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Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Page: 2678

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (18:52): My question is to the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. It goes to the heart of his responsibilities. The question is: what has been happening to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, in absolute terms, under this government? Have they been decreasing, as his ministerial title and duties require, or have they been increasing?

Climate change is a challenge which will have serious effects on future generations of Australians and is already impacting all Australians. Yet this government has washed its hands of serious action to tackle climate change by reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. We have had a rolling public policy catastrophe on climate and energy from those opposite. Three successive prime ministers have put politics ahead of principle.

We had the former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott's destructive approach to climate policy is one of the most irresponsible contributions to Australian public life in the modern era. He was knocked off by the former member for Wentworth, Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull claimed to be the moderate face of the Liberal Party on climate and energy policy, but he was held to ransom by the hard Right in the Liberal Party—people like the current Minister for Energy, who blocked the National Energy Guarantee and is now even blocking state Liberal governments from trying to fix up energy policy in this country. Then Mr Turnbull was knocked off by the current Prime Minister, and the current Prime Minister has been just as bad as his predecessors. He flew to Tuvalu for the Pacific Islands Forum meeting earlier this year and, in a country which risks being submerged by rising sea levels, he got out his red pen and watered down the calls for action on climate change in the forum communique.

This is a policy failure with profound implications. Australians are already starting to bear the cost of this government's inaction, and we will only see these costs grow in coming years: the environmental costs of damage to iconic natural assets like the Great Barrier Reef and changes to our native ecosystems and habitats; the economic costs from longer droughts hitting our farmers, severe weather events disrupting communities and rising sea levels and storm surges damaging our coastal infrastructure; and the health costs which will come from heatwaves, which will put the elderly and the vulnerable at risk.

Australians want to us do our fair share in tackling climate change with all countries of the world, but this government has adopted a woefully inadequate emissions reduction target. The scientific advice is that to contribute to the Paris Agreement's goal of holding temperature increases to less than two degrees Australia needs to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. But this government has committed only to a reduction of 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, and it is undermining this target with a dodgy accounting trick, using Kyoto carryover units to deliver much less than a 26 to 28 per cent reduction by 2030.

The worst thing about this government's approach is that not only is its emissions reduction target inadequate and not only is it using an accounting trick to weaken a target even further but it has no actual policies for even achieving this low-ball target—no policies for reducing emissions from the energy sector; no policies for reducing emissions from the transport sector; no policies for reducing emissions from the industrial sector; and no policies for reducing emissions from the land sector. So it's hardly surprising that emissions are going up, not down.

Under the former Labor government, emissions were falling while the economy kept growing strongly. Under this government, they are rising and rising at a faster pace with each year of inaction. As last week's national accounts show, under this government economic growth is stalling just like wages and investment. We have a Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction who is presiding over emissions and price increases—not reductions—blocking reforms in the energy sector and failing to put our economy on a path for a clean energy and low-emissions future.

Additional questions to the minister are simple. Will the minister admit Australia's absolute emissions have gone up every year since 2014? What do the official figures project Australia's absolute emissions will be in the year 2020 and the year 2030 compared to 2005? I urge the minister to actually talk about absolute levels of emissions, not per capita or some other emissions intensity measure, which is the way they try to get around this. Because absolute emissions are actually what we are obliged to account for under the Paris treaty and under the Kyoto treaty. They can talk about per capita. They can talk about per GDP. That means nothing compared to absolute levels which we are legally and morally obliged to do. The minister, if he was being honest for once, will admit that our absolute emissions have gone up every year since 2014. If the minister wants to start this debate properly, he will admit that. (Time expired)