House debates

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Customs) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Excise) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-General) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009

Second Reading

9:25 pm

Photo of Joanna GashJoanna Gash (Gilmore, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

As I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills, I do so wondering whether the debate is being driven by alarmists or scientists. Are we debating this subject from a scientific standpoint or are we being caught up in the emotion of the times? We do live in an uncertain world and it is understandable why it can be easier to accept statements at face value rather than questioning what we are being told. I have been reading Professor Ian Plimer’s book on his response to the global warming debate. It makes for very interesting and illuminating reading, and I would recommend it to any member entering the debate on global warming.

When the matter of carbon trading came up last year, I took the opportunity to have the matter debated publicly in Nowra. We held an open forum in Nowra. I approached the University of Wollongong to suggest someone eminently qualified to act as an independent moderator. They suggested Professor Sharon Beder, who is a visiting professor in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong. Professor Beder knows her subject and expressed serious doubts about the government’s carbon reduction policy, even then. Professor Plimer is of the same view. According to Professor Plimer, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s view, upon which much of this debate relies, was based on a single study which has since been discredited. It is a paper from which an alarmist climate warming movement has grown and whose central theme is the global warming doomsday message.

Amongst its notable adherents is former US Vice President Al Gore. Al Gore relied on it and, in conjunction with many others in show business, promoted the fallacies it contained. It seems numerous climate warming proponents relied on the IPCC work without due and diligent scientific rigour to question its now discredited assertions. That the IPCC process is related to environmental activism, politics and opportunism is something I will not disagree with. I do agree, however, that it is unrelated to science. But the damage has been done and now we have been placed in the invidious position of perpetuating those fallacies by being forced to accept some very dubious scientific assumptions on which this legislation is based.

This bill is not about debating the issues of global warming and the impact of carbon dioxide on the environment but how much we are prepared to mis-spend on a questionable outcome. However, I do concede, as does my electorate, that there is much to gain in reducing man-made pollution, but this bill is not about that. Mr Rudd promised before the election to introduce an emissions trading scheme which would produce deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions but would not disadvantage Australia’s export and import competing industries. So, what proposal do we have before us now? We have a proposal that has negligible impact on CO2 emissions in Australia in the overall scheme of things, a proposal that imposes yet another cost to employers and, ultimately, a threat to jobs. The immensely complex white paper, already based on some suspect research, offers no practical answers, yet this government has jumped on the bandwagon, ostensibly to please the world audience in Copenhagen later this year. It seems to be developing into an exercise in tokenism. This government wants to take another $13 billion off the bottom line so that companies can buy permits to pollute. Are we again being set up for long-term pain for short-term expediency?

On 9 May this year, the Australian said:

The Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme will cost 23,510 mining jobs over the next decade—almost half of them in Queensland—according to new modelling released as parliament prepares to decide the fate of the controversial climate change legislation.

The mining industry has a huge presence in the Illawarra. It creates and feeds many jobs and is vital to the national economy. It is vital to the New South Wales economy and it is certainly vital to the economy of the Illawarra, as the member for Throsby stated tonight. So I hope that it was discussed at Mr Rudd’s jobs forum that he recently held in the Illawarra to which we in Gilmore, part of the Illawarra, were not invited. Is the Prime Minister going to say in Copenhagen: ‘I’m so serious about this that I am prepared to sacrifice the jobs of thousands of Australian miners’? If this government is prepared to sacrifice jobs for minimal return, then what is the real agenda? There is a sweet irony in this. Multinationals have always been the target of the union movement, and their very own party, the supposed party of workers, is going to cut them adrift. We on this side of the House are not prepared to cop this and we will fight for workers, not just pay lip-service.

We believe the government is going about this the wrong way. The problem is global; therefore the solution must be global. And, even then, an emissions trading scheme is only a small part of the extensive and diverse approach necessary to tackle the problem if we are genuine about this. But this is not the approach being taken; the approach being taken is flawed and bungled in the rush to be at the table in Copenhagen. No-one outside the government supports this scheme. Industry opposes it. The Greens oppose it. Even within the Labor Party, many of its acolytes murmur discontent. Even the Prime Minister has started to make compromises. The ABC reported last month: ‘Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the government’s emissions trading scheme is being delayed until 2011. He has also cut the price of carbon from $40 to $10 a tonne for the first year of the scheme.’ The Minerals Council of Australia has apparently described the changes as ‘tinkering at the margins’, according to the same report. Even the author of the Garnaut report said on Four Corners last month he was ‘disappointed in the scheme’. Professor Sharon Beder, whom I mentioned earlier, commented in an online article on the Green Left website. Her opening statements were:

Why do we put so much faith in the market to solve environmental problems?

