Thursday, 21 February 2019
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019; Report from Federation Chamber
Just briefly—I won't detain the House for too long. I hope that we hear from the opposition about their stance on whether Efic should be used to fund coal exports, because it's a crucial question.
Despite what the last speaker just said, this isn't some academic question. We know that the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment changed the Efic's mandate. He did it in secret, and he only got found out after FOIs. We know that Efic has met with Adani and suppliers—that is a matter of public record. So we are dealing with a very, very real issue here. The minister mentioned the Pacific islands. Can I say that the one thing our near neighbours are crying out to Australia for is to get serious on climate change! The one issue that is at the top of their minds is Australia's continued export of coal and the threat that we might export more of it. It is no use using Efic to help with some infrastructure in the Pacific island region if, at the same time, we're threatening those people's homes and livelihoods by making climate change worse, and that is what they're telling us. They're saying: 'Please, please! Wean yourselves off coal,' and, because it doesn't matter where the coal is burnt, 'Don't burn it at home and please don't dig up more of it and export it.'
The minister mentioned jobs. Well, there are nigh on 70,000 jobs that are dependent on a healthy Great Barrier Reef. What is going to happen to those jobs, in Queensland predominantly, when the reef has not only back-to-back bleaching but back-to-back-to-back bleaching, and when it is no longer the vibrant ecosystem that encourages people to come from all around the world? Those jobs are real jobs too. The 70,000 jobs dependent on a healthy Great Barrier Reef are real jobs.
We have to take this transition by the horns and to do it in a way that is fair to workers and to communities. That is why we are talking about a phase-out by 2030, even though some are saying it needs to happen sooner. We're saying, 'Let's do this properly.' We don't say, 'Oh well, what about the jobs in the tobacco sector?' when we talk about regulating tobacco. We accept that this product comes at a cost to community, so we regulate it. We've done it with asbestos and we can do it with other products now as well, if we have the wit and the wherewithal. So the only way to be honest, and supportive of the jobs, the workers and the communities that currently rely on this industry that is being phased out, is for the government to get serious about it.
But, at the end of the day, this is a simple amendment that says, 'No, what has happened over the last couple of years in playing footsies with Adani and their contractors through Efic now has to stop, and Efic needs a clear role of guidance.' Again, I implore the Labor Party to support this, because the Labor Party has said, correctly, that they do not support taxpayer funds going to coal. I desperately hope there's a change of government in the next few weeks or months and that this mob of climate deniers is not sitting on the government benches. But if money is being shovelled out the door that helps the Adani coalmine go ahead, then the next government is going to have to deal with it. The next government will have the capacity now to stop it by simply saying, 'No taxpayer money for coalmines through Efic.'