House debates

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

3:15 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government's failure to act on climate change.

I call upon all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

At the outset, as a South Australian MP, can I add my remarks to the words of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others about the bushfire disasters in South Australia over the last 36 hours. My wife's family has lost two farms—her auntie's and her cousin's. My thoughts are with Helen and Andrew, Belinda and Ed. All our thoughts are with the volunteer firefighters, the firefighters, and other members of the community who are dealing with these awful disasters in my state of South Australia.

The Prime Minister is off to get on a plane and jet off overseas to attend another series of summits: CHOGM in Malta and then the much awaited Paris conference on climate change. I think most people in this House are pleased that there is very good reason to hope that this conference in Paris, the 21st conference of the parties, will be a very positive conference that will finally yield an ambitious agreement, including all significant countries in the world seeking to reduce carbon pollution levels and ensure that global warming does not extend beyond two degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels. We are not there yet, but it is certainly a much better position than I think anyone thought we would be in only 18 or 24 months ago.

I think it is fair to say also that the international community, by and large, has greeted the demise of the member for Warringah as Prime Minister of Australia and Stephen Harper as the Prime Minister of Canada with unadulterated glee. Both of those prime ministers were regarded, rightly or wrongly—we say rightly; some others may say wrongly—as the twin proponents of the argument not to achieve an ambitious agreement in Paris. For that reason I think it is broadly thought that the new Australian Prime Minister and the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, will be received very warmly indeed, just for not being the previous prime ministers of Australia and Canada.

Indeed, Justin Trudeau, as we know, will bring a substantially different policy platform for Canada—a promise to introduce an emissions trading scheme, a promise to look at more ambitious targets, a very ambitious program of green energy. But the Australian Prime Minister, although he will undoubtedly be presenting a friendlier face to the international community on climate change, will still be selling the old wares that were developed by the member for Warringah, precisely with the ambition of doing nothing. In that sense they are working, because they are doing nothing.

He will be presenting 2030 targets that put Australia right at the back of the pack. He will present no long-term target for carbon pollution reduction at all, because the member for Warringah stripped from the statute books the idea that there should be a mid-century ambition about decarbonising this economy. It was stripped from the statute books. Although there is lip-service to the two-degree commitment, and certainly we think the Minister for the Environment genuinely sees that commitment as important, there is still the four-degree scenario of the International Energy Agency right the centre of this government's energy white paper.

But the biggest immediate problem this country has, which the Prime Minister continues to endure, is the lack of a policy framework to constrain emissions at all, let alone to reduce them. The Climate Action Tracker, an international NGO that not only assesses the targets that different countries are bringing to this conference but also assesses the policy mechanisms to see whether those targets are going to be achieved, has found that, notwithstanding the fact that Australia's targets are at the weaker end of the global spectrum, Australia still has the largest gap of any nation between the targets that the Prime Minister is taking to Paris and the policy mechanisms to achieve those targets.

If you watched the National Press Club address yesterday, you would be forgiven for thinking that Australia is leading the world and that people are flocking over here to learn all the wonders of the Emissions Reduction Fund and the safeguards mechanism. Although the Minister for the Environment is not usually one for overstatement and triumphalism—I will say that—he was a little bit triumphalist yesterday. He dropped a couple of stories and said to the National Press Club that Australia was going to achieve its Kyoto 2 target. He did not present any new data about this. He had a PowerPoint for the joy of the Press Club, but there was no year-by-year data to update the March data that was published by the department.

It is probably true in a technical sense that Australia, happily, will achieve its Kyoto 2 commitment. It is probably true, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with this government's climate change policy. There are three reasons why we will achieve the Kyoto 2 commitment. The first is the carryover from the first period of 129 million tonnes. The second is the fact that in 2013 and 2014 we overperformed. We had emissions significantly below the average for the eight-year period between 2013 and 2020—unsurprisingly, really, because of the impact of the renewable energy targets, the reduction in emissions from the national electricity market and the high point of reductions in emissions from the Queensland land sector because of land-clearing restrictions put in place by the Queensland state Labor governments of Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh. So those two reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with this government's policies.

The only thing this government can take credit for in the reductions in the total abatement task that the minister published is strangling economic activity. The coalmining sector and the heavy manufacturing sector are slowing down, as a result of which 200 million tonnes or thereabouts is stripped from the projections of emissions between now and 2020. That apparently is a cause for celebration by the Minister for the Environment.

There is no data year on year between now and 2020 other than the data that the department published in March that would indicate that by 2020 pollution levels will be 17 per cent above 2000 levels—not five per cent below, but 17 per cent above. We do not think that is going to happen—we think it will be substantially lower than that, but there is no question that emission levels under this government are rising. There is no question that emission levels under this government will be higher in 2020 than they are now. The minister did not present any year-on-year data at the National Press Club yesterday, and he did not answer the question that was asked of him in question time as to whether or not emission levels in 2020 would be higher or lower than they are now. We know that emission levels will be higher. RepuTex says, using the same datasets the department uses that were incorporated ambiguously into the powerpoint yesterday, that emission levels will be six per cent higher in 2020 than they are today, in spite of the fact that strangling economic activity has yielded a dividend for this Minister for the Environment, and four per cent higher than 2000 levels—not five per cent below but four per cent higher.

