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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5470

Senator ABETZ (6:32 PM) —Just briefly on behalf of the coalition, we oppose the amendment. As I indicated during my second reading contribution, the coalition has a proud record of having introduced the renewable energy electricity legislation into this country. We believe that renewable energy targets need to be set in a staged, safe and sustainable manner. We are now debating moving the renewable energy target to 20 per cent. We support that. The Greens are saying, ‘Let’s just increase it to 30 per cent.’ That would be a 50 per cent increase above and beyond that which would be proposed.

The reason that we say that we need to move on these things on a safe, steady and sustainable basis is that we do know that the cost of renewable energy is more expensive than that obtained from coal and other sources. Those other sources, unfortunately, do have more of an environmental impact. That is why we see the benefit in moving to renewable energy. But, in doing so, we have to make sure that our industries such as aluminium, cement, pulp and paper and food manufacturing do not move offshore because their capacity to compete is so dented by the cost of energy that they cannot compete anymore. So, whilst the Greens like to use the mantra that we support the big polluters, the Greens do have to wake up and realise that, if the price of power increases by dint of increasing the renewable energy targets to such an extent that industries can no longer compete on a global scale, they will remove themselves from Australia. They will then be in China, Brazil, Russia, India and all the other countries that do not have the environmental standards that we do.

There is the zinc industry, for example, in my home state of Tasmania. If my figures are correct, Nyrstar produces a tonne of zinc for about two tonnes of CO2 equivalent. In China, that same tonne of zinc is produced courtesy of six tonnes or three times as much CO2 equivalent pollution being produced. So, when the Greens say that we support the heavy polluters, what they are in fact saying is that they would not mind seeing the closure of these manufacturing plants in Australia and the pollution being put offshore into facilities that would pollute even more than they do in Australia. In those circumstances, the world environment would be worse off and our economy would be mud. That is why we have always said that these renewable energy targets need to be done on a staged basis. The Howard government has a proud record of having introduced the renewable energy target. We see that it is now time to move on to increase it on the basis of a staged evolution that is economically sustainable and, of course, will ensure that the world environment is not adversely damaged.