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Thursday, 13 September 2012
Page: 6881

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:34): The coalition has a long and proud record of looking after our environment. Indeed, it was the coalition that introduced the first Commonwealth Minister for the Environment. Since then, unlike others in this place, the coalition takes a balanced view on public policy—we balance social factors, economic factors and environmental factors. We accept that we humans are part of nature and have a right to harvest the bounties of our world. We also accept we are stewards and as such have an obligation to ensure our harvesting and harnessing of nature's bounties is done responsibly. If that is one's world view one sees the sense in these two bills, the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2002, which allow consumers to make not emotional decisions but rational decisions on what products to buy by providing them with a robust, uniform national labelling standard for energy efficiency.

The bills will deliver a national and expanded equipment energy efficiency, E3, program that enables Australian governments to regulate all electrical product types; products that use forms of energy other than electricity—for example, gas or diesel; products that affect energy consumption of other products such as insulation, window glass and air-conditioning ducting; the greenhouse gas intensity of products; and minimum performance requirements for regulated products such as the temperature at which refrigerators must operate. Potentially negative environmental and health effects associated with regulated products are also part of the regulatory regime. These types of issues are very helpful for consumers who can afford energy efficient products to have a coherent and relatively robust standard to make their purchase choices. Most people are interested in energy savings, not only because of the environmental factors but also because of cost-of-living pressures. Of course, we can achieve all that with a good national labelling standard.

The star labelling scheme which has been in place has become a standard and part of people's assessment to understand energy efficiency when purchasing electrical goods. But buyers will be able to make better comparisons of goods if there is a single national standard, not a different one in each state. This scheme is an upgrade to the existing star rating scheme for the energy efficiency labelling of products to a national system. The coalition welcomes these bills as sensible and practical environmental initiative, unlike the costly and devastating carbon tax—a carbon tax which destroys jobs, investment and, perversely, makes a worse outcome for the environment.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator ABETZ: I will take the minister's interjection, because what we have with a carbon tax is a situation where in the minister's own home state an investment of $1 billion that was going to provide 125 jobs and over $14 billion worth of export earnings or import replacement has now gone to China. The reason: because of the carbon tax. In a carbon-tax-free Australia it would have had only 25 per cent of the emissions it is now going to have in China. That is how perverse the carbon tax is. It destroys investment and it destroys jobs in Australia whilst having a worse environmental outcome for the world.

It is a bit like the Greens' campaign against the Ta Ann timber company, where they campaigned in London to make sure the Tasmanian timber products would not be used in the London Olympics. They thought they were achieving a great environmental end. When I was in Indonesia recently they were boasting about the fact that their timber had been accepted for use at the London Olympics. This is a country where they clear-fell rainforest and deforest at the rate of three million hectares per annum. So the extreme green campaign, done in the name of the environment, actually provided a profitable market for the harvesting and destruction of three million hectares of rainforest in Indonesia, whereas the Ta Ann timber from Tasmania was from regrowth and plantation forests. None of the trees they used were older than 70 years and, what is more, the trees they used were harvested in any event and destined for the woodchipper. That is what happens when you have extreme green policies without looking at the practical outcomes. That is why we are opposed to the carbon tax.

But on this occasion the government have got it right. Unlike with the fish trawler and other examples, on this occasion they have got it right, and as a result the coalition will be supporting the legislation.