Under the last Labor government emissions came down by eight per cent, from 600 million tonnes in the last year of the Howard government to 550 million tonnes in the last year of the Labor government. Under this new Prime Minister, with a friendlier face on climate change, emission levels will increase between him taking over as Prime Minister and 2020 by six per cent. Why? Because the attack on the renewable energy industry last year has meant that electricity emissions rose by four per cent alone in the NEM in the last financial year of 2014-15; emissions are rising in the land sector because of Campbell Newman winding back the Peter Beattie-Anna Bligh land clearing restrictions; and there are whole range of other reasons.

Let us recap: what will the new Prime Minister be taking to Paris? He will be taking weak targets. He will be taking no ambition on renewable energy beyond 2020. When the Leader of the Opposition asked the new Prime Minister whether he would join with Labor in a 50 per cent goal for renewable energy by 2030, he called that goal reckless. The office of renewables innovation in the minister's department got a bit of a rap again yesterday. That brings in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA. Of course the minister did not repeat the fact that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Abolition Bill is still on the agenda for this House. The Minister for Finance is still banking as a saving all of the money allocated to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, yet still this minister trumpets the idea that there is an office for renewables innovation and that incorporate two agencies that do fantastic work, creatures of the last Labor government, who are in the gunsights of this government.

We have a safeguards mechanism that the Prime Minister will take to Paris that will do nothing to constrain emissions of the 20 biggest polluters between now and 2030—absolutely nothing. It will do nothing to constrain the emissions of four-fifths of all polluters covered by it, which is why we need a cap on carbon pollution. And of course he will take the Emissions Reduction Fund that he himself, the Prime Minister, in a moment of honesty, said five or six years ago would be a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. So Paris will receive a friendlier face on climate change but there will be the same old policies. (Time expired)

3:26 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

The two things come out of this discussion. First, Labor wants to bring back the carbon tax. No matter what else they say, they want higher electricity prices, they want higher gas prices, they want a higher cost of living and they want to make sure that Australian farmers are paying higher prices for fertilisers. Second, they are just a little bit embarrassed and disappointed that we are meeting our targets, that we are beating our targets, and that we are doing it without their carbon tax. Let me say something about our targets and their targets, about policies under us and under the Labor Party and also about some of their sources.

Let me begin with the issue of targets. We do share some common targets, but there is one small difference. In 2012, when they left office, they left a gap of 755 million tonnes between what they predicted would occur and what was needed to meet their targets. There was a gap of 755 million tonnes. Under us that gap has dropped to 421 million tonnes, and then 236 million tonnes and, now, we have reached a point of meeting and beating our targets officially, with yesterday's formal update from the Department of the Environment before the Paris conference. It shows that we have had a reduction in predicted emissions of 264 million tonnes since the last update. The last update was the one they referred to yesterday in question time. When I asked them to table that update, they would not do it—they would not do it because they knew they were using figures that had already been superseded by the latest formal departmental assessment. It was a moment of cringeworthy embarrassment on their behalf.

As a consequence of that, we see a deep sense of shame on their behalf because we are meeting and beating our targets, and now they are arguing there should be higher emissions, from some of the interjections that we hear from our friends on the other side. It has reached the point of absurdity, so much so that yesterday the shadow minister held a press conference decrying not just their own rules, not just the United Nation's rules, but the very thing they demanded. He said it was an outrage that Australia is using carryover from the previous international assessment period. I did some research last night, and I found a little document. This document is called Submission under the Kyoto protocol: Quantified emission limitation or reduction objective (QELRO)—November 2012. In other words, it was the Australian submission to the United Nations in relation to our targets, known in the trade as QELROs.

Australia signed up to new targets: this is the minus five per cent equivalent or the minus 13 per cent from 2005 to 2020. Under Labor, they did that on the basis that confirmation of its provisional QELRO will be conditional on—in other words they said the only way we are accepting these targets will be conditional on:

The rules applying to carryover of units from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol being appropriate for Australia.

They set, not just as an objective but as a condition for signing on, that carryover can be available. The UNFCCC did that for a reason. They did that for every country. They did that in a way that allowed Australia to do that, and they did that because it provides incentives for countries to overachieve. So there is a deep, powerful policy objective behind this. Labor incorporated this in its national accounting rules. Labor counted this carryover, and I am not critical of any of that. In fact, Labor made their participation in the entire set of target frameworks conditional upon setting carryover—it is there in black and white, and I table the conditions.

But yesterday they said it is an accounting trick that the coalition government would use our rules. That argument seems to have disappeared from his protestations today, because it took them three hours to work out that it was not just their rules, not just the UN rules, but it was their demanded conditions that these accounting frameworks be allowed. So we have not changed anything, except we have reduced emissions.

