Thursday, 29 October 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable Leader of the Opposition has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
As I said earlier in the day when speaking on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and cognate bills, the Labor Party is the miners’ friend; it always has been and always will be. We have a commitment and a mandate from the people of Australia to cut carbon emissions. That is what we were elected to do and that is what we will do. We will create thousands of new energy jobs—green jobs reducing carbon going into the atmosphere, making coal clean so that it can be exported, and exported with confidence knowing that it will not be blocked by high tariffs by the European Union, the United States or anywhere else in the world. That is why we must have clean coal. In my seat of Dawson there are something like 38,000 miners who rely on the coal industry and the mining industry in general for their livelihoods—to look after their families, their homes and their children.
So let us have no more deceit from the other side of the House saying that cutting emissions will cut jobs. I want to say to everyone who sent me an email with that title in it: this Rudd Labor government is committed wholeheartedly to producing more coal to send overseas in our exports. We will create thousands more jobs, and I have evidence of that, because the local Daily Mercury often gets the message just right about what is going on in our community. The one I am holding, which is dated 3 October 2009, has an article ‘Port power! Port growth could jump’, which states:
DALRYMPLE Bay Coal Terminal has unveiled an ambitious $4 billion plan to expand by 80 per cent and create 1000 new jobs.
Do you think that this government would do anything to jeopardise that? No, absolutely not. We are in the business of increasing productivity and increasing new opportunities for mining companies to export to help the bottom line of this nation.
So let us not hear any more from the other side—or from the Australian Coal Association, with their scare campaign. They are earning multibillion dollar profits and they are saying to us, ‘You’re going to cut emissions but you’re also going to cut jobs.’ What a load of rubbish. We are in the business of building up this nation and making it a nation that is productive and fulfilling for the people who work in it. I want to make that very clear.
The towns of Mackay and particularly Bowen will boom. I have to say, Bowen is definitely a place in the seat of Dawson that is going to boom. It is going to boom big time. The Queensland Labor government of Anna Bligh have just announced that they are doing a public-private partnership with two coal companies to build the 69-kilometre missing link. What is it going to do? It is going to double productivity from 50 million tonnes a year to 110 million tonnes a year. Do you think this government is going to do something which is going to jeopardise that productivity, which will add to the bottom line of this nation’s wealth? Absolutely not. The Rudd Labor government is committed to expanding the nation, to building the nation and to increasing the nation’s productivity. That is what we have set out to do, that is what we have the mandate to do and we are going to do it.
We signed the Kyoto protocol. That is the first thing that we did. Then we said sorry to the Stolen Generations. Then we got rid of Work Choices. There was a bit of legislation that was going to cut jobs and drive hardworking families into the ground, earning a pittance because the laws of the land created by the other side of politics were driving working people down, down, down. The wages were going down, and if you did not accept your cut in wages you would lose your job. What bad laws they were. We had the mandate of the people in November 2007 to get rid of Work Choices. We kept our promises. That is what we did. We are in the business of giving workers security, stability, a good lifestyle, a good home, a good education and a good health service. That is what we are committed to doing, and that is what we are doing. We are getting on with the job. We are building this nation. So let us not have any more tittle-tattle from the other side of this House saying that CPRS is going to cost jobs. It is not. We are going to build the nation. We are going to build the wealth of the nation, we are going to work hand in hand with the international community and we are going to reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.
I think it is very important to get that right off my chest right now, because I have had enough of all these scaremongering tactics from the other side, making good working people in the mining industry in the Bowen Basin frightened for their jobs. It is typical. That is what you did with Work Choices and that is what you are trying to do with this CPRS scare email campaign. I have never heard anything like it. It is absolutely disgusting. You should be working in a bipartisan way to build this nation, to build the wealth of this nation and to look after the good of the atmosphere of this global world. We are working with everybody—
I say through the Deputy Speaker to the other side of the House—I deflect it through you to the other side, Mr Deputy Speaker—that we are working hand in hand with the international community, absolutely. That is why at the G8, when our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd went there, there was an agreement for 20 CCS—that is, carbon capture and storage—projects. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I were on the primary industries committee when we brought down the report, Down Underaptly named by you, Mr Deputy Speaker! We looked into a wide range of evidence that this is a feasible project to reduce carbon through capture and storage. We can take carbon out of coal, we can put it underground and we can lock it into the natural vaults beneath the earth, which have held carbon naturally for millions of years. It is proven. It is happening off the coast of Denmark. There are case studies there that are in the report Down Under, which the other side can go and refer to. We are world leaders in these new technologies, but the other side of politics wants to jeopardise that leadership. We can be world leaders in carbon capture and storage.
I want to remind the other side of politics exactly how serious climate change is and how serious the science is. Last night was the Prime Minister’s science awards night. I was honoured to be there to see the incredible minds that we have at work in this nation. We can be truly proud of the smartest and brightest people and the way they want to inspire our youth to get a hunger for science and research. It was fantastic. I was also there last year. Professor Penny Sackett, the Chief Scientist, made this very clear statement. She said:
If we just continue on and do nothing, if we just do business as usual and do nothing about carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the sea level will rise one metre by the year 2050.
That is if we do absolutely nothing. What did the other side, the coalition, the naysayers, the flat-earth believers say? For 11 years they did nothing. And that is their policy until 2050—to do nothing. You know the results and the consequences of that—the sea levels will rise by one metre.
We had another report come out this week from the parliament, a bipartisan report about the effects of climate change on our coastline around Australia. If you were to apply that scenario of a one-metre rise by 2050 you would find out very quickly that climate change is a very real phenomenon. In the South Sea islands—PNG, the Solomon Islands—already there is social migration from islands which are sinking because of climate change and rising sea levels. Not only do the sea levels rise but the temperature of the sea changes. As the temperature of the sea changes, conditions of air convection change as well.
We have seen more incidents recently, particularly off the coast of Queensland, such as Cyclone Hamish. I happened to be in Mackay the night that Cyclone Hamish came within 200 kilometres. It was on a Saturday night. For the first time ever, the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of Mackay issued an evacuation alert warning. This was because Cyclone Hamish was a category 5 cyclone, one category higher than Hurricane Katrina, which caused so much devastation in the United States of American in New Orleans. The locals are very familiar with the routine of getting ready for cyclone evacuation. We are very well drilled and very well prepared. I commend the four councils in my seat of Dawson, the Townsville Council, Burdekin Shire Council, the Whitsunday Regional Council and Mackay Regional Council. They do a fantastic job every year making people aware of the need to have water, torches, batteries, cans of food and dry and waterproof containers for important documents such as birth certificates, passports and other important documents like qualifications and the like. They do a fantastic job.
