Thursday, 11 February 2010
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2010; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2010
Debate resumed from 10 February, on motion by Mr Combet:
That this bill be now read a second time.
There is no more important legislation that this House will debate than the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related bills. The government accepts that climate change is a reality. We on this side of parliament accept the myriad of scientific work that supports the fact. Members of the opposition who are climate change deniers have trawled the internet for papers supporting their position, and of course they found some. That is the nature of science: scientists put forward different hypotheses.
I have read papers on both sides of the argument, and I remain totally unconvinced by those who argue that climate change is not a reality. It is important to note that for every paper denying climate change there are a multitude of papers arguing that climate change caused by greenhouse gases which come from human activity is a reality. Australia and the world are getting hotter. Australia is getting hotter and drier. We only have to look to the record temperatures recorded this summer, particularly in Melbourne and Adelaide, and the fact that the temperatures this summer have been the second highest on record.
Climate change is a global problem caused by the emission of CO2 generated by human activity. Our planet is getting hotter and the last decade was the hottest in recorded history. That is coming from scientific data which was released in December. The previous decade was the second hottest decade in recorded history. These figures come from the Bureau of Meteorology. I would argue to those people who deny the fact that climate change exists that they just have to look at these figures and read some of the scientific papers I have referred to. They need to accept the fact that climate change is a reality, that it has the potential to drastically change our way of life, that it has the potential to impact drastically on sea levels, that it will impact on food production and that it will change the world as we know it. I am not being alarmist in saying this.
This parliament is faced with the dilemma of doing nothing or acting now. Those on the other side have put forward a rather Mickey Mouse proposal to deal with climate change that will lead to a 13 per cent increase in CO2 rather than a reduction. I support what Garnaut stated in his report—that we have two options: do nothing or act now. I am very much in favour of the ‘act now’ position and that is what I see this legislation doing—putting in place the framework for us to act now. I do not agree at all with the approach of Lord Monckton, a person the Leader of the Opposition has been keen to associate himself with, when he asks what the harm is in waiting. The harm in waiting is enormous. I heard him say on television: ‘Leave it for 10 years. Act then if it is necessary. Leave it for 10 years.’ Our ability to act would be very much impacted upon in that time and much change would have happened. The number of islands in the Pacific impacted by water levels would have increased. I think that approach is irresponsible and is a pathway to annihilation.
Even if a person or members on the other side of this parliament have some doubts about climate change, surely they are interested in taking out insurance. I think I read in one of the Leader of the Opposition’s former speeches that he did not believe that climate change exists and he tended to refer to it as ‘crap’. He still stated that it was important to take out insurance. He has obviously moved from that position—I think there has been a little more movement today and I will talk about that a little later. I ask members on the other side of this parliament whether they insure their houses against fire. I suspect they do. Are their houses likely to be burnt down? Not really. So this CPRS is, at the very least, insurance that the opposition is not prepared to take out.
I argue that it is imperative that this parliament shows leadership and delivers a framework that will lead to a reduction in emissions and counteract climate change and that is what this legislation does. It provides us with a framework to do exactly that. When John Howard was Prime Minister and the current Leader of the Opposition was in his cabinet, he accepted the reality of climate change. In fact, the opposition went to the election with a scheme very similar to the scheme which is before the parliament today. But what a difference a change in opposition leader makes. Prior to December we had an opposition that was prepared to engage with the government to try and develop a whole-of-parliament solution to this very important issue. Today we have an opposition leader who is showing that all he is concerned with is politics and politicising one of the most important issues facing this parliament, this nation and our planet. I refer to the Shergold report which was commissioned by the previous Prime Minister, which he accepted. Now we have the Leader of the Opposition turning away from what his mentor, the previous Prime Minister, had to say. I express my disillusionment with the Leader of the Opposition because he has a different position every day.
