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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11179

Mr PERRETT (9:47 AM) —I would like to quote the member for Wentworth back to him. He said, ‘I accept the call to action,’ but he is going to do so by not acting. Never have I seen such a gap between words and actions. He needs to understand that if you care about something you need to do something—caring is doing. Caring without action is the same as indifference. You may as well be the member for O’Connor when it comes to climate change if you are not going to actually do anything.

On this side of the House I am proud to voice my strong support for theCarbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and the related bills before the House. I wish to address my comments not only to those opposite but to their great-grandchildren and to their great-grandchildren’s children. I wish to speak to the descendants of the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, the descendants of the Leader of the Nationals, the member for Wide Bay, Warren Truss, and the descendants of all of those opposite. When we face an issue as significant as the changing climate of our planet we cannot judge the actions of this parliament by tomorrow’s headlines or even by the decisions of voters at the ballot box in the years ahead.

One hundred years from now we will be long gone but our descendants and those who follow us will face the consequences of our actions—or, more importantly, when you look at those opposite, their inaction. As those descendants read this speech in 2109, I hope they can be proud of the vision and the courage shown by this parliament. I hope they can be proud that as a parliament we put egos and political divisions, expediency and ambitions aside to come together as one on this issue of climate change. I hope they can be proud that we moved to put in place a mechanism to lower our carbon emissions and to help save the planet. This parliament has a responsibility to our children and to our environment to do something about climate change.

Mr Laming —It’s not a religion; it’s a policy challenge.

Mr PERRETT —I am ignoring those greenhouse emissions coming from the opposition. I am told that every greenhouse gas molecule we pump into our atmosphere today will take 100 to 200 years to dissipate. The lights we are burning now are producing greenhouse gases that will still be in the atmosphere in 100 to 200 years time. So as the descendants of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop, read this next century they will be dealing with carbon emissions pumped into the air by her Comcar today. So while this bill will put in place a scheme to reduce our carbon emissions, we have to understand that this ship, HMAS Earth, will take a very long time to change direction. Even if we get all hands on deck today and spin the wheel fully it will take at least a century or so for the effects to be felt on all the decks down to the waterline and below.

Once again I urge those who lead the opposition, not just the rabble on the back benches, to consider the significance of the bills on the table today. To be honest, I will not waste my breath talking to the climate change sceptics on that side of the House. My plea is to the intelligent people, those who understand the science—like Dr Mal Washer—and who genuinely want to do something meaningful to address climate change. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

The time has come for the opposition to put aside their childish ways and to man up—I am not sure if I can say that, Minister for the Status of Women—and work together to tackle climate change because it is not five minutes to midnight on the climate change clock; it is one minute to midnight. The clock is ticking and the time to act is right now.

Media outlets this week revealed a British report that suggested it may already be too late for Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. As coral bleaching rips through the World Heritage reef, some scientists are coming to terms with the fact that the damage may already be beyond repair. Joe Kelly reported in the Australian on Monday that the Zoological Society of London is planning the world’s first coral cryobank. Samples of each species will be preserved in liquid nitrogen to enable them to be used in the future. Has it come to this? The greatest living organism in the world is going the same way as Walt Disney’s head.

Once the reef is gone, I imagine it will be of little comfort to know that the genetic information of corals is retained in a freezer somewhere in London. This natural wonder is the source of some $5 billion in tourist revenue, especially in Queensland, and fishing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that an increase in sea surface temperature between one and three degrees will completely wipe out our coral reefs. Rising acidity levels will turn our tropical paradise into a Petri dish.

I wish to tell you a tale of two little boys—two men, actually—who are both connected with the town of St George in south-west Queensland. The first boy from St George was an accountant and a rural banker and is now a National Party senator. The other boy became a teacher and a lawyer and is now a Labor backbencher on Brisbane’s south side—that is me, obviously. The first boy is an unbeliever and has been beating the drum in the bush, saying climate change is a fantasy. The other is a believer and is passionate about delivering real and workable solutions to climate change. The first boy, the accountant, talks about fear and taxes, while the second, here today, talks about hope and opportunity. It is amazing how this one small country town, which will no doubt suffer the effects of climate change, could produce two such disparate responses to climate change. I find it even more amazing that the National Party has not taken a lead role in the fight against climate change.

The National Party masquerades as a party of the bush, representing mostly rural farming communities, yet they are completely at odds with Australia’s farming community on climate change. They have even attacked the National Farmers Federation—one of the bush’s best spokespeople. Australian farmers well understand the consequences of climate change, better than almost anyone else on the coastline. They have worked the land for years, they have looked after it and they have witnessed climate change right before their eyes, in places like the Mallee and Western Queensland. They have seen drought slowly and heart-wrenchingly grind their livelihood to dust; they have seen storms and cyclones and even fire destroy their crops in a heartbeat; they have seen flood up in the Gulf area. Yet still, sadly, too many people in the National Party refuse to acknowledge that climate change even exists. National Party senators like Ron Boswell, who sits in his inner-city high-rise office in Brisbane—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—This had better be a point of order and not a point of debate.

