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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4546

Senator WORTLEY (9:08 PM) —The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and associated bills house the detailed provisions on the emissions trading scheme. The CPRS Bill is the main bill in the CPRS package. The CPRS will make sure our nation invests in the industries of the future: renewable energies, including solar and wind power, and in employment utilising new technologies such as clean coal and geothermal energy. Such investments will create thousands of new, low-pollution-industry jobs. The CPRS will enable Australia to stand up and be counted in the fight against climate change. It will allow businesses and households to do their bit as well. The $75.8 billion Australian Carbon Trust to be established by the government is aimed at helping all Australians to make a contribution towards reducing our nation’s emissions. Its structures also will help to improve energy efficiency in businesses and commercial buildings. The government will take into consideration the effort made by householders who buy accredited green power when setting CPRS caps.

The scheme has been designed to give significant backing to jobs. Among measures to this end is the $2.75 billion Climate Change Action Fund, which will offer targeted assistance to businesses, community groups, workers, regions and communities. The government also has delayed the start of the scheme by one year to help Australian firms cope with the fallout of a global recession. There will be a fixed carbon price for one year of $10 per tonne, giving business certainty as the nation moves towards full market trading from 1 July 2012.

Votes for these bills are votes for Australia’s future—votes for our environment, for our economy, for our jobs, for our industries. They are votes for our children’s future prosperity and wellbeing. They are votes for our planet, our world, our humanity. Sure, we could sit on our hands and do nothing, just as those opposite did for almost 12 years while in government. Sure, we could also wait for the rest of the world to step out first before deciding whether to follow the lead of other nations. The opposition wants us to wait for Copenhagen and beyond. But we need to play a leading role in forging an international agreement and to arrive at the negotiating table with targets and a plan to get there in the form of a CPRS. Dangerous climate change will not wait. We cannot simply press the pause button on its progress, on extreme weather events, on the droughts and floods it fosters. It is currently, and will continue, placing our globe in peril.

Experts tell us that carbon pollution is causing the world’s climate to shift dangerously, resulting in extreme weather events, longer and more severe droughts, higher temperatures and rising sea levels. As one of the hottest, thirstiest continents on earth—led, I am sorry to say, by my home state of South Australia—Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change. Had the former coalition government acted on climate change the transition to a low-pollution economy in the coming years would have been made much easier.

Of course, many opposite do not even accept the clear scientific evidence which mounts up day by day. Those among their number who do believe seem too timid and too weak to speak—to stare down the sceptics in their party room. The Rudd Labor government will not be scared off or intimidated by those who would rather wait and see what happens. We will act with the courage of our convictions, being emboldened by the knowledge that the right thing to do is to show the world leadership, which is crucial in the face of a heightening crisis. This government will not be responsible for the perpetuation of the philosophy that would let climate change rip unfettered. Does this ideology sound familiar: ‘Let the economy rip; let the environment rip’? This is far too serious an issue. It is far too urgent an issue.

Just as the global economic crisis has necessitated the strong leadership and the decisive action embodied in our jobs and nation-building economic stimulus packages, Australia needs to be proactive, even aggressive, on the issue of climate change. It never ceases to amaze that those opposite fail to learn from the ghosts of elections past. The Australian people were clear in their verdict in November 2007. Along with other things, such as workplace relations, they wanted the government to act, to show leadership, on climate change. They were fed up with deniers who would not even ratify the Kyoto protocol let alone take further concrete steps to address this blight. Still these deniers call the shots—incredible, in view of the fact that their leader is not among them. Mr Turnbull is unable or unwilling to unite the party room over this. However, by his own admission, he not only believes in climate change he also says an emissions trading scheme is inevitable for Australia. In the Hansard of 26 May 2008, we read Mr Turnbull saying:

The biggest element in the fight against climate change has to be the emissions-trading scheme …

And yet he would delay and defer, rout and refer, rather than bite the bullet on this crisis.

Of course, we know that climate change is not the only issue on which Liberal-National Party members are poster boys and girls for the ‘Do nothing’ campaign. Mr Turnbull and his colleagues would rather we did not invest in our nation’s infrastructure—our roads, our schools, broadband and industry. They do not want us to build the structures which will enhance the quality of our children’s education, our health care, our communications, our transport and the like, supporting and creating jobs at the same time. Yet they are happy to claim credit for such investment in their community newsletters and to attend openings of the very projects they voted against in this and the other place. They do not want us to invest in jobs—either those which exist today or future employment, including jobs in green industries. They have voted against a stronger future built on decisive action now. Their reason? It would be bad for our children.

Not only does that not make sense when it comes to nation building and jobs investment but it smacks of hypocrisy. How worried were the coalition for our children and for future generations when they, when in government, refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol or act on dangerous climate change? How concerned were they for future generations when they refused to say sorry to the stolen generations or to address Indigenous disadvantage? How bothered were they about the employment opportunities of future workers and their families when they disinvested in TAFE, turning tens of thousands of Australian students away from underfunded TAFE colleges, when they oversaw a ballooning skills shortfall or when they slammed through the draconian regime that was Work Choices? That legislation negatively impacted on thousands of Australian workers and their families. It is certainly difficult to take them seriously when they feign concern now.

We know that the opposition are horribly divided over climate change and are still debating whether it even exists. They will do everything they can to delay the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme’s introduction. What a disappointment. Australia should be part of the climate change solution, not just part of the problem as the sixth largest polluter in the world on a per capita basis. Passing these bills now will give business certainty into future years. Passing them now will be a crucial step towards the development of an international pact on tackling climate change at Copenhagen later this year.

Facing the ill winds of the global recession, our scheme will couch pollution reduction targets which are both responsible and appropriate given the need to shelter our economy and the jobs it sustains. For the first time, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will put a price on carbon pollution, therefore giving strong incentive to major polluters to cut their emissions. Taking such action on climate change will foster the growth of the renewable energy sector to 30 times its current size by 2050, according to Treasury modelling released in October 2008. The CPRS will, from its introduction in 2011, use the funds it raises to help households adjust to the scheme. This will ensure Australian families do not bear the burden of climate change. In addition, the government is working to encourage carbon pollution cuts before the scheme gets underway. Permits for carbon stored will be able to be generated by eligible reforestation projects from 1 July 2010. This will create economic opportunities in regional Australia.

The alternative to taking decisive action on climate change is unthinkable. If we do nothing, our economy will be left behind as we fail to take our place at a table full of low-pollution jobs. If we do nothing, future generations will be left to clean up a mess too awful to consider: global devastation on an unprecedented scale. As the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong, said on 3 August:

We have long known that climate change threatens Australia’s economy, environment and way of life. We have long known that real action on climate change demands deep and fundamental economic reform. We have long known that central to this action is placing a limit and price on our carbon emissions.

In a country of over 21 million people, with 150 elected members of the House of Representatives and 76 senators, it is now up to one politician to determine whether Australia’s carbon emissions will continue to rise or whether we will start to reduce emissions for the first time ever.

That politician is, of course, Malcolm Turnbull.

                         …                   …                   …

… he must decide whether he wants to finish what he claims to have started—what he knows is right—and pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

For too long those opposite have turned their backs on action to address climate change. For too long they have argued amongst themselves about the existence and cause of climate change. For too long they have failed to confront the issue. The business community, environment groups and the Australian people expect the parliament to do the right thing and pass the CPRS this year. The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, Shell Australia and a range of other businesses are calling for certainty on the CPRS so they can plan investments. Delaying passage of the legislation will directly undermine investment certainty at a time when business certainty is critical. It is time to act. I commend the bills before us to the Senate.