But everybody is saying in the seat of Dawson that things are not like they used to be. The weather events are more severe. This House will remember the floods of Mackay in February 2008. We had more rain in an overnight period than has ever been seen before. It was unbelievable. It knocked out 8,000 homes. That has a direct relationship with climate change. We have never seen anything like that before. So we need to take climate change very seriously indeed. I just do not see the other side of the House doing that. It is irresponsible for people to say there are two views of the science. The fact is that the ice caps are melting, the sea is rising and things are changing.
Climate change will put jobs at risk and it will put industries at risk unless we act to protect jobs. How do we do that? We have our greatest export, coal—there is also aluminium and uranium—that we mine and then sell overseas. All mining activities need to be cleaner. They need to be cleaner so that, if members of the international community, such as the EU, say, ‘If your coal isn’t produced in a clean way or it isn’t cleaned up, we’ll put on extra tariffs’, and then our coal and our minerals become less competitive on the world market. That is why we have to act. That is why we have to have leadership from the industry associations as well as from the unions.
I would like quote the senior vice-president of the CFMEU mining and energy division in Queensland, Stuart Vaccaneo. He says that coal mining industry employment will continue to grow over the next 20 years; it will not decline. Tony Maher, also from the CFMEU—the national president of the mining and energy division—said:
This scare mongering is purely a cynical bid of mining giants to squeeze more money in compensation out of Australian taxpayers.
Let us just remind ourselves: the mining companies are doing very nicely out of the Australian economy. They are doing very nicely indeed—multibillion dollar profits. We want to see those profits enhanced, because it does add to the bottom line of this nation.
On the issue of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the evidence, we need to remember that this is one of the hottest and driest continents on earth and that Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. This legislation is absolutely essential to safeguard mining jobs. Yes, we need to cut emissions and we need to the legislation to do that—because it will save jobs. It will not lose jobs; it will save jobs. The Rudd government is taking responsible and decisive action immediately to tackle climate change by introducing this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will also reduce carbon emissions and ensure that we increase our investments in industries like renewable energy—solar, wind, geothermal—in the future, creating thousands of new businesses and jobs. Just yesterday it was an honour to be with the Hon. Martin Ferguson, the Minister for Resources and Energy, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and Bob Katter, the member for Kennedy, upstairs at the launch of the Australian Centre of Renewable Innovation. This is just fantastic news. This is another billion dollar investment to get the best knowledge, the best minds and the best ideas to work for the wealth and the security of energy for this nation and for our people. Then we will be able sell those technologies overseas. We can help people in developing countries with our technologies. So it was wonderful to be a part of that. It is powering up North Queensland, which is so important because we have so many mineral deposits there which we need to export.
There are also schemes around the world operating in 27 European countries and 27 states and provinces in the USA and Canada. They are introducing emissions trading schemes to reduce carbon pollution, as is New Zealand. Passing the CPRS legislation before the end of this year will give Australian businesses the certainty that they need about the future. That is why business groups like the BCA and the AiG want it voted on this year. Business needs predictability in terms of costs, expenses and incomes. That is how you can manage and steer a business five years, 10 years, 20 years and 50 years into the future. Those in the business world need predictable outcomes.
There are many people on this side of the House in the Labor Party who like me have run small businesses. I spent 14 years in small business and I know about expenses, incomes and predictability. You need to make an educated guess as to what the future is going to hold. So it is with multibillion dollar mining companies. They need to have certainty as to what they are up for in the global and national economy. That is why this is important. That is why business groups like the BCA and the AiG want it voted on this year. They want to get this settled and they want to get it done so that they know how they are going to manage their businesses. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help us tackle climate change in a way that will ensure the future of our kids and future generations.
The National Party just do not want to know. Senator Barnaby Joyce thinks we should go drilling for oil in the Antarctic. Enough said! He does not care, for one minute, that there might be a climate change problem. They are a divided house on the other side—divided completely on their science and on their beliefs—and a divided house always falls. That is what we are seeing at the moment. We see confusion and division, and they will fall.
While our legislation has been available since March, the Leader of the Opposition is now going to put forward a very rushed, last-minute change. They are chopping and changing: ‘Which way is the wind blowing? Okay, perhaps that’s what we should do. What’s the latest public opinion? That’s a good idea; let’s go with that.’ They really do not have core beliefs. Their core beliefs are split in half. The opposition is divided in half.
For 12 years the coalition—and, more recently, Malcolm Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition—failed to act on climate change. They would not even sign up to Kyoto. That was the first thing we did. This Rudd Labor government is serious about reducing carbon emissions and serious about building the bottom line of this nation—saving jobs, creating jobs and making sure that we have an energy system that is sustainable well into future generations. I totally and utterly commend these bills to the House to save the working miners’ jobs in the seats of Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn. And don’t anyone ever say that we are not the miners’ friends. We are. The Labor Party has been and always will be.
It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills and to outline the significance of the scheme to the people of Australia, and specifically the hardworking people in Solomon. This scheme strikes the right balance between supporting growth and jobs now and delivering carbon reduction. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will ensure Australia invests in industries of the future like renewable energy, solar energy and wind farms and in jobs using new technologies like clean coal and geothermal energy, which will create thousands of new, low-pollution jobs. We on this side of the House have been very mindful of the potential impact on jobs, particularly during these difficult economic times. That is why we have taken responsible action by delaying the start of the scheme for one year and committing to a fixed-price phase from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.
Our government, through the fantastic work of both the Minister for Climate Change and Water and the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, is delivering strong action to tackle climate change. The Rudd government is committed to creating low-pollution jobs for the future as part of our comprehensive approach to combating climate change. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will see, for the first time, a cost put on carbon pollution, which will encourage major polluting businesses to lower their emissions. Funds raised will assist households to adjust to the scheme, making sure Australian families do not carry the cost of climate change. Through us tackling climate change, Australia will see the renewable energy sector grow to 30 times its current size by 2050, creating thousands of new jobs—green jobs, smart jobs.
With that in mind, we have committed over $13 billion to programs that will increase the demand for low-pollution jobs, products and services. As the Deputy Prime Minister said in her speech to celebrate National TAFE Day, last night:
In all the desperate debate that’s occurred over climate change, something has been forgotten. It’s about jobs.