Climate change is a very serious matter. Last year I visited the Solomon Islands with the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. We were looking at health issues in the Pacific and climate change was identified there as a significant issue. It was pointed out to the committee, whilst we were at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara, that the water level, which was no more than 10 metres from the hospital, had previously been 150 metres from the hospital and that there had been an orchard growing between the hospital and the ocean. One of the doctors said to me that he lies awake at night worrying about what will happen to the hospital.
We visited Gizo, another island, which had an increase in population because the population of a neighbouring island had been forced to move to Gizo, because their island had been affected by rising sea levels. This is really serious. It is something that we in Australia cannot ignore. It affects the whole of the planet. The recently released report on the impacts of climate change identified Shortland electorate as an electorate that would be significantly affected by climate change and rising sea levels. The local council gave evidence to the environment committee when they were looking at this issue. This evidence showed that a large proportion of Shortland electorate would go under water. There have had to be changes to the building codes, which will lead to expenses for people building in the area. It is an issue that I see every day. It is an issue that confronts people in the electorate that I live in. I do not want to see people living near the lake or near the Pacific Ocean losing their houses and being affected by rising sea levels caused by CO2 emissions and climate change and caused by not addressing these issues—by us in this parliament not showing the leadership that we are put here to show. I believe that the way to show this leadership and address this problem is to support the CPRS legislation that we have before us.
We need to explain a little better to the community what a CPRS is. The one thing that the Leader of the Opposition and members of the opposition have been successful in doing is creating confusion. They have created confusion by playing political games. They have been dishonest. They have not told the Australian people what a CPRS is. The CPRS is a cap on CO2 emissions. It puts in place a limit on the amount of CO2 and its equivalents that can be emitted. Those industries that emit CO2 must obtain a permit or a licence to do so. These permits can be purchased from the government or from other emitters. So there can be a trade in the licences. It is a scheme where the polluters pay, not the government or the taxpayer. It will lead to a five per cent reduction in emissions between 2000 and 2020.
There are some people who say that this reduction should be greater. But those on the other side do not agree. They do not think it should happen at all. That is what their actions in this parliament are delivering: nothing. If we go back to what Garnaut said, ‘We are faced with a choice of acting now or doing nothing.’ Those on the other side of this parliament opt for the ‘do nothing’ approach. The white paper estimates that the CPRS will result in a one per cent CPI increase. I note the member for Wentworth in his contribution compared this to a 2.8 per cent increase associated with the GST. The GST was a tax. It was a great big tax. It was nothing but a tax. The opposition, when it was in government, went to the people and said: ‘I want to tax you. I want to get more money from you. We want to place this tax on almost everything.’ The CPRS is an investment in the future. It is an investment in our planet.
I noticed that in the media today the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for the environment have failed to rule out that they would introduce an ETS in the future. Talk about double standards! I think that demonstrates it very clearly. It is important to note that the legislation will lead to some increased costs, but the government is providing support to low- and middle-income families, with upfront assistance to help with the impact of the scheme. The package will include tax assistance, tax offsets and other measures to help households maintain their standard of living. There will also be increases to pensions, benefits and allowance payments.
In the time remaining, I would like to compare the government’s actions with the opposition’s. I have already stated the Leader of the Opposition is a total climate change denier. He thinks it is absolute crap and as such we can understand why his policy, which is a bit of a con job, has been put on the table. It is the kind of climate policy you put out there when you really do not want to put in place a climate policy. It costs more, it does less and it is unfunded. It slugs taxpayers instead of the big polluters. If you remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, when I was talking about the CPRS, it is the polluters that actually pay. Under the Leader of the Opposition’s scheme it will cost taxpayers three times more than the government’s CPRS over the next 10 years. That is significant. Talking about a big tax, how are the opposition going to raise the money for the proposal they put forward? Obviously, it is going to be through increased taxes or reduced services. We all know that the Leader of the Opposition favours a scheme where people become eligible for the pension at age 70. Maybe that is a way he is looking at recouping money.
