House debates

Wednesday, 17 October 2018


Minister for the Environment

5:41 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

So is there one who stands up for the pink batts program? I knew the families that were affected by it. This is an opposition that pretends to be pro-worker, yet there was an utter silence, a cowardly silence, a conspiracy of silence about a program that took four lives. Is there anybody who's proud of that program—any brave souls, anybody sufficiently callous, anybody sufficiently cowardly? We warned, we talked in advance, of the first loss of life, about a program that was going to be a catastrophe. We put that program to the Auditor-General before the first of those four young men lost their lives. There was nothing—no response, no care, no concern. Not one member of this great coalition of the workers' supporters stood up for those young men in advance. Nor, when they talk about investing in the environment and waste, do they think that a $2 billion catastrophic waste is worthwhile, because it was an utter shame, in terms of public money, as the royal commission found. It was a royal commission that eviscerated the program, eviscerated the conduct, and we had to fix it up, in terms of payments to the families and businesses that were affected by it.

It was the same with the green loans. It was a catastrophic program that utterly failed to achieve value for money and outcomes. When you raise the issue of investing and getting value for money, that program was a disgrace and a disaster and an embarrassment to the then government. Before we even get to the issue of the citizens' assembly and cash for clunkers—is there anybody here who stands by cash for clunkers? Just one, one brave soul. Come on!

An opposition member interjecting

Oh, you're a cash for clunkers fan? Is that a program that you will bring back? The member for Griffith is a big fan of cash for clunkers. What about the citizens' assembly—that glorious policy which they abandoned the moment they were re-elected in 2010?

By comparison, we hear a little bit about the reef. The question of the reef has been raised in this context. The government is investing over $400 million in programs to improve the reef. Let us remember what the largest part of that is: it's reducing sediment run-off; it's reducing the impact of nutrients; it's reducing the impact on the reef of the items that come from farms or gullies. They are all programs with a practical, real-world impact. I have a little bit of acquaintance with this because I had to attend the meeting in relation to the World Heritage Convention. Why was that so important? That was important because, when we came into government, Labor had two consecutive motions from the World Heritage Convention Committee which put Australia's Great Barrier Reef on the watch list, on a path to 'in danger', and they demanded a radical change. They demanded a change because what had occurred under Labor was a catastrophic failure of management, a catastrophic failure of environmental outcomes and a catastrophic failure in relation to protecting Australia's reputation. Do you know what happened at that meeting in Bonn in 2015? The World Heritage Committee took what Australia had done on the reef, in our time, on our watch, including the ending of capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef and including ending the five major proposals that Labor had for capital dredge to be dumped on the reef. They saw our investment, they saw our long-term plan out to 2050, they saw the changes that we made and, as a consequence of that, they praised Australia as a global leader.

This is about waste and calling out Labor's utter fraud and 'what we've achieved', and it also is about the reef. In relation to the reef, we turned around Labor's catastrophic mismanagement. Those people are utter frauds on the environment and the reef, and the World Heritage Committee called them out. Why did they praise us? Because we got it right and we reversed their failures. We reversed the actions which led to Australia being put on the path to 'in danger', on the World Heritage watchlist. I am very happy—

Opposition members interjecting

You know that the 2012 and 2013 decisions of the World Heritage Committee made it absolutely clear that, without reform, Australia was going to be put—

Opposition members interjecting

You are airbrushing history and you out to be utterly ashamed of what occurred on your watch. Let me be absolutely clear: the third part of this element is about climate change. When we came into government, there was a 750-million-tonne shortfall to meet our 2020 targets. Do you know what? We're on track now to be an almost 300-million-tonne surplus government. We have a billion-tonne turnaround from where Labor had emissions to where we are. We've achieved what they promised. We were on a track to fail. So we have achieved the very thing they promised but were unable to deliver. Their own figures, in their own last assessments, showed a shortfall of 755 million tonnes. The other thing we did as part of that was to abolish a catastrophic carbon tax, which wasn't going to achieve the outcomes but was going to achieve the damage.

The last time they were in government, they brought an electricity tax to the Australian people. They deliberately increased the price of electricity. We took that tax and abolished that tax. We reduced the price of electricity, as the ACCC said, by the full amount of the tax that the previous government introduced, and, as a consequence, families and business and jobs are better off. But, as we project forward to what their plan is and their proposal is, it's another electricity tax. As the Prime Minister made clear last night, potentially we are looking at a tripling of the carbon tax with their 45 per cent emissions reduction target and their 50 per cent renewable target. If we put those two together we have a near tripling of the carbon tax, but in the form of an electricity tax. So their plan going forward now is a massive electricity tax on Australians.

They want to talk about honesty and they want to talk about record. Well, we are very happy to talk about those. They are ashamed of what they did on the reef and they deny what the World Heritage Committee had to say. They are ashamed of what they did in the Home Insulation Program and in the pink batts program. Not one of them is willing to stand by that—but on this occasion for good reason, because young people lost their lives in a program which was a disgrace. Not one member of that government should ever be in government again.

As a consequence of that and because of those failures—because of their failures on the reef and because of the fact that they were 755 million tonnes short—we reject this motion on every possible ground. On that side they are environmental frauds; on this side we've achieved the outcomes. We reject this motion, and categorically reject it.


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