We have reduced emissions not just by the 755 million tonnes but by 783 million tonnes in total since we came into government. What does that represent? That represents 98 million tonnes a year over the eight years of the second period. That represents a reduction of almost 100 million tonnes per year on average on our watch compared with Labor's last prediction. That is an astonishing outcome. It defies every prediction that they and their favoured modellers have made—and, by the way, only a year ago their favoured modellers made a prediction that we would be more than 500 million tonnes short. But they are still stuck in the past. The department has got it right. What is interesting is that they were 500 million tonnes out, for the latest auction they were $500 million out, and then—my favourite—for the first of the emissions reduction fund auctions, their favoured modellers said that the 'absolute maximum' outcome would be nine million tonnes. Well, it was 47 million tonnes—more than 500 per cent greater than their favoured modellers had predicted. I think that they might need to find a new set of favoured modellers going forward.

But then we turn to policies. We don't have just one or two. We have six significant complementary policies to achieve our outcome. Firstly, the Emissions Reduction Fund, which has achieved 92.8 million tonnes of abatement over its first two auctions, at an average price per tonne of $13.12—that is one per cent of Labor's $1,300 per tonne of abatement under the carbon tax. Beyond that, we have a safeguard mechanism that will save 200 million tonnes over the course of the period out to 2030, and we have the renewable energy target, on which we have settled on a bipartisan agreement. Going forwards from here are three further mechanisms. Firstly, we have the National Energy Productivity policy, which is expected to save 150 million tonnes, which the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia is expected to release within the next two weeks. Secondly, we have already commenced the vehicle emissions reduction process, which will save over 90 million tonnes between now and 2030. Thirdly, we have the ozone gas revisions, which are likely to save an additional 80 million tonnes between now and 2030. It is not just a set of policies, it is a comprehensive framework.

By comparison, what do we have from the ALP? Let us ask ourselves: has anybody seen their policy document? After all this time, it does not exist. There was a leaked document, obviously designed to kill their own policy, which was given to The Daily Telegraphyou will all remember a $600 billion cost for their favoured policy. But what we see now is that their renewable energy target is on some days a target and on other days an aspiration. We do not have a set of international targets, although I am told that they will pick the minus 26 to minus 28 per cent but bring it forward to 2025—you heard it here first. Let's see how they are going achieve it. The most fascinating thing is that we do not have a scintilla of a mechanism from them after all of the discussions about the Emissions Reduction Fund, about the safeguard mechanism and about the renewable energy target.

We have six significant elements on our side. We have overachievement in our targets, we have overachievement in our Emissions Reduction Fund, but on their side of the house: no targets, no policy, no hope, and just an approach of higher prices for mums and dads across Australia—their approach to climate change is a disgrace. (Time expired)

3:36 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, can I say to the minister who has just spoken: if he is so confident in what he has just said then why is it that the Australian people are simply not convinced that his policies are working? Government performance is often measured against economic, environmental and social policy. When it comes to the economy the government's budget is in a mess, its deficit is up and all of the economic indicators point to it not managing the economy well. When it comes to social policy we see no coherent strategy. The government is already in retreat, as we saw with the legislation that was before the House only this morning, and it has no clear policy with respect to social outcomes for the nation. But its greatest failure on policy matters is clearly its failure when it comes to its environment policies. Environmental policies go hand in glove with climate change policies.

Unfortunately, the climate change policies of this government are being driven by the climate change sceptics within its ranks, who believe that Australia has no responsibility to address global climate change challenges and believe that other countries should be doing the heavy lifting. Indeed, we have a Prime Minister who has sold out his own climate change views to those very people, whom he is beholden to for getting the leadership of the Liberal Party. In selling out his own views, he has sold out the future generations who will bear the cost and the burden of the government's inaction today. It is the worst kind of intergenerational theft that I can think of. It is based on a discredited policy of paying big polluters money so that they can pollute more, encouraging the use of fossil fuel and cutting investment in renewable energy schemes that are already in place. And it is a policy that this Prime Minister cannot walk away from. He said, right after he was voted in as Liberal leader:

Let me make this clear. The policy on climate change … is one that I supported as a minister in the Abbott Government and it's one that I support today.

Malcolm Turnbull, by making that statement and by turning his back on the serious issue of climate change, betrayed people who had put their trust in him.

These are policies that take Australia in the wrong direction. And fudging the figures, Minister for the Environment, will not get you over the hurdle that you have, and that is to convince not only the Australian people but also the rest of the world that Australia's actions are working. The figures, which have been fudged, do not fool anyone. They do not deliver the outcomes, and Australia does not rate well when we benchmark against other countries.