Why do we assume that increasing the cost of fossil fuel emissions will reduce their use rather than just increase everyone’s cost of living?

This legislation is nothing more than appeasement for the benefit of the Prime Minister on the world stage with an eye to his future career prospects.

It was reported in the Australian on 23 April this year that Australian industry expressed their discomfort with the approach to a Senate inquiry. Let me quote from the article:

BlueScope chief executive Paul O’Malley and his OneSteel counterpart Geoff Plummer yesterday made a joint appearance at a Senate select committee on climate policy in Melbourne.

…            …            …

Both Mr Plummer and Mr O’Malley said there was a clear danger the emissions trading scheme would fail to meet the government’s environmental and economic objectives. Their arguments centred on the danger of driving Australian manufacturing overseas and the potential cuts to profits.

Rupert Murdoch suggested that Australia’s emphasis should be on practical solutions. He said:

The ultimate solution is not to punish the Australian economy by imposing standards that the rest of the world will never meet. It’s to take the lead in developing real alternatives to solve the problem by offering clean, cheap energy to meet the growing demand.

Let me reiterate that we are not opposed to an emissions reduction scheme per se. It is just that we are opposed to this one because, contrary to what the minister might say, this bill is economically irresponsible, it is reckless and it is largely pointless.

The Prime Minister says the delay in the scheme, originally slated for introduction in July 2010, is to help Australian companies manage the impacts of the global recession. I suspect the real reason for the delay is to push this contentious issue into the background until well after the next election—perhaps a double dissolution election. We need to wait and see what the rest of the world is going to do. Copenhagen will do that, and that is just six months away. In addition, the acute downturn in the global economy will contribute considerably to a reduction in the output of CO2. Some commentators have suggested that we will gain a few years towards this target in actual output reduction as a result. So it begs the question: why the rush?

I do not support this legislation, because it is flawed. I do support the need for another approach to tackle polluting emissions. Climate change is best tackled from a position of economic strength. To effectively meet the huge cost of tackling greenhouse gas abatement requires people in jobs, business performing strongly and a cashed-up economy. As a country producing only 1.4 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, there is no Australian solution to climate change. There is only a global solution. Everyone agrees that only coordinated global action to put a price on emitting or storing CO2 will have any impact on reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. As such, the design of any Australian emissions trading scheme must be responsive to the existence, or the absence, of a global agreement.

There are stark differences emerging between the Rudd government legislation and the legislation endorsed by US President Obama. What is more, the Obama draft bill now says that a reduction in protection of US export and import competing industries will only occur after 2025 when more than 70 per cent of global output for that sector is produced or manufactured in countries that have a scheme equivalent to that operating in the United States. This is a wake-up call of monumental proportions for Mr Rudd and Senator Wong. If an emissions trading scheme does not take account of what is happening, or not happening, in other countries then the design of the scheme is deeply flawed. Such a flawed design will seriously damage the competitive position of many of our industries and see Australian jobs, investment and CO2 emissions being exported to countries where no price is being imposed on carbon. The government’s emissions trading legislation is deeply flawed in this way. Our economy will be badly affected, and a badly designed scheme is worse than no scheme at all.

The coalition will offer bipartisan support to the government for the carbon abatement targets Australia takes to the Copenhagen conference in December. The coalition will therefore move in the parliament to defer a final vote on the government’s proposed ETS until after the Copenhagen meeting. In order to enable immediate action on climate change, the coalition proposes the establishment of a government authorised voluntary carbon market from 1 January 2010 based on the Chicago Climate Exchange. This will enable the immediate involvement of individuals and communities, agriculture and biosequestration, the commercial building sector, energy efficiencies by businesses and other complementary measures in creating bankable offsets. This will allow the Productivity Commission to assess the efficacy of its proposed scheme and its impact on jobs, regions and agriculture if competing economies adopted comparable measures many years later than expected. The coalition will augment its support for emission reduction targets with a significant renewable energy support package in the near future. In closing, in a telling retort to the government’s line, I understand Professor Plimer has written another book, titled Emissions TradingWhy Bother, and I cannot wait to read that one.


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