House debates

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Constituency Statements

Newcastle Electorate: Clean Energy Innovation Centre; Emissions Trading Scheme

9:51 am

Photo of Sharon GriersonSharon Grierson (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to share with the House an important announcement that was made in my electorate of Newcastle in February—that is, that the Rudd government has chosen Newcastle as the location for the nation’s Clean Energy Innovation Centre. This is a wonderful opportunity for the nation and certainly for my region. The centre will support businesses operating in the clean energy field and help them become more innovative, efficient and competitive. It is a $20 million investment and one that I know is well placed in the city of Newcastle.

We are an area with expertise in energy. We have the CSIRO Energy Flagship, the National Solar Institute, University of Newcastle’s clean energy work, a very smart, knowledge based manufacturing sector and extensive infrastructure in business support. So Newcastle is now very well positioned to fulfil the needs of any business in Australia operating in a clean energy sector. It is a big investment in our region—as I said, $20 million for the centre over four years—but, as my colleague Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, said recently, ‘We are doing that because we want to help business keep their lights on during these dark economic times. In the longer term we do want to see those lights being generated by cleaner energy sources.’

I have to digress because yesterday the Lord Mayor of the city of Newcastle rolled out the conservative line that we hear from the opposition every day, that we cannot afford an emissions trading scheme at this time because of potential job losses. That is simply not so. The emissions trading scheme cannot be deferred. It is essential to the future economic prosperity and wealth of this nation. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as designed by our government will provide substantial assistance to my electorate to support the jobs of today. It will provide free permits to our emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, and we have plenty of them—aluminium, steel, energy generation and coal. It will provide targeted assistance to businesses as well as community sector organisations, workers and communities. Adjustment funds will support all those major sectors and there is a special adjustment fund. The ETS is designed to deliver reforms and to protect jobs and help transition Australia to a low-pollution economy—something we cannot delay.

In my electorate, the Rudd government is doing everything to protect the jobs of today. It has invested $580 million into the coal chain, $300 million plus has been spent in my electorate over the last year and, of course, the stimulus packages keep flowing to our economy. But we are also investing in the jobs of the future—$25 million for clean coal; $5 million to our solar thermal project, as part of the National Solar Institute; and $20 million for the Clean Energy Innovation Centre.

Unfortunately, the debate is being simplified to a situation where it is apparently a choice between the environment and jobs. This is not so. It is about protecting jobs now, creating jobs for the future and increasing the prosperity and wealth of this nation.