House debates

Wednesday, 22 March 2023


Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

6:49 pm

Photo of Andrew CharltonAndrew Charlton (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise in support of the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill. Ten months ago to the day, the Albanese government was given a mandate by the Australian people. We were given a mandate to end the climate wars, to help end the suffering felt by disaster-stricken communities across Australia and to end the uncertainty felt by businesses and investors who had long ago abandoned their search for responsible climate leadership from the Australian government. That was 10 months ago, and we haven't wasted a single day in delivering on that mandate.

This mess we find ourselves cleaning up was 10 years in the making— a decade of a climate-sceptic coalition government that left Australia more isolated as the world moved forward to address climate change. That left the government more isolated from the businesses that the coalition purports to represent. It was a decade that left Australians from Parramatta to Lismore underprepared for the impacts of man-made climate change—something they were told time and time again wasn't a threat to their lives or livelihoods. It was a time when people spoke about climate change as a challenge for future generations. Its impacts were predicted to be long into the future. It was something that could be put on the backburner while the government of the day focused on whatever priorities they had.

Climate change has moved from a theory to an evidence based prediction to a current reality. In my election of Parramatta, we're already experiencing the effects of climate change every day. People experience searing hot summers. Their daily activities are affected by urban heat. Each year, Parramatta experiences 15 days above 35 degrees. Across Western Sydney, heatwaves are up to 10 degrees hotter than in other parts of the city. Our city is also under annual threat from devastating floods that break the banks of the Parramatta River and paralyse our public transport systems. Today, no Australian is immune from the impact of climate change. It doesn't discriminate based on whether you live in the cities or the regions.

We need real leadership on climate, and that is what our government is delivering. I want to thank the minister for disaster response for his leadership when Parramatta was hit by a once-in-30-years flood last year. Photos of flood-damaged homes and local businesses poured into my office. Residents like Maryanne, a local from Rydalmere, rang the office pleading for government assistance. Thanks to the responsive leadership from the minister for disaster response, Parramatta was added to the list of disaster affected areas within weeks of my office making contact. Disaster-stricken locals like Maryanne could finally recover and rebuild.

The ongoing and worsening impacts of climate change don't stop there. It's likely that hundreds more Australians like Maryanne will feel the effects of our climate crisis, and the pressure of the climate crisis will only keep growing. That's why it's incumbent upon us, as a responsible government, to respond with real, effective policies that reflect the urgency of this crisis. We started this process by legislating an ambitious but achievable emissions reduction target: 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. We intend to deliver on these targets and deliver on our mandate to address the ongoing climate crisis. We'll do that through the safeguard mechanism, which we announced in December 2021 as part of our Powering Australia plan and which was given a ringing endorsement at the last election by the Australian people. This will enable tradable credits to be issued to facilities who achieve emissions below their baseline, providing incentives for all covered facilities to reduce their emissions and access the lowest-cost abatement.

These reforms will make our targets not only ambitious but achievable. They're expected to save 205 million tonnes of emissions in the period to 2030. That's the equivalent of taking two out of every three Australian cars off the road over that same period. As part of our Powering Australia plan, our government will build on the existing safeguard mechanism to reduce industrial sector emissions. By doing this, we can build on a well-established legislative framework that places emission limits or baselines on large industrial facilities. It's a far-reaching mechanism covering around 215 large industrial businesses, accounting for around 28 per cent of Australia's emissions. The sectors that are covered are among the fastest growing across the economy and are projected to overtake emissions from the electricity sector if we don't have an effective policy response. With these reforms, safeguard facilities will, on average, reduce their emissions at the same rate as the rest of the economy by 2030.

These reforms are about empowering businesses to be part of the solution. It's about recognising the role the private sector can play in driving positive change, and providing the tools and incentives necessary for them to do so. By supporting this bill, we send a clear message to our industries that we believe in their ability to innovate and adapt for the greater good. Importantly, we're going to get this done by working with business—not by alienating them, not by berating them. In fact, these reforms back in the climate commitments companies have already made. They help meet our legislative targets to reduce emissions.

Adding to that, our reforms to the safeguard mechanism have been consistently recommended and supported by business groups. The Business Council of Australia not only put out a paper saying they support sensible climate policy; they said, 'The government's proposed reforms are workable.' Another member of the business community—the alleged core consistency of the coalition—Andrew McKellar, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the safeguard mechanism:

… is the best option that's on the table. And business believes that it's necessary, that we have to take that step, and we have to take it now.

If that's not a damning enough reflection on the performance of those opposite on climate, the ACCC outright urged those opposite to do the right thing for Australia's future and pass the bill.