Australia has as much to lose by not acting on climate change as any other country, because Australia is as much prone to extreme weather events—fires, floods, cyclones, hotter weather conditions, droughts and the like. But, while Australia fails to act, other countries are doing their fair share. And it is not just countries; is also private enterprise. Only a couple of months ago, 81 of the US's biggest companies, with combined assets of $5 trillion, made pledges to take drastic action—I repeat, drastic action—in respect to climate change, ahead of the Paris conference. More companies are expected to make those same pledges over the coming weeks and months.

We have also seen 436 institutions, 2,000-plus individuals and 43 countries representing some $2.6 trillion in assets divesting themselves of fossil fuel investments and, in turn, putting those assets into clean energy. Equally, there are a whole range of countries that are acting, though we are not, including China, the UK, South Korea and the USA, and those in the European Union. Just last month, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency made the point that two-thirds of all new power generation over the next five years will come from renewables. One hundred and fifty countries have made pledges to reduce their energy emissions ahead of the Paris peace conference.

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Peace conference? There'll be peace in our time!

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

I started off by talking about economic, social and environmental outcomes. All three of them are highly dependent on climate change, and the cost of extreme weather events—which no-one knows better than this country because we have endured them for the last few years—has been highlighted again by a research paper put together by Stanford and Berkeley universities, and it makes the point that climate change will add to global economy costs by 10 times more than previously estimated.

Climate change is not a second-order issue. It is a front-and-centre policy issue for governments. Future generations will pay dearly for this government's failure to act on climate change.

3:41 pm

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Makin has certainly elevated the climate talks in Paris. Indeed, it has been a terribly, terribly trying fortnight for those people. But to suggest that the talks have gone from a climate conference to a peace conference is somewhat testing!

I have learned during my time in this place that you should judge Labor by what they do, not by what they say. In government, they overpromised and under-delivered absolutely. In government, they failed in addressing climate change. In government, they failed in implementing policies that would address our carbon dioxide emissions.

In the Abbott and now Turnbull government, we have one of the most overachieving ministers in the Minister for the Environment. The minister has been pragmatically, methodically, going about putting in place policies that will deliver results—not the job-destroying carbon tax that this country was subjected to under those opposite. I must touch on the presentation that was given by the Minister for the Environment yesterday at the National Press Club. I had an opportunity to hear most of that and I would recommend to anybody in this place and anybody that is listening that they take the opportunity to listen to the minister's contribution yesterday, particularly the questions that were asked after his presentation and the minister's absolute command and understanding of the issues. The way he is managing this portfolio is truly something that all Australians should be very proud of. It is based on five pillars: clean air; climate change, the subject of our discussion today; clean land, of course; clean water; heritage and, more recently, cities.

It was interesting that the member for Port Adelaide, in his speech in this debate, criticised the minister for what is always, in this area, going to be very lumpy data. I almost believe that, instead of yearly data, the shadow minister was seeking a day-to-day update in terms of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions. There was certainly a clear suggestion that there was a carryover of reductions achieved under the opposition in government and that, once we achieve those 2020 targets, it could be used as credit for our 2030 targets. It is logical. It is not ideological; it is logical. It is pragmatic. The whole debate about reducing carbon dioxide emissions should be about policies that work and the result. It is not about ideology. The facts are there for anybody to see. It seems that those opposite are upset that the policies that this government has in place are in fact working. The point is how we deliver and measure those results. The Emissions Reduction Fund is delivering low-cost abatement—92.8 million tonnes in the two reverse auctions that have occurred thus far, at an average price of $13.12 per tonne, which is 500 per cent less than was forecast under the previous government's carbon tax. The Emissions Reduction Fund has had huge benefits for agriculture in rural and regional Australia. Much of the abatement that has been achieved has been achieved with the good work of farmers.

Before I continue, I must also highlight that Australia's target of between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which is the target we will be taking to Paris, absolutely compare favourably with countries such as Canada, Japan, the European Union and New Zealand. Of course, at this point in time, the United States have not set a 2030 target, but they have a 2025 target and, indeed, we are in line with that target. I am looking forward to early next year, when the departmental people will come to work with a number of communities in my electorate to look at ways community groups and local government areas can participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund. This is a really great opportunity. I had the pleasure of meeting with a group at St Marys in the Break o' Day municipality in my electorate recently, and it is one of those community groups that will certainly be participating. (Time expired)

3:46 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Charlton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise with great pleasure to talk about this very important MPI and to respond to some of the mendacity we saw from the Minister for the Environment's contribution. It was an incredible contribution because of the falsehoods prosecuted in the speech. For example, he claimed an astonishing outcome, which is the revision in Australia's cumulative abatement task from 2013 to 2020 from 1,335 megatonnes of CO2 to 236 megatonnes. He was claiming credit for the downward revision in projections over the next seven years of around 1,000 megatonnes. His department's own papers give the reasons for the downward revisions in these projections. Projections have fallen:

… due to a range of factors including:

lower electricity demand …;

worse than expected agricultural conditions due to drought;

lower manufacturing output due to industrial closures;

weaker growth expectations for local coal production due to a fall in international coal prices; …

The minister is claiming credit for a revision in our abatement task because they have killed manufacturing, particularly the automotive industry; there is a drought on, reducing cattle production; consumers are responding to higher electricity prices by reducing electricity demand; and coal production is not as strong as expected because of falling coal prices. This is his great environmental policy: destroying manufacturing, a drought and falling coal prices! The mendacity of the Minister for the Environment is that somehow this is going to solve our environmental problems. This revision in our abatement task will cause the 2020 minus 5 per cent target to be relatively easily achieved.

