House debates

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Questions without Notice

Climate Change

2:18 pm

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why is it important to take action on climate change, and what is the government doing to move to a low-carbon economy?

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I very much thank the member for her question. She is a woman who lives in and represents in this place a region where people understand that climate change is real, that our society needs to take steps to address it and that we need to work through these difficult steps in consultation with the community.

When I was in Adelaide last week, I talked about my vision and this government’s vision for the future of this country. I want to make sure that we have a strong economy, ready for the challenges of the future, which gives Australians the best opportunities for the future, for their own personal prosperity and for their own ability to succeed. But to get there, to have a strong economy that meets the challenges of the future, we need to engage in continuing rounds of reform.

There is no more important reform than making sure that our economy is ready for the challenge flowing from climate change. That is, we need to make sure that we are a prosperous nation but that, as we generate that prosperity, we generate fewer carbon emissions. I am an optimist. I know the Leader of the Opposition always looks on the negative side for what you can wreck and who you can criticise. I am an optimist and I believe that our nation is up to meeting this challenge. We can get this job done and we can get it done together.

In order to get this job done together, we do need to work through pricing carbon. We need to do that to drive a fuel switch into investment in cleaner energy. That is a key to the future and we need to make sure that we are the custodians of that key—that we price carbon and drive investment in cleaner energy. The experts in the energy industry tell us that we need to do just that. For example, Richard McIndoe, managing director of energy supplier TRUenergy, has said:

We want to see this—

that is, pricing carbon—

on the agenda before 2013 and we really need to start to have a dialogue with the government about the best way to attract investment in low emissions technology now. There is no time to waste.

He goes on to say that:

… if this uncertainty continues, not for two to three years but four to five years, and nobody is building, then you will have power shortages and insufficient capacity.

That is the vision of the future the Leader of the Opposition would embrace—power shortages and insufficient capacity.

Then of course there is the incoming Treasury brief that made it absolutely clear that, if we are to hit our carbon emissions targets, we need to price carbon. To go down any other route is, to use their words, ‘to impose a significant economic and budget impact’. That is the vision of the Leader of the Opposition—increased taxes or savage cuts into health, pensions, defence and education in order to pay for trying to deal with climate change another way. We stand for the efficiency of pricing carbon, and we will get on with that job.