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
I have not been able to listen to the eloquent speeches that have been delivered in this House apart from the last one. I was very interested to listen to the member for Flynn and note his failure to mention the jobs that are going to be lost in his electorate and his lack of understanding of the effect of the CPRS on the power stations in his electorate, but I assume at some stage it will be pointed out to him. I missed the speech by the member for Charlton, although I have seen plenty of press reports about how he deals with the coal industry if they do not keep quiet—and I have obviously missed the speeches of the member for Throsby and the member for Capricornia and no doubt the member for Dawson and other members who represent coalminers in their electorates.
I should have also been here, I guess, to listen to the member for Solomon, who has an LNG plant in his electorate, but I was actually up there campaigning against him today in Darwin, speaking to people who want to make investments in that electorate, people who are part of the multibillion-dollar LNG industry in Australia and want to build another LNG plant in Darwin but of course are now wondering if that investment should not be placed somewhere else in the world due to this incredibly stupid scheme that is being introduced through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills before the House tonight.
I have been all over Australia in the last few weeks and I have not been anywhere where industry and power stations, gas producers and coalminers or aluminium smelters and manufacturing industries have not expressed concern about what this emissions trading scheme is going to do to them, to their jobs and to their future—and not only their future but the future of their children. This is a rushed and reckless scheme, and anyone who listened to some of the transcripts coming out of the APIA conference in Darwin would know that, as would anyone who has travelled through the Hunter. I am sure the member for Charlton has, but it was interesting that, when the minister for finance was up there, not once in a 14-minute interview with the ABC did he mention the emissions trading scheme. Is he that ashamed of it that in the home of the coal industry in Australia he does not dare speak its name? If you travel through the Hunter and you talk to the coalminers about their concerns about the costs of emissions trading to their business then you would know this scheme is going to do so much damage to Australia’s economy that we may never recover from it.
This is madness. This scheme will have grave consequences for industry, confidence, investment and jobs. If we spend less time in the rarefied air of Canberra and more time away travelling around Australia, we see that there are ample examples of that—examples, I am sure, that those who sit on this side of the House, such as the member for Gilmore, whose speech I caught the end of, and our leader and the shadow minister for emissions trading, will have highlighted during their addresses to this House.
There is a need for an emissions trading scheme. Few of us doubt that. I am certain of it, and I have been certain of it longer than the member for Flynn. I remember quite vividly John Howard ringing me and saying, ‘I think we’re going to have to have an emissions trading scheme.’ In 2007 I had already realised that. We worked to introduce an emissions trading scheme and in fact took an emissions trading scheme to the last election. The stark difference between that scheme and this flawed and reckless Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is that our scheme would have protected trade-exposed industry, the exporters and the importers who make the jobs in this country, from unfair competition from countries that do not have an emissions trading scheme.
I assure those who sit opposite that, when they go back to their electorates, they will need to look the coalminers in their electorates in the eye when they ask, ‘Why is Kevin Rudd going to cost Australia jobs when President Obama is rushing to save jobs in America?’ The Obama scheme will protect jobs. This scheme will cost us jobs. This scheme will strip away the natural advantage that Australian industries have in our competitiveness and our creativity, and this flawed plan will wreak havoc on our economy. It seems to me that there is no regard paid by those who sit opposite to the absolute trashing that this is going to cause to jobs and to the economic growth of this nation.
Report after report has highlighted the tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost in the resources industry alone as a result of this scheme. In the industry area, how is a car industry in Australia, already battling to survive, going to use Australian made steel with a carbon price and compete against American cars made with steel protected from a carbon price? How is that going to happen, when the parents of those companies will be wanting to export cars to Australia, as they do already? How is industry in Australia going to compete with other nations that are taking sure but careful steps towards an emissions trading scheme but at the same time ensuring they do not expose their workers and their economies to the devastation that we will see from this ridiculous scheme?
In the resources industry alone we have seen figures from the Minerals Council of Australia of 23,500 jobs being lost. That is on top of the 12,000 jobs that have already been lost in that sector as a result of the downturn in the resources industry. We have already seen 16 coalmines identified—one I know is in the electorate of Flynn. How is the member for Flynn going to face those workers in three, four or five year’s time when they lose their jobs? The export coal industry may survive but the domestic coal industry, because of its association with the power industry, is going to find it very difficult. I would suggest that, if the member for Flynn was in Darwin today, he would have seen the gas industry rubbing their hands together with anticipation and glee as they foresaw the demise of coal-fired electricity in Australia as a result of this scheme, and the opening up of whole new opportunities for domestic gas—at the cost of workers in his electorate.
We need to be realistic about this. We need to make sure that whatever we do on the environment has an effect, that whatever the cost to our economy, whatever the personal cost to households in Australia, whatever the cost to this nation’s future, it actually brings a result. If we emit 1.4 per cent of the world’s emissions, how will cutting ours ahead of the United States, ahead of Japan, ahead of Korea—ahead of those developed nations, let alone ahead of the developing nations—make a difference? How are the thousands of people on the unemployment queues going to think that what has been done to them by the Rudd Labor government has actually made any difference? The reality is that the coal that is not mined in the electorate of Flynn will be mined in Indonesia, it will be mined in India or it will be mined in China—and it will still be burnt.
The other industry that can actually reduce the amount of coal that is being mined is of course the LNG industry, the liquefied natural gas industry. Yet it is being slogged by this government as well. We hear figures that through the graciousness of this government that industry will receive 66 per cent effective compensation. But can I tell the member for Charlton—I am sure he has already been told—that those industries today told me that their compensation was in many cases less than 20 per cent. So here we have an industry, involving one of the clean, transitional fuels of Australia, that will take Australia and the world to a cleaner energy future, and this government is going to tax it out of competitiveness. For every tonne of LNG that we export we save between 4½ and nine tonnes of CO2. That is a fact: for every tonne of CO2 we produce here with that LNG, we save 4½ to nine tonnes. Yet they are going to tax them. It is a tax; it is nothing else. These companies are using the best technology in the world. They cannot be more efficient producing LNG. They cannot be better to the environment producing LNG. They have not alternative but to pay this tax, a tax that will simply see that LNG produced somewhere else or more coal burnt in the world.
It makes absolutely no sense to anyone with a practical bone in their body to make a decision about the future of Australia’s emissions trading scheme before we see what our major competitors and trading partners are going to do. We do not know what is going to come out of America. We already have a fairly good idea, but it has to go through the congress, it has to go through the Senate and it obviously has to have the President’s support. It just makes simple, logical sense to make sure that our scheme fits in with their scheme, fits in with the European scheme, fits in with the Japanese scheme, fits in with the Korean scheme and perhaps in time even fits in with the Indian and Chinese schemes, if we do get them to that point. It makes no sense to rush this debate, but we are. We are being told that we have to finish it tonight. This is the biggest single economic change we will see in this nation in our lifetimes and this House is being restricted to a little over a day’s debate on it.
In conclusion, there are many ways to reduce CO2 emissions. The Howard government allocated $3 billion to that challenge. That is never acknowledged by those who sit opposite, never greeted with the same nod that I greeted the money that was put into the zero emission coal-fired electricity industry by this government—one of the few good things in that budget. But that $2 billion is small beer compared to what will have to be spent for the technology to be produced that will actually make a difference to the emissions that we make without costing Australians jobs. No-one is more concerned about this issue than we are. We started this. We were the ones who first highlighted the need to spend money on reducing carbon with new technology. The facts are there to show it. What we never did, and what this government is determined to do, was cost Australians jobs.