House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Second Reading

3:47 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

We are going to be the only country in the world that is actually walking away from a scheme that is working and going to a scheme that no economist, no environmentalist and nobody in the world actually thinks will work to effectively bring down carbon pollution and mitigate against the dangers of climate change. We now have some of our biggest trading partners all moving in one direction and we are moving back in the other direction.

Today, 39 national and 23 sub-national jurisdictions—accounting for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions—have implemented or are moving to implement carbon pricing instruments, including emissions trading schemes. We had the Treasurer earlier today talking about China. I have been to China recently, too. I spoke to the same person that he says he spoke to, who told me that they hope to move from their seven very large emissions trading pilot schemes in China at the moment to a national scheme by the end of the decade. We have got our most major trading partner, China; 39 national jurisdictions and 23 sub-national jurisdictions moving this way.

In the United States just recently, there was a very significant step towards tackling climate change with President Obama announcing a 30 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Yes, he has faced domestic roadblocks from the Tea Party mates of those opposite, but he is moving around those to implement strict new carbon dioxide emissions caps on power plants in the United States. That comes on top of the 2011 strict fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles and the other measures, like last year's Environmental Protection Agency declaration that new coal-fired plants may not emit more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, which has the effect of the ending the building of new dirty coal-fired power stations in the United States.

There are very significant moves from our major trading partners. When you are talking about our major trading partners, it is not just China and the United States. Look at the government's conservative friends in the United Kingdom and in Germany. When the Prime Minister was in 'Canadia' earlier this year, he said:

There is no sign that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted. If anything trading schemes are being discarded not adopted.

Yet, his own friends—conservative governments in the United Kingdom and Germany—are amongst those in the forefront of adopting strict and successful programs to reduce carbon emissions.

Emissions trading schemes are in place across Europe, as I said earlier, and in some states of the United States, in Canada, in New Zealand, in Australia and in Japan. South Korea will have a scheme beginning in 2015—so the beginning of next year—which is legislated already. In these places it is not just a nutty left-wing conspiracy to destroy the industrial state, as the Prime Minister seems to imply at times. You actually have conservatives like Lord Deben in the UK calling our move away from an emissions trading scheme 'reckless'. He said it was 'deeply shaming'. He said:

It’s a … deeply retrograde step … There has been a notable reduction in emissions and businesses have not found it to be the imposition that they said it would be.

This is a man who served in Margaret Thatcher's government. This is no radical. He is a man who served in Margaret Thatcher's government.

We had the US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, saying last month that Australia would be making a huge mistake in dropping the ETS. Again, he is no radical. We have had more Australian economists than I could poke a stick at saying the same. AMP Capital's chief economist, Shane Oliver, said:

… it was hard to say the carbon tax had had any negative macro–economic impacts on Australia such as on growth and employment.

Ross Garnaut has said in a newly published interview today that:

There’s no doubt that Australia is out of step. First of all, out of step for not dealing more strongly with the issue of climate change—you can reduce emissions and play your full part in an international effort without a market-based mechanism, it’s just that the alternatives are more expensive, more difficult, and less certain to deliver good results than an emissions trading scheme or broadly based carbon pricing in other forms.

Across the world we have major economies, major trading partners, moving in one direction and we are moving from that place backwards. We are retreating from action on climate change.

The benefit of an emissions trading scheme is that you put in place a cap on carbon pollution and then people trade within that cap to find the least-cost way of remaining under it. Even if those opposite do not believe what the vast majority of scientists around the world believe, why do they think it is a bad thing to reduce air pollution in Australia? Can anyone explain to me why we do not let people dump whatever they want in rivers, why we do not let people dump whatever they want on the side of the street, and yet we do not want to limit the carbon pollution we are putting into the atmosphere? I have never heard from those opposite why it is a bad idea to limit the amount of pollution going into our atmosphere.

I said earlier that this is a scheme that is working. In the very short time that this scheme has been in place, Australia's wind capacity has trebled. More than a million households have had solar panels installed, up from fewer than 7,500 under Prime Minister Howard. Employment in the renewable energy industry has more than doubled, to over 24,000 people. Has there been the python squeeze; has it wiped Whyalla off the map; has it led to $100 legs of lamb? None of the disastrous predictions have come true. In fact, 160,000 jobs were created in the first year. The economy continued to grow at 2½ per cent, and inflation remained low. Pollution in the National Electricity Market decreased by seven per cent, and renewable power generation as a share of the National Electricity Market increased by 25 per cent. We have a scheme that is working, and we should move to the next phase of that scheme—a proper emissions trading scheme with a floating price—but we do need to take real action on reducing carbon pollution because the environmental and economic debt we are leaving our children through inaction is completely unacceptable.


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