Treasury modelling shows that Australia can continue to achieve strong trend economic growth while making deep cuts in emissions through the CPRS and that almost all industry sectors across the economy will continue to grow. From an employment perspective, all major employment sectors will grow over the years to 2020, substantially increasing employment from today’s levels. National employment is projected to increase by 1.7 million jobs from 2008 to 2020 at the same time as our carbon pollution falls. Jobs will be created in new and established industries alike and will be spread throughout Australia. We have introduced the CPRS legislation back into the House of Representatives. This is the first step. We are determined to pass the legislation this year. Australia has waited too long for action on climate change.
I got our wonderful people in the Parliamentary Library to do some research for me, and I would like to commend Ann Rann and Chris Lawley for their contribution to my speech. I asked them to have a look at all the parliamentary committee reports on climate change that had been made during the period of the last government, because what the opposition have been trying to do in this debate—and I listened closely to a lot of speakers today—is to give the impression to the Australian public that this is something that has just crept up on us. It is as if it has only just occurred since 24 November 2007. That is when this climate change thing started! I heard one member from the opposition saying that we should be going around Australia and consulting on climate change. On 24 November 2007, the consultation was done with the Australian public, when they decided—after 12 long years of denial and of the then government saying that climate change did not exist—to throw the Howard government out of office. The consultation had been done. Let me tell the member for Bowman, who brought that up: the consultation was done.
The opposition go on with the scare stuff. We also saw today a member bringing in loaves of bread and cartons of milk and wanting to know how much the prices for them would go up. Members were looking up into the gallery and saying, ‘Your kids will not have jobs.’ All this was scaremongering, like the sort of stuff they used about Work Choices and about things that you are going to buy at the shopping centre. That is their way of doing business. They also do it with regard to asylum seekers. It is their way of doing things. So I had a little bit of research done for me by the good people in the Library, because I believe that climate change has not snuck up on us. I believe that there have been some reports done in the past. What have we got here? It is a list of House of Representatives standing committees. The first one was an interim report, Regulatory arrangements for trading in greenhouse gas emissions. That was tabled on 23 November 1998. That was 10 years ago.
That was when the Libs were in power, but I will not go through who was the chair and who was on that committee. They had a second inquiry. The report was called Between a rock and a hard place: the science of geo-sequestration. That was tabled on 13 August 2007, just prior to the election. Then there was Sustainability for survival: creating a climate for change, tabled on 7 September 2007. The fourth one was Sustainable cities, a report on the inquiry into sustainable cities, tabled on 12 September 2005. Then there was Australia’s uranium—greenhouse friendly fuel for an energy hungry world. That was a ripper. I do not have a date for that one—they might have just put it in the bottom drawer! The next one is The heat is on: Australia’s greenhouse future, tabled on 7 November 2000, nearly nine years ago. The seventh report was on the Kyoto Protocol Ratification Bill 2003 [No. 2]. As we know, that was never ratified by the former government. That was tabled on 25 March 2004. The eighth report was on the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007—a fantastic inquiry—and was tabled on 6 September 2007. Then there was the report of the inquiry into the energy white paper, tabled on 16 May 2005. The final one was the joint committee’s Report 38: the Kyoto protocol—discussion paper, tabled on 4 April 2001.
The opposition come into this place with their scaremongering campaigns on climate change, wanting the Australian public to believe that this has crept up on them just now under Labor, since 24 November 2007: ‘Suddenly Labor have decided to put climate change on the agenda. They’re going to have these ghastly taxes and everything’s going to go up in price, and Labor haven’t given us any time to prepare for it.’ Well, there are heap of different reports that have come through this parliament. One of the real challenges for the parliament is that we have the reports and the research—the parliamentarians have standing committees, go to all these meetings and take in evidence—but we then need a conduit that takes that to where the policy is formulated. All these reports are an absolute waste of time unless we actually react to what they are saying.
That is right. I will briefly touch on the amendments that have been put forward by the good member for Groom. He is a good fella; he is a good friend of mine, actually. I have his amendments in my hand. It was said during this debate earlier today that we have not read the amendments—that we all just come out and read the script as it is delivered, straight from the Prime Minister’s office. What a load of rot. People on this side of the House actually have a bit of passion about climate change. Just because I am based in Darwin, it does not mean that I do not have feelings for those families that live in Flynn, Dawson and Capricornia—I do. We on this side take a holistic approach to being in government. I worry about the people of Page, and I see the good member for Page in the House this afternoon, because she cares about the climate change issue. There is only one person from the opposition here and he is on duty. I respect that he is, I suppose, on quorum duty for their side, but there is not another one in here. If they really cared about challenging it they would not have gagged their own debate as they did this afternoon—they were unbelievable.
So those opposite have no credibility whatsoever on this. They are broken into four groups. The first is the hesitators, the guys that sit on these reports for 10 years and do nothing. The hesitators are sitting back and waiting for some leadership to be shown on this issue. At the moment they are looking to East Timor, Tonga, Nauru or maybe the Solomon Islands: ‘Can we get them to show a bit of leadership on behalf of the Pacific? We in Australia want to sit back and do nothing.’ That is what the former government used to do: ‘Why should we go ahead and show leadership on this issue? Why shouldn’t we just sit back and wait?’ They are the hesitators. Then there are the imitators. I love the imitators; they are a good group. They are the ones who, when they are out in their electorates, are a little bit left of centre: ‘Yeah, climate change is a really big issue. I’m really worried about the future of the planet.’ Then, when they come in here, they do not say a word; they just sit there. They just leave it to the hard right. The hard right are the terminators. They are the terminators because they cut down anybody that has an opinion on climate change in the opposition party room. Bang!—they are cut straight down. So they have the hesitators, the imitators and the terminators. That is what they have on their side of the parliament. There is another bloke I will not mention who is right out there by himself in the way that he thinks of climate change. I will not even mention him.
This is a serious issue that was delayed for too long under the former government. What really annoys me about this is that they want to lead the Australian public to believe that we have just snuck up on them and put this out there, when I have just listed 10 different reports that were tabled—and I will table those—over the life of the former government that talked about climate change, the Kyoto protocol, carbon emissions and all the things that this debate is about.
As I see it, the reason it is vital that we take a position to Copenhagen is that we can fight for our high-emitting industries, fight for the coal industry and fight for the agricultural industry. We are in the room and we have our position. There is no need for us to wait any longer. We as a country should be showing leadership on climate change. We should be going to Copenhagen in a positive manner to say: ‘This is what we are doing for our industries, for our people, for our biodiversity, for our sustainable cities and for our coastal areas that have been eroded by the rising of the sea. And we are going to show leadership.’ That is what good leaders do. That is what our Prime Minister has done, not only on this issue. He is a leader on this issue but he is also a leader on the global financial crisis.
