Thursday, 11 February 2010
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2010
There is no more important legislation that this House will debate than the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related bills. The government accepts that climate change is a reality. We on this side of parliament accept the myriad of scientific work that supports the fact. Members of the opposition who are climate change deniers have trawled the internet for papers supporting their position, and of course they found some. That is the nature of science: scientists put forward different hypotheses.
I have read papers on both sides of the argument, and I remain totally unconvinced by those who argue that climate change is not a reality. It is important to note that for every paper denying climate change there are a multitude of papers arguing that climate change caused by greenhouse gases which come from human activity is a reality. Australia and the world are getting hotter. Australia is getting hotter and drier. We only have to look to the record temperatures recorded this summer, particularly in Melbourne and Adelaide, and the fact that the temperatures this summer have been the second highest on record.
Climate change is a global problem caused by the emission of CO2 generated by human activity. Our planet is getting hotter and the last decade was the hottest in recorded history. That is coming from scientific data which was released in December. The previous decade was the second hottest decade in recorded history. These figures come from the Bureau of Meteorology. I would argue to those people who deny the fact that climate change exists that they just have to look at these figures and read some of the scientific papers I have referred to. They need to accept the fact that climate change is a reality, that it has the potential to drastically change our way of life, that it has the potential to impact drastically on sea levels, that it will impact on food production and that it will change the world as we know it. I am not being alarmist in saying this.
This parliament is faced with the dilemma of doing nothing or acting now. Those on the other side have put forward a rather Mickey Mouse proposal to deal with climate change that will lead to a 13 per cent increase in CO2 rather than a reduction. I support what Garnaut stated in his report—that we have two options: do nothing or act now. I am very much in favour of the ‘act now’ position and that is what I see this legislation doing—putting in place the framework for us to act now. I do not agree at all with the approach of Lord Monckton, a person the Leader of the Opposition has been keen to associate himself with, when he asks what the harm is in waiting. The harm in waiting is enormous. I heard him say on television: ‘Leave it for 10 years. Act then if it is necessary. Leave it for 10 years.’ Our ability to act would be very much impacted upon in that time and much change would have happened. The number of islands in the Pacific impacted by water levels would have increased. I think that approach is irresponsible and is a pathway to annihilation.
Even if a person or members on the other side of this parliament have some doubts about climate change, surely they are interested in taking out insurance. I think I read in one of the Leader of the Opposition’s former speeches that he did not believe that climate change exists and he tended to refer to it as ‘crap’. He still stated that it was important to take out insurance. He has obviously moved from that position—I think there has been a little more movement today and I will talk about that a little later. I ask members on the other side of this parliament whether they insure their houses against fire. I suspect they do. Are their houses likely to be burnt down? Not really. So this CPRS is, at the very least, insurance that the opposition is not prepared to take out.
I argue that it is imperative that this parliament shows leadership and delivers a framework that will lead to a reduction in emissions and counteract climate change and that is what this legislation does. It provides us with a framework to do exactly that. When John Howard was Prime Minister and the current Leader of the Opposition was in his cabinet, he accepted the reality of climate change. In fact, the opposition went to the election with a scheme very similar to the scheme which is before the parliament today. But what a difference a change in opposition leader makes. Prior to December we had an opposition that was prepared to engage with the government to try and develop a whole-of-parliament solution to this very important issue. Today we have an opposition leader who is showing that all he is concerned with is politics and politicising one of the most important issues facing this parliament, this nation and our planet. I refer to the Shergold report which was commissioned by the previous Prime Minister, which he accepted. Now we have the Leader of the Opposition turning away from what his mentor, the previous Prime Minister, had to say. I express my disillusionment with the Leader of the Opposition because he has a different position every day.
Climate change is a very serious matter. Last year I visited the Solomon Islands with the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. We were looking at health issues in the Pacific and climate change was identified there as a significant issue. It was pointed out to the committee, whilst we were at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara, that the water level, which was no more than 10 metres from the hospital, had previously been 150 metres from the hospital and that there had been an orchard growing between the hospital and the ocean. One of the doctors said to me that he lies awake at night worrying about what will happen to the hospital.
