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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 969

Mr RIPOLL (12:34 PM) —Unlike the member for Fisher, I will not be tedious or repetitious and I will actually talk about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and cognate bills and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I will actually talk about our policy, the policy of the opposition, some of the history of where we are today and why the Senate and the opposition should actually side with the government on this. It is because it is in the national interest, in the global interest and, in fact, in their own best interest.

It is always entertaining to come into this place and listen to all sorts of people make all sorts of speeches on matters which they have no belief in or commitment to. It is a real dilemma for a lot of people in the opposition when they really do not believe in what their party is doing. So you hear these bizarre contributions where it is all at the edges and where they try to divert attention from the actual debate to something about camels or something else. You will hear all sorts of things. They will provide wonderful and bizarre statistics and unique examples. They will offer ridiculous solutions. They will find unholy bedfellows and cuddle up to anyone who even looks remotely like siding with them on these matters. They will play the politics of fear and smear, which is nothing new in this place.

Anyone who is a veteran of listening to these speeches will understand exactly what that is about. It is about diverting attention from the real matters at hand that are absolutely of critical importance to our generation. In the end, we are the people who are charged with making the decisions, with moving the debate and the policy forward and with providing a national platform— (Quorum formed)

I thank the opposition for calling a quorum and interrupting my speech because it does two things: one is that it gets my colleagues in to listen to me—so thank you very much—and the other one is that it proves that I must have been saying something so significant that those opposite really did not want to hear it. They are up on their feet now and they want to stop me again. If you give me an opportunity to go through my speech, you will have an opportunity yourself later.

There is no question that this is a global issue. It is an issue that does start at home. If anything, it starts at the national level; and that is exactly what we are proposing. The real risk of climate change is great; and it is something that we must do something about. This is not an issue where we can all sit by and watch and hope that somebody else will take charge. Australia on our own will not change the world. On our own Australia will not have the weight, the gravitas or the capacity to change what is happening in the climate; but we do have a significant opportunity. What we can do is to lead. We can lead by demonstrating to the rest of the world that when you are committed you can take positive action and you can make a difference. We can also innovate. We can look at new ways of doing things and create new economies. We can show the rest of the world how it can be done—whether it is through solar energy plants, whether it is wind energy, whether it is wave energy or whether it is through a range of other innovative things that we can do. We can create new markets and create new technologies. We can assist our neighbours. We can assist the Pacific island countries in our neighbourhood with their issues related to climate change, which I can tell you for them are very real; and they are very real today, not tomorrow.

We can begin the process which everyone in the world is beginning to take on board. We can do that in a proper fashion with a process. We can set a basis and have rules. We can establish a system. What we can do is make it affordable and we can make it acceptable to people. We can make it real. All of this may seem complex and a little confusing at times, and I can understand that because there are a whole range of people out there whose only task in life is to make it complex, to make it confusing and to ensure that ordinary people do not get a real opportunity to make a fair assessment of what it is. Let me put it to you in three points that really encapsulate what we are talking about and how we can move forward.

When you are talking about climate change, the first thing that you must do is to set some sort of a limit—put a cap in place, some sort of measure or benchmark. That is what our policy is about: putting in a cap, having something to measure to and having a benchmark. Without that, you have nothing. If you do not have a benchmark then how do you know where you are going, how do you know where you need to be and how do you know what you ought to be doing to get there. It is a critically important part, and it is simple—everyone understands that. The second thing you must do is to charge the actual polluters, not the taxpayer and not others. You need to give the polluters the incentive but you also need to actually charge the polluters themselves. It is the carrot and stick approach. That will effect change. A voluntary system will not, but charging the polluters will. The third thing you need to have is a market based system. You need to compensate people. People should not have to pick up the bill for what is taking place in the world. They will through a range of mechanisms but there ought to be compensation in place. Really it is quite simple—it is the three Cs: you put a cap in place, you charge the big polluters and you compensate people for the costs that they will face. These are not complex matters; and this is exactly what we ought to be doing.