The parliament welcomed a visiting ambassador from a European country during the week and a question was asked of him by those opposite regarding the ‘global financial downturn’—I think that was their phrase. This individual said that they had to bail out one of their banks to the tune of $60 billion, which is a little more than a downturn. Another member opposite thought he would throw a question out about ‘this climate change stuff’. This guy rattled off a few things and said, ‘Our snowfields are melting at 4,000 feet and, actually, we tried to get Australia to ratify the Kyoto protocol.’ Bang, bang!—two knockout punches there. That country will get crossed off the list. They will not support the opposition’s position on climate change or the global financial crisis, so we will cross them off the list. The hesitators, the imitators and the terminators—that is all they have over there.
Scientists agree that carbon pollution is causing the world’s climate to change. This change is resulting in more extreme weather events, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. In Darwin, there used to be an average of one category 5 cyclone every 1,000 years. Three categories 5 cyclones have come through our area in the last 10 years, so there certainly has been a change in extreme weather events. We saw what happened with the bushfires in Victoria in early February this year—another extreme weather event. These events all have significant consequences for people in my electorate.
Scientific research tells us the Top End is likely to become hotter and wetter and the Centre hotter and drier. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones or storm surges are likely to increase. Rises in temperatures could lead to the loss of 80 per cent of freshwater wetlands in Kakadu. Rising sea levels, increased frequency of tropical cyclones and extreme weather events are likely to significantly impact on biodiversity, critical habitats, tourism and food and cultural values important to traditional landowners. Science suggests that uncontrolled climate change could see real threats to coastal housing and infrastructure, with tropical diseases becoming more common, particularly amongst the elderly, and more people suffering from heat related illnesses and death. That is why everyone needs to do their bit to tackle carbon pollution.
Australia is one of the hottest and driest continents on earth. Our environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. Leadership from the developed world encourages other countries to join the global fight. That is such an important point. It has to come from the developed world. The First World needs to lead the way for the developing world to make sure that we address climate change. Only yesterday the Minister for Climate Change and Water travelled to Spain for three days of ministerial talks on climate change. Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen highlighted the meeting as an opportunity to kick-start the last remaining week of formal United Nations negotiations prior to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. With Copenhagen only weeks away, these meetings are an important opportunity to make progress on key issues central to achieving consensus. Australia is actively participating and has put forward a framework proposal. By enacting this legislation, Australia will be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. We will actually be in the room and not sitting outside—we will be in the biscuit tin, unlike the parrot sitting on the outside.
The world will come together to attempt to reach a new global agreement on climate change later this year. Australia must go to Copenhagen from a position of strength, with strong targets we know we can deliver through the CPRS. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help us tackle climate change, to ensure our kids and future generations are not left to clean up the mess. We have a responsibility to the Australian people to act on climate change. The business community, environmental groups and the Australian people expect the parliament to do the right thing and pass the CPRS this year.
The passage of the CPRS will provide business certainty. The Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is tailored to our national interest. The Australian Industry Group, Shell Australia and a range of other businesses are calling for certainty on the CPRS so they can plan investments. Russell Caplan, chairman of Shell Australia, said, as quoted in the Business Review Weekly on 6 August 2009:
… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue. This would create a climate of continuing uncertainty for industry and potentially delay the massive investments that are required …
Heather Ridout, CEO of Ai Group, said on Sky News on 5 May 2009:
Business also needs to be making very big decisions if we are going to be able to make the transition and to do that they need certainty. Uncertainty is death for business.
It is in our national interest to pass the legislation this year, not wait around as some of those opposite suggested today and yesterday. Tackling the problem will not be easy—we know that—and there will be costs, but the longer we wait to act the higher those costs will be.
I know that the opposition have put amendments forward and I am glad we are negotiating with them. In the 12 long years of the Howard government, not once did they look to take on proposals by the opposition; not once did they talk to the Labor Party. They negotiated with the minor parties, but they did not once come to the table with us. This is an important issue. It cannot afford to wait any longer. After 12 long years it is time to act, so I suggest that the opposition act in the best interests of the Australian public and the planet rather than in the best interests of the Leader of the Opposition. I commend the bill to the House
In 2007, when I stood for election with the Rudd Labor team, we had a plan. That plan was to tackle climate change. It was a 10-point plan, a holistic approach to the challenge of climate change. It was a plan that would protect our jobs, protect the environment and the economy in the here and now, and take us into the future. It was a plan that rose to the challenge. Since I came into this place—since the Rudd government was elected—we have all worked to implement that plan. Since the election we have had the appointment of the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, the green paper, the white paper, draft legislation, and wide consultation and deep consultation with communities, industry and interested groups on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which brings in the emissions trading scheme and its implementation. It is one of the biggest consultation processes that I have seen.
When we went to the election, the people of Australia said: ‘We want you to do something about climate change.’ We are doing something about climate change and we will continue to, but that has been thwarted by the coalition—the opposition. The coalition were and are divided on climate change. They do not talk about solutions and responses. Their view of climate change prevents them from coming to any reasonable let alone reasoned response. It just seems to me a crazy way to do business. They say that they are interested in jobs and, you know, they are—it seems the key job they are focussed on is the Leader of the Opposition’s job and other aspirants coming up behind him. It is in their base political interest to drag it up. That is what I see and that is what people in the electorate see. That is the reality. Their coalition partner, the National Party, has nine members in this place and five in the Senate. The only jobs they are interested in are their own. It is like natural attrition; they are going the way of the dinosaur.
You have made your point of order. I am going to rule on the point of order. This has been a very wide-ranging debate and there have been similar comments from both sides. I would remind members, though, that we do have legislation before the House and I ask them to be relevant to it.
I will be relevant to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] but relevant to the context of the legislation that is being debated and discussed in this place and with us in the community. My comments are contextualising the debate around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the emissions trading scheme. I have had some of the National Party members trail through my electorate and they talk about it being a tax. No, it is not a tax. It is a cost on what always should have been costed and factored into our economy. It is not a tax.
But enough of that sort of political madness from the other side. What the Rudd government is doing—what we said we would do—is tackle climate change with the 10-point plan, a plan for our future, to ensure that we and our kids, their kids and their grandkids, will have a future. It is a plan that will save jobs. I will turn to some facts on that a little bit later. ‘Protect the environment, protect the economy’ is ultimately what we have to do. It transitions us to a low greenhouse gas emission economy and a renewable energy economy and society. That is a challenge and the Rudd Labor government is up to that challenge, and it is actually doing it.
