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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11194

Mr RIPOLL (10:50 AM) —While this is one of the greatest debates of our time—and I do not think there is any question about that—it is has been taking place in the community for a decade. This is not new and this is not something that has just appeared and landed on their desks, as the opposition try to make out. This is something that has been with us for many years. Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson, you would be aware of that and of the debates over many years and the range of issues that have been dealt with in the community, this place and business circles. But today is the start of a critical juncture in the climate change debate. It is a critical juncture in terms of our future. We are just 40 days away from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, something that many people look at as being D-day, in a sense, when the world has to make up its mind. But for the world to make up its mind and for economies to make decisions, they need to be prepared. Today is part of that preparation, part of that work, part of making sure that what Australia does in terms of a carbon pollution reduction scheme and emissions trading schemes is in our own best interest, in the national interest, done in a way which we control and is not subject so much to the decisions of other countries.

Australia has waited a long time for action on climate change but now is the right time to act. I believe there are no more ‘good’ excuses or excuses of any type not to do so. It is our opportunity to make some decisions that will have a significant impact on our environment, on our economy, on jobs, on investment and on regulations. They can have impact in all those areas in a positive way. As the world changes, we must change. With that change, we must provide the single, most important critical element in that process, and that is certainty. It is certainty about where we are going, certainty about the rules, certainty about the business environment, certainty about the economic environment and certainty about the jobs environment. That is what we are trying to achieve with this bill. There is no question that we must act. We must act now because the cost of inaction, as we have heard, is far, far greater than the cost of any action that we will take.

I want to talk firstly about how industry will be impacted. The South-East Queensland region, my home state and the area in which I live, is a good example of the compounding effects of drought and a booming population. This region has the prospect of continuing irregular rainfalls due to current variability in the climate and, of course, long-term climate change. Not only does this area experience drought and extremes of drought; it is also experiencing floods and extremes of floods. This area has a vibrant regional economy, which is driving an annual population increase of around 50,000 to 60,000 people. This is producing increasing demands on resources—water, energy and all the other things that come with population growth. The drought has exposed the vulnerability of the region’s water supplies, which were previously thought to be secure, to support long-term growth. With current water use being less than 75 per cent of the available yield assessed from historical records, there are significant problems in this region. If we do not take some form of action on these problems, they will become problems for our farmers and agriculture in the region. We need to take action. A substantial proportion of the Queensland agricultural industry is at risk from rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Agricultural commodities are valued at more than $8 billion in Queensland alone. If we do not something about climate change and the extreme weather events, it will mean the loss of thousands of jobs and Australian exports.

Climate change is not just about what will happen in the future; it is about what is already happening today. In fact, Queensland is likely to experience some of the most intense effects of climate change, such as tropical cyclones. We have heard of and seen the sorts of property damage that these events cause, whether it is out in the bush in remote rural areas or on the Queensland coastline. Wherever such events might occur, the impact is undeniable. The effects are there for everyone to see. They are more extreme than they have ever been. New maximum and new low temperatures are being recorded. We are experiencing more extreme droughts, more severe droughts, more extreme floods and more irregular floods—there are more extremes at all ends. Such extremes have never been recorded before—certainly not in the time that substantial populations have been on this planet and records have been kept.

What are we to do about all of this? Do we sit by and watch it happen around us? Do we just accept for a fact that this is climate change? There is no question about climate change itself. In my contribution, I do not want to deal with the evidence of climate change because I think it is irrefutable. There is so much evidence out there that there is no point in me, in the short period of time that I have to speak on this legislation, to go into such facts and information. Instead, I put the case forward that, if we do not act, we will put ourselves at the mercy of the environment. We need to fight and do everything we can to make sure that our economy and our population can minimise the impacts of climate that we are going to face.

There are a number of people who do not believe in what is taking place. They are often referred to as sceptics. I will put them in a slightly different category from others. They are the people who are always shopping around. They are always desperately searching for any reason or any little bit of information to delay a decision on climate change. Unfortunately, in these debates, you will always find something. There is always a little bit of information that, taken on its own or in isolation, can prove anything you want it to prove. They are the people who talk about shadecloth in outer space or a shadecloth over the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately, there are those who will continually look for any piece of evidence to back up their argument, like the great sceptics throughout history, in the face of overwhelming evidence, logic, common sense—the large bulk of evidence that exists all around us.

I feel sorry for those people but, in a way, I understand them. The great sceptics have always existed because they have their own barrows to push. They have their own reasons. You will never convince them. No number of fact sheets, no amount of debate or placing things right in front of them will convince them otherwise. We heard the member for Moreton talking about Galileo and the sceptics of that day who believed that the earth stood still and everything else revolved around it. No amount of reasoning or logic would ever convince them. It is only through the passage of time that we really look back and understand the folly of our ways. In a way, this debate has much of the same elements to it. Future generations—and I think generations that are not too far away; in fact, the next generation—will look back at the folly of the governments and nations of today for not acting sooner. They will say, ‘But in the face of all the evidence that was right there in front of you, that you knew was there because of everything that was happening around you, why did you not act? Why didn’t you just do something?’

