Monday, 16 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
Consideration in Detail
I wish to disagree with the logic of the member for New England. The reality is that you cannot exempt farmers and the agricultural sector from costs, whether they are included in the emissions trading scheme or not, because nobody is speaking here about removing the fuel refiners or the electricity generators or all the other people whose costs will inevitably flow down to the rural sector, where there is nowhere to go.
I would refer the member for New England to the Farm Weekly, the Rural Press publication in Western Australia, which reported on my speech to a couple of hundred farmers the other day. It included my reference to a cream cake, and they have actually published a picture of a cake in the article, asking: how many times will the emissions trading scheme taxes impact on a cream cake? The member for New England is well experienced in how many times the product of farming goes back on the road. For example, nobody milks a cow these days without using some energy; the old hand-milking went out a long time ago.
It does not matter where you look; this is a system whereby the government sells the right to pollute. And anybody who pays for that right will wherever possible pass it on to the consumers below them. As I have said time and again, if you are one of those who feel passionately about saving the planet and you say, ‘Yes, I will pay more for my electricity to save the planet,’ under this scheme you will actually be paying more for your electricity so that your electricity supplier can pay the price for polluting. There is no reduction in pollution—unless the electricity supplier sees the cost of these certificates get up to about 50 or 60 bucks a tonne of CO2 emissions, at which point in time there is a benefit. But where does the cost go, as it climbs to that figure? It is going to end up with the farm, irrespective of whether agriculture is in or out of this scheme.
I recognise that the member for New England is deeply concerned, and he is right to be concerned, about the production of food. He is right, because when there is more profit, at $40 a tonne, in planting trees over our great agricultural areas, as happened with the managed investment schemes, the price will go up and of course farmers will say, ‘I’ve been struggling with drought and everything else; I’m going to take the money.’ I once said, when we were having the GM debate, that it was about time we were all inoculated with the koala gene so we can live on gum leaves, because that is all that will be left. That is the reality. But we have got to look at the fact that there is only one question in this issue: is an emissions trading scheme a solution to the problem? I say it is not. It is just a means of increasing costs in the hope of solving the problem.
As I have informed this House time and again, the Europeans are contemplating a major investment in solar generation in the Sahara desert, 3,000 kilometres away from where they want to consume the energy. They have done their homework. The technology exists through high-voltage DC transmission to get 90 per cent of the energy generated over that journey. If they used the established AC technology, 55 per cent would get to the other end of the pipe. Why isn’t our government investing in those sorts of interconnections between our great gas fields and our tidal fields—and our deserts? Deserts are the best place for solar energy. If they invested in the transmission system and they doubled the amount of electricity that gets to the end of the pipe, that is as good as 100 per cent renewable power. Of course, I have a private member’s bill in this place to enable DC to qualify for renewable energy certificates.
I say to the member for New England: I am sorry; I understand and I agree with his concerns, but it is a fact of life that farmers cannot escape these costs, nor can any other consumer within Australia.