Yet, even with that easy task, most of the lifting is not done by their own dog of a policy; it is done by other policies. For example, 35 per cent of the target will be achieved by carryover units from Kyoto period 1, and 47 per cent of the abatement task will be achieved by projection improvements—more industrial closures, the drought and changes in the LRET. Only a quarter of the abatement task will be done by Direct Action, if you totally ignore the issues around additionality, which are at the heart of the problem with the Emissions Reduction Fund, where a third of the money went to operations up to 10 years old and half of the money went to paying farmers not to clear land they had already promised not to clear. That is how ridiculous their policy is. Yet it is only doing one quarter of the abatement task. In fact, if you look at the original 2008 abatement task, the abatement contribution of Direct Action is 6.9 per cent of that huge sum. That shows what a dog of a policy it is. It is a dog of a policy, implemented by a minister who has given up any conviction and any commitment to principle in a naked attempt to hold on to his cabinet post. Despite all that, the government's own projections in their own document show that they will fail the task in 2020. The government's own projections show that, in 2020, emissions in Australia will be 17 per cent above 2000 levels. This is from official government documents released this year. Their only hope of getting anywhere under 17 per cent is their dog of a policy, Direct Action. Electricity emissions are projected to grow by one-third under them. That is how bad they are about controlling climate change.

By contrast, under Labor, emissions fell by eight per cent and emissions in the electricity sector fell by 20 per cent. So the truth is I am proud to be discussing this climate change MPI. I am proud to be representing the Labor Party that stands up for taking concrete action on climate change. Those on the other side stand by bizarre and pathetic accounting tricks, where somehow the drought is a good thing, closing the automotive sector is a good thing and a declining coal price is a good thing because they mean that their abatement task is easier. Yet they still will not reach it, because their policy is a joke. Their policy is Stalinist control and command of the economy at its worst. It is paying polluters to pollute. Their policy will be condemned by history, and, unfortunately, future Labor governments will have the heavy burden of restructuring the economy, decarbonising industry and decarbonising the economy to compete in the 21st century in a low-carbon industrial revolution. Those on the other side laugh because, ultimately, they do not care about combating climate change. They just care about naked political opportunism. I am proud to say I stand for a party that will be applauded by history. The coalition will condemned by history because they do not take climate change seriously. (Time expired)

3:51 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak on this matter of public importance to set the record straight and to smash yet another one of the myths started by the increasingly irrelevant Labor Party. Australia is on track to meet and beat our 2020 target to cut emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels. This was confirmed in figures released by the Department of the Environment only yesterday.

Australia has a strong, credible and significant emissions reduction target. We heard about it today from the Minister for the Environment—26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Our emissions will be up to 52 per cent lower on a per capita basis—the equal largest reduction of any G20 country. Currently, Australia is the 14th largest emitter; however, after taking into account all countries' commitments, we drop down to being the 25th largest emitter by 2030. That is real action by the Turnbull government.

Whether you believe so-called climate change is due to human behaviour, planetary motion, ocean currents or solar variability et cetera, to me, is not the point. My view is that governments all around the world should focus their efforts on ensuring that the environment in which we live is in better shape tomorrow than it was yesterday. Australia has one of the most effective systems in the world for reducing emissions, and with environment minister Greg Hunt at the helm, we have led the way. The world is rejecting carbon taxes and embracing direct action style approaches involving practical actions to reduce emissions.

When it comes to renewable energy, the Turnbull government, yet again, has a solid record. We have reaffirmed our strong commitment to supporting household solar. We in Australia have the highest proportion of households with solar panels in the world, with about 15 per cent, nearly double that of the next highest country, Belgium, at around 7.5 per cent. But, like most of their other portfolios, the Labor Party do not have a plan to tackle climate change. They just whinge—

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, I think they do!

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

or do nothing new in particular. They stand up—as we heard them today—and make a big song and dance about the government's plan, yet they do not have a policy on the area themselves or none that they care to commit that might be new. In the last five years, the Labor Party have had five—that is right, five—different policies, while we on this side of the chamber have had one strong, consistent and effective policy. As for the watermelon party, the Greens—let's face it, we all know they are green on the outside but red on the inside; as we have seen in election after election, they preference their partners in crime on the other side—are grossly irresponsible. They want to reduce emissions by 60 to 80 per cent by 2030. But how? The question remains.

