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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11464

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (18:59): It was good to hear the member for Moncrieff acknowledge in the first of his speeches that there are actually negative consequences for inaction. We have heard so much negative comment and fear mongering from this opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is effectively a walking stuntman going from town to town looking for workers to pose in front of, spreading fear about what will happen if we as a nation decide to act on climate change. Then we had the member for Moncrieff collecting the media articles that result from that and reading them into the House as if they were some sort of evidence. He may as well, in fact, be reading the Liberal Party press releases.

I want to go back to something he also said, where he referred to Australia's contribution to greenhouse gases in the world and used that as a reason to not act. It is something we hear from time to time. We hear people say that Australia's contribution is less than two per cent and therefore we should not act. I want to address that. Australia per head of population is the highest emitter in the world by quite a significant margin. When you look at it by volume we are No. 15 in the world. There are only 14 countries that emit more greenhouse gases by volume than we do. So we are well and truly a very large contributor. But more than that, when you look at the other countries that emit around the same level of greenhouse emissions as us—less than two per cent—such countries represent over 50 per cent of world emissions. If every country that emitted two per cent or less took the attitude the member for Moncrieff and so many on the opposition want us to take then action would be left to the remaining 50 per cent. That is clearly not a path the world can take. Countries have to act, including us.

There were also statements made about Australia's prosperity and our reliance for that prosperity over many decades—in fact, centuries—on fossil fuel. That is absolutely true: our prosperity is well and truly coupled to fossil fuel. But for me that is the very reason why we should act. A good friend of mine, Donald Horne—who has now passed away—used to refer to us as the 'Lucky Country', and we were. We had the right stuff in the ground when that was the source of prosperity, and we still have that stuff in the ground and we continue to prosper through it. But the rest of the world over the last decade has been moving slowly away from that. Investment in clean energy last year exceeded investment in fossil fuel. That means the rest of the world is seeking their prosperity from a technology that we are not in. Donald Horne also said to me once that we needed to be the clever country and that we could no longer afford to be reliant on The Man from Snowy River. We can also no longer be depending on the Snowy River Scheme for our renewables. As a nation that is where our renewables still come from. About eight per cent of our power comes from renewables and it is still from the Tasmanian and Snowy hydro schemes, which were built many, many decades ago. So while the rest of the world is moving into new technologies, developing skills, developing infrastructure, educating their young and skilling-up their workforce in new sources of prosperity, we as a nation have been hanging around assuming we can continue to benefit from the old way of the world, which is fossil fuels.

It is important as a nation, of course, that we acknowledge that we do prosper from that and we use the revenue raised from the sale of permits to assist the transition of our industry from the old fossil fuel economy to the new clean energy future. We are doing that. We are putting more than half the revenue raised from putting a price on carbon pollution towards households to meet the price impact, but the rest of it goes on supporting jobs and the transition to a clean energy future. There is a $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program to support jobs and encourage investment in clean technology. There is a $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program to help improve energy efficiency in manufacturing and support research. There is a $1.3 billion Coal Sector Jobs Package, a $70 million Coal Mining Abatement Technology Support Package, and a $300 million Steel Transformation Plan—that is on top of the $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program. Of course we have seen the opposition vote against that today. We have to transition as a nation from the old fossil fuel economy to a new clean energy economy and I am incredibly pleased to speak in support of this today.