The other point I would like to make about the scheme put forward by the Leader of the Opposition is that experts in the Department of Climate Change have advised that it will not work; rather than reducing emissions it will actually lead to an increase in emissions. While the CPRS will lead to a reduction in emissions of five per cent, the opposition’s unfunded policy will lead to an increase of 13 per cent.
It is important to note that the CPRS will deliver a real reduction in carbon dioxide emissions while the proposal put forward by the opposition does less, costs more and is unfunded. I urge the opposition to support the legislation. It is about the future of the planet. It is not about cheap politics or winning the next election; rather, it is about ensuring the future for our children and grandchildren.
What I find amazing is that the government has thousands of public servants at its disposal and all we have got are these standard words, these catchcries and these denigrations of individuals. It depicts a government that is a little bit rattled and a little bit concerned, and that is all it has got. I really wonder how it has come to this: the government reintroducing this failure of a scheme for the third time. Support for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 and related bills is dwindling about as far down as the number of people who actually understand it, yet the member for Shortland asked us to explain the government’s scheme when the government cannot even do it itself.
Clearly what has happened in this country is that the government has come up with this scheme that it does not really know is all about, as I will explain later. Just yesterday morning when the ABC news wanted an expert on the CPRS and this legislation they did not go to the government; instead, they went to the Australian National University. That is what it has come to. It is expensive, ineffective, damaging to the national interest and an abject failure that is only eclipsed by the failure that was Copenhagen—unless you were on the delegation on the trip and one of the 114 members of the Prime Minister’s key, essential staff. Actually, 114 is a familiar figure. Wait! That is the cost of the CPRS—$114 billion of skew on the Australian economy which will end up doing nothing.
Before I begin I will repeat some facts from a speech that I made in October last year, as it is important to understand just what we are dealing with regarding CO2—the stuff that is described as pollution by the government. Carbon dioxide or CO2 is just one of the gases described as a greenhouse gas. The reality is that the greenhouse gases in total make up just one per cent of the atmosphere. To go further, of that one per cent of the atmosphere that is greenhouse gases, 75 to 95 per cent is water vapour. So when we talk about CO2 it represents less than five per cent of that one per cent of the total atmosphere.
But that is not the end of it, because human produced carbon dioxide represents just seven per cent of the CO2 emissions and Australia produces 1.4 per cent of that figure. So, if my calculations are correct, the carbon dioxide produced within this nation represents around 0.0000002 per cent of the atmosphere and that is what the government is trying to reduce. In that attempt to reduce a small number by an even smaller number, last year Access Economics predicted 13,000 jobs would be lost in Western Australia. That is a big cost. Price rises of 12.5 per cent are to be expected on average just to reduce that 0.0000002 per cent by five per cent.
The question is why we would want to pay that price for so little return. The government seeks to impose on this nation a $114 billion great big new tax on everything. The government seeks to fundamentally alter the national economy and skew everything in order to reduce Australia’s human induced CO2 from a very small number to a number which is only slightly smaller. That figure would be eclipsed by a couple of months of economic growth in China or even a volcanic eruption. The skewed economy the government wants would also result in carbon and job leakages to nations with lower environmental standards than we have. Again, what is the benefit? It would be a very expensive, economy-altering super tax that would substantially alter the economy for no environmental benefits.
I struggle to find anything good about these bills and the government, as we know, has been unable to explain how it works to the Australian people. As I said before, just yesterday morning when the ABC were looking for an expert they could be sure would explain the CPRS they did not go to the government—or maybe they did go to the government but the government did not want to be part of it. Instead, they went to the ANU—a sad but consistent indictment of the government’s knowledge of its own legislation perhaps.
