Monday, 16 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
Consideration in Detail
I would just like to reflect on a few of the comments made by the Leader of the National Party, and I thank him for his support. I presume that the private member’s bill he was referring to was in fact the private member’s bill relating to climate protection. It was quite different to the sort of legislation we are talking about today. Just for the record, what it included were a number of initiatives that could protect the climate if, in fact, the emissions trading arrangements did not take place.
That private member’s bill included a range of activities that could have a positive effect on the eventual aim of emissions reduction. Some of the renewable energies that the member for O’Connor spoke about were included: solar, wind et cetera. Another activity was soil sequestration, which the leader of the National Party made a glancing reference to as an activity that farmers could undertake to protect their local climates, in a very parochial sense, by drought-proofing their land through improved grazing and farming technologies. The leader of the National Party is quite wrong to suggest that the bill was a piece of emissions trading legislation. It was about climate protection. It was about recognising that if the climate scientists are right the Murray-Darling system will be adversely affected. In fact, the bill looked at the way in which you could protect that catchment.
I am not a climate change sceptic. I believe we should be doing something. I believe there are flaws in the CPRS legislation. I believe that if we include agriculture, and particularly the food that people eat globally, the scheme will bomb politically—and it is a nonsense to say that hay and grass in an animal are not food. I agree with the leader of the National Party on that point—it will bomb out politically. No-one will accept a higher price for food resulting from the competition for land use that the carbon economy and the renewable energy economy would cause.
I listened intently to what the member for O’Connor had to say. I think that in relation to the good things that he believes can happen he has been ignored. I agree with him on some of those things. The particular arrangement that I believe Senator Wong and the Liberal Party are talking about is a coming together where agriculture emissions are excluded from the scheme and offsets are recognised. The member for O’Connor may not be involved with this; maybe he should be. In that sense there are an enormous number of opportunities for agriculture to be a positive player rather than a negative player, as it keeps being painted. If soil carbon becomes part of the offsets, if some of the holistic pasture technologies become part of the offsets, and if some of the vegetation management proposals and stewardship arrangements become part of the offsets, they will more than offset any marginal increase in terms of the cost of production that a five per cent emissions target produces. That is one of the reasons I have been opposed to this legislation. To impose a market mechanism with a five per cent target is almost a nonsense.
As I have said, I am prepared to support the bill when it comes back from the Senate, if this amendment is supported by the government and the opposition. I think that the exemption of agriculture would be a big step forward because at some stage there will be an emissions trading arrangement put in place. The suggestion of the member for O’Connor and the leader of the National Party that you are better to have all the negatives and none of the positives is, I think, selling the farm sector and country Australia short.