House debates

Monday, 18 November 2013


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013, Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading

6:57 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I speak against the coalition's Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and cognate legislation and speak in favour of Labor's position. If the member for Forde is so concerned about the electricity prices of Queensland, he should go to his mates in the LNP state government. They promised before the last state election that they would freeze electricity prices, but we have since seen them go up and up and up. Yet I have not seen a press release or heard a word from the member for Forde in relation to his colleagues and comrades in Queensland on that particular issue.

I found a statement some time ago in relation to an ETS and the environment, and it reads like this:

To reduce domestic emissions at least economic cost, we will establish a world-class domestic emissions trading scheme in Australia (planned to commence in 2011). We are also committed to capturing the opportunities from being among the first movers on carbon trading in the Asia-Pacific region.

I wonder where that came from. Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, you would know this, and there are plenty of those opposite who would know this as this came from the coalition party's policy. This was the Liberal Party of Australia's 'Strong, Prosperous and Secure' policy released in October 2007. The coalition believed that with an emissions trading scheme they would have a strong and prosperous and secure Australia. That was the policy they took to the 2007 election. I have debated LNP coalition opponents on numerous occasions across the last four federal election campaigns, including candidates from other seats. Every single time I have debated them I have found, when you really get down to it, they do not believe in the science. Every single time that has been the case.

The coalition once believed in a market based mechanism, but today they no longer believe in the market. They are not the party of the market when it comes to emissions trading, climate change and taking action in this regard. They believe in a command economy, picking winners, penalising companies and providing subsidies for polluters. 'Hurt the community and help the polluters.' That is the policy the coalition is bringing to this chamber today, but that was not the position of the coalition in 2007. John Hewson and John Howard did not believe in a policy of direct action, and, in fact, the member for Wentworth once said that the direct action policy was a 'fig leaf'.

The coalition's policy does not make sense, because an emissions-trading scheme is the most economically efficient and environmentally effective way to deal with the challenge of human induced climate change. That is what the scientists will tell us. On this side of the chamber, we tend to believe NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology and the IPCC, not Andrew Bolt, Lord Monckton and Alan Jones. We tend to believe the experts. As the member for Wills was saying on this issue, it is not a matter of belief; it is a matter of fact. I have listened to the speeches of those opposite—and I have had to put up with a member for Forde's speech on numerous occasions; I reckon the computer just printed that out; he pressed a couple of buttons and it spewed out just like last time, in the last parliament. When you listen to those opposite talk about this sort of stuff, you can hear that in their heart of hearts they do not believe in it. They have a sort of agnosticism, if not an atheism, about this. They do not believe in the science. But Australia is responsible. We have a responsibility because we are one of the largest emitters per capita in the world: 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from this country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. We have an obligation, accordingly, to act. Those opposite do not believe that.

We on this side believe we are standing on the right side of history. We believe an emissions-trading scheme is the right way to go. A thousand scientists, along with NASA, CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, all believe that human induced climate change is adversely impacting our planet. Our position is clear. For four elections now, I have campaigned on this issue, believing that we need to take action on climate change. Do not give us this nonsense about mandate. We have heard about it again and again. Where were they on this issue in the last parliament? They stood up and voted against us on this issue again and again, and they have the hide to come into this place and talk to us about mandates. Our position is clear. We accept the science. We believe in a cap on carbon emissions in this country. We believe we need to take action. We believe that future generations require us to take action. With our policy, we were taking action and it was making an impact. We had a clean energy future Household Assistance Package, and 98 per cent of people earning up to $150,000 per year received assistance. Almost six million households in this country received tax breaks or increases in their payment—14,634 families in my electorate, in Ipswich and Somerset, received higher payments.

The member for Forde said we were not giving assistance. I want to talk about a couple of examples in my electorate, just to localise it, for the edification of the member for Forde. We notified the Ipswich City Council of a $1.2 million energy efficiency grant to implement city-wide LED street lighting. It was to start off with 14 per cent of lighting, saving $200,000 a year for the ratepayers of Ipswich. It was environmentally effective and we were covering suburbs like Leichhardt, One Mile, Wulkuraka, Sadliers Crossing, Coalfalls, Woodend, North Ipswich, Brassall et cetera. It was a great example of an innovative project. Now the coalition has said to us—when we were going to save $200,000 a year for the ratepayers of Ipswich, projected to save about $1.8 million eventually—and to the Ipswich City Council: 'The program is under review.' So much for actually taking action on climate change. When a local council in Queensland is taking action on climate change, the coalition puts that program under review. Let us not kid ourselves. The whole architecture—the Clean Energy Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program, the Community Energy Efficiency Program, the assistance to business, the assistance households—is in peril from the legislation before the House. It is a terrible decision by the coalition government.