With regard to these bills, I have—as have, I am sure, many other members—received many more emails telling me to vote against the ETS than to vote for it. I can assure them all that I will not be voting for the ETS; I will not be voting for any of these bills. There will come a day when we will all be held accountable for our actions and what we say here. I am prepared to stand by my actions in doing the right thing. Obviously those on the other side absolutely stand by their arguments about the threats that face the world. What we do not hear very much about from the government is the detailed science. The main thing you have to when you are trying to win an argument is to provide proof. I believe there is only one real scientist in the House of Representatives, and that is the member for Tangney, so he is worth listening to. He is an authority and has justification for speaking on scientific matters. But from the other side we hear only assertions, denigrations and abuse of alternative views. Over there, the members on the government side hide behind the lines given by the ministerial officers, and I remind them that when they appear here with all of their unequivocal assertions they in effect align themselves lock, stock and barrel with absolute blind faith. What I intend to show is that there is enough information out there to challenge the position that the government members have locked themselves into.
So, when they come into this place and propose an ETS and abuse us for any alternatives that provide very broad and realistic benefits for a sustainable future like direct action does, they should be aware that the science is not settled and they have aligned themselves with vested interests. I am not a scientist. It would therefore be reckless of me to state the categorical truth of the matter regarding the disputed science that abounds. I take an approach which is contrary to that of those who sit opposite. They sit there confident and certain, comfortably living in a world of black and white, where their side is right and the other side is wrong—where the evidence that disputes their position is completely dismissed behind allegations of dinosaurs, deniers, sceptics and other terms designed not to defend their position with reasoned argument but just to denigrate alternative views or questions. I will therefore take this opportunity to speak about the science in some detail, which would probably surprise my high school chemistry teacher, given my results.
One of the big claims regarding global warming is the theory something like what the Hollywood disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow was apparently modelled on, so I assume that the government members would support the concept that global warming may shut down the thermohaline circulation in the oceans. Yet a 2006 research paper actually observed a strengthening of the circulation, not a weakening. So that is one big claim about global warming about which there is scientific evidence that says otherwise. If anyone in this place has not heard of MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen then they should read more widely on the science. It is Richard Lindzen’s paper from last year regarding the earth’s climate sensitivity that should have every unbiased elected representative and commentator around the world asking questions about the voracity of the IPCC claims and indeed about the whole validity of the CO2 relationship to radiation and the greenhouse effect.
Simply speaking, the greenhouse theory is that heat from the sun reaches the earth’s surface and then the radiation is trapped more and more by increasing amounts of manmade CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The theory follows that increasing amounts of human-induced CO2 will lift average temperatures around the world, thereby causing significant changes to regions around the globe. This is what the term climate sensitivity refers to, being that relationship between CO2 and how it traps radiation and lifts temperatures as a result of increased CO2 and greenhouse gases. If climate sensitivity is high then the earth’s temperature reacts to solar variations, increased concentrations of greenhouse gases and other factors. If climate sensitivity is, however, low, then the earth’s temperatures do not react very much to these sorts of factors.
The question therefore becomes: how certain are we that the IPCC’s predicted greenhouse gas concentrations will cause temperatures to, as it has been suggested, rise between two and 4½ degrees? This is the big issue with the whole argument of human-induced global warming. The entire IPCC argument and links to CO2 and the Greenhouse Effect depend on high climate sensitivity. That brings me back to the importance of Richard Lindzen’s research. Using actual observations, Lindzen and his collaborator Choi have found that by examining actual observations, the amount of radiation moving back into space increases with warmer ocean temperatures. This is incredibly important because the climate models wrongly predict that when ocean temperatures rise, there is a reduced amount of radiation moving back into space. Lindzen thereby determines that instead of the 2 to 4.5-degree Celsius rise expected from the rise in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, just 0.5 of a degree can be expected. This would then help account for the absence of global warming that has occurred since 1998.
The notion that complex climate ‘catastrophes’ are simply a matter of the response of a single number, global average temperatures, to a single forcing, CO2 (or even solar forcing), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate. Many disasters associated with the warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.’
The willingness of the government in this place to attribute every weather event to human-induced climate change without consideration of naturally occurring cycles such as El Nino effect and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is just incredible. If the temperature in Adelaide is 41 degrees in summer, they say that is human-induced climate change. If the temperature is 21, they are silent. If there is drought here, that is climate change, yet record snow and cold weather on the east coast of the United States does not seem to be mentioned.