Let me elaborate on a couple of those points. When we talk about a cap, it is about putting a limit on the amount of carbon pollution that all emitters actually make. Some will emit more carbon pollution than others. But by setting a benchmark, by setting a cap, what we say to people is ‘if you come in below that then you have spare capacity’, if you like. If you come in above that then there is an incentive to reduce your emissions. If you do not, we will charge you for it. It is as simple as that. If you do not, either because you do not want to or because it is difficult or uneconomical today, then you pay a price. We charge the big polluters.

What that means is that you set up a market based system where those who pollute less—and the incentive for them is to reduce their pollution emissions as much as possible—trade on the credit they have and trade it with the big polluters who, for whatever reasons, cannot match the cap. That gives you a market based system. The beauty about a market based system—and the Liberal Party should be very familiar with this concept—is that it is the market that decides, not politicians, not bureaucrats, not anyone else. It is actually based on some real principles about letting the market decide. Let it pick the winners. We are not going to tell you how to do it. We are not going to tell you how to achieve it. We are going to say: ‘Here is a set of rules, here is a system, here is a guide. There is a global marketplace for this. That way we are not just bound on what we do here but on what the rest of the world does as well. Here are the playing rules and a level playing field. You go and do what is necessary based on that.’ For some reason, the great triumphant confluence of supposedly the Liberal Party, small business, big business and the friends of business now seems for the first time to think that a market based solution somehow is evil, wrong and nasty and it should be something else—we should just slug the taxpayer. I do not recall that ever having been the policy of the Liberal Party anywhere in policy statements, but it is nice to see that there has been a change—this massive swing to the ultra-Left, Cuba revisited, from the Liberal Party. So we have put in place a market based system, charging the polluters.

Mr Morrison —Mr Speaker, a point of order on relevance: I wonder if the member has read the Prime Minister’s essay.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—There is no point of order. There has been enough use of standing orders to limit the opportunity for members to speak and I would advise those in the chamber not to use that tactic again in the near future.

Mr RIPOLL —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your protection and for highlighting that point. Charging the polluters is really important, because if you do not have a method by which you can actually make this happen through a compulsory system—a set of rules—then it just simply will not happen. A voluntary system—a compensation fund or something else where people could voluntarily dip in or dip out—might suit one or two, but it is not the basis on which the globe can change or through which we can make real efforts towards carbon pollution reduction in the future. We know the outcome of simply trying to make it a voluntary system. If it is slightly difficult, then people simply do not change. Unfortunately, that happens to be a human trait.

By charging the polluters we ensure that the incentives are built in. They are built in for the market solution for the biggest polluters not only in Australia but in the rest of the world. The big polluters will clean up their act. They will do it for one of two reasons: either because they see a business opportunity or because the penalties are too high and therefore they must clean up their act. This is already happening. I am not talking about something that may or may not happen in the future. I am talking about things that are taking place right now.

A whole range of emitters right across the country, big and small, have already taken on the challenge. They are a step ahead of government. In fact, they are two steps ahead of the opposition. But the reality for them is that they have already agreed that something has to be done. They have seen the writing on the wall. They feel the change that is coming and that it is global. They understand that, to compete, you must compete hard but you are going to have to compete in a new world. This is not unusual. Through industrialisation, through other changes in human history, it is the forward thinkers—the ones who are prepared to take a risk, to lead, to demonstrate how things can be done—that win. We are going to be left behind unless we make the changes. I can assure you that, whether the opposition or anyone else in this place doubts what is happening out in the market, business has already led that change. That march is taking place right now. Only through charging polluters and having a market based system will that actually work. In particular, as I said, this is about making sure that the right people pay, not the taxpayer at large.

