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Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Page: 8567


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (16:36): It is interesting that the first two speakers have summed up many of the debates that we've had in this place since I arrived. Senator Di Natale, in his contribution, started by referring to the current international conference that's being held on energy and climate in Bonn and talking about the information which has been widely circulated—many people have read it—in terms of concerns about where our world is going in the international response to energy and concerns going to our future. Senator Brockman, when he started his contribution, after he made the traditional slap at the Greens for their economic knowledge, made the point, and we've heard this so many times in this place, that we are a low emitter and that nothing we can do here will have any impact on the international stage. The natural consideration that came from that, although Senator Brockman did not say this, is: why should we do anything? I've been here through many debates about what our role is, what we should be doing about climate change nationally and what our energy policy is. It seems to me that those two represent the extremes in the debate. There does not seem to be any understanding of a common response to the issue. That's one of the real issues. Senator Siewert's proposal says: the failure of the government to develop an effective energy plan. Certainly the shadow minister in our party, Mr Butler, has talked in many places recently about the series of attempts there have been under this government to come up with a plan and that still, in November 2017, we do not have a detailed plan before us.

I'll give a little bit of the history first because I looked it up and I feel as though I should mention it. In terms of the process, the emissions intensity scheme was talked about in 2014-15. It was a proposal from the Australian Energy Market Commission, AEMC, in 2015 which was the result of a large amount of consultation about what should be the national energy plan. By and large, that's what went to the last election: modelling to ensure that there was an emissions intensity scheme according to the different baselines, making an emissions reduction target of 45 per cent by 2030. The idea was that this would respond to concerns raised by industry, by households and by the wider community about exactly how our energy system fits and what the best way to operate it is. Importantly, I think there is a growing awareness of the way the world operates in terms of emissions—that it doesn't matter where the emissions come from; they still build up, so we cannot segment ourselves in Australia or in New Zealand or in Bonn. We have to look at the overall issue, because we cannot hide from the international impact.

This has been brought home to me very clearly, as I believe it has with you, Madam Acting Deputy President Reynolds, when we have had the opportunity to talk with people in our Pacific areas. I've been very, very impressed by the range of discussions I've had with our Pacific neighbours, not only with people in government but also with people in the wider community, in civil society. Farmers that I have met in different areas openly discuss issues of climate change and how it impacts on their livelihoods and on their life. In the Pacific, we have seen land being lost to the sea. There's no firmer argument to the fact that something is happening than actually seeing that your own backyard is disappearing. A call has been made by our neighbours that we do have an international responsibility. That's part of the wider discussion. This is not something that you can separate and put to the side. This is part of the discussion we must have in Australia about how we develop a plan and what the international and domestic obligations are going to be. We cannot hide from that.

As I mentioned, the emissions intensity scheme was plan 1 on the agenda, and the government moved away from that. They said that it wasn't going to happen and that they would move in another direction. That was when we first heard about the intention to refer a general investigation to the Chief Scientist. We discussed that in this place. I can remember having discussions about what the role would be, how the Chief Scientist would consult and the public way in which he would go out and seek a range of views on how to develop an effective energy policy from the scientists, from the users, from the community and in fact from anyone who wanted to be involved, because this was a public process. The information on what was going on was put out to the community and people had the opportunity to put in submissions. Then, based on those submissions, there were a range of public hearings and discussions. That is a format with which we are familiar; it was very similar to the way we operate in the committee process.

The response across the board again proved that people in the community wanted to be involved in decisions about our energy policy. They were not backward in coming forward, in bringing forward a whole range of ideas and concerns. Not all agreed. We never have full consensus in this space, but it showed that people were thinking about these issues and wanted to be involved, but they wanted their government to listen and they wanted their government to come up with a plan. Out of that came the quite detailed Finkel review process. We debated that in here, Madam Acting Deputy President. I feel certain we had a bit of a go at each other—probably; that is the way it works. We debated how the Finkel process would operate, how his recommendations would be implemented and why there was an expectation that change would happen. That was an agreement. There was a recommendation from Finkel particularly around renewable energy targets, the sources of our energy, how it would operate, taking into account all the concerns that had been raised and the best minds who work daily in this space.

Then the government moved away from that process as well and we heard there was going to be another process. We heard that through someone coming into the chamber and telling us that there was going to be another iteration of a plan. Senator Brockman mentioned the details of that plan in his contribution. I was pleased, because he had 10 minutes, but we only have an eight-page document in front of us to cover all the intricacies of the plan in public knowledge, and I think he did a really good job. I think he mentioned most of the public awareness and knowledge of the so-called NEG that's now before us as the plan that's going forward. I remember clearly at our recent Senate estimates process that we were asking a range of questions about exactly what the new plan was and what modelling was being done on how it would actually work. What we need to have is not theory, though it's very important to have a solid base of theory.

I look across to the One Nation team and I expect to see Senator Roberts there because he was such a strong contributor to the debate and he kept asking for empirical evidence. He wanted evidence around plans, which is an absolutely valid issue. You need to have evidence. You need to have documentation. Whether you accept the evidence is another issue, but you need to actually have detail which you can consider and work out what the future plans are going to be. That's what we don't have now.

In the proposed new plan that the government has gone out marketing very strongly in the community through the media, there is not a lot of detail and there certainly is not modelling of exactly how we are going to balance Australia's energy needs; how we will look at the way we are going to work with our energy; as Senator Brockman rightly put it, how we are going to keep the lights on, which is the basis of what people are concerned about; how we are going to do that in the most efficient way; how we are going to keep prices down, which of course is the overwhelming fear element that's always run in these arguments about maintaining low prices; and at the same time how we are going to meet our international obligations, because we still have strong international obligations.

I'm concerned about the information that has come out from the Bonn conference. People are worried about whether Australia is going to be able to maintain the obligations that Prime Minister Turnbull made at the original Paris conference. We have made a commitment that we are going to be part of an international reduction of emissions so that we can respond to the international issue of climate change. In the last week at the recent conference the Prime Minister attended, he reaffirmed that we were going to be continuing our role in that process. But what we don't know from the plan before us is how that is going to happen. In taking up Senator Siewert's notice of motion we are working on— (Time expired)