The government’s statements on the weather are very selective and I can understand why they would be so. Milking community concerns in 2007 for all they were worth was clever politics, yet now, as more and more Australians look at what is going on around the world and begin to question what they have been told by this government, it is becoming harder to sell what the people are increasingly refusing to buy. Increasing credibility problems with the IPCCs and some of the proponents of the theory of anthropogenic global warming, together with reports of weather that is not consistent with the apocalypse predicted, has more and more Australians and other people around the world questioning what is going on.
Of course there has also been a focus on what took place at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. This involves allegations of concealing and destroying raw climate data, as well as targeting scientific dissent and silencing those seeking to have alternative views published. The computer system of the CRU was hacked and a number of concerning emails were made public. In just October last year well-known climate change advocate Kevin Trenberth emailed Michael Mann and other climate change advocates. When speaking of record low temperatures in parts of the United States Trenberth lamented:
The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.
I think what he means is that while the figures say there was not warming, the models were saying there would be. There is a bit of a reality mismatch in there. When looking at the actions of pro-anthropogenic global warming advocates, the allegations being investigated, and the inconsistencies between real weather and raw data in comparison to climate change models that are not predicting what is actually happening now, the number of questions that need to be asked is increasing, not decreasing. There is nothing settled about this science.
Some may say: ‘What does this mean? Is this the end to the theory of human induced global warming?’ I suspect not, but what is required is that this issue be seriously followed up. I call upon the government to hold a full inquiry into the science. Let us get Mann, Hansen and Jones out here. Let us hear Lindzen, Itoh, Kapitsa and others with alternative views as well. Currently, it seems that research funding favours only the human induced global warming theory. That certainly appears to be the case. All the funding is a one-way street and, in my view, that has robbed the debate of objectivity.
Speaking of objectivity, it is probably right to look at those that line up to support this ETS and a global cap-and-trade scheme. When you line them up, you are in fact lining up those with vested interests, led above all by Al Gore, whose personal fortune has greatly multiplied through his involvement in the climate change industry as evidenced by his appearance fee of US$175,000 in 2007—which I now hear is over US$300,000. Or it may be his involvement in various business interests that also greatly benefit from any cap-and-trade scheme. Another vested interest would appear to be some elements of the BBC. I read yesterday that the BBC’s pension fund is heavily invested in businesses relying on the theory of human induced global warming. The objectivity of the BBC is therefore questioned when their, I believe, $8 billion pension fund is exposed in this matter.
It even comes down to research funding in this country where, if the research relates to climate change, your chances of getting your funding approved is greatly enhanced, if not guaranteed. I think we can expect that everyone whose employment is tied to the theory of human induced climate change is not an independent person. Similarly, all those advisers or consultants put on the staff of businesses and other organisations around the world to advise on adjusting to climate change’s proposed new laws or proposed new economies are similarly influenced beyond the realm of impartiality.
I could go on about the Head of the IPCC, Dr Pachauri, and his vested interests but it would be better to now concentrate on a plan that will actually benefit Australia through the coalition’s plan for direct action on the environment. Upfront our policy would cost $3.2 billion over four years, in direct contrast to the skewing and false influences on the economy provided by this ETS that we are debating today. Apart from the damage to jobs and the economy in general, over four years the Rudd government’s new big tax on everything will cost $40.6 billion, climbing to $114 billion over 10 years. It is outrageous that the government accuses us in matters economic. I remind the government that this nation used to have a surplus. Again we have the great tradition of Australian politics, we run surpluses on this side to pay off the debt, while the other side massively spends every dollar and borrows more. These are the great traditions of Australian politics.
In direct contrast to the tax and churn fiasco that is this great big tax on everything, we could look at the more modest yet more effective scheme that is the coalition’s policy. Firstly, there is the range of initiatives to boost solar energy use in Australia following on from the former coalition government’s initiative in solar energy: $100 million each year for an additional one million solar homes by 2020. To progress renewable energy take-ups across Australia, 125 solar projects will be established in schools and communities and there will be 25 geothermal or tidal power projects established in suitable towns.