The member for Forde also had the temerity to say that we were not assisting businesses. On the first day of the campaign, the then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, came to my electorate, to the biggest meat meat-processing plant in the country, JBS. They kill 13½ thousand beasts there a week. I used to work there as a cleaner many, many years ago. We provided $1.1 million a year in savings to that company—through $4.4 million in assistance to that company, matched by the company—while cutting their carbon price liability by $790,000 a year. They warmly welcomed it, but did the then Leader of the Opposition tell the public or the company that he came into this place and voted against the funding to assist that employer in my electorate, which employs 2,000 people? That funding that we provided secured the future of the biggest meat-processing in the country. But the coalition opposed it. It was part of our clean energy package. That is what we provided. The member for Forde said we did not provide assistance.

Also in my electorate we provided funding under the $1 billion Clean Technology Investment Program—$498,750, firstly, and then another $932,625—for the Greenmountain Food Processing plant in Coominya, which employs 230 workers. And they say they support business and workers and jobs! Well, they will get rid of that type of funding, which was saving $114,000 a year, in energy efficiency gains through what that company was doing with those two grants, reducing costs initially by 34 per cent and then by another 44 per cent with the second grant. They were enthusiastic about that, but the coalition opposed that grant as well.

What they have said is that they will tax the taxpayers of this country. They were not fair dinkum about emissions trading schemes in the past, I believe, because John Howard confessed recently that he was pushed into it—he had to say something because the public was pushing him into it.

Their direct action policy has been described by former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry as 'bizarre'. He made those comments last month in a speech delivered at the Australian National University. He labelled the coalition's direct action plan strategy a 'con' and said it was 'bizarre' policy that actually pays the polluters. We need a better example than this.

But if they were fair dinkum about their direct action policies, I would like to see the legislation for that introduced at the same time. Where is it? Are we going to have a climate change action gap in this country? If this legislation passes, when are we going to have the direct action policy, which we know that many of those opposite do not believe in?

The member for Forde talked about facts and talked about the impact of the carbon price on the economy. But we do not take seriously on this side of the chamber those opposite when they talk about this issue, because Gladstone is still there, Whyalla has not been wiped off the map, and last time I bought lamb roast at Woolworths in Brassall shopping centre it did not cost me $100. Those opposite made ridiculous claims in relation to carbon pricing. So let's talk about some facts. Since we brought it in we have seen a 7.4 per cent drop in emissions in the national electricity market. That is almost 12 billion tonnes less pollution from the electricity sector. We have seen renewable energy generation rise by almost 30 per cent. We have seen nearly 200,000 jobs created. We have seen businesses and companies find ways to reduce their carbon footprint and to save energy costs, like the companies I mentioned before. When we first introduced a price on carbon the projected increase in the CPI was 0.7 per cent, less than one-third of the impact of the GST on the CPI, but I did not hear those members opposite at any stage talk about that.

We stated when we went into the last election that we wanted to reduce people's household costs and it was our intention to terminate the carbon price and moved quickly to an emissions trading scheme which places a legal limit on carbon pollution and lets business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate. In effect, it was pretty similar to the policy the Liberals announced in 2007 before the election. But the coalition's policy now, direct action, sets no limit on carbon pollution and it costs businesses and households more. I agree with Ken Henry. 'Bizarre' is the right word for this reckless and pointless plan.

Be under no illusions, they are getting rid of a whole architecture here. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Climate Change Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—it all goes. It is step backwards and not a step forward.

On 30 October this year the Climate Change Authority published its comprehensive draft analysis of the caps and targets they believed Australia needed in order to take meaningful action on climate change. It is not going to happen under the coalition. According to the Climate Institute, more than 80 countries representing 80 per cent of global emissions are now committed to reducing carbon pollution. All major economies, including the US and China, are implementing policies to reduce emissions, drive clean energy investment and improve energy efficiency. Several developing nations, China, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and India amongst them, are following suit. Our No. 1 trading partner, China, has introduced a carbon price to an emissions trading scheme arrangement and at the time China indicated its wish to link its scheme to us. So did the Prime Minister of New Zealand—a conservative and a National—when he came to this place and spoke in this House.

Ultimately, we were looking to link our emissions trading scheme with the European Union's 500 million to establish a common carbon price and a common carbon market with our major trading partners. The coalition's legislation is a national embarrassment to our country and our region—an international embarrassment as well. They cannot even take the steps to go to conferences that deal with this issue. Many of those opposite will not accept the science. This is a very retrograde step by the coalition. Our children and their children will suffer. Our country will suffer. It is not the most environmentally effective way to deal with the challenge of climate change. It is not good for productivity, it is not good for the economy and it is not good for future generations in this country.


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