The thrust of the emissions trading scheme is to place a market price on carbon pollution. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will start to reduce emissions. The Rudd government also has three pillars of action on climate change. We know what they are—it is pretty straightforward. The first is to reduce Australia’s emissions. That is what we have to do. That is what we are committed to do. That is what the electorates want us to do and that is what we are attempting to do. No. 2 is to adapt to the effects of climate change that we cannot avoid. We have an adaptation program and policies in place to take us there, across all sectors of society. No. 3 is playing a strong role in the global effort. I note that Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has become ‘friend of the chair’ in Copenhagen, which is quite an honour and responsibility. It demonstrates the role that we are playing not only domestically but internationally.
What amazes me is that some people, and I hear it in this place on the other side, say climate change does not exist. They are climate change deniers. Climate change does exist. It is a naturally occurring process plus it has been exacerbated by human activity. Climate change exists; it is a fact. You cannot deny it. People might debate where and how and all of that, but it exists. We know that it is a fact. I find the denials quite incredible. Again, the other side says the science is not clear. I do not know how much clearer they want the science to be. The science is in. You read the science and it is really clear that climate change is happening in our time and human activity has accelerated that, and there are negative impacts. Today I heard the member for Tangney talking about having an inquiry into the science—an inquiry into an inquiry! How many inquiries do we have to have? Twelve years and then another two years; it is just bizarre.
I also hear a few scientists join the fray. They join the fray not as scientists but as citizens with their opinions like everybody else, but they do it under the guise of the academia and being scientists. You have to listen. I did listen to some speeches today. I have been in this place for two years, but today was the most consistent compilation of ignorance I have heard since I have been here. It really was quite breathtaking. I think if the scientists were listening—and I am sure they are not tuned in to us today—they would have been quite amazed at some of the things they would have heard from the other side.
Last week Mark Dreyfus and Dr Mal Washer organised with Climate Works some very eminent scientists to come here. A number of colleagues from all sides had lunch with them. Over sandwiches we were able to chat about climate change. It was a real treat. It was not long enough. When we were having that discussion we were able to ask any question or raise anything. Those of us who have been in the teaching profession often say: ‘It is all right. You can get up and ask a stupid question.’ We were able to do that. As I was talking with some of those scientists I wished that every member of our communities had the same opportunity. It would be enlightening for them to have that conversation, but I know that is not possible.
Members of our communities have to rely on their local members to communicate with them about climate change. I find incomprehensible what the member for Tangney and some other members on the other side share with their electorates. My mind boggles. Senator Joyce in the other place talked nonsense. He said a leg of lamb is going to cost $100. That is absolute bunkum. I have never heard such rot in all my life. He represents Queensland. Poor Queenslanders have to listen to that sort of tripe all of the time.
My community is quite green. Targets have been set, yet quite a few members in my community would like us to have the ultimate targets for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. My green community knows that Australia’s climate is changing, and it is not for the better. The changes are observable to us and measurable to scientists, and scientists bring some meaning to that. It behoves us to listen to what they have said.
People regularly look at the Bureau of Meteorology’s website—or BOM, as we call it. Farmers use that website. In my area, which has a lot of hail, storms, floods and fires, we all regularly go to that website. Staff wondering when they should drive home, because there is a big storm coming, will look at that website. We all look at it. That website has credibility. Under the heading ‘Australia’s climate is changing’ it states:
It is the Bureau’s responsibility to provide decision makers and the general public with accurate observations and information about our changing climate.
Australia and the globe are experiencing rapid climate change. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian temperatures have, on average, risen by about 1°C with an increase in the frequency of heatwaves and a decrease in the numbers of frosts and cold days. Rainfall patterns have also changed—the northwest has seen an increase in rainfall over the last 50 years while much of eastern Australia and the far southwest have experienced a decline.
In the language of the scientists:
Observed changes in climate, especially in temperature increases since about 1970, cannot be explained solely by natural causes such as solar activity—
that fact is really clear—
Reconstructions of climate data for the past 1000 years indicates that this recent warming is unusual and is unlikely to have resulted from natural causes alone.
That is the language of the scientists—it is ‘unlikely’; 99.9 per cent, beyond reasonable doubt, to put it in lay terms.
The earth is heating up. We are experiencing more catastrophic events. We have had 12 of the driest years on record. We live on the driest and hottest continent on earth. We do not have a lot of water. About 80 per cent of us live in coastal communities and see the coast and the rivers and think we have a lot of water, but we do not. It is a real problem. The scientists say that the current global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is approximately 380 parts per million and the rate of increase has been exponential in the industrialised period. Again, that tells us something.
The Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change gave a ministerial statement in this place on 12 August. It is worth restating some things he said. It was called ‘The scientific imperative to act on climate change’. It is important that we keep restating the scientific imperative because that is why the Rudd government is doing this. He stated:
This science has been thoroughly tested and verified—
These statements are based on careful analysis of hundreds of papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature—
I agree; I have read a lot of it. He continued:
Publication in newspapers and blogs—
which we all see and have plenty of—
is not a substitute for the careful processes of scientific rigour.
… … …
The basic physics of the greenhouse effect have been well understood for more than one hundred years.
This is not a new thing. I am often surprised when the tenor of the debate is as though we were learning something new. We are not. This is not new. What is new is the action that is being taken, because there has not been any action taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation. That is the problem. The statement continues:
Burning of fossil fuels, destruction of forests and agricultural practices have caused carbon dioxide concentrations to rise by 37 per cent, methane by 150 per cent and nitrous oxide by 18 per cent. Most of this increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has occurred during the lifetime of those sitting in this House.
That is a fact. The Department of Climate Change website states:
The Government has committed to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 if the world agrees to an ambitious global deal to stabilise levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent or lower. This will maximise Australia’s contribution to an ambitious outcome in international negotiations at Copenhagen this December.
That is nearly upon us, and it is really important that we work towards that.