I quote ACCI:

Past failure to deal with this reality has crimped certainty for industry and investors, and left our energy sector in disarray. Australian businesses and households are now paying the price.

Businesses and households are paying the price not for action on climate change but for the coalition's inaction on climate change—inaction that cost Australia a decade of progress to become what we could've been, a world leader in climate action and renewable technology; inaction that cost Australians security in their energy supply; inaction that cost businesses the opportunity to invest in new industries, new technologies and good jobs in renewables.

Australians have had enough of this. They've had enough of the half-baked scare campaign and enough of the $100 legs of lamb that the coalition has been talking about for decades. They know that is all false. They know they've had 22 half-hearted, failed attempts to do less than the bare minimum. And they know that their succession of undelivered plans has left Australia languishing.

Those opposite took the credit for announcing a plan on safeguard crediting but never delivered that plan, and now they're opposing our plan that builds on the same mechanism. What better evidence of the coalition turning action on climate change into a political football. They're always there to cut a ribbon, they're always there when the photo is being taken, but they're never there to act on climate. Frankly, these tired old coalition talking points are a sorry substitute for action and a sorry substitute for an apology to the Australian public for a decade of denial and delay.

What really stings are the lost gains we could have made by acting on climate change a decade ago. We could have had investment. We could have had an economy in transition towards good jobs and cheaper and cleaner electricity. Australians know climate policy can be good economic policy. Even the BCA supported then Prime Minister Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. But, instead, for the last 10 years we got nothing.

In the first 10 months of this government we've delivered the first real Climate Change Bill in a decade. We've passed the electric car tax discount through the House to make EVs more affordable. We've delivered a $67 million package of reforms to modernise energy market regulation with states and territories. We've hosted the Sydney Energy Forum with energy ministers from key countries around the world. And we've signed the Australia-US Net-Zero Technology Acceleration Partnership, showing the world that Australia is open for business when it comes to climate action and renewables.

The era of climate inaction must come to an end. I worked in the Rudd government when we had a mandate to put through an emissions trading scheme, a mandate given to us by the Australian people. We had all the evidence from the Garnaut review about the best and cheapest way to deliver that solution. We had all the evidence from the Garnaut review about the cost of inaction—the price we would pay if we didn't put that scheme in place. We worked hard to explain that scheme to the Australian people and to build support, and we lost it because we didn't get the support of the Greens. The Greens then, in 2008 and 2009, made their perfect the enemy of Australia's good. We lost an opportunity then, 14 years ago, to put in place a scheme that would have served Australia well, that would have enabled businesses to have the certainty over the last 14 years to invest. It would have had the energy sector on a path towards transition and had businesses able to make plans and put in place abatement technologies and processes so that they could move forward into a cleaner energy future. We lost that opportunity then.

The Gillard government did put in place an emissions trading scheme, again based on the science, based on the economics and based on the recognition that a broad scheme would be the least-cost way to reduce emissions. That scheme was the law of the land, introduced by the Gillard government. It was an innovation in global climate policy, one of the first and broadest schemes in the world. That scheme was repealed by the Abbott government, taking away certainty for business and throwing away five years of work—work that was supported by the business community, by industry and by conservation groups, work that was supported broadly across Australia.

Everybody wanted to move forward, but we didn't. Instead, we had nine years of coalition government—nine years in which that policy wasn't replaced by something better. It wasn't replaced by anything. The statistics kept moving. The IPCC reports kept coming out. The world kept getting hotter. Natural disasters kept coming. Year after year, everything that had been predicted came true, but we still didn't have the courage to act.

Finally, we have a government that has the courage to act. Finally, we have a government who is going to take on this challenge. Finally, we have a government who is going to provide certainty to business. Finally, we have a government who is going to set Australia up for a transition towards a clean economy. All we get from the opposition is harping on about $275 every day in question time, ignorant to the reality of climate change, ignorant to the impact this will have on the world, ignorant to the impact this will have on our children and future generations. They are playing the same political games they've played for the last 10 years with one of the most serious issues that humanity has ever faced.

I'm so proud to be part of a government that is no longer playing political games with climate change. I'm so proud to be part of a government that has a real and workable solution, a government that has brought business and unions and community groups and conservation groups to the table around a real solution. That is the solution that we are legislating through this bill as an important step towards a clean energy future. When it's done, Australians will look back at this piece of legislation and this parliament as the time that we got serious, took a step into our economic future, created certainty and started to tackle one of the biggest challenges we've ever faced as a civilisation.


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