House debates

Wednesday, 22 March 2023


Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

7:19 pm

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It was great to be in the chamber to listen to that contribution from the member for Barker on the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022. I want to pick it apart. There were some buzzwords that he threw around. You'll hear words like 'business', 'technology' and 'nuclear'. Let's break down what this all means. When they talk about a technology driven approach, it's actually code for, 'Let's not do anything,' or, 'Let's use a lot of government money and send it out to business but have no expectations that they'll do anything to drive down emissions.' That's what they mean when they talk about technology.

Their one solution to climate change—and we have to take them at their word that they do think climate change is real, although I think there are some in their ranks still questioning whether or not climate change is real. But let's take them at their word that they do think climate change is happening and that we ought to act. If we were to do that, what is their plan to act? Those opposite have now been sitting on those benches over there for almost a year, and the one plan that they have come up with is nuclear. Let's break down this plan—this one golden plan that they have. Will it actually be possible? Will it be affordable? The answer to that is no.

If we were to look at best estimates, the cost of nuclear power in Australia would be approximately $16,000 per kilowatt hour. The cost of solar and wind would be about $2,000 per kilowatt hour. So you see that nuclear is much more expensive—eight times as expensive—than renewable energy. But let's think about whether or not it's feasible. We are still decades away from being able to have these golden geese that they all talk about, the small modular reactors. We are decades away. We need to get a workforce and an entire industry up. They love talking about AUKUS. We are already starting work on getting an industry up to be able to support AUKUS, but that is decades away. We know that we need to act on climate change now. It's urgent. We can't wait decades. We've already waited for those opposite. They've spent nine years and delivered nothing in terms of emissions reduction.

The other two buzzwords that they like to use are 'business' and 'regions'. Let's break that down. If we talk about the regions, which they all love to claim they are the party of, where in Australia is being hit hardest by climate change? It's the regions. It's our farmers who have to deal with drought and fire, and if not drought and fire then floods. They're the ones who are having to suffer the consequences of a warming globe and climate change. They're the ones who understand that we need to act now, yet they are being let down by those opposite, who refuse to stick up for farmers and refuse to give business certainty about the economic imperative of acting on climate change. They can't call themselves the party of the regions if they refuse to act on climate change, one of the biggest threats that our farmers are facing.

Let's go to their other buzzword, 'business'. All the major business groups are backing this safeguard mechanism—the AIG and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They are all getting behind this safeguard mechanism, because business have already moved. The train has already left the station for them. They are all acting to move to net zero, so they are far ahead of where those opposite are. They've already got plans in place. What they want from government is certainty and predictability, and that's what we're providing with the safeguard mechanism. So, again, those opposite cannot call themselves the party of business.

Let me run through the three buzzwords that they like to talk about. 'Business'—they've proven that they're no longer the party of business. 'Regions'—they've proven that they don't really care about our farmers and those living in regional towns. The only thing they can lay claim to is nuclear, so they are the party of nuclear. I will give you that. You can be the party of nuclear. I think they have all spent too much time watching The Simpsons and they all imagine themselves as Homer Simpson, being able to sit behind the nuclear reactor hitting that button. Well, go for it! You can be the party of nuclear.

When people asked me during the federal election why I decided to stand, I said there was one big driver, and that was my six-year-old son, and there were two main policies that I really cared about. Those were education and acting on climate change, because I wanted to be able to say to him and his generation that I had done everything I could to make sure that the world I was giving them was going to be better and that they were going to be able to live in a world where they didn't have to fear the extreme weather events that they have lived through. In the six short years that my son has been alive, he has lived through the 2019-20 drought and bushfire season, a once-in-a-generation event. Then he lived through a record rain and flooding event, a once-in-a-generation event. The fact that he has had to live both drought and bushfire and then a sudden shift to rain and flooding demonstrates how much we have impacted this planet and how much we need to do to make sure that we're acting on climate change.

I think those opposite need to take a good, long, hard look at the generations to come. Every time they go to a school, they should ask those schoolkids what they are concerned about and what things they would like their parliamentarians to do when they come into this place. I can guarantee those schoolkids will say to you that they want you to be protecting our environment and making sure that we act on climate change. Think about them when you are in this place and voting. Think about them when you are here talking about nuclear as your one solution to climate change.

What does this bill aim to do? It aims to get businesses to think about the innovation and technology that they need to work on to bring down emissions. If you're a business and you're doing well and you're making these breakthrough technological gains, then you get a credit, so you are actually incentivised to bring down emissions. We are now on the cusp of one of the greatest reforms in our economy since the Industrial Revolution. I shudder to think what those opposite would have done during the Industrial Revolution. They would have said: 'No, don't give us new technology. Don't give us electricity. We're okay with the candlelight and the horse and carriage. Don't give us anything new to make our lives better.' We are standing on that reform now, and I say to you: you should be getting behind this, because this is what business wants. They want the certainty of knowing that, if they make those changes, they won't be isolated and they won't be spending money on new technology on their own.

There is a whole-of-economy change that is happening, because that's what this is about. We are transforming the economy, and that's what needs to happen if we are to act on climate change. Instead, those opposite are failing to back this policy, which—let us remind them—was their policy, so they must have thought it was not very good to begin with. It is your policy. It is what business wants and— (Time expired)


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