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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 4950


Senator LUDLAM (Western AustraliaCo-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (15:30): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to emissions reduction targets.

The first thing that ran through my mind was that this is what denial looks like, by people who are not honest enough to actually front up and tell us that this is what is going on. The greenhouse gas emissions targets announced by the Abbott government this morning—fronted by the Prime Minister; the foreign minister, Ms Bishop; and Mr Hunt—have been described variously as 'pathetically inadequate', 'defeatist' and 'a failure'. What we see here are weak and dangerous targets brought into the public debate by a weak and dangerous Prime Minister. The targets announced by the Prime Minister this morning are less than the bare-minimum bottom of the range proposed by the Climate Change Authority, an authority set up by people who actually know what they are talking about—unlike any of the three frontbenchers who put their views to the press gallery this morning.

You would have to ask yourself: is this government up to it? It does get complex when you are talking about different baseline years, different strategies, different targets and different years for those targets to take effect. I guess I do not blame people for just finding the whole thing a bit difficult. But here is the main question to put to the government on what they have thrown at us this morning: is this government actually proposing to transform the Australian economy to decarbonise it, to maintain people's quality of life and to protect the economy and in fact make it more resilient while decarbonising it? Or is this in fact a proposal to keep us stuck exactly where we are: a dead-end, rust belt economy looking down the barrel as coal and gas go down the plughole in the twilight of the fossil age?

The fact is that we know which of those things is going on here—whether this is transformative policy being announced by a government that actually has a plan or whether this is basically a dead end. And Mr Abbott, fortunately, made it easier for us, because he said:

In fact, the only way to protect the coal industry is to go with the sorts of policies that we have.

This morning the Prime Minister, under a cover of pretending to make an announcement about greenhouse gas emission targets, in fact announced that the protection of the coal industry, and by extension the gas industry, would continue. Does this government have a plan for decarbonising the energy sector? No, it does not. Actually, it has moved in precisely the opposite direction and has done everything it could to sabotage the emergence of the clean energy sector—wind energy plants, solar energy, innovative forms of clean energy, like wave energy plants or biomass—by attacking the renewable energy target with the support, for some reason or another, of the Labor Party. They tried to demolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation on more than one occasion. They have ripped funding out of ARENA, which provides the R&D and the start-up funding for innovative projects. They removed the carbon price so that the coal and gas industry can now dump this stuff into the air again for free. And there has been this ridiculous, almost comical sabotage of the wind energy industry at the behest of crossbenchers, reacting to some agenda that is basically impossible to figure out, as well as cutting all the public transport funding. Keep in mind that this is not just about the energy sector; it is about every quarter of the economy that generates greenhouse gas emissions. And Australia has the most energy-intensive economy in the world. There are solutions out there. They are everywhere, whether in clean energy, like concentrated solar thermal plants or the industrial wind industry, or at the more innovative end—the building sector, the construction sector, public transport. There are plenty of solutions out there, and this government has its back turned to all of them.

Do not insult our intelligence and tell us that these are credible greenhouse gas emission targets. This was an announcement designed to keep Australia exactly where it is: looking down the barrel of the twilight of the fossil age as the customers who we figured would just keep buying more and more of our coal are basically turning their backs. Not only are they choking to death on the localised atmospheric pollution from the stuff but they have seen the writing on the wall and have realised that if you can run your energy sector without fuel on the power provided for free, effectively, by the infinite flows of sun, wind, wave and geothermal energy—if we are clever enough to get it out of the ground—then that is the future. These countries have figured out that that is what the 21st century is going to be about.

But, instead, the Prime Minister had the gall to stand in front of us this morning and say, with a straight face, that these targets represent us pulling our weight, or punching above our weight—whatever metaphor it was that he chose to use. Do not insult our intelligence. It is nothing of the sort. It is a plan to keep us precisely where we are at the moment, and that is a disaster. This was the last chance for this government to show it actually gives a damn about the kind of future our kids and grandkids are going to be staring down as a result of decisions made today, and it failed that test. Time is up.

Question agreed to.

Senator Lambie: Mr President—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, if your intention was to speak on taking note of answers—

Senator Lambie: It was.

The PRESIDENT: the time for the debate is only 30 minutes, and that enables six speakers at five minutes each, and usually there is one crossbench speaker in that allocation. Sorry; I cannot assist you any further.