We are doing something, and that is why we are debating this legislation today. It is why I want this parliament to pass the bills that are before it. I do believe that will be difficult but I remain hopeful, of course. However, there are some people in this place who will never support anything. Some will never support the legislation because it is just not enough. I tend to think of the Greens in that light. Our policy will never be green enough. No matter how good it is or how far it goes, it will never be green enough for the Greens. And there are others who just think that anything we do is too much. We will never convince those people. If the parliament and if the opposition—if the collective minds of those who have the power in their hands to make a difference—look at the collective good, the national interest, I think we can get through this.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme we are putting forward will ensure a number of things. It will ensure that Australia invests in industries of the future—like renewable energy, solar energy and wind farms—and jobs that use new technologies like clean coal and geothermal energy. It will actually create thousands of new, innovative and low-pollution jobs. We are not alone in this. Australia in fact is part of a large group of countries that are implementing or considering emissions trading schemes. There are 27 European Union countries that already have emissions trading schemes and other countries and regions are also developing or considering schemes. These include the United States—and they might have been slow coming to this debate but they are certainly catching up with us and the rest of the world—Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. The fact is that in the next few very short years we will see massive change around the world in these new terms. In fact at the G8 meeting this year in Italy global leaders confirmed emissions trading as the most effective way to reduce emissions. Why did they do that? Why did they confirm that? They did that because they understood that they must take some action.

I can understand. I accept the fact that this is difficult; change always is. This is globally monumental change. But that does not mean we should not do it. That does not mean we should not make the hard decisions. Australia ought to be a leader in this area. We have great opportunity to do that. It is not surprising that the G8, that 27 EU economies and that other countries in the world are very rapidly moving to this position. That is because it makes sense on just two simple fronts: one, the environmental front; and, two, the economic front. Climate change, like the global financial crisis, is all about change. It is about change in the way we think, it is about change in the way we act and it is about change in the way we deal with jobs and the economy. The Rudd Labor government is conscious of both of those. This is exemplified in the transition and growing acceptance that green jobs are now an emerging industry in their own right. The CPRS gives us a tremendous opportunity to secure support and grow the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow. There will be substantial assistance throughout the implementation and transition to a new carbon economy. The Rudd government has structured a plan to deal with these issues. You hear the other side talk about jobs and agriculture. Yes, there will be an impact across everything. That is why the government has put in train a number of measures to deal with that.

I want to also note that NAB modelling indicated that the CPRS has the potential to stimulate as much as $6 billion in annual investment in Australia over the next 40 years. The very same modelling also showed that the average year-on-year investment created by the CPRS could be as much as 60 per cent greater than that committed for infrastructure in this year’s budget of $20 billion over six years. There is urgency, though. There is a great urgency, and that is to do with certainty, with Copenhagen and with our national interest. As I mentioned earlier, Australia has an opportunity to act in its own national interest as well as its and the world’s best interests. I want to quickly put on the record comments by a few notable Australians. Russell Caplan, Chairman of Shell Companies in Australia, said:

… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue.

Heather Ridout, from the Australian Industry Group, said:

Business also needs to be making very big decisions if we are going to be able to make the transition and to do that they need certainty. Uncertainty is death for business.

We want to provide that certainty. Katie Lahey, the Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, said:

To drag on the debate whilst we have got this global financial crisis is just one more complexity that business has got to factor into its planning cycle, and for some businesses it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

And there is a list of other people who say why this is so urgent. I want to make note of another important person in this debate—that is, the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull. He used to believe in a domestic emissions trading scheme and the CPRS, but he has been captured—or you could say geosequestered—by the National Party and by the sceptics in his own party. He is more interested in certainty within his own party than he is in the certainty that this scheme could bring to Australia. Australia has set some very strong and in fact ambitious targets, and we are committed and determined to meet them. The CPRS will have an impact on households. In fact, it is expected to cause household prices to rise by 0.4 per cent in 2011-12 and 0.8 per cent in 2012-13. Hence the government has put forward a household assistance scheme of up to 120 per cent of costs to ensure that people can afford any changes that come. Will it create jobs? Of course it will. Will it have an impact on jobs? Of course it will. But it can have a positive impact. It can be good for the economy and it will be good for the economy. That is why we have a number of assistance measures in place.

We have factored agriculture into the scheme, and that is why agriculture is not included in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. It is not in the bill before this parliament. That is something that those in the National Party and others speaking on this issue keep omitting. We have looked at the potential impact on small business and have made sure that there are assistance programs to the tune of $2.75 billion for them as well. Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to thank you and the House for the opportunity to speak on this very significant and important bill. I commend the bill to the House.