Wednesday, 22 March 2023
Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022. You would think that one of the first things you would make sure of when designing a climate policy is that pollution from coal and gas would come down. That's because coal and gas are the causes of the climate crisis. Labor wants more coal and gas. More coal and gas means more pollution going into our atmosphere and the climate crisis being turbocharged.
There has been much talk about progress and action and what this policy actually does. It may have escaped some of the members of the government that this policy actually can allow pollution from coal and gas to go up. Why is it that it not only allows it but the government's own forecasts say coal and gas pollution is going to go up under this? Why is that the case? Two reasons: because new coal and gas mines can come into the system without any restriction and because the coal and gas mines that are here already can keep on polluting as long as they buy a few tree-planting permits and count that as a pollution cut. Government members on the backbench may not have sat down and actually read the policy, but actually pollution from coal and gas can go up and is forecast to go up. They're the three words that this government dare not say, 'coal and gas'.
We have been given a very clear final warning this week by world scientists and the UN Secretary-General. He singled out countries like Australia, and he said something very, very clearly. He said we are on the verge of going over the climate cliff. Why that's critical is the decisions that we make now will determine whether we can keep climate change under control or it becomes a runaway chain reaction that our kids and our grandkids cannot wind back. That is a world of pain, a world of devastation, a world of worse droughts, floods and fires, and they will not be able to put the genie back in the bottle. He said to countries like Australia, 'I've got one thing that I want you to do that's critical: stop opening up new coal and gas projects.'
I ask all those Labor interjectors: are you now prepared to say you'll stop opening coal and gas? No, they're not prepared to say they won't open new coal and gas, and so, at the same time as the UN Secretary-General is saying very, very clearly that countries like Australia have got to stop opening up coal and gas, the government and the opposition say: 'We don't care. We're going to act as if we haven't heard a thing you've said.' You can't put the fire out while you're pouring petrol on it. If this is a genuine attempt to fix a problem, surely the first step is to stop making the problem worse. That is what confronts us here and now, a simple question because climate change and global warming are caused by the burning of coal and gas.
There's a simple question people in this House need to answer: do you want more coal and gas or not? Do you want to open up new coal and gas mines or not? At the moment everyone except the Greens and people on the crossbench are saying they want more coal and gas in the middle of a climate crisis. That is something they will have to answer for to their constituents and their kids and grandkids because opening new coal and gas now, after we have heard this very clear warning, is not only negligent, but it's a criminal. It's absolutely criminal to say we need more coal and gas in the face of the warnings from world scientists and the UN Secretary-General that we've heard this year—absolutely criminal. There are no other words for it.
I want to hear those people interjecting on both sides explain why they want more coal and gas. Go to those flood-hit areas and see people still trying to recover from the flood and the fires and the drought, walk into those communities and tell them that opening up more coal and gas mines in the middle of a climate crisis is a good idea. They won't do it—they're not prepared to justify that because it is unjustifiable—it is simply unjustifiable. There has also been talk about what pollution might be cut from this scheme—assuming it's not all through offsets because it could all be through offsets. What they don't tell you is that even one big one of the 13 new coal gas projects that this government is forecasting will be opened before 2030—before 2030, 13 new coal and gas projects—just one of those, one big one of those, wipes out all the climate gains that will be made from the safeguard. They don't tell you that, but that's what will happen. Scarborough project, if that goes ahead, over 230 million tonnes—bang, there goes everything that supposedly has been saved by this mechanism. What the Australian people voted for was legislation that will see pollution go down, not up.