We visited Gizo, another island, which had an increase in population because the population of a neighbouring island had been forced to move to Gizo, because their island had been affected by rising sea levels. This is really serious. It is something that we in Australia cannot ignore. It affects the whole of the planet. The recently released report on the impacts of climate change identified Shortland electorate as an electorate that would be significantly affected by climate change and rising sea levels. The local council gave evidence to the environment committee when they were looking at this issue. This evidence showed that a large proportion of Shortland electorate would go under water. There have had to be changes to the building codes, which will lead to expenses for people building in the area. It is an issue that I see every day. It is an issue that confronts people in the electorate that I live in. I do not want to see people living near the lake or near the Pacific Ocean losing their houses and being affected by rising sea levels caused by CO2 emissions and climate change and caused by not addressing these issues—by us in this parliament not showing the leadership that we are put here to show. I believe that the way to show this leadership and address this problem is to support the CPRS legislation that we have before us.
We need to explain a little better to the community what a CPRS is. The one thing that the Leader of the Opposition and members of the opposition have been successful in doing is creating confusion. They have created confusion by playing political games. They have been dishonest. They have not told the Australian people what a CPRS is. The CPRS is a cap on CO2 emissions. It puts in place a limit on the amount of CO2 and its equivalents that can be emitted. Those industries that emit CO2 must obtain a permit or a licence to do so. These permits can be purchased from the government or from other emitters. So there can be a trade in the licences. It is a scheme where the polluters pay, not the government or the taxpayer. It will lead to a five per cent reduction in emissions between 2000 and 2020.
There are some people who say that this reduction should be greater. But those on the other side do not agree. They do not think it should happen at all. That is what their actions in this parliament are delivering: nothing. If we go back to what Garnaut said, ‘We are faced with a choice of acting now or doing nothing.’ Those on the other side of this parliament opt for the ‘do nothing’ approach. The white paper estimates that the CPRS will result in a one per cent CPI increase. I note the member for Wentworth in his contribution compared this to a 2.8 per cent increase associated with the GST. The GST was a tax. It was a great big tax. It was nothing but a tax. The opposition, when it was in government, went to the people and said: ‘I want to tax you. I want to get more money from you. We want to place this tax on almost everything.’ The CPRS is an investment in the future. It is an investment in our planet.
I noticed that in the media today the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for the environment have failed to rule out that they would introduce an ETS in the future. Talk about double standards! I think that demonstrates it very clearly. It is important to note that the legislation will lead to some increased costs, but the government is providing support to low- and middle-income families, with upfront assistance to help with the impact of the scheme. The package will include tax assistance, tax offsets and other measures to help households maintain their standard of living. There will also be increases to pensions, benefits and allowance payments.
In the time remaining, I would like to compare the government’s actions with the opposition’s. I have already stated the Leader of the Opposition is a total climate change denier. He thinks it is absolute crap and as such we can understand why his policy, which is a bit of a con job, has been put on the table. It is the kind of climate policy you put out there when you really do not want to put in place a climate policy. It costs more, it does less and it is unfunded. It slugs taxpayers instead of the big polluters. If you remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, when I was talking about the CPRS, it is the polluters that actually pay. Under the Leader of the Opposition’s scheme it will cost taxpayers three times more than the government’s CPRS over the next 10 years. That is significant. Talking about a big tax, how are the opposition going to raise the money for the proposal they put forward? Obviously, it is going to be through increased taxes or reduced services. We all know that the Leader of the Opposition favours a scheme where people become eligible for the pension at age 70. Maybe that is a way he is looking at recouping money.
The other point I would like to make about the scheme put forward by the Leader of the Opposition is that experts in the Department of Climate Change have advised that it will not work; rather than reducing emissions it will actually lead to an increase in emissions. While the CPRS will lead to a reduction in emissions of five per cent, the opposition’s unfunded policy will lead to an increase of 13 per cent.
It is important to note that the CPRS will deliver a real reduction in carbon dioxide emissions while the proposal put forward by the opposition does less, costs more and is unfunded. I urge the opposition to support the legislation. It is about the future of the planet. It is not about cheap politics or winning the next election; rather, it is about ensuring the future for our children and grandchildren.