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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6182


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (11:43): I rise today to oppose the proposed plebiscite, although, Mr Deputy President, you would be hard pressed to know from the last contribution that we are actually debating a bill to impose a plebiscite. The interesting thing is that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, destroyed any credibility the plebiscite might have had within minutes of announcing it by saying that he would impose the cost of a plebiscite on the Australian people, ask them the question and then, if their reply was not what he wanted—that is, opposition to imposing a carbon price regime in Australia—he would take no notice of it. So we are debating here a proposal to use taxpayers' money to go out and force the community to take a vote and then say, 'If it doesn't suit me because I do not like the answer, well, in that case I'm not going to take any notice of it.' So this plebiscite was dead in the water within minutes and if I were the coalition I would never have brought this bill on for debate because it is terribly embarrassing. It just highlights again how, unless he actually writes it all down, things come out of the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, that you simply cannot believe and how, within hours of him saying something, it gets completely discredited. This is yet another opportunity for Australians to see what a load of nonsense is going on here: a debate for a plebiscite where there is no undertaking to take any notice at all of the result.

But, having said that, I look forward to the sitting in August next year when we come back after the winter session and power bills have not gone up by $498, as Senator Cash has just outlined—I look forward to the apology that she will be called on to make to the Senate for spreading such a ridiculous claim and for failing to note that electricity prices have gone up, as they have right now, because the level of uncertainty is such that nobody is investing in electricity. That is leading to the mess that we have in the national electricity system across the country. There has, over a long period of time, been a failure to invest in upgrading infrastructure as required, because people do not know the direction the country is going to take in terms of electricity generation.

I also note that if I were the coalition I would be really embarrassed about getting this on today because of the statement by the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network. Let me read out who they are: the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Coal Association, BlueScope Steel, Woodside, Rio Tinto, Exxon Mobil and BP Australia. As I expected would occur, they have all come out today saying that Mr Abbott's plan of achieving a five per cent emission reduction domestically would at least double the cost, whether done through his carbon price or through his proposed direct action. So now you have, as I also expected would happen, this situation. When the climate legislation passes this parliament, business will understand the inevitability that this is going to happen. They know that this will not be repealed. As I said in the Senate yesterday, the great big new lie out there—and the coalition is digging a bigger and bigger hole for itself on this—is that the coalition, if it wins government under Mr Abbott, will repeal the bills. Of course they will not. That is the great big new lie. There is no way that an Abbott government would repeal all of the climate bills. The rot has already set in—we heard Mr Hunt say, in the lower house, that the coalition would not repeal the Carbon Farming Initiative. Having opposed it for hours and hours, saying that it was the worst possible thing and that it was going to destroy rural and regional Australia, they then said, on the third reading, 'We're not going to repeal it'. They are not going to repeal these bills and business is rapidly coming online and on-stream in relation to this.

Let me go to the question of these claims today about overseas permits and pricing. One of the reasons the Greens opposed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was that it allowed for 100 per cent buying of permits overseas. At that time the coalition had no problem with that and they were going to vote for it. The coalition were going to support the CPRS, which was about 100 per cent purchase of permits overseas. Then the leadership changed and they abandoned that position. What we have in this scheme is a 50 per cent rule, so 50 per cent of the abatement has to be purchased in Australia and the other 50 per cent can be purchased on the international carbon market providing it meets certain standards, and they are the highest possible standards.

Through that initiative we are now seeing that we are making sure we are integrated with the international carbon market. As I indicated, California goes to emissions trading on 1 January next year, and you can take China, the eighth largest economy in the world. You have the European Union, you have New Zealand, you have Australia and you have four provinces in China moving towards it. We are starting to build a global carbon market and that will allow an integration of that market.

We heard Senator Boswell talking yesterday about people in poverty. The people who will benefit from an international trade in permits are the people in developing countries which can develop offsets that meet international standards—and that is going to be a big problem because they have got to reach a level of integrity and rigour that would allow Australia to even consider it and that is clearly in the conditions as they pertain to this. So if you are serious about addressing global emissions, you would get on board with a market mechanism which can be increased over time and which leads to business opportunities and interaction with a number of countries around the world.

I want to put on the record, in the last 40 seconds that I have for this contribution, that, firstly, Mr Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, says he will take no notice of a plebiscite. It had no merit from the day that it was announced, the day that it was blown up by their own side—so a big shot in the foot on that one. Secondly, what we are hearing from the coalition is the big new lie that they will repeal all of the bills. That will not happen and it is time that Mr Abbott went and told the people who came here in the convoy, Alan Jones and everybody else, that he has no intention of repealing all of those bills. Otherwise he is in the category of using the great big new lie. Thirdly, Senator Cash, I just want to tell you that come August next year I will be calling for an apology from you as $498 will not occur.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for the debate has expired.