House debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

3:17 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