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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11298

Mr HAYES (6:16 PM) —I congratulate the member for Paterson on his contribution! Once again he has gone on to demonstrate how out of touch he is in his electorate. No wonder his margin took such a slashing at the last election. After 20 minutes he could not actually tell us whether he supported an emissions trading system or not. Sure, he alluded to the amendments, but he still has not gone on to say whether he supports it. He may be one of those—which is the majority, as I understand it; the climate change sceptics on that side of the parliament—hoping like hell that the member for Groom’s negotiations with Senator Penny Wong break down. That would allow them at least an escape route.

Acting on climate change frankly is in the national interest, despite what is being said consistently now on the other side of the House. The government is committed to taking action on climate change and is committed to ensuring the future sustainability of our industries and our people. Furthermore, there is a commitment to act on and respond in terms of our economic planning. We understand the needs of our communities and we certainly understand the needs of business. Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas, you would know the views of the Business Council of Australia et cetera. These organisations are coming out now saying they want some definition as to what is occurring. They want some certainty.

Bear in mind that this country is one of the hottest and driest continents in the world. Its economy is one that will be the first and hardest hit in terms of the devastating effect of climate change should we fail to act. We must ensure the health of our growing population—and bear in mind this week we have heard a lot of discussion in this place about our population being likely to exceed 30 million over the next 50 years. We need to ensure that our waterways, our energy supplies, our coastal communities and our infrastructure are all able to face the tests as required as we take this argument forward. We need to ensure, in other words, their sustainability.

In the face of the current economic crisis, a clear direction in terms of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme I believe is absolutely essential. It provides business with certainty about the government’s plan to tackle this issue of global warming. Australia is faring reasonably well in comparison with our global neighbours. We are still mindful of the fact of the potential impact on jobs. Therefore, various aspects have been dealt with within this legislation. That is not an issue that is being raised directly in the member for Paterson’s electorate, particularly if you look at those areas involved in coalmining, which are very proactive in looking at a sensible, sound and sustainable solution to protecting those jobs. I will come briefly to the issue of coalmining a little later on.

This government has put forward an economically prudent proposal to support the jobs of today while simultaneously putting in place a scheme that will value the low-pollution-generating jobs into the future. Modelling by the Australian Treasury has found that 1.7 million jobs can be created over the period to 2020 while still tackling this very important issue. Maybe unlike other members of this House, I have had a period of time before coming here where I was involved in the renewable and sustainable energy industries. I happen to know a bit about how hard it is going out there and raising funds on the stock market to develop and commercialise technologies. I understand that. That is why companies that are developing these technologies absolutely do need the leadership, do need to see the system, so they can actually go to the markets and raise capital to develop these technologies. That is occurring. What we want to do is accelerate it. Environmental protection is often thought to come at the cost of economic growth. However, I do not think there is anyone in this place who genuinely believes that the cost of taking the steps under the CPRS far outweighs not taking any action.

Going back before the last election our attention was drawn to these matters. We saw the Stern report out of Britain and more recently in Australia the Garnaut report, with current emission trends and their respective costs on various areas of our community. I will not walk away from the fact that agriculture is certainly one of them, as are areas of infrastructure, iconic environmental assets and tourist destinations et cetera. For instance, it is said that the Great Barrier Reef generates around $5 billion of tourism revenue and about 50,000 jobs. No-one seriously believes that those areas will not be impacted. I believe that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] is providing the necessary balance between stable economic positioning and a stable environmental endeavour, for our current generation to act responsibly in terms of the legacy which we will bequeath to future generations in this country.

Last week in the second reading speech, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change pointed out that irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin provides employment to 90,000 Australians—I know this is significant to your own state, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas—and is at risk of totally disappearing by the year 2100. I understand further that a rise of one degree centigrade could reduce inflows to the Murray-Darling by 15 per cent. We cannot sit back and do nothing. This will have a direct impact on jobs in those irrigated, agriculture based industries which will be at the forefront of those being affected.