While in government together last term, Labor and the Greens presided over a series of waste, mismanagement and bungles. Who could forget the carbon tax? It was their big idea for dealing with climate change. This tax did little to improve the environment, but it put a huge impost on the price of energy in this country. It had the greatest impact on the most vulnerable members of our community, whom those opposite say they represent. What a joke? Of course, the biggest flaw is that the carbon tax was a local tax. If global warming is the problem it was trying to solve then, by definition, we require a 'global solution'. That is why Australia must join with the international community to determine how to achieve a long-term global reduction in CO2, emissions.

While we are talking about those opposite, who could forget the Home Insulation Program, which was linked to deaths of four people, 224 home fires and 70,000 repairs.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is worth repeating. It's important.

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is worth repeating, because it was Australia's greatest embarrassment. There were the bungled green loans. Three independent reports found extensive mismanagement. Let's not forget the citizens assembly. What a fabulous initiative! It was a 2010 election promise to assemble 15 citizens to discuss ways to tackle climate change, which was dumped just weeks after the election. What a shameful waste!

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you can see, clearly the government has made significant inroads in addressing climate and change, and improving our environment. Our current policies are working. We will meet our 2020 and 2030 targets. As we have heard today, the Department of the Environment has released a formal emissions update on our 2020 target, which shows that we are on track to beat out 2020 target by a whopping 28 million tonnes. That is what I call good government.

3:56 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too am very pleased to be speaking on this MP1, because the government's failure to act on climate change is, indeed, a major concern right across the country. It is an area that is very often raised with me by my constituents in Richmond. As I have said many times before in this House, we have Liberal and National party members who, at every level, whether it is federal or state, are just absolute and complete environmental vandals—that is the fact. That environmental vandalism can best be seen in their inaction on climate change. We know that their inaction on climate change is a great concern. Thousands and thousands of people in this country and throughout the world will be marching in the People's Climate March this weekend. They are sending very clear messages as we approach the talks in Paris. Here in Australia, these gatherings and marches will be sending a very, very strong message to the Turnbull Liberal-Nationals government, and that message is that we want action on climate change. Our community does demand that.

What do we get from this government? We just get a whole lot of spin. They can try and spin it any way they like but the fact remains that Australia's emissions are going up, and the government have failed to do anything about it. As the shadow minister has previously said, all the government have done is be tricky with their numbers. The government falsely claim that Australia is on track to beat our emissions reduction target of five per cent by 2020. What they are not telling us is that they are in fact only being dodgy with the numbers. The government will be able to count 'carry over' from the period before 2012. So they are just being tricky with numbers—that is all—in the absence of any actual policy.

The fact is that the government under both the previous Prime Minister and the current Prime Minister has targets for 2030 that put Australia right at the back of the pack. This would mean Australia would still be the heaviest polluter and the biggest polluter per head of population by a very significant margin. In contrast, under Labor's period of government, carbon pollution levels dropped by eight per cent. Between now and 2020, carbon pollution levels will increase by six per cent, such that pollution levels will be four per cent above 2000 levels in 2020. This is exactly what the experts predicted would happen under the direct action policy, because the government have no action when it comes to carbon pollution levels, other than paying big polluters—that is about all they have. So the government can try and spin it anyway they like, but the fact remains that Australia's emissions are going up and they fail to do anything about it.

Even though we do have a new Prime Minister, nothing has really changed at all with their approach to climate change. So, changing the leader has changed nothing about their inaction. We also know, as we have mentioned before, that this new Prime Minister did a couple of dirty deals with National Party to become Prime Minister—pretty desperate deals, I would say. Fancy making a deals with them! The National Party are in fact the greatest environmental vandals we have ever seen. Handing the Nationals the water portfolio and refusing to take real action on climate change are some of those desperate dirty deals that the Prime Minister did to in fact get his job. So we now have a situation where the Nationals are going to be dictating policy on climate change and environmental policy. What a joke!

We know the Prime Minister promised the extremists in his party and the National Party that he will not make any changes to their policy on climate change. They will remain with their policy of complete inaction.

It is interesting that, in the past, the now Prime Minister once called Direct Action a 'farce' and a 'recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale', but now what does he do? He pledges to support it. That is what he says. So he sold out on action on climate change to become Prime Minister, and what is he doing? Paying big polluters to keep on polluting. We also know that in December 2009 the now Prime Minister said:

The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is "crap" and you don't need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental figleaf to cover a determination to do nothing.

And now what does he do? He supports it.

