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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8139


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (16:08): it is so pleasure to contribute to this debate, notwithstanding the nature of the motion and proposal that has been put forward by the Australian Greens. It is so pleasure to reinforce to the chamber and others that Australia is a country that in climate change terms very clearly says what it will do and does what it promises and what it says. That has been the historical record of Australia's contribution to climate change policy at a global level. What we have consistently said is that we do our fair share and make a sound contribution and that, when we make those commitments, we deliver upon those commitments. That stands in stark contrast to much of the rest of the world in terms of the approach that is taken.

It is to the credit of Australian governments, that, over time, we have successfully set out clear targets for reductions and change in our climate change profile, in our emissions profile, and that we have delivered upon those reductions and changes in our emissions profile. We are a country that is playing our part in reducing global emissions, and we will continue to do so at very substantial levels, notwithstanding the claims and rhetoric of the Australian Greens. We are already delivering lower emissions in Australia and we will continue to do so under the Turnbull government. We have a very strong and credible track record historically of making sure that Australia not only meets its emissions target reductions but exceeds them. And I am confident that, in future, we will do so.

As we approach the Paris conference on climate change Australia is going into those discussions with not just a credible target but a very strong target and a very credible contribution to make. Australia is proposing a target for reduction of emissions of between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. When we consider that on a per capita basis, it makes Australia's promised contribution the largest of any developed nation. Our emissions on a per capita basis will be some 52 per cent lower as a result of the commitments the Turnbull government is taking to the Paris conference.

Australia is actively and constructively engaging in these discussions because we want to make sure that we build on our track record of meeting and exceeding the commitments we made under the Kyoto protocol. We want to build on our commitment of being a country that will meet, and probably exceed, the commitments we made in terms of the 2020 reductions. Every time Australia has made a commitment on the world stage to reduce emissions as part of the Kyoto protocol, we have met it and exceeded it. To reduce emissions by 2020, we will meet it and we will likely exceed it. And we are now making commitments on a global level to the largest per capita reduction of any major developed economy. I am confident that we will again meet those commitments and we may well once again exceed those commitments because as a country we take our promises very seriously. We do not make promises that we cannot meet; we make promises that we are determined and confident we will meet.

The evidence is there that we are already achieving real and significant reductions in terms of Australia's emissions profile. Our Emissions Reduction Fund, which the Turnbull government is proud to be operating and continuing, had its first auction in April 2015. Some 47 million tonnes of emissions reduction was contracted at a price of $13.95 per tonne in that first auction. This, of course, was a significant improvement on the type of outcomes that had been achieved under the carbon tax and shows that we can reduce emissions in Australia at a much lower price than what Labor's carbon tax was doing. In fact, the price of emissions reduction under the Emissions Reduction Fund is around one per cent of the cost of emissions changes that were being achieved under Labor's carbon tax. It is a demonstration that there is a cost-effective way and that we can reduce emissions without increasing electricity prices for Australian families and without driving up the cost of electricity for Australian industry and rendering Australian businesses less competitive than our global competitors and damaging jobs and business investment opportunities Australians.

We are seeing strong support for the government's Emissions Reductions Fund. More than 500 projects are currently registered under the Emissions Reductions Fund. I am pleased to advise that the second auction under the fund was held on 4 and 5 November. The results are to be announced this Thursday, 12 November by the independent authority, the Clean Energy Regulator, who is responsible for administering the operations of the Emissions Reduction Fund. Very clearly, we have an effective, efficient policy that is working to help Australia meet its 2020 targets. We have strong targets for 2030 and we will be making sure that we deliver on those targets through the most cost-effective and efficient means in the future.

We are also providing over $15 billion in support for renewables and lower emissions by investing in cutting-edge technology and innovation in this space and a new Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation will bring a fresh focus to the role of innovation in supporting renewable and low-emissions technologies. It will bring together the Clean Energy Regulator, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Change Authority under one umbrella to ensure that we have real focus and real leadership across government and to help drive the transformation in our economy. We are confident that Australia can be and will be a world leader in this space. We will be a world leader because we will deliver upon the world's largest per capita reduction in emissions among developed nations. In delivering upon that, we will see the type of innovation and investment continue across the Australia economy that can also assist the rest of the world in their adaptation and change.

We are proud of the record we have on renewable energy and on encouraging the development of our renewable energy agencies and systems in Australia. We are the parties which, under the Howard government, established the mandatory Renewable Energy Target in the first instance and sparked investment in innovation across this sector, particularly in solar. Australia has the highest proportion of households with solar panels in the world. About 15 per cent of Australian households have some form of solar system. The next largest is Belgium at around 7½ per cent and then Germany at 3.7 per cent. It is a clear demonstration of the strong take-up across Australia of various policies and incentives across various governments that have driven that investment in renewable energy and in solar panels. More than 2.4 million solar PV and hot water systems have been installed across Australia. This is a demonstration that the Australian public has adapted to and is adopting change. Under the changes that this government has put in place, the Renewable Energy Target will confidently now see more than 23½ per cent of Australia's electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. It will mean a doubling of large-scale renewable energy over the next five years. Let us just reflect on that point again for a second: there will be a doubling of large-scale renewable energy in Australia over the next five years under the operation of the Renewable Energy Target.

The idea perpetrated by the Australian Greens that somehow this government and Australia are not doing enough is quite ridiculous. Australia has delivered upon strong commitments in the past, is taking strong commitments to Paris and will deliver upon those strong commitments in future. Australia has implemented and is implementing strong and effective policies that are efficient to ensure that we meet our emissions reductions targets, that we inspire and invest in innovative technologies in the future and that we transform the mix of Australia's energy sector, as well as other areas of emissions. Importantly, much of our investment is also going into new areas of technology—the opportunity of increasing energy efficiency and the opportunity of ensuring that we invest in soil carbon capture technologies. These are things that other countries around the world can take up and adopt as well.

In this debate, I look forward to hearing if those opposite in the Labor Party have different targets to the government. To date, all I have heard is silence when it comes to targets, while this government is committed to very strong targets. (Time expired)