Last Saturday in my electorate, various climate change groups—and there are a lot of them, including at every high school; we have many and they are very active—gathered at what we call the North Coast national show at Lismore. They had a few events there, one of which was presenting me with a quilt. It was called the 350 Climate Quilt, because 350 parts per million is the ideal target for emissions reductions that some people—people who are really active about climate change—have set globally. They wanted me to present the quilt here today, and I did present that symbolically to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change today. There is also a youth environmental society, and I am going to read from an email they sent me, because they also had an event at the show. They got on their pushbikes and rode them around the ring, which was a bit different, because it is usually horses and all sorts of other animals. But they got on their pushbikes and rode around. They are a great group of young people, and I was with them on the day. The email reads:
2009 has been named the year for action on Climate Change. In Australia alone a number of events have happened, are happening and are being planned for the distant future. This is also the case for the international community. Saturday the 24thOctober has been named the International day of Climate Action. On this day the international community will come together and take a stand for a safe climate future. Scientists say that the 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity.
The Northern Rivers Youth Environmental Society has organised a “350” event giving our local community the opportunity to take their stand on their climate future. This event will involve local participants participating in a bike ride through the show grounds as part of the parade. There will then be a photo taken of all participants outlining the 350 symbol. Gordon Fraser-Quick will then address the audience with a few words on climate change, 350 and why we have taken a grass roots action demanding that international leaders take a hard stance on the issue of Climate Change.
As a local politician, we recognise the power you have in influencing our leaders and Australia’s stance on Climate Change.
They are very hopeful for me in their comments!
Indeed, Chief Government Whip! The email continues:
We recognise that you can report back to our leaders the issues that are important to us.
And indeed I have done that.
Because of this we would like to extend a special invitation for you to attend to our 350 event.
They went on to say that their action would be one of over 2,000 actions in over 120 countries and one of over 150 actions in Australia. The email ended:
on behalf of the Youth Environmental Society
I am rather pleased to follow the honourable member for Page. Indeed, she is correct: she is a very influential member of the government, even though a backbencher; she is always harassing our ministers and does so very effectively! I am sure that her intervention, along with that of others, has contributed to the government taking this monumental step in relation to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills.
I wanted to start my speech with some history. I am sure people remember that in the mid-eighties a scientist told us we had a real problem with the ozone layer; in fact, there was a hole developing in the ozone layer and it was increasing quite rapidly, as ozone was depleted. I think it is fair to say that ordinary people understood that this was serious—that we were doing permanent, irreversible damage to our planet and we had to do something. I am pleased that substances like the refrigeration gas CFC, which was the cause of the depletion of the ozone layer, were banned. In 1989, Australia ratified the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. No-one suggested we should put an umbrella over the hole, or a shadecloth over the hole, or try to patch up the ozone layer! As individual citizens and as countries we had to take action to reverse this terrible thing, and indeed we did.
The Montreal protocol is widely considered as the most successful international environmental protection agreement. Its achievement of universal ratification in September this year makes it the first international environment treaty to have universal participation. The most recent scientific evaluation of the effects of the Montreal protocol, which took place in 2006, states:
The Montreal Protocol is working: There is clear evidence of a decrease in the atmospheric burden of ozone-depleting substances and some early signs of stratospheric ozone recovery.
Isn’t that fantastic news? Isn’t it fantastic news that, with a problem that is so debilitating and that affects everyone, scientists report on it, ordinary people understand it, governments take action and we implement the changes? These were not easy changes to make but, with the goodwill and support of business and ordinary citizens, we have made a difference. We have started to reverse the terrible damage that we caused. I applaud all Australians—ordinary Australians, the business community and the industries that were directly involved in generating this gas and that had to move away from its use—for what we have been able to achieve by working together. An air-conditioning business, Tempest, in my own electorate had to stop using this gas. They did it and I congratulate the management and their workers for doing that.
We are at the same point with climate change. Ordinary people understand—as the member for Page was outlining—that something is going on with the climate. We have glaciers melting. We face the real prospect of glaciers melting in Greenland, Alaska and the Himalayas because of climate change, and this will cause catastrophic problems. We know that Australia is a ‘funny’ continent in that we can have bushfires in one part of the country, drought in another and floods somewhere else. But, even so, everyone understands that something fundamental has happened with the climate. If you talk to farmers they understand that. They absolutely understand that something fundamental has happened with climate change.
I do not normally quote Senator Heffernan, let alone praise him, but to give him his due he has made some radical suggestions in response, in his words, ‘to whatever it is that is happening’—because he acknowledges that it is. He says that we have to do something; maybe move agriculture to the north. I do not dismiss his ideas. I think he is making a very serious contribution. Senator Heffernan acknowledges that we have to do something. If I talk to the school children and the parents in my electorate, they tell me that they are concerned about what is happening with our climate, and they want us to do something about it. That is why I believe in the Rudd government taking action; it is doing something.
Throughout this debate there have been a number of distractions from the main issue. These are: our targets are too much or too little, we are moving too quickly or too slowly, we are providing too much compensation to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries or we are not providing enough compensation to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. Should we be taking action before Copenhagen or should we wait and see what other nations do? Should we commit to a CPRS while India and China continue to pollute unabated? These are not silly questions and they are entitled to be asked in this forum but, on the matter of this debate, they are no more than distractions.
What might confuse many ordinary Australians about the CPRS—that is, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—is that it is not a debate about the environment. Sure, there are environmental benefits if we proceed with the scheme and environmental risks if we do not, but the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is a debate about the most significant change to our economy since World War II. Those who are opposed to the introduction of a CPRS rely on a number of untruths to argue their point. For starters, they claim that Australia is going it alone on emissions trading and in a race to do it. That is simply not true. Similar schemes are already operating in 27 European countries. In the United States and Canada, 27 states and provinces are introducing emissions trading to reduce carbon pollution, as is New Zealand. Although there are similar schemes operating throughout the world, I still believe that our position is one of leadership and that it is something we should not shy away from. Australia has too much to lose if it fails to secure emissions trading reductions on a global level.
Climate change is projected to increase the severity and the frequency of many natural disasters such as bushfires, cyclones, hail storms and floods. Projections for Australia include increases in the frequency of heatwaves; increases in the frequency and length of drought conditions, especially in the south-west; increased hail risk over the south-east coastal areas; increases in the proportion of intense tropical cyclones; and a substantial increase in fire-weather risk in south-east Australia. These projections are all from the CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Australia’s World Heritage properties report, released in August this year, highlighted the vulnerability of Australia’s natural icons and tourist destinations to climate change. These include the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of North Queensland, Kakadu National Park and the Tasmanian wilderness. The Great Barrier Reef alone attracts around two million tourists each year. It supports tourism across the region, generating over $4.9 billion and employment for around 60,000 people.
