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

4:30 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I second the amendment moved by my colleague the member for Melbourne. I commend the member for Melbourne on his unflinching commitment to keep the pressure up in this place to do something about climate change. I urge the members of this House to embrace the amendment, because to do otherwise would be madness. Frankly, it is madness to be wanting to wind back strong action on climate change. It is madness to be wanting to take the price off carbon. I just do not get it. I do not see why the government is wanting to act in this way for any reason other than its political self-interest and trying to score political points in an important area of public policy. That can be the only explanation for the behaviour of this government, because every other way that you might approach the challenge in this area of public policy you reach the same conclusion. When you approach this issue from any other direction, you reach the conclusion that we must act on climate change and this includes first and foremost putting a price on carbon and keeping a price on carbon. This will ensure that the price on carbon sends a very strong signal to the markets that companies which pollute must clean up their act and a strong signal to consumers to stay away from products that are more expensive because they are based on polluting the climate and, instead, to go towards products and services that are cheaper because they are based on production techniques and ways of doing things that are better for the environment.

I think one of the problems is that too many members on that side of the chamber, too many members of the government, will not admit—some will admit and others will not, although I suspect many of them admit it in their private conversations with their constituents—that they do not believe in climate change. They need to admit it: they are deniers. They do not believe that mankind is making the environment more dirty and that, because of it, we are helping to change the climate. Yes, the climate has changed over millennia for all sorts of reasons, but surely there can be no doubt that, in 2014, it is the behaviour of human kind that is accelerating the change in climate in bad and dangerous ways.

The member for Melbourne has eloquently talked about extreme weather events and the fact that it is only a matter of time before catastrophic bushfires will be regular events, perhaps every couple of years. Yes, with some of the effects of climate change, a rich, lucky and fortunate country like Australia will be able to adapt but what about less developed countries, less rich countries—countries in our region? They do not have the riches and the know-how that we have. We could move entire cities if we had to; but they cannot. They will die—and they will die in droves—from the effects of climate change. Because of the effects of climate change and its cost to us in Australia, we have to do something about it. But perhaps a greater moral imperative is to do something about it so as to help those less fortunate people than ourselves, who are less well equipped to do something about climate change.

I do not get why so many members of the government just do not believe in climate change. There is an overwhelming consensus amongst the very best minds in the world that the climate is changing on account of human kind and that we must change the way we do business. Members of the government do not seem to understand that this is not just a problem now. In some ways, the bigger problem will be in the future and the world that we will leave to our children, their children and their children. In fact, climate change is one of the most dramatic examples of intergenerational social injustice that you could possibly comprehend. What right do we have? We have no right to leave the world knowingly in a worse state than when we found it. As the father of a seven-year-old and a five-year-old, I want to be able to look them in the eye—and I cannot fathom why members of the government are not wanting to look their children and their grandchildren in the eye; surely, they want to look them in the eye—and say: 'When push came to shove and we had the opportunity in this place to do something about climate change, we did something. We acted.' How are the members of the government going to look their kids and grand-kids in the eye and say that they were the government that took the price off carbon and left it to future generations to deal with the problems of climate change—and a greater problem it will be.

We must take a leadership position in this place and make the tough decisions. We as a nation must take a leadership position on the global stage. While the percentage of global pollution that comes from Australia is but a proportion of global pollution, it would not even matter if it were zero pollution: there would still be the moral imperative for us to take a leadership role on the global stage.

I do not know what Robert Menzies would think about what has happened to the Liberal Party, and I will associate the Country Party, now The Nationals, with that comment. Even if you did not agree with the Liberal Party of the Menzies era, it was still a great party. There might have been policies which people disagreed with, but it was still a great party. What has the Liberal Party now become? It is the party of invading Iraq and of sending asylum seekers back to the authorities from which they claim to be fleeing. It is now the party that would dismantle the monumental reform of the 43rd Parliament to put a price on carbon—and a monumental and difficult reform it was. History will show that the decision by the 43rd Parliament to put a price on carbon was one of the greatest political achievements of any government in any parliament since Federation. So too will history record that in removing the price on carbon the government in the 44th Parliament made one of the greatest blunders of any government.

