Thursday, 21 February 2019
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019; Report from Federation Chamber
Eighty per cent—that is how much of Australia's thermal coal we export overseas. Twenty per cent we use here for generating power, and we're in the process of shifting away from that to renewables. But we need a plan to deal with the 80 per cent, because the world's scientists have told us that, if we don't have a plan to get out of coal within the next 12 years, we could hit dangerous global warming tipping points as soon as 2030, in 12 years time. By the time that my daughter is 14, she may face a world where we have tipped over 1½ degrees of global warming.
So what we here in Australia can do to contribute best to that and what those in the Pacific Islands are asking us to do with all their might and all their heart is to stop exporting coal. We need a plan to stop exporting coal by 2030—to phase it out, so that we look after the communities and the workers in the mines that are reliant on it at the moment, but, at the same time, pick up other export industries, like hydrogen and make sure that Australia becomes the place that you come to if you want to run a business with clean, green, cheap renewable energy. Others may disagree with that, but that's what the science requires.
At the very least, what we should all be able to agree on is that we should not be using taxpayers' money to facilitate the export of coal from Australia. But that is exactly what the government want to do—and it is what they want Efic, the finance corporation, to do, as one of their many ways of doing it. They are keen to write out cheques to coal-fired power stations here, but we also know that they are keen to use taxpayers' money, which should go to schools and hospitals, to fund the export of coal, even if it is run and managed by a big multinational like Adani.
We know that, because, back in 2017, the trade minister secretly changed Efic's mandate by a letter, by writing to them, saying, 'We'd like you to now use taxpayers' money for coal exports, including for Adani.' We also know that last year, Efic, the Export Finance Corporation—which is the subject of this bill and this amendment—had discussions with Adani and some of the contractors and suppliers associated with Adani to talk about how they could hand over taxpayers' money to facilitate what is a ticking climate bomb in the Galilee Basin. We cannot afford to open any more new coalmines, to open up new coal basins, if we're to have a chance of staying below warming thresholds—and we certainly shouldn't be using public money to facilitate it.
The amendment that I am moving should be unobjectionable. It allows the rest of this bill regarding the Export Finance Corporation, which I understand is agreed between Labor and Liberal, to pass through. I have some concerns about this bill, and the Greens will deal with those in the Senate. This amendment doesn't take anything out of the bill; it just adds in a rider that says, 'Taxpayers' money cannot be used through the Export Finance Corporation to fund and facilitate the export of thermal coal.'
We have to pass this amendment now. We are mere weeks away from an election, and we know that this government is keen to write out cheques for coal before the election and have them cashed. We know this government is hell-bent on opening up the Adani coalmine. I hope that this amendment gets up. I hope that Labor and people on the cross bench support it, because it should be unobjectionable. But I do note that the coal industry has been up here lobbying in Canberra this week, and I do know that, since 2012, the old parties, Labor and Liberal, have taken at least $3.8 million in donations from the coal companies.
I am worried that Labor is not being clear on where it stands on coal. We know the Liberals; they're a bunch of climate deniers who should be kicked out. But we have to get some clarity on coal. If you don't have a plan to get out of coal in Australia you're not serious about tackling climate change. This amendment is very simple: do you support taxpayer funds being able to go to Adani or any of its suppliers through the Export Finance Corporation? I hope that, on this amendment, the opposition sits with some of us on the cross bench and say, 'No; not one single dollar of taxpayer money should go to funding Adani and opening up coalmines.'