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Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Page: 1598


Senator WATT (Queensland) (19:49): I rise to speak about Labor's major commitment in recent days, should we be elected, to ensure that Australia becomes carbon-neutral by 2050. I want to speak to my home state of Queensland in this speech and what this commitment means to Queensland and, importantly, what it doesn't mean—because, as usual, we're seeing a lot of misinformation being spread by government senators and MPs. It is a big commitment to make Australia carbon-neutral by 2050, but it can be achieved. That is why over 70 other countries have already made the same commitment, along with some of our biggest-emitting companies. In fact, it's not only other countries that have made this commitment. Our very own government, the Morrison government, has made the same commitment by signing up in 2015 to agreements at the Paris convention to ensure that Australia becomes carbon-neutral by 2050. So it's a little bit strange to see members of the government—a government that has signed up to this target—spending a lot of time on the media over the last few days saying that this is a bad idea, that it's something that can't be done and that it's something that will kill jobs and the economy across Australia. If it is such a bad idea, then why has the government signed up to do the very same thing? It seems that, unfortunately, some government senators and members of parliament are more interested in continuing the culture war that has distracted this debate for the last 10 years rather than actually finding a solution to this existential challenge that the world faces.

The truth is that by becoming carbon-neutral Australia will create more jobs, will see lower power prices and will see lower emissions. My state of Queensland is in the box seat to generate many new jobs, lower power prices and lower emissions. It's well known that Queensland has been fortunate to have had plentiful coal to drive our economy in recent decades. The important thing to note is that this commitment to become carbon-neutral does not mean the end of the coal industry in Queensland, as some government members and senators would have you believe. If they actually bothered to look at the facts, they would know that the majority of coal that is exported from Queensland is metallurgical coal, or coking coal. It's used to make steel, not to make power. In the absence of a solution in the form of hydrogen or something else, then it's very likely the world is going to keep needing Queensland's metallurgical coal for some time to come. Labor has made clear, under our leader Anthony Albanese, that this commitment—and no other commitment—is about Labor banning coal exports. We will not be banning coal exports. We will not be closing down existing coal-fired power stations early. We don't think that there is a place for more public funding for new coal-fired power stations when there are cheaper alternatives available, but it does not mean the end for the Queensland coal industry, as some government members would have you believe.

Queensland has generated much of its wealth in recent decades off the back of plentiful cheap coal and the cheap energy it has produced. In more recent times, the gas industry has emerged as another source of income and jobs for our state. As energy sources keep changing right around the world, and we're looking increasingly to renewables, again, Queensland can be a major winner from this change in energy sources. We're not known as the Sunshine State for nothing. Queensland has plenty of sunshine, just as we have had plentiful coal and plentiful gas, and the exciting thing is that, because of new technology, Queensland is in an incredibly fortunate position to make money and create jobs out of our reserves of sun and wind. In fact, there are already solar farms and wind farms springing up right across regional Queensland, from the Darling Downs to Wide Bay to Townsville to the Tablelands and to the Coalfields of Central Queensland. This is not unheard of in Queensland; it's actually already happening. It's just that there are members of this government who want to pretend that it's not happening and want to deny the benefits that it can have.

There are many jobs that can be created in the construction and maintenance of these solar farms and wind farms now and into the future, but what's possibly even more important is the jobs that can be created in many parts of regional Queensland through the cheap energy that we can source from renewable energy. I was in Gladstone on Friday, one of the major industrial cities of our country let alone our state. For years, it has powered thousands of manufacturing jobs on coal-fired power. Just think of the thousands of manufacturing jobs that can be created in a place like Gladstone, or other regional cities across Queensland, if we can get this technology to a point where we can be generating cheap, clean, renewable power. It's about more jobs, lower power prices and lower emissions.