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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9240

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (11:41): I have to say: if the member for Gippsland thinks there is a crisis of confidence in his community, perhaps he could start speaking to them a little more frankly about climate change and the way this country needs to address one of the biggest challenges that faces us. Perhaps with a little less misinformation his community might have a slightly different view. I find it hard to believe that a person could make that speech if he actually believed that climate change was real. To stand there and talk about the impact in regional areas of action on climate change without any recognition whatsoever of the extraordinarily impact that climate change itself will have on regional areas if we, as part of the world effort, do not take real action to reduce the growth in greenhouse gases is somewhat to be in denial.

I assume that the member for Gippsland does believe in climate change. I assume he supports his own side's policy to act on climate change. I assume he supports the same targets that we have, as his side does. I assume that he would stand in his own electorate and tell them that he agrees with the targets that we set and he agrees with the need to act, but he could also tell them that his policy is to actually take tax money from taxpayers and give it to business—give it to the biggest polluters—which is really an astonishing approach. It is known to be far more expensive than the market driven mechanism that we have introduced, but that is the policy which he supports. He believes in climate change, he thinks we need to act, he supports the targets that we have set but he thinks he should do it in a more expensive way: he should take the money out of the taxpayers' pockets and give it to big business, paying big polluters to cut their pollution. We, on the other hand, have gone for a market mechanism approach which is seen around the world—including, for most of its history, by the Liberal Party—as the most effective way to act. It is the appropriate thing to do.

We in Australia have been incredibly lucky. We had in the ground at the time when it was of greatest value enormous reserves of fossil fuel. For the last 100 years, as the growth in the use of fossil fuels has grown, we have been the right country in the right place at the right time, and we have prospered on the back of that and continue to do so. We have cheap fossil fuels in abundance, and that has been very good for us, but in the last years we have seen a dramatic change in the approach of countries around the world to where they draw their energy use from. We have massive investments in renewable technology and in renewable energy, and two of the biggest countries in that field are the ones that most often get accused of not acting by the opposition: the United States of America and China. There are massive investments in renewable energy; in fact, 50 per cent of the investment in new power last year was in renewables, not in fossil fuels.

If the part of the world's activity from which we draw our economic strength—fossil fuels—is shrinking year by year, we would be mad not to try to decouple our prosperity from the old way of doing things; we would be mad not to try to move our economy from a fossil-fuels-reliant economy to a renewables-reliant economy.

I have said many times that we often think in Australia that our wealth is in the ground. There is a lot of wealth in our ground, and it will be there and we will make use of it for years to come. But when you look at our capacity to innovate, our capacity to invent, there can be no doubt that we have even more capacity in our minds. Our capacity to find new ways of doing things is second to none, and you can see that through the work of our researchers and our scientists. We are one of the leading countries in new ideas and innovation per head of population, and that is where we should be now. We have, as a nation, this capacity to invent. We have more wind, sun, waves and hot rocks than most of the world—more than virtually any other country. But there are countries that are further away from the equator than Tasmania that have more solar power than we do. Outer Mongolia, with the same population, has 20 per cent renewables; we have eight per cent. Who are we kidding if we think this nation can continue to rely on the old way of doing things when the rest of the world is moving to the new? That is why we needed to introduce—and we did introduce—a market based mechanism, a price on carbon, to drive innovation.

The member for Gippsland has referred to whether or not the community understands it. Let me put a few facts on the table. I doubt that the member for Gippsland will go back to his electorate and repeat these, but I campaigned on signing the Kyoto protocol in 2004.

Mr Chester: Did you campaign on the carbon tax?

Ms OWENS: Yes, I did. I campaigned on the Kyoto protocol in 2004. I campaigned on an emissions trading scheme in 2007, as did he.

Mr Chester: In 2008!

Ms OWENS: Well, my apologies. The member came in when that was the Liberal Party's policy. Other members of the opposition campaigned in 2007, as the opposition did, on an emissions trading scheme. Then, we had a white paper, a green paper, an exposure draft. It went through the House of Representatives. It tried to go through the Senate twice. There were two years of debate on this, during which both sides of politics agreed that an emissions trading scheme—a market based mechanism—was the way to go. And that was right up to 2009.

In 2010, on Julia Gillard's first day as the Prime Minister, she said she would introduce a price on carbon. In the week before the election, she made a statement at the press club, which was reported in all the major press as Julia's 'carbon price promise', where she said that if she was Prime Minister after the election she would take that as a mandate to put a price on carbon. Rewriting of history is great, but in that week leading up to the election, two people—

Mr Chester interjecting

Ms OWENS: The member might actually like to google 'Julia's carbon price promise' and read the entire statement, because she actually said both things in one sentence. She said 'market based mechanism', said yes to a price on carbon and said no to a tax. And that is why we have a market based mechanism, a trading scheme with a fixed price for three years—which, incidentally, was Liberal Party policy, and you did not call it a tax then. It is amazing how, when you had a policy of a fixed price, it was an emissions trading scheme, and now, remarkably, there is a different word. The misinformation—I am reluctant to use the word 'deception', because I think it is actually ignorance on the other side over there—regarding your own policy, and our policy for that matter, is quite extraordinary.

We have always been committed to a market based mechanism—certainly for as long as I have been a member of this parliament, and that was what I campaigned for in 2004—and we remain so. And so will you be. As soon as you change leader again, you will go back to your natural state, which is a market based mechanism.

Mr Chester interjecting

Ms OWENS: As soon as you change your leader again, is what I said. I was silent for you, even though I thought you were talking nonsense, and I would really appreciate the same courtesy, thank you.

Mr Chester interjecting

Ms OWENS: No wonder your electorate is a little alarmed; they have you as a member. It is not surprising. Both sides of politics believe we need to act on this. Both sides set the same target, and both sides agree to act. The difference between the two sides is that the Liberal Party's and the National Party's policy is far more expensive and will rip the money out of the pockets of taxpayers. This is an absolutely astonishing motion.

We have at the moment an opportunity in this country to grasp the future in both hands. I saw the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, interviewed recently and he was asked about peak oil and what it meant. It was clear that he did not know what it meant, but when someone explained to him that it meant that production would eventually start to fall in the world—we would find the biggest oil reserves and, over time, production would start to fall—he made this extraordinary claim that that did not matter because, as the price of oil went up, we would be prepared to go to greater lengths to obtain it. This is all true, but the amazing thing was that he was happy enough for us as a country to go through a process where the price of oil and coal goes up and up and up because they get harder to find and not to act on it.

We have an opportunity now. As a nation faced with climate change but endowed with the most extraordinary resources for renewable energy sources and a capacity to develop those renewables that is unmatched in the world, we have an obligation to grasp that future. The opposition might want to stay in the past. We heard from the previous speaker that that is exactly where he wants to stay. He thinks we can stay with fossil fuels forever. Well, we cannot, because the rest of the world is moving. It is moving now and we are well advised to go with it. That is why I support our policy and totally reject this motion. (Time expired)