment to renewable energy by 2030, which independent modelling says will create 70,000 additional jobs; and building on the commitment we have to help households tap into new technology like household batteries—a $200 million program to assist 100,000 households purchase household batteries to complement the two million sets of solar panels we already have on Australian household roofs, to bring down power prices after power bills have gone up and up under this government and to start to make their contribution to improving the environment.

We have the moderate Liberals faction walking out on a climate change debate in this parliament because they are so ashamed of what this energy minister and all of his many predecessors in the climate change and energy portfolio have done to this country's record on looking after the interests of our children, our grandchildren and beyond.

The policy we announced yesterday also builds on our visionary hydrogen policy, which the member for Shortland particularly worked on so hard over the last few months. We are going to hear from him and from the member for Bass, who has also been a strong advocate of Tasmania's place—particularly northern Tasmania's place—in the hydrogen economy of the future, an economy in which Australia can be a leader and create, like renewable energy, thousands and thousands of jobs. This is an industry that the government's Minister for Resources and Northern Australia said is decades away. But everyone who has looked at this industry understands that this is a jobs and investments boom opportunity for a country like Australia.

This week we announced policies to bring down industrial pollution among the 250 biggest polluters in the Australian business community by putting in place the National Energy Guarantee—by continuing the safeguards mechanism that was introduced under Malcolm Turnbull, a policy developed by Tony Abbott and continued by the current Prime Minister—in the hope that, once the people occupying these ministries move on to whatever they are going to move on to, there might be a hope for the sort of bipartisanship that has acted as a foundation for serious action on climate change in every other democracy that is dealing with this issue around the planet. We have also announced the first ever electric vehicle policy in this country, to deal with the fact that we rank last on electric vehicle uptake in the OECD. We are the only OECD country without fuel efficiency standards. We have to change that.

So what did we get in response from this government? Like Pavlov's dog, all of those opposite pull out the old 'member for Warringah playbook', a carbon tax—a war on lunch boxes, a war on meat pies! Sausages are going up! Ten years ago the premium end of the meat market was under attack; this year it's the smallgoods! There won't be any night-time sport. Never mind that, even under the carbon price mechanism, 99.99 per cent of products marketed by Woolworths did not change one jot; even under the so-called carbon tax, 99.9 per cent of grocery items did not change in price whatsoever. This is all they've got. After 5½ years of inaction that has seen jobs and investment collapse, pollution go up and Australia move to the bottom of the pack on every possible index in this area, all they've got is the tired old scare campaigns that the member for Warringah came up with. The Australian people aren't going to put up with this for much longer. They've seen the impacts of climate change and they want a government that is committed to taking action in the interests of our children.