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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9199

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (17:28): Tonight I speak in accord with a significant number of constituents in my electorate, most recently Katy Carolan of Rossmore and Angelina Al Kaaby of Austral, who seek that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency be preserved, that the renewable energy target be retained and that the Clean Energy Council be supported. It is surprising that we are debating the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Repeal) Bill 2014 this evening, because the man who is now the Prime Minister of this country—who rushed around the country shoving factory workers into photographs with him, sometimes at the behest of employers, and raving about people being liars and spreading untruths—said on 29 September 2011:

Look, we originated a renewable energy target. That was one of the policies of the Howard government and yes we remain committed to a renewable energy target. I certainly accept that the renewable energy target is one of the factors of the current power system which is causing prices to go up but we have no plans to change the renewable energy target.

We all know that this contrived investigation by Mr Warburton, an acknowledged sceptic in the area of climate change, was basically designed to soften up the electorate on behalf of corporate interests concerned at the way their cost structure was being undermined by the spread of solar in this country.

Tonight, we are dealing with an organisation was legislated for in 2011 and was operative from July 2012. It has put significant investment into renewable energies—into their spread and particularly into novel technological developments—to reduce carbon pollution. By doing that, it has mobilised far greater finance from the private sector. As many other speakers have said, most of these developments are in rural and regional areas, for obvious reasons: the availability of alternative energy sources there, the lack of effect upon households et cetera. It has to be stressed that we see a significant number of National Party members not speaking in this debate, possibly because of the proportion of that development that has occurred from this particular measure in rural and regional areas. We have heard figures. One of the outcomes is 1.2 million households with solar. I will summarise later some of those developments.

Perhaps Nicholas Stern—the Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President of the British Academy and someone acknowledged for serious work in this field previously—had in mind this government in particular when he said:

Unfortunately, the current pace of progress is not nearly rapid enough, with many rich industrialised countries being slow to make the transition to cleaner and more efficient forms of economic growth.

The lack of vision and political will from the leaders of many developed countries is not just harming their long-term competitiveness, but is also endangering efforts to create international co-operation and reach a new agreement …

Delay is dangerous. Inaction could be justified only if we could have great confidence that the risks posed by climate change are small. But that is not what 200 years of climate science is telling us. The risks are huge.

That is the reality that is being articulated by a significant thinker in this field. He also noted:

The IPCC has concluded from all of the available scientific evidence that it is 95% likely that most of the rise in global average temperature since the middle of the 20th century is due to emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and other human activities.

That is the reality that is denied by many opposite. They have been told: 'Go through the motions. We should pretend we believe in climate change. There are a lot of people out there who are listening to these international bodies. People have picked up that we are not scientists. Perhaps these people that are talking about climate change, around the world after major studies, are not self-interested; perhaps they actually do know something about this field. We had better pretend that we actually do recognise climate change.' But we all know from the occasional outburst, the occasional indiscretion, that many in the government opposite are not too supportive of that reality.

I note that, as this government undertakes this very unfortunate initiative to basically undermine renewables, to undermine alternative sources of energy and to undermine the international effort against climate change, the International Energy Agency has made some comments about the international trend at the moment. They are not an affiliate of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; they are not associated with the British Labour Party or the German Social Democrats; they are a respected international agency that specialises in this field. Their comments about what is happening around the world and what should be happening here are very apposite:

Wind, solar and other renewable power capacity grew at its strongest ever pace last year and now produces 22% of the world's electricity, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday in a new report.

… … …

Maria van der Hoeven, the executive director of the IEA, said governments should hold their nerve: 'Renewables are a necessary part of energy security. However, just when they are becoming a cost-competitive option in an increasing number of cases, policy and regulatory uncertainty is rising in some key markets. This stems from concerns about the cost of deploying renewables.'

And, by Christ, I think Australia might be in the category she is alluding to there. She went on to note: 'Hydro and other green technologies could be producing 26% of the world's electricity by 2020'. That is a credible international source that says there is a 'lack of nerve' at the moment; governments driven by corporate interests, driven by a lack of knowledge, driven by a lack of courage, driven by an inability to face up to crisis, and driven by an inability to understand that if we do not do something the situation is going to be exacerbated.

As I said earlier, there has been a heavy concentration of developments in this sector in rural and regional areas: Alinta Energy at Port Augusta, a solar thermal feasibility study for a stand-alone solar thermal plant; Doomadgee Solar Farm in the Gulf of Carpentaria; a solar photovoltaic diesel hybrid, allowing diesel generators to be turned off—1.26 MWP of solar photovoltaic generation. That of course is typical of what is occurring in this field. There has also been funding of credible academic authorities such as Swinburne University for wave energy farm research. Mr Ivor Frischknecht, the CEO of ARENA, the group that is going to be abolished by this government, described the world's first redeployable large-scale solar diesel hybrid in regional Queensland as: 'a viable renewable energy alternative that could equally be used to assist in international relief efforts'. That is another area that is not too interesting to this government, which has slashed foreign aid. But that particular initiative in trying to counter the threat of climate change could be utilised, because of its ability to be moved, to help foreign aid efforts.

What we are seeing here now is a total repudiation of commitments that were given to the Australian people; that this government would not undermine ARENA; that it believed in it. It somehow associated itself with some of these changes. As someone said earlier, the minister introducing this bill is at pains to basically tell us of the wide benefits that have occurred from this organisation. They have been very positive about outcomes. But then the bill comes along and it is actually designed to destroy ARENA. This country has a responsibility to take a lead—rather than to be a retrograde nonplayer in international agreements—and not to move towards inaction.

In 2010, the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool from the World Resources Institute in Washington DC has noted—and it has been made with slight variations every other year before and after since it became an international issue—that per capita emissions in Australia at that point were 27.4; UAE, 38.2; USA, 23.5; and Canada, 22.9.All four of them, interestingly enough, were amongst the people at the back of the field when you look at their lack of activity. So there is a responsibility in this country to be in the lead rather than undermine the move towards alternatives.

As noted by Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum, the interesting thing is:

Nearly 98% of the people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are now borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk it says, are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and the small island states of the Pacific.

While we sit on our hands and undermine the need to act, the people most unable to cope with this are in those underdeveloped countries.

An article by John Vidal in The Guardian Weekly noted that:

310 million people will suffer adverse health consequences

20 million more people will fall into poverty

75 million extra people will be displaced by climate change

in the estimates of Kofi Annan's foundation.

In conclusion, I very firmly oppose this measure. It is not an issue for which the government has a mandate. Clearly, they tried to delude the Australian public that it would be business as usual in this particular sector. It is a situation where an organisation has been successful. It has engendered action. It has engendered finance from the private sector and it has accomplished very worthwhile renewable activity.