Mr Forrest —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order—standing order 92, which goes to your responsibility to prevent quarrelling amongst—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order. You will resume your seat.

Mr Forrest —I am asking you to enforce standing order 92—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I have just said there is no point of order and you will resume your seat. You will not try to intervene in the debate by taking frivolous points of order.

Mr Forrest —I am asking the member to be relevant to the bills before us and get on—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The debate is clearly relevant to the bill, and you are now testing the patience of the chair.

Mr PERRETT —National Party senators, like Ron Boswell, who sits in his inner-city high-rise office in Brisbane, the ultimate Queen Street farmer, needs to get out of his deep leather chair and talk to the real farmers. Imagine the legacy of the National Party 100 years from now as the party from the bush that sells out the bush on climate change, if that is their legacy. We cannot continue to ignore the science that excess carbon pollution is causing the climate to change in dramatic and previously unseen ways. Extreme weather events, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels are happening. In Australia, our environment and climate are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Apart from Antarctica, we are the driest continent.

This bill will help drive down emissions by introducing a cost on carbon pollution. The bill establishes the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority will issue a limited number of emission units which will be available for purchase. Companies will compete to purchase these units at auction or in a secondary market. The price will be fixed at $10 per tonne before full market trading gets underway from 1 July 2012. The scheme applies to all greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol, including CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons and others. It includes energy, transport, industrial processes, waste, fugitive emissions from oil and gas production and forestry. For some entities it will be cheaper for them to reduce emissions than buy units, which is an aspect of the scheme that those opposite seem to ignore. Of course, this is the whole idea of the CPRS. It will provide the motivation that industry needs to invest in renewable energies, like solar and wind, and build the momentum needed to get new technologies like clean coal and geothermal out of the science laboratory and into the practical solutions to climate change. As well as creating alternative energy sources, these emerging industries will also be a source of thousands of new low-carbon green jobs.

This bill introduces a massive shift in the Australian economy, but it also includes appropriate measures to protect Australian jobs and shield our trade-exposed industries. The last thing we want to see is vital Australian industries shipped overseas to high-polluting countries. We achieve nothing by simply shipping the emissions overseas. We fully understand this. That is why the scheme will allocate some free permits to firms in emissions-intensive, trade-exposed activities. Permits will initially be provided at a 90 per cent rate for the most emissions-intensive activities and at a 60 per cent rate for activities that are moderately emissions intensive. The rates of assistance per unit of production will be reduced by 1.3 per cent per year to ensure that emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries still share in the national reduction of carbon pollution over time.

An additional global recession buffer for trade-exposed industries will also apply for at least five years at a rate of five per cent for activities receiving assistance at the 90 per cent rate and 10 per cent for activities receiving assistance at the 60 per cent rate. All industries will face new costs for carbon, but those impacted the most will receive the most assistance. This bill establishes a $2.75 billion Climate Change Action Fund to provide targeted assistance to business and community organisations. This bill sets Australia on a course to a low-pollution future.

I know there are some people still coming to terms with whether or not climate change exists who want us to wait or do nothing, and there is this strange conundrum of ‘I accept the call to action by not acting,’ which seems to be the Leader of the Opposition’s policy. However, inaction is inflationary. To do nothing will cost more later. There are others who think that our targets do not go far enough. I understand their concerns. However, the bill before the House delivers a reasonable and responsible approach. The Rudd government is committed to reducing carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020. We also know that we can achieve 15 per cent if other major economies come on board. We hold out hope for the talks in Copenhagen.

One of the modern world’s greatest scientists, Stephen Hawking, said of Galileo Galilei that perhaps more than any other person Galileo was responsible for the birth of modern science. We have all heard of Stephen Hawking and how important his praise is and obviously at school we would have studied Galileo Galilei. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church had some problems with this great Italian renaissance scientist. Galileo was first tried by the Inquisition in 1615. He had to renounce his heretical theory that the earth revolved around the sun, and yet it moves still.

Sadly, Galileo Galilei ended up spending the end years of his life under house arrest. One month after I made my first speech in parliament, last year in 2008, the Catholic Church proposed to complete a rehabilitation of Galileo by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls. Also, in December of last year, during events to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s earliest telescopic observations, Pope Benedict XVI praised his contributions to astronomy. So it only took one of society’s oldest institutions—the Catholic Church—nigh on 400 years to admit that it might have got things completely wrong about Galileo’s theory about the earth revolving around the sun. Not that the Vatican’s timing really mattered, with all due respect to Papal infallibility—the earth kept on revolving around the happy old sun, irrespective of any Papal bull from Rome.

Sometimes it takes time to turn the big ships around. But we do not have 400 years to get it right. We do not even have 40 years. We need to listen to logic. We need to listen to the scientists. We need to listen to the voices of our unborn great-grandchildren. For heaven’s sake, please listen. For the earth’s sake, please listen. The time for those opposite to talk to their friends and colleagues who inhabit that other place over there is right now. I commend the bill to the House.