If we are going to convince other nations to move in this direction, we have to do so from a position of leadership, from a position where we have already acted. Yvo De Boer, the chief executive of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 August 2009 as saying:
I think it helps Australia’s credibility to say this is the target Australia is willing to commit to and this is how we are going to achieve it—that will be good for the country’s credibility.
Even the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull, used to believe in Australia leading the way on climate change.
Beats me, but there you go. In a Herald opinion piece back in 2008, Mr Turnbull wrote:
… our first hand experience in implementing … an emissions trading system would be of considerable assistance in our international discussions and negotiations aimed at achieving an effective global agreement.
Surprise, surprise! That is exactly what the government is doing, but we do not seem to be able to get the support of the opposition. Another untruth which those opposed rely on is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will price fuel and electricity out of the reach of average Australians. Again, I refer to the great contribution from the member for Page who pointed out the lamb chops costing an astronomical amount of money.
He is a bit of a pork chop on this one, as has been pointed out by my colleague. I think I need to get on with my speech. All these things are falsehoods and rely on scare tactics trying to frighten people against the reality of what needs to be done. We need to bear in mind that the purpose of creating this scheme is to challenge each and every one of us to rethink how we use energy and how large a carbon footprint we leave.
Those who decry the cost to consumers often fail to acknowledge the government’s plan to compensate consumers, particularly the most disadvantaged in our community. The government has committed to a 2.5 per cent increase in the age pension. This is not the recent increase, which was quite historic and dramatic; this is an additional increase, an up-front concession increase for self-funded retirees. For ordinary families, there will be increases in the family tax benefit and a dollar for dollar reduction in fuel tax to assist motorists. This compensation will be paid for from a cost charged to polluters for buying carbon permits. The sale of the permits will raise $11.5 billion dollars for the Australian government in 2010-11. Every cent will be used to help households and businesses adjust to the scheme. In other words, yes, the government will be getting $11.5 billion in but it will not be keeping a cent. It will all be going out to businesses and most especially to families, pensioners and self-funded retirees.
Some detractors on the other side would argue that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will only punish industry and cause them to go out of business—another untruth. Australian industry is much more resilient than that. Look how well we are doing in this global financial crisis. Australian industry will be ideally positioned to lead the world in innovations that will achieve carbon abatement. In fact, the longer we delay, the greater we hold up industry. The longer we delay, the more we miss out on opportunities not only for R&D and for design but for manufacturing and having a smooth transition in our economy.
New technologies for reducing carbon emissions which come about as a result of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will then be able to be sold around the world as part of a global solution. Treasury modelling projects that by 2050 the renewable electricity sector alone will be 30 times larger than it is today. A 2009 Climate Institute study shows that $31 billion of clean energy projects are already under way or planned in response to the government’s climate change policies. These will generate around 26,000 new jobs, mostly in regional areas,.
A number of factors will drive this innovation. First among these will be the need for government incentive and, secondly, the price at which carbon permits are set. These will encourage research and development in new technologies. Rather than hurt jobs, as many opponents have suggested and as we have heard in this place, this scheme is designed to help support the jobs of today while putting in place a scheme which will help create the low-pollution jobs of the future. A target of opposition untruth is the coal industry and how the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will impact on them and on jobs within their industry. The government recognises the importance of the coal industry to our economy and local jobs. That is why we have designed a CPRS—to ensure that assistance is provided to the mines which need it most during the introduction of the scheme. The Australian Treasury has undertaken a comprehensive economic modelling which shows that the coal industry will continue to grow and is projected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2050. Hurting jobs? That is not a sign of hurting jobs.
It is important to note that a large majority of coal mining is not emissions intensive. Half of all coal production in Australia will have a liability for their fugitive emissions of 80c or less per saleable tonne of coal. Given that coal is currently selling for around $70 to $150 a tonne in export markets, it is misleading to suggest that a carbon cost of this magnitude will lead to decisions to close mines. Would you close a mine if you had an impost of 80c per tonne and you were getting $150 per tonne? I do not think rational or sane businessmen, or even accountants, would recommend that. The government has recognised, however, that the most emissions intensive mines, which represent about 12 per cent of Australia’s coal production, will face a material cost under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The government has allocated $750 million in targeted assistance over the first five years to these mines. This assistance will allow emissions intensive mines to investigate and implement abatement opportunities and will ease their transition to the introduction of a carbon price.
In conclusion, I will finish where I started off: what a wonderful example the Montreal protocol is of international action, national action and ordinary people understanding we have a problem. I think that ordinary people well understand that governments need to act, and act now. And if we want to get the rest of the world to act, we cannot take a back seat: we need to have this scheme introduced and proceeding to implementation before that most important international conference at Copenhagen. We need to set an example for others to follow. I strongly support these bills.
I commend the member for Chifley for his fine contribution to this debate and the very strong words on which he concluded his contribution. I am rising, as all the other speakers have in this debate, to talk on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills, but before I commence my contribution there is something I must say first. Reluctant though I am to put this on the record, I must. I was absolutely disgusted when, just before question time today, the Leader of the Opposition tried to gag this debate. He tried to prevent me and all the other people who have spoken this afternoon from making a contribution to this debate. Not only did he try and gag members of the government, he also tried to prevent members of the opposition speaking—so he himself was one of the people he sought to gag.
For a number of years in this place I was a member of the opposition and I used to get very upset when I had prepared a speech, I was ready to present and I would be walking down to the chamber to give my speech when, the next thing I knew, the government of the day decided that the debate should end. It seems to me that those on the other side of this parliament have not learnt from being in opposition. The people of Australia want to hear what the members of parliament have to say about this piece of legislation. Trying to gag the debate shows the Australian people, the people we represent in this parliament, that we are not taking them seriously. Thankfully, members of the government joined together to ensure that all members who wished to speak in this debate could do so and, as such, I am making my contribution now. Hopefully, some of the members from the opposition will now feel they are able to pull their speech out of the drawer and come down here into the House and make their contribution.
We on this side of the House believe that climate change is a real fact of life. We believe it is a great threat to our very existence. We believe that unless we act—and act now and act quickly—we will end up in a situation where the consequences of not acting will both be very expensive and have an enormous impact on our way of life. It is because we take the issue of climate change so seriously and because we recognise that climate change needs to be acted upon globally that the first act of the Rudd government was to sign the Kyoto agreement—unlike the Howard government that buried its head in the sand.