The third area that I mention, the three Cs, is that of compensation. Yes, we do—and I do—accept that all these things do not come for free and anyone who tries to tell you that or somehow guise it in the view that it is all for nothing is wrong. There is a cost associated and we are prepared to talk about it. Not only are we prepared to talk about it but also we understand that it will be about one per cent of the cost of living. Where that is the case, we will compensate people. That is the fair thing to do. We do not believe that working families and people on low incomes should have to bear the heaviest burden. We think the heaviest burden should be for the heaviest polluters. They are the ones who pollute and profit greatly from it. Their contribution back is to (a) cut down their pollution and (b) pay for it. It should not be up to every single taxpayer to make that commitment. But consumers and people who use it can be compensated where there is an increased cost. Again, this is a fair and credible set of rules, a way forward, a policy which is not just an Australian policy. It is a global policy, a global system. This is the way that we will be moving forward.

I want to touch on—and I do not have a lot of time left—a range of issues which I think are important. Copenhagen has been pilloried across the opposition benches as being a complete failure. Let me just say that the agreement is not perfect. That is for certain. It is not a perfect agreement, but it is an agreement. There actually is some progress, little be that progress, but progress is better than nothing at all. In contrast to that progress, we have an opposition who like to see us go backwards. They would like to see every country fighting over this. For the first time in history we have rich countries and poor countries agreeing at least on a way forward, however small that may be. It is a crucial step, and what it means is that we ought to all move forward, not move backward.

Australia, as we all know, is a very dry and quite barren country in most parts and prone to a lot of drought. We will be the hardest hit, so there is a bit of self-interest here. I think we have to do something for ourselves here. If we do not lead, who will? I can tell you from talking to my Pacific Islander friends and neighbours that for places like Tuvalu and others it is very real for them right now, today, because they understand it and they see it more than most do.

The science is always an issue. I want to be brief on this; I do not want to argue the science, because I think I would be wasting my time. The reality is that I am not a scientist but neither is anyone else in here a scientist who is an expert on climate change. I take it on good faith. I read, I listen, I attend forums and I use my own intelligence to make decisions—but is that not what we always do on these things? Rather than criticise the science, I either say that I believe it or I do not believe it. I either accept what is being told to me or I do not. Do I accept the CSIRO or the Australian voices? Do I accept it or not? I am no more an expert than anyone else but I do accept it. For me the science is real. The risk of not listening to the science is that we deal a very poor hand for future generations. I am not prepared to take that risk. I think we ought to do something.

That risk might be measured in different ways in relation to how much it will cost us. It might cost us a little; it might cost us a lot. But, whatever that cost is, I am prepared to take the risk and say that we need to do something, because I believe this is real. I know some people believe it is not real. I accept that they believe that it is not real. You will always find some article or somebody who says it is all a con job—a global con job; a global new world order and somehow we are all in on it. By the way, they think you are in on it as much as we are in on it. I do not subscribe to those views. I think we have something real to deal with and we ought to do something about it.

You might think that it was just the Labor Party saying this in this place, but it is not just us. I am not just talking about our belief and conviction. I know that in the Liberal Party—I cannot talk about the National Party; they are a creature of their own design—there are some good, sound minds who did believe in it and who continue to believe in it. In fact, one of them used to be the leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull. In his contribution to this place he made clear not only his belief but also what we should do, and he talked about a market based solution. He has the three Cs—he has courage, conviction and commitment—and he is prepared to run his own career in those terms.

There are a few things that I also want to say in terms of the differences between our policy and the opposition’s policy. Our policy does not slug the taxpayer; it slugs the big polluters. It is a policy that will actually deliver an outcome. It is costed. It is affordable. We admit that there is a cost, but people will be compensated. It will work. It will actually deliver what we say it is going to deliver, because there has been a sound basis for it—unlike the opposition’s policy. The opposition’s policy is just a big tax fund, and people can volunteer to it. By all accounts, it is actually going to make things worse, not better.

The challenge is now for the opposition: come back to the table and give us the costings. We have already heard the opposition finance spokesman, Senator Barnaby Joyce, say that there are going to have to be big cuts to spending to pay for this new fund, this new tax, that the opposition are putting forward. He has also talked about the Public Service—I wonder if that is Defence or whether he is talking about hospitals or education. The money does not come from nowhere; it is not for free. (Time expired)