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
I rise today to speak on the government's Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the True-up Shortfall (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, the Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the Excise Tariff (Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, the Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013. This parliament's response to how we handle climate change will either help or hinder the future of this country. It will define whether the 44th Parliament of Australia is either willing to look forward or backwards. We will define in this parliament with how we vote on this legislation the generation of parliamentarians to our children and our grandchildren.
The scientists know that carbon pollution is changing our weather and it is harming our environment. The Australian public know. They know it when they experience more and more extreme weather events. Economists know that carbon pollution will hurt our economy and the public and the Labor Party know it is the responsibility of the parliament to reduce the amount of carbon pollution that is being emitted and going into our environment. This is why Labor will always support laws which tackle the issues of the future and which will reduce carbon pollution. This is why we cannot today or on any day forward support Tony Abbott's laws which would leave Australia with no effective means of cutting carbon pollution.
Greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity are having an adverse effect on our environment and on the economy. If we refuse to tackle the problems, if we put our heads in the sand, if we say that we will put off to the future how we deal with environmental economic issues, then we mark ourselves down for future history to judge what we did at this time in this place when we had another course of action.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed that the world is warming due in part to the burning of fossil fuels. Across the globe from 2001 to 2010, this was the warmest decade on record—and I repeat: 2001 to 2010 was the warmest decade on record. And indeed, every decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the one before.
Labor is concerned that our farmers and primary producers would experience a decline in irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin. Labor is concerned that it will see a decline in our wheat production. Labor is concerned that we will see a decline in our table wine-grape production. Our world is approaching a population of seven billion people. The threats from a changing climate intensify, not diminish, our need to act. Labor understands that there are businesses with foresight already ahead of the climate change curve, moving ahead to capture the technologies of the future to capture the business opportunities of the future. My position and that of Labor is perfectly clear: we will take action to reduce the amount of carbon pollution being emitted into our environment.
But those opposite led by Tony Abbott do not believe in climate change and its adverse impact upon the environment. Labor will always make its decisions on policies in this parliament based on the best available science. That is the Labor way. Yet those opposite led by Tony Abbott, despite the best available science, are prepared to tear down everything which has been accomplished in tackling climate change up to this day.
We on this side of the House are like millions of Australians. We know that Australians expect their members of parliament not to sit idly by and see that the future is too hard to deal with, to say that Australia cannot compete with the rest of the world and that Australia cannot reform and change and grasp the opportunities of the future. That is not the Labor way.
What I simply cannot understand is why those opposite cannot understand the future. No-one seriously—or at least no-one serious—believes that we do not have an issue with increasing levels of carbon pollution. Today in the legislation we are seeing being debated, Tony Abbott is lining up with the militia of climate change denialists and he is taking the coalition government with him. The Prime Minister is ensuring his place in history and the place of everyone on that side of the parliament and it will put them on the wrong side of history. The Prime Minister is saying to Australians, 'People of Australia, carbon pollution in our atmosphere is just a political problem and it is one therefore that Australians do not need to act on.' If the Prime Minister was a doctor and the patient was sick, all I could imagine is that he would say to that patient, 'Don't change anything.' It is really hard to change. It may involve making decisions about the future which are in your long-term interest but which today you might find difficult. That is not the Labor way. In parliament the people who put us here expect us not to do everything for them, not to be in every household, not to regulate every aspect of their lives, but they do expect their leaders regardless whether they are coalition or Labor to at least try and explain to Australians how to navigate a path to the future.
These 11 bits of legislation are not a map to the future; they are an exercise in the rear vision mirror looking back and doing nothing. The Treasury in its blue book prepared prior to the 2010 election said:
A market based mechanism can achieve the necessary abatement at a cost per tonne of emissions far lower than any other alternative direct-action policies.
Say what you like about the carbon tax—and many have—this government is not just repealing the carbon tax; this legislation kills any possibility of limiting carbon pollution pouring into our atmosphere. There are 11 carbon tax repeal bills before the parliament today.
The government's bills on climate change represent the unilateral disarmament of the nation's defences against climate change. In leaving nothing behind—no other sound or sensible replacement policy—the Abbott government has run up the white flag on climate change. It has surrendered its responsibility to the nation. It declares in this legislation that this government finds the future too hard; that this government cannot navigate a path to the future; that this government will tell everyone that they can stay as they are—that there is no need to change. It declares that it will always be blue sky and that, regardless of the science—regardless of the innate knowledge of Australians—the best option is to do nothing.