There is a lot of talk in here about the economy. How about we start talking about the environment? How about we start talking about society? How about we start talking about the public interest and the interests of our kids, their kids and those who will follow them? If we started talking about the environment, about the community and about the future for our kids, maybe people in this place would have a different response, instead of just talking just about the economy. Yes, it does cost to make the world a better place. That is a cost that we should be prepared to pay. What right do we have to say that the price is too much now but will not be too much for our kids in the future? We do not have that right, particularly when the costs we are leaving our kids will be so much greater at a time of unknown economic circumstances. We do not know what capacity they will have to pay the bill we are going to leave them. They may have much reduced capacity to pay the bill we are leaving them. We have no right to leave them that bill, because we and the people who came before us ran up this tab. We have a moral obligation to pay the bill now and pay it while it is affordable. And it is affordable. Yes, we are looking at a system that sends price signals and makes some things more expensive. I am not going to shy away from that; I am not going to dodge that. That is the whole point of putting a price on carbon—making dirty things dearer, making clean things cheaper, steering businesses towards doing things more cleanly, steering consumers towards buying things that are produced more cleanly. Yes, electricity and gas become a little bit dearer. It is no wonder, then, that we are seeing so much movement towards renewables, technologies that are becoming cheaper. That is the whole point. We should be celebrating, not demonising, the achievements of the 43rd Parliament. We really should be.

Where does this leave our senators? I have nothing personal against the Liberal or Palmer United senators for Tasmania. They are all good people in their own way. But I disagree with them on this; I disagree with them very, very strongly. In doing away with the price on carbon, Tasmanian senators are not acting in my state's best interest. It is well remarked upon by now that doing away with the price on carbon will cost Hydro in my state $70 billion a year and hundreds of jobs. That is a fact. Do not look at me with a funny, quizzical look, member for Corio. It is a fact. Getting rid of the carbon price will cost my state dearly. This is another good example of where senators need to stand up for their state and not let their chain be yanked by their political party. If the Liberal and Palmer United Party senators stood up for Tasmania, then all 12 senators—Liberal, Palmer, Labor and the Greens—would be voting against the repeal of a price on carbon. But they will not. They will allow their chains to be yanked by their party masters. That is a serious failure of the Senate.

I have been very, very alarmed in recent days to hear and see the comments of some corporations in this country that they will not pass on any reduction in price from the abolition of the price on carbon. I read just yesterday that Qantas and Jetstar are saying that there will be no price reduction. Heavens! They were some of the first companies to say that the price would go through the roof. They had better pass on any savings that come from the abolition of a price on carbon. A comment was made in question time that, I think it was, Woolworths was saying that there was no real extra cost then, so there will not be any reductions in prices now. That had better not be the case, because I will be out the front on the barricades steering consumers towards those companies that act honestly and ethically and do genuinely pass on any reductions in price coming from the abolition of the price on carbon. Let the market judge those companies that do not pass on any reductions in prices coming from these developments. To that end, the Palmer United Party attempt to at least hold some companies to account is in principle a good idea. I hope, Minister, that the government will keep a close eye on all operators in the market to ensure that they all genuinely pass on to the consumer any reduction in the cost of production.

This is a very, very sad day in this place. It is a repeat of the very sad day we had when this legislation went through the House previously. It all comes down to crass politics. There are enough good men and women in the government, people of sharp mind and good heart, who understand the importance of putting a price on carbon not just for the environment but for the community, for our kids and for the economy, because it will help prepare us for the future global economy, because all our trading partners are moving or have moved to put a price on carbon.

It disappoints me greatly that they are prepared to put the delivery of a three-word slogan during an election campaign and what was ultimately just a strategy to destruct the previous government ahead of the public interest, ahead of the economy and certainly ahead of the environment. That is a terrible failure of governments in this country, that any party would be prepared to do that.

Again, I make the point: I just do not get it. I do not know why people would do that. I do not know why people would not understand the science. But what about those who do understand science? As a speaker made the point earlier, even if they do not believe the science about climate change, surely they understand that it is a good idea to help clean up the environment? I think it was the member for Sydney who said that we do not let people put sludge in the river or drop litter by the roadside so why is it okay to pump pollution into the atmosphere? Why can we not put politics aside for a moment? I do not get it, other than to understand that in this area of public policy this government is failing us terribly. And let the record show that. Let the record show for a long time to come which government and which members voted to put a price on carbon. And that the record show which members are now working to overturn it.

At least I will be able, and I know that the member for Melbourne will be able, to look at the next generation in the eye—


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