The minister also drew attention to the gains which can be made through increasing investment in renewables. The CPRS is expected to drive $19 billion of investment in this sector by 2020. As I said, having worked in that area I know what it is like to construct a business model, to gain shareholder or investor support to put money into developing and commercialising technologies. They need this. They need to develop and commercialise the technologies which can be deployed to reduce emissions in this country.

I recall very vividly over the course of the last parliament the then Prime Minister, John Howard, saying that it was not that we needed to sign Kyoto; what we needed was to develop the technology. All the technology developers out there were looking for a business model which would support the development of technologies and commercialising those technologies, but that just did not occur during the 12 years of the Howard government.

In December this year, the world will come together to reach, hopefully, a global agreement on climate change. I am not going to say for one minute that that is going to be an easy task, but the world is coming together and the debate in Copenhagen will be solely on the issue of climate change. Unlike some of the climate change sceptics on the other side of the House who obviously are legion, Australia needs to go to Copenhagen with a position of strength—with strong targets—and show some leadership. That is very important. It seems the cultural cringe on the other side of the House is that you have to sit back and see what everyone else does first. I would be fearful for what would have occurred for the French and the English if we had sat back to see what everybody else was going to do in the Second World War. We took steps then; we need to take steps now. This is as vital as getting involved and showing that leadership, not having the cultural cringe and waiting to say, ‘We’re going to wait and see what everyone else does.’

We are not acting alone in this. There are 27 EU countries, the United States, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Korea all of which have—or, if not, they are developing—cap-and-trade emission trading systems as we speak. It is imperative that all nations continue to move forward. In that, I think Australia should be prepared to roll up its sleeves and take a role in it. It is not just us standing out the front and being able to show leadership on this; it is also our Australian industries which are developing these technologies, such as energy development. This is a new and emerging base of industries with which we can be at the forefront. We must consider the support which those industries get in developing their technologies, not simply for abating and reducing emissions in this country; their technologies will be essential for doing the same in other countries which are similarly concerned about reducing their emissions.

Earlier I referred to the Business Council of Australia. I have just found a quote from them which says:

In the interests of business certainty, the BCA calls on the Senate to pass the legislation this year to establish a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

The only point I draw from that is that businesses are saying that they want certainty. They know there has been a debate, they know what occurred last election and they know what we took to the electorate in 2007. They know what the contest was at that stage and they knew—maybe they did not know—why John Howard would not sign Kyoto, but they knew precisely what it meant to elect a Rudd Labor government. Industry at large, as well as the community, are saying, ‘We want some degree of certainty out of this.’ Therefore, enacting a carbon pollution reduction scheme is not just the way to go because there has been a mandate for it; this is now overdue. There is no doubt about it: we are loosing the fight in terms of climate change. We have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe this does not turn it all around but this is putting a line in the sand from which we must move forward. In Copenhagen, this is an area where this country can show some strength and take some leadership.

For those reasons, and for many others, I will be commending the bill to the House. But I cannot help but be drawn back to the position of all the renewable energy and sustainable energy companies out there which are looking to make their mark on the world at this stage. They will be going out and playing their role. They see this as critical for establishing this new and emerging group of industries. There is no walking away from the importance of coal in this country. It is our greatest export. One of the things we must be is the world’s best developer of clean coal technology. The $2 billion for the carbon capture and storage technology is very important.

There is no point going out there and signing all these contracts and selling all this coal unless we are leading the development of these technologies. There are things we are doing in areas such as the Otway Basin and elsewhere. At the table is the member for Brand, whose own area of Western Australia, his old stamping ground up in the North West Shelf, is leading the way in terms of geosequestration. These are things which are becoming particularly Australian. Our experts are particularly Australian in this regard. We are developing those industries out here and exporting them around the globe. The time is right now to proceed with this legislation. I do take a degree of comfort in the fact that the member for Groom is entering into the negotiations in good faith with the Minister for Climate Change and Water, and I wish those negotiations well. A heck of a lot depends on this. We actually do want a bipartisan position when it comes to something so critical that affects all of us not only now but into the future. Therefore I commend these bills to the House.