Larger scale renewable energy generation will also be developed with a proportion of incentives provided through the renewable energy target. I also appreciate the focus and the support for research on high-voltage direct current cables. Such cables will make renewable power generation in remote places viable, allowing transmission of that power with minimal losses. It also provides options for taking away high-voltage transmission corridors such as the one that is such an eyesore between Malaga and South Ballajura in the electorate of Cowan.
The initiatives include the emissions reduction fund providing $2.5 billion to support carbon reduction activities by business and industry. This will work by using the existing reporting scheme to determine proposed emission reductions beyond base levels already determined for actual businesses. This will be the business as usual level, and businesses that go above that level will be penalised. Those businesses that reduce their emissions will be encouraged by the ability to sell those savings, their abatement, back to the government. A direct financial incentive would be provided.
Some may say, ‘What about new businesses?’ Very simply, no penalty will apply if you enter or expand the business at the industry best practice. This is how you protect jobs and not send them overseas with the ETS CPRS big new tax on everything. This is how we would, as a responsible government, look after the best interests of our nation with understandable good policies. It is worth noting that Labor’s big tax on everything relies heavily on the purchase of CO2 emission abatements to meet their five percent reduction target. Where are the local environmental benefits here when the abatement allegedly occurs overseas?
Overall, the emissions reduction fund is about incentives rather than imposing job and productivity destroying liabilities for business. It is about incentives, as opposed to the government’s big tax on everything, which is tantamount to putting both feet firmly on the economy’s brake pedal. It is for this reason that compensation is not required. You do not have to give the cash out to families if you do not hurt them through big tax increases when every business they enter or buy from has to pass along the costs of the Rudd government’s big tax on everything.
I would also like to make mention of the very practical and effective initiative of 20 million trees to be planted in available public places. Everyone knows from their basic science lessons that trees convert CO2 to oxygen—therefore, the more the better.
I would like to remind the government that Australians are smart. They do not just accept assertions without proof. Now the government is left holding this failure of a plan—the ETS and CPRS. It is such a failure that it is no longer even your focus in Question Time as you embark upon the strategy of attacking individuals. Do not think for a second that this has not been widely noted. We will oppose these bills here for the national interest. When these bills are defeated in the Senate, I invite the Prime Minister to have a referendum on it or to call an election—whatever—and to have the courage to be prepared to explain the details. (Time expired)
Every bill that comes before this parliament is important in its own way, but just rarely—just occasionally—we have bills before us the importance of which goes well beyond the current moment. The bill before us today is one of those. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 is not just a bill that is important for the here and now. This is one of those occasions where, in the years to come, our children will ask us what we were doing and what we did about this when we had the opportunity. Our grandchildren will ask us those questions. This is one of those rare occasions when the nation needs and expects those of us in this place—all of us, but especially those in leadership roles—to demonstrate that leadership and to demonstrate some statesmanship qualities.
For a while last year, it appeared that that might be the case. Sadly, that all fell apart on 1 December last year, when, by the slenderest of majorities, those opposite decided to jettison that approach in rebuffing the then Leader of the Opposition and taking a completely different course. Until a couple of months ago—December of last year—there was bipartisan support for this package of bills. Looking back on that, it seems as though the trust the government placed in some of those opposite involved in those negotiations and agreements was not justified. Perhaps last year the government should have focused on a public campaign rather than relying on the word of many of those opposite. But we did take the senior Liberal spokespeople at their word. Sadly, that has been proven to have been a mistake. Those opposite could not honour their word.
The agreement that was reached between the government and the Liberal and National parties has been dishonoured by a majority of those opposite. I am reminded of the words of the shadow Treasurer, the member for North Sydney, Joe Hockey, on 1 December last year. He said:
The Government put on the table a deal. We accepted that deal. I sought to honour that deal.