Just as they have no plans to tackle climate change and have indeed failed the people of Australia, they also have no plans for a renewable energy future. We know the Prime Minister will not be making any change in terms of their renewable energy policy. He does not have any policy in relation to it. In contrast, we have a very proud record. When we were in government, we were committed to expanding and investing in renewable energy because we understand how important it is. We understand how important it is as part of the suite of measures to tackle climate change. We had a major investment when it comes to renewable energy, as opposed to those opposite, who do not believe in it. In fact, Labor has a very proud record and tradition of protecting the environment. We have a very proud record of acting on climate change and acting on renewable energy. In contrast, across the chamber we have the Liberal-National Party, who, as I say, at every level—whether it is federal, state or even local government—are absolute and complete environmental vandals. This is best exemplified in their complete inaction when it comes to taking action in relation to climate change. (Time expired)

4:01 pm

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for Port Adelaide started his contribution today, I would like to pay my tribute to the South Australians involved in the bushfires—in particular, the families affected and the local communities of the regions around Hamley Bridge, Mallala and the smaller towns of Wasleys and Penarie, which we do not hear much about, but they are vital contributors to our society. The CFS do a great job in such emergencies. Over the last few weeks, in WA—which my colleague the member for Durack, Mrs Price, would know about—bushfires had a devastating effect. Within the last year, we had the Sampson Flat bushfires in South Australia. As a young boy, I remember Ash Wednesday in the South-East of South Australia, which affected so many areas of South Australia and Victoria, with tragic effect. Many lives were lost, as there have been, unfortunately, over the last two weeks. Our thoughts are with all those in South Australia and also those who have been affected by bushfires around Australia. We hope that the situation improves.

I move on to the motion today. The member for Port Adelaide is one of the other side's better performers.

Photo of Russell MathesonRussell Matheson (Macarthur, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's generous!

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is generous. It is all relative, but it is also due to the fact that he is a fellow Port Adelaide Football Club supporter. That is why he is a better performer in the House. There are a few other things that he does. He is neighbour, and we do need to be nice to our neighbours from time to time. We all know that we have made some significant inroads to climate change over recent years and we are on track to beat our 2020 target to cut emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels. This was confirmed by the Department of the Environment yesterday, so it is quite credible. We have a strong and significant emissions reduction target, which we have heard a lot about from previous speakers. This is 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This is significant because it is not just about cutting emissions by up to 52 per cent on a per capita basis. In other words, it is cutting our emissions by half. That is the largest reduction of any G20 country. So we are kicking some major goals on this front for a number of things. The Emissions Reduction Fund has been spoken about before, and that is also having some real outcome. Next month, the Prime Minister, who is a big supporter of helping the environment, as we all know, will join the Australian delegation, actively engaging in international processes to finalise a new global climate change agreement in Paris. We see from the Prime Minister's language that he is extremely committed to helping the environment in a very sensible and pragmatic way, which we always need to think about. This needs to be done through least-cost abatement. This is important. I will repeat that: through a least-cost abatement process.

In terms of meeting international targets, we are also investing in new technologies. We know about solar and the impressive proportion of households with solar panels. About 15 per cent of households have solar, which is one of the largest percentages in the world, as we have heard. We hear so much about Germany. I spent some time in Germany. They have some strong environmental credentials, but they have only just under four per cent. The renewable energy target will see close to 24 per cent of Australia's electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020.

In terms of some other important initiatives that have been undertaken in Australia, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, is spending huge amounts investing in research and development projects worth more than $70 million. There are 12 innovative solar research and development projects, as well as 25 other projects with new technology solutions, creating new skills and new jobs. One of those is the largest solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere, which is quite impressive. World records were achieved by projects that converted more than 40 per cent of sunlight hitting a solar cell into electricity.

Mr Bandt interjecting

I know the member for Melbourne is very impressed by these achievements by ARENA. We should be proud of what ARENA are doing. We are funding ARENA and they are doing some excellent work.

In closing, I am genuinely interested in this area. I have met with organisations like Oxfam, MICCA and Voices for Justice. The Minister for the Environment is kicking some goals and so are we. (Time expired)

4:06 pm

Photo of Kelvin ThomsonKelvin Thomson (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Makin made a couple of really important points in his contribution. He said, 'Climate change is intergenerational theft.' We have an obligation to future generations. I appeal to this House and to people outside to understand the consequences of allowing climate change to go on in the way that climate scientists have projected. If you look at the issue of climate refugees, think about what has been going on in Europe recently on the back of population growth in Africa and the conflict in Syria. It is one thing to think about climate refugees in the few thousands from Kiribati or Tuvalu, but in low-lying areas like Bangladesh and so on tens of millions of people could face their land being made uninhabitable. The consequences of that, frankly, are unimaginable. We have an obligation to make sure that does not happen.

The member for Makin also said that Australia is prone to extreme weather events. He is exactly right. We have had that dreadful situation in the last few days in relation to bushfires in South Australia and Western Australia. The climate scientists are telling us that Australia will be subject to more frequent and more severe bushfires, droughts, cyclones and floods. So we have to understand that this means us.

By contrast with the member for Makin's considered contribution, the member for Lyons was totally wrong in his comments about the performance of this government compared with the previous Labor government. In fact, under Labor's period of government carbon pollution levels dropped by eight per cent, whereas between now and 2020 carbon pollution levels will increase by six per cent, such that the pollution level will be four per cent above the 2000 level in 2020.