Following that signing, the Rudd government commenced the process of looking at the best way to address climate change. That process started with the Garnaut report, which found that the current emissions trend would have a severe and costly impact on our economy. It would affect agriculture, infrastructure, iconic environmental assets and tourism destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef which are very important to our way of life and our economy. The report concluded that the cost of inaction would have a greater impact on jobs and the economy than taking responsible action on climate change. What we have before us today is legislation that does just that: it puts in place a blueprint for responsible action.
Australia has adopted a three-pillar approach to climate change: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change we cannot avoid, and helping shape the global solution. The Rudd government believes that a CPRS is the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution whilst minimising the impact on businesses and households. We believe that you have to have the strength to put a CPRS in place.
What we have seen in this parliament over the last month or so is an opposition that does not have the strength to address the issue of climate change. What we have seen is an opposition that is divided and a government that is united in its intent to address the issue of climate change. We have an opposition that is more intent on fighting amongst itself that it is on addressing the most pressing issue facing Australians today.
We believe it is in the nation’s interest to pass this legislation and to immediately address the issue of climate change. Every sector of our society—be it businesses or environmental groups—looks to the parliament to act, to create certainty so we can move on from this impasse we are currently at. The legislation, put simply, places a limit, or cap, on the amount of carbon pollution industries can emit. It requires effective businesses to buy pollution permits. The mandatory obligation under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will commence from 1 July 2011 and will encourage action to reduce carbon pollution from 2010.
The scheme includes greenhouse gases included under the Kyoto protocol. Emissions from stationary energy will also be covered from the start of the scheme. The scheme will cover around 75 per cent of emissions. Assistance in the form of administrative allocation of permits will be provided to new and existing firms engaged in EITE activities. Permits will initially be provided at a 90 per cent rate for most emissions-intensive activities and a 60 per cent rate for activities that are moderately emissions intensive. The global recession buffer will apply to allocated baseline emissions per unit of output for activities. The scheme recognises voluntary action, and a household assistance package is covered by the legislation before us today.
I will now move away from the details of the bill, which is being discussed at great length by a number of people in this parliament, and address some other issues that have been raised during the debate. Members on the other side have emphasised their belief that this legislation will cost jobs. I would argue that there is plenty of information available to show that it will not cost jobs. Rather, it will face the economy in a new direction and lead to the creation of many, many new jobs and many new industries.
On Tuesday there was a climate change forum in Newcastle. At this forum we had speakers like Sharon Burrow, ACTU President, who talked about one million new jobs that would be created in the energy revolution; Don Henry, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, who talked about strengthening the economy and cleaning up the planet; and Tony Maher, president of the CFMEU—that is the mining union—who spoke about ‘the future of coal: fact and fiction’. I have heard Tony Maher speaking on ABC Radio in the Hunter. He has emphasised that he does not believe that this legislation will lead to a loss of jobs in the coal industry. There was also Clare Martin, from the Australian Council of Social Service, who talked about a clean energy future and how it can create opportunities for low-income and long-term unemployed Australians.
Whilst I am referring to Clare Martin and the contribution she is making to this debate as CEO of ACOSS, I note that she wrote an article for the Newcastle Herald. In the article she emphasised that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our society and our nation. She went to great lengths in the article to say that major climate change risks will escalate unless we move towards a low-carbon economy. As with other people who have made influential contributions to this debate, she has emphasised that if we do not act now—if we do nothing—the cost to our nation will be enormous. She emphasised the need to act locally and globally. From a local perspective, it is imperative that this legislation is passed so that when we go to Copenhagen we have something on the table.
Unlike those on the other side of this House, we do not believe that if you sit back and wait and see what the rest of the world is doing then everything will be okay. We believe that we need to act now and that we need to be leaders, not followers. In her article in the Newcastle Herald Clare Martin emphasises that the CPRS is an important mechanism, a critical step towards a low-carbon economy.
I cannot understand how those on the other side of this House cannot grasp the concept that it is a critical step and that we need to move that way. We cannot afford to amend the legislation to an extent where it is useless. The opposition must settle differences, they must calm the climate change deniers and they must recognise the fact that 90 per cent of the scientists worldwide accept the fact that CO2 is the cause of climate change.
By investing in technologies for the future and in green, clean jobs we will set ourselves up as leaders and we will develop new technologies. This legislation will allow appropriate assistance for regions and industries. It will provide assistance for low-income earners and for the industries that it affects. This legislation will foster investment in organisations such as the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle and the University of Newcastle. These are great assets and this investment will place the Hunter, the region I come from, at the forefront of this new age. That is what I like to think of it as—a new age with green, clean jobs. But at the same time this legislation will not in any way destroy existing jobs. It has been emphasised that this legislation could lead to the creation of between 4,000 and 10,000 new jobs in the Hunter. The sceptics, the deniers on the other side, say that all it is going to be about is losing jobs. It really shows that those on the other side of this House are more interested in fighting with each other and protecting special interest groups than they are in looking at what is best for the future of Australia and our planet.
I will address again the issue of the coal industry because the coal industry is very prominent in my region. When Tony Maher, the General President of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, was speaking at the climate change forum on Tuesday, he emphasised that this legislation will not destroy the coal industry in any way. That shows that many of the arguments put before us by those on the other side are superfluous. They are arguments for doing nothing except keeping the peace in their party.
I will touch on a couple of the costs of inaction. In the last 10 years, inflows to five of the eight catchments in the southern Murray-Darling Basin have been around or worse than the CSIRO’s worst-case scenarios for 2030. That is incredible.
Happening now. Globally, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2008. That figure comes from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the UK. We listen to those on the other side of this House saying that is not true. The facts and figures are there. The record is there to be examined. We can see that everything that the opposition is saying is a furphy. The average temperature in Australia increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius between 1910 and 2007, and is projected to increase by one to five degrees Celsius by 2070, compared with 1990. The implications of that are enormous because a small increase in temperature will cause widespread changes in the climate and will lead to increases of diseases such as Dengue Fever moving south and the possibility of even malaria and other diseases beginning to impact on Australia. It will have an enormous impact on agriculture. Climate change will also result in storm surges and rising sea levels, putting at risk over 70,000 homes and businesses around our coastline. You have only to refer to the report that was brought down by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts this week—
As the member for Chifley says, it is a terrific report. It highlights the challenges that are being faced by coastal communities. As a representative of a coastal electorate I know just how important it is to address the issue of climate change. We need to ensure that we can preserve our way of life. This legislation gives certainty, it gives us something to go to Copenhagen with and it will absolutely act now to ensure that the future of our nation and our planet is taken care of.
Debate (on motion by Mr Byrne) adjourned.