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Monday, 11 September 2017
Page: 6779


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (13:00): Labor supports this legislation before us, which is the Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017 and related bills. Labor understands that these measures are good for the health of Australia and Australians. They are good for the environment and provide certainty for industry in our country. The bills follow up the agreement made by state and territory ministers in December 2015. Importantly, they have the support of industry. The bills enable the minister to prescribe products as emissions controlled, make rules relating to these products and set emissions standards. Products include non-road petrol engines in lawnmowers, leaf blowers and outboard motors. So it's good to see the true diversity of products now coming in under emissions regulations. It's important to note that Australia has been somewhat behind in this regard.

This bill covers exemptions, penalties and certification, and triggers compliance and enforcement. We note that the excise and charges bills also allow charges to be imposed on imports or, if applicable, domestic manufacture of emissions-controlled products. The proposed standards cover noxious air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides that have significant impacts on human health. From that point of view, I commend these measures. It is recognised that these new standards could deliver up to $1.7 billion in avoided health costs for our nation and the avoidance of nearly 3,000 premature deaths. The measures will also provide for a reduction of 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next 20 years.

It's important to recognise that similar standards are already in place in 26 of the 35 OECD countries. These standards exist in the US, Japan and China. So what we're doing here is by no means leading; it simply brings Australia in line with these countries and, indeed, assists in minimising the regulatory burden on industry. Australia's low standards have resulted in our markets, sadly, being a dumping ground for high-polluting products manufactured overseas. This is unfortunate and highlights why these changes are important.

I would like to recognise the long history of my party in environmental protection and, indeed, to real action on climate change in our nation. It's good to see that the government is taking belated action on the issues within this legislation to reduce carbon emissions. But this simply isn't enough. These are only modest changes. While important, their impact on our carbon footprint is not significant. More must be done. However, I'm not confident, and the Labor Party certainly doesn't believe that the government is doing enough in this regard. We're concerned about the lack of energy and emissions reduction policy from this government because, after four years, we've seen a disappointing lack of action, the consequences of which are playing out in a number of different sectors including our electricity markets. There's no doubt that this government can and should do more in climate change and the energy space. You should be doing more to address carbon pollution from transport and light vehicles by dealing with mandatory emission standards, which exist in 80 per cent of the global market but not here in Australia.

In 2014, The Climate Change Authority recommended that these standards commence in 2018 and be phased in over seven years. But we saw little action from the Liberal government under the previous Prime Minister, and so far, under this Prime Minister, we've seen little more than discussion papers and a little bit of media speculation. I note that the minister wrote an opinion piece for The Australian, admitting that European cars were more efficient than models available in Australia and that Canada, Europe, the US and Asia have all moved forward to deliver better health, environmental and economic outcomes. But the minister has not yet told us what his government is doing about it. There's not even a lot of thinking involved here. The Climate Change Authority has already made recommendations about how this could work, but the government has failed to respond to the thinking that's been put forward. We know that, despite an increase in the initial cost of cars, over time Australians would save money on running costs and would be better off overall. So, despite the fact that we have a clear blueprint, despite the financial benefits, despite the health and environmental benefits, we've not seen action from our government on a way forward.

This is not the only place this government is failing to protect the environment from the impacts of climate change and, in fact, we've had some recent debates about those things. I spoke just last week about the Great Barrier Reef and the largest removal of protected areas in the history of any government on the planet. That is of significance to this debate because our Great Barrier Reef is being overburdened by the impacts on it of climate change, and we should be responding with improved protections not reduced protections. Only last month, the Liberal government and, indeed, Liberal members from South Australia voted against a national judicial inquiry to get to the bottom of water theft and corruption in the Murray-Darling Basin, despite the shocking Four Corners report about the use of environmental water.

The government has also failed to capitalise on the renewable energy market, at the expense of Australian jobs. It's done everything in its power to try to destroy Australia's share in one of the world's fastest-growing industries, with devastating consequences for our country and our economy. We know that in the last two years more than two million renewable energy jobs were added to the global economy, but over the same period 2,900 jobs in this sector were lost in Australia. From 2014, clean energy investment has grown by 32 per cent in China, eight per cent in the US, 12 per cent in Japan, three per cent in Germany and three per cent the UK. But, over that same period, investment in large-scale renewables dropped by a massive 88 per cent in Australia—from over two billion to around 240 million.

A strong renewable sector will be at the centre of Labor's response to the challenges of climate change. The renewable energy sector can provide immense opportunities, but only with the right policies. Policy attention to the renewable energy sector will drive job creation and manufacturing investment and will put downward pressure on power prices, which will help Australian families and our small businesses. This most profound restructuring of the world's economy that's currently taking place is being driven by climate change, and Australia is lagging behind. The transition is happening globally and it is accelerating. It's alarming to me that this legislation really points out to us how we are only scratching the surface of the real changes that need to take place in regulation and within our economy. Australia's being left behind because our government is not willing to do the work that's required to get us there.

I'm pleased, though, that we on the Labor side, as an alternative government, have a plan to get us on track. That includes ensuring that at least 50 per cent of the nation's electricity is sourced from renewable energy by 2030, expanding the investment mandate of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, providing $206 million to ARENA to support specific concentrated solar thermal funding, establishing a community power network of regional hubs at a cost of $98 million over four years and ensuring the Commonwealth government leads by example as a direct purchaser of renewable energy. While commending the legislation before us as important, we on this side of the chamber believe there is much more work to do and we look forward to doing that work in government, taking real action on climate change and emissions on behalf of our nation.