That was true of the member for North Sydney on 1 December last year. Sadly, it is not the case for the member for North Sydney today, it would seem. Certainly it is no longer the case for a majority of those opposite. It is a harsh criticism to level at anybody, and I would not level it at all those opposite, because I know there are members on the opposition benches who still hold this matter to be important, but precious few of them appear willing to actually vote according to their conscience and best judgment. When you look back on those days in November and December last year, amazingly it does seem as though the Liberal Party was hijacked by the member for O’Connor, Wilson Tuckey, and the National Party senator Barnaby Joyce. Who would have thought that possible? But that appears to have been the outcome when you look back on the events in November and December.
But let me move to the bills before the House, because they are important bills. I wish, indeed, that we could go further. I wish that there had been more progress made at Copenhagen, because I would like to have seen us, as citizens of this world and as leaders in this country, go beyond where we are at the moment. But the government has been responsible and correct in putting these bills before the parliament in the context of the various pressures, both here and abroad, that we confront.
At the core of these bills is a cap-and-trade system. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and similar schemes referred to as ETSs—emissions trading schemes—all rely on a cap-and-trade principle. I just want to outline very briefly what that means. The cap puts an upper limit on how much carbon pollution Australia can produce. The government issues a number of permits equal to that cap. The government then reduces the limit or the cap in the years ahead, reducing the amount of carbon pollution that is produced in our country. The cap takes into account a range of factors, including our international obligations, economic conditions and what other countries are doing. Once the cap has been set, large polluters that want to continue to produce carbon pollution will have to pay for the permits. Organisations can then buy and sell these permits from each other. The more carbon pollution a firm produces, the more it has to pay. The financial incentive is there for every company to produce less pollution and thereby pay less. It is a simple system. It is one that is used or being pursued by 30 countries in the world and, indeed, already a number of states in the United States of America—notably the large-economy states on the west coast—and some of the Canadian provinces.
It was a point well understood by the member for Wentworth when he spoke so eloquently in this House a couple of days ago. He said:
I note that the government does not set the price of carbon; it sets the cap on emissions and the rules of the scheme, and then it is up to the market, the laws of supply and demand, to set the price. It does not give quotas to particular industries or firms. The cap is across the economy and is set at a level of emissions which will over the relevant period enable us to meet our target. These permits can be purchased from the government or from other permit holders, or can be offset by purchasing a carbon credit from someone, like a farmer, who is taking action which reduces atmospheric carbon.
The member for Wentworth got it right, and nearly half of those opposite agreed with him only a matter of weeks ago. Today they falsely stand in this parliament and say that this is the wrong course to follow, whereas only a little while ago they stood behind their then leader and supported it.
It is important to understand that by selling those permits the government will raise a substantial amount of money from the big polluters, so those who want to pollute will have to pay in order to be able to continue that pollution. The government then takes that money, under our scheme, and gives it to householders to ensure that they do not bear the brunt of increased costs.
I want to go through some of the detail of that compensation: 8.1 million Australian households—that is, nine out of 10 households in this country—will receive direct cash assistance under the CPRS package before us; 2.9 million low-income householders are going to be fully compensated; and all pensioners and carers of people with a disability are going to be compensated. Even 3.6 million middle-income households will receive direct cash assistance, and about half of those will be fully compensated. I give the example of a family earning $100,000 with a fifty-fifty income split, two children aged 10 and 13—they will receive more than full compensation. So the government takes the money from the big polluters and assures that ordinary Australians are compensated so they do not bear the cost. That is a fair, sensible, balanced, socially responsible scheme.
It is also recognised that the CPRS not only cuts emissions but helps support jobs today and into the future. It assists in creating those low-pollution jobs of the future. There is no doubt that, in the course of the next decade, the global economy is going to move in this direction. As a nation we have a choice, not just for the environmental imperatives but for the economic sense of it. We can take up the opportunities now and be at the front of that, engaging in those new industries—in the development of them, in the export of them—or we can hang around and have to face this decision in three, five, seven years down the track and end up importing those technologies from overseas. I know which one of those two options I prefer. I know which one of those two options will give my children and grandchildren the best possible chance of a high-value, decent job with a good quality of living.