The fact is that Australia's emissions are going up. I know that the government seeks to count the carryover period before 2012. The point about that, as has been made by Lyndon Schneiders from the Wilderness Society and others, is that the decision of the Beattie Labor government to ban the clearing of old-growth and high-conservation value vegetation was crucial in Australia being able to meet its Kyoto protocol commitments concerning greenhouse gas emissions. In 2010-11 the 90,000 hectares of approved clearing in Queensland released 21.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. But then along came the Newman government, which tripled the amount of clearing. This amounted to releasing something like 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. To give this some perspective, the federal government's Emissions Reduction Fund burned through $660 million of taxpayers' money to purchase greenhouse gas abatement of 47 million tonnes. So for all the money and all the hype around the Emissions Reduction Fund it was all undone by just one year of land clearing in Queensland.

There is some good news, particularly internationally. We will go to Paris now with all major emitters having domestic policies. One hundred and forty countries have renewable policies. Global power sector investment in renewable energy is now larger than in fossil fuels. We have carbon pricing in places such as South Korea and beyond, and we have regulation on major sources being much more common—for example, in the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada and China.

I was also encouraged yesterday to attend a briefing on the Renewable energy superpower report prepared by the Zero Carbon Australia project. That made it clear that renewable energy and energy efficiency will attract more investment over the next 20 years than the development of coal, gas and oil combined, that energy self-sufficiency will increase and the international energy trade will decrease, that abundant high-quality renewable resources will be the future energy advantage, that energy-intensive industries will migrate to nations with low-cost renewable energy and that Australia's economic renewable energy resource potential is greater than its coal, gas and oil resources combined.

The government needs to be willing to do more in Paris and more when it comes back from Paris in moving to renewable energy. We can achieve 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 in accordance with Labor's policy.

4:11 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One thing is for certain in this debate this afternoon: should a Labor government ever come back into office in this country, they will bring back the carbon tax and they will drive up the price of electricity. We heard earlier today from members of the Labor Party a completely false debate involving accusations about increasing the GST. It is such hypocrisy to come in here and talk about increasing the cost of living for average Australians when they have a plan to reintroduce the carbon tax. They may call it another name but it will push up the price of everything.

An important point needs to be made: with the GST at its current rate of 10 per cent, that tax that people pay goes to government revenue to finance government services. What happens with a carbon tax? Yes, at the lower rates the money goes into government coffers. But as the rates continue to kick up and up—that is how a carbon tax works; they continually increase it and ratchet it up each year—what happens? All of a sudden you end up collecting no tax because you force inefficient economic activity. You force out coal fired and gas fired electricity production and you turn that into high-cost wind and solar. Revenue from the carbon tax will not come in, so there will be nothing to help offset the costs. But the pain will be there.

I had a meeting recently with a group of scientists down at Lucas Heights in my electorate. I am proud to say that I am the only member of this parliament who has a nuclear reactor in his electorate. One of the scientists down there said to me, 'It's not about the theory; it's about the evidence.' I agree with him. We as members of parliament have a duty in this place to be sceptical. That is our duty. If we are not sceptics, we are sheep. I am proud to call myself a sceptic on this issue. I am sceptical about the IPCC's predictions. I would like to compare those with real-world measurements.

There are two ways we can measure temperature. We can measure it by satellites. We can also measure it using ground thermometers. I think, if you look at the evidence, you will see that the satellites are the most accurate. What do those satellites tell us? They tell us that for the last 18 years and nine months there has been no further global warming.

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It's going to be the hottest summer—

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear the member for Melbourne interjecting. I would encourage you to go and look at the satellite evidence. The real thing is the comparison between the IPCC's predictions and the satellite measurements. Every month we see the gap—the distortion—between what is predicted and what has actually happened. We see the variance of that. In this debate, I have heard no-one say, when they talk about taking action on climate change, how much that will actually reduce the temperature of the globe. If we come in here, as the member for Charlton did, talking about controlling the climate, what we should say is how much the action we are taking will actually reduce that temperature.

We heard the member for Wills talk about what is happening in Paris, how wonderful it was and all the reductions that are going to be needed. If we make those reductions promised in Paris, do you know what the resulting reduction in temperature will be? If all those promises made in Paris about reductions in CO2 emissions up to the year 2030 are made, the reduction in temperature by 2100—the end of this century—will amount to a grand total of 0.05 per cent. No-one should come into this chamber talking about controlling the climate and taking action on climate change unless they are prepared to say what effect it will actually have and how much it is going to reduce the temperature by. We know—0.05 per cent.

As for sea-level rises, we know that if all the promises made at Paris are actually undertaken by the end of this century, even if we assume that the IPCC's models are correct, the change in sea levels will be 13 millimetres—13 millimetres by the end of this century. We are talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve that outcome. We have this back to front. We need to concentrate on developing renewable energy that is cost-effective and cheaper than coal and gas.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for the discussion has concluded.