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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3388

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (13:24): I support the amendments moved by the opposition in respect to the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Green Army Programme) Bill 2014.

This legislation supposedly forms the centrepiece of the Abbott government's direct action policy response to climate change—a response, as we saw earlier today, that does not take climate change seriously. This legislation is further confirmation that the Abbott government does not take climate change seriously, does not believe in the science being presented by the scientists around the world and is prepared to turn its back on future generations by leaving them with the burden that climate change adaption, which should be taken now, will be left for them if it is not taken now.

What is even more concerning, with respect to this proposition—and as good as it might be for the environment—is that the legislation is clearly not satisfactory, or adequate, to respond to the needs that arise as a result of climate change. There is no credible commentator that I can find who supports the direct action policy of the Abbott government—with the Green Army or the Green Corps as the centrepiece—as being a responsible response to what we should be doing in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. In fact, I want to quote from an assessment of this program that was done by Tim Lubcke from Flinders University in South Australia only a year ago. He says that the analysis concluded that to achieve the required target of 85 million tonnes of CO2 abatement:

… this amounts to between 2.2 and 2.57 million hectares of annual wood production land.

The fact is that this proposal will not achieve that. But it is even more concerning because, quite frankly, it is a proposal that has been criticised and not supported by anyone with any credibility. That brings me to the real point with respect to this legislation, and that is: why is the government introducing this proposal in the way that it is as a pretentious response to climate change when in fact it knows that it is not?

This is a proposal that simply re-badges similar propositions or proposals that were already in place—put in place right back in 1992 by the Keating government, at the time known as the Landcare and Environmental Action Plan, the LEAP program. Subsequently, it was supported by government after government in one form or another. There is nothing new in this proposal. What really concerns me is that the government will seek to re-badge or relaunch programs that are currently in existence and which form part of our analysis and measurement CO2 abatement measures that are already in place so that the net effect will be even worse than what the government pretends. If it were a brand-new proposal, then you could at least have some confidence that the figures that the Abbott government is using in terms of CO2 abatement might be true. But my concern is that it is not a new proposal. It is a re-badged proposal of what is already taking place.

Communities around Australia are already engaged in tree-planting programs. In fact, in the council area where I was mayor for 10 years we literally planted tens of thousands of trees every year—it was nothing new. The South Australian Labor government, on coming to office in 2002, committed to a program of planting two million trees around the metropolitan area and those programs carried on and were in fact delivered. So there is nothing new in a program that seeks to say, 'We are going to plant trees, planting trees is good for the environment'—we accept that—but then it also ought to say, 'And it will mitigate the effects of climate change being caused by carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn are caused by human activity across the world.'

What is more incredible is that we have a program where the government says, 'Let's plant trees because trees will absorb the carbon dioxide and mitigate the effects of carbon dioxide pollution,' while simultaneously saying to the Australian people, 'We will simultaneously release 74,000 hectares of preserved wood forest in Tasmania and unlock them for forestry.' So on one hand we are going to plant trees—supposedly to have one effect—and on the other hand we are going to unlock 74,000 hectares of trees that are already in existence. You could only conclude that at the very least one will offset the other, and that is if we plant 74,000 hectares of trees at the same pace as we are going to unlock the ones that are already growing. It simply proves that this policy is nothing but a farce when it comes to a response to climate change.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Order! It being 1.30 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.