The CPRS scheme provides incentives and support for businesses to get engaged in these new industries. It establishes the Climate Change Action Fund to assist small businesses to invest in those new energy efficiencies. It provides a Clean Business Australia program to help increase the energy efficiency of our buildings and large manufacturing processes. And it establishes the Australian Carbon Trust to link public and private funding to help businesses invest. Again, the member for Wentworth, just a couple of days ago, recognised this very point. He said:
An Australian emissions trading scheme, with a carbon price set by the market, would improve business investment certainty. This is particularly the case for projects with a high degree of carbon risk. There is growing evidence that investments are being deferred due to uncertainty about the future cost of addressing climate change.
That very uncertainty is being fuelled by the stupidity of those opposite in adopting the negative approach to this legislation that they are. The member for Wentworth also said in that speech:
Without a clear signal on future carbon costs, these investments will not be optimised.
And that is the position that Australian businesses are in today. They need not have been in that position, had one more Liberal decided to support Mr Turnbull instead of turning their back on the future and going back to the dark ages of the past in the vote with Mr Abbott.
So who else in this debate shares the view of the government—and, until December, about half of those opposite? Support for taking action sooner rather than later is evidenced around the world. I just want to quote a couple. Many have heard of the Stern review, but I guess that, while they have heard the name ‘Stern’, they do not know who Nicholas Stern was. It is worth recording his background. Nicholas Stern was the World Bank’s chief economist. He was the head of the United Kingdom’s economic service and he was also a professor at the London School of Economics. He said many things that are compelling about the need to act early, for economic as well as environmental reasons. One of the things he said was:
… taking strong action to reduce emissions must be viewed as an investment, a cost incurred now and in the coming few decades to avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future.
It is an investment in the future. We do need to take up that opportunity. I never thought I would quote John Howard positively on anything—but, I have to say, if you are around here long enough, just about everything comes full circle. Prior to the 2007 election even John Howard promised:
Australia will move towards a domestic emissions trading scheme—
that is, a cap-and-trade system—
beginning no later than 2012.
Even Tony Abbott, I might say, in October last year said:
… that’s why I think it makes sense to have an ETS.
His position in October was very different to the one he has today.
I understand there is other business before the House. I will endeavour to conclude very shortly. I just want to draw a quick comparison between the two schemes. Mr Abbott’s proposal clearly does not work in dealing with carbon pollution. It does not place any cap on carbon pollution. Indeed, the assessments in the last week by experts in the department show it increases pollution. It slugs taxpayers instead of the big polluters, so it is the taxpayers who are going to have to pay the bill to fund this money that is going to be handed out to the big end of town. Indeed, it is unfunded, so we do not know whether that money that is going to be given to the big end of town is going to come from cutting school or health funding, whether it is going to come from increased taxes or whether it is going to come from some combination of those.
I began by saying there are few bills that come before this parliament that are of such importance and significance. In the years to come many people, our children and our grandchildren, will ask us what our position was and what we did to address this matter. I very strongly support the package of bills before the House. I urge those opposite to reconsider their stance. I regret that circumstances of the House do not allow me to continue further. I support the bills.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the debate on the workplaces legislation of the previous government, members of the opposition who had not spoken were allowed to have their speeches recorded in Hansard. I seek your guidance on how we could allow certain members on our side of the House who have not yet spoken to do the same.
The House ordered that we go straight to the vote. As far as I am concerned, that is the end of it. You can raise the matter later on through the Speaker, or I could raise it with the Speaker on your behalf.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. How can you have any confidence in the vote that you have just taken when you have not dealt with the points of order raised during the division from this side of the House about the Minister for Health and Ageing and the Deputy Prime Minister barging through the door—