The fundamental problem with the government's approach is that there is no limit on how much carbon pollution will be allowed in Australia. Put simply, this government is saying there will be no cap on emissions. What that means is that this government has no idea about how to control carbon emissions and that any amount is acceptable. Surely it is a proper role for government to lead and set standards about how much carbon pollution should be allowed. That is a legitimate function of government; it is the leadership that people expect. Tony Abbott's view—and the view of his denialist cohort—is that there should be no cap and no standard set on carbon emissions into the future.
Even if genuine reductions can be purchased by polluters there is nothing in the Prime Minister's plan to stop emissions increasing elsewhere in the economy. This leads to the other flaw in the legislation. Not only do they have no cap, but they will make mum and dad taxpayers in Australia pay their hard-earned taxes to large polluters. That is the only idea they have. This is the climate change policy from central casting, if you are a closet climate change sceptic. There is everything you could want in the coalition policies if you do not believe climate change is real. There is no cap on emissions; there is money to be paid to people who emit carbon; and, when we look at this policy, the Prime Minister will not even try to make companies with large carbon emissions accountable.
Leaders across the rest of the world are willing to act. They are acting in different ways but they accept the science. Real leaders take real action. On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron—who had a busy weekend—said:
I am not a scientist but it's always seemed to me that one of the strongest arguments about climate change is that even if you are 90 per cent certain, or 80 per cent certain, or 70 per cent certain - if I said to you that there was a 60 per cent chance your house might burn down, you would take out some insurance.
Real leaders are not denialists. Real leaders have the courage to tell people things they do not always want to hear. Real leaders have the courage to say to people: 'We will take you on a path to the future and this involves accepting real facts.' Real leaders choose to prepare their nations for the future rather than leave it to others in the future to do what the current generation would not do.
This is why the Abbott government's response to climate change is a defining issue for our parliament and our nation. It represents their well-known coalition disregard for science. It demonstrates their willingness to put short-term politics ahead of long-term national interests. It is symbolic of their willingness to raise the drawbridge to Australia and say: 'The rest of the world is a confronting and difficult place, and we will simply try to reassure Australians that if we ignore the rest of the world than the rest of the world will simply go away.' They will risk the economic and environmental wellbeing of your children and mine with their refusal to act on the science.
That the government will conveniently ignore inconvenient truths is no surprise. What a marvellous scientific set of achievements this government has assembled in a brief two months: no minister for science for the first time since 1931; no climate change commission; no Climate Change Authority; and a quarter of the staff of the CSIRO are to get it in the neck.
This government and this Prime Minister have never seen an expert that they are not willing to censor, cut or contradict. In the Prime Minister's own words, indeed, if he cannot contradict, censor or cut them, he will just eject them. He has said that climate change is absolute crap. No serious government, and no serious leader, says these things. No serious leader rebuts serious economists and tells them they are all wrong. The government's direct action policy is a vagrant policy with no visible means of support and no support from economists.
Prime Minister, this is not enough for Australia. You cannot plant your way out of this problem with trees. There is not enough land in Australia—not enough trees, not enough arborists and not enough water to water all these trees—to plant your way out of climate change. In dismantling climate change action in Australia this government, and this legislation, undermines our future.
Their direct action policy—what a sham. Why should every Australian household pay $1,200 a year merely because the coalition is too lazy to accept the science in front of them? This mob opposite can always tell you what they will cut. They are good at cutting. But they can never tell you what to create with a vision of Australia. That is the difference between Labor and the government. They would ignore climate change and take no action.
The member for Port Adelaide will be moving our amendments to these bills. We will ensure that the defences against climate change remain in place, in order to not weaken our efforts. Our amendments will replace the carbon tax with a role for government that says, 'We have to put in place a legal cap on carbon pollution and then let business—the mighty engine-room of the Australian economy—work it out.' We trust the private sector to work out how to handle climate change. This mob opposite just want to use taxpayer money to deny the science. We will vote with the government to repeal the price on carbon but only if those opposite can convince us they will genuinely fight climate change, and there is nothing in this legislation to make us see any evidence of any fight against climate change.
Climate change is real. We will stand together with the Australian nation. We will not defer to future generations problems we could deal with now. Labor, when it is faced with the hard choice of making a decision or not making a decision—of tackling pollution or not tackling pollution—will stand up and be counted. Under Labor, wind power trebled. Under Labor, one million houses installed solar power. Under Labor, 24,000 jobs and hundreds of new small businesses were created.
I am proud that we are sticking to our guns. I am proud we are sticking to our principles and holding the government to account. We will not be, and will never be, a rubber stamp for this government. We will honour our commitment to the national interest. We will honour our international obligations. We can look our children in the face and say, 'When we had the chance to do something, we did.' The government's policy is toxic. The government's legislation is toxic. Labor will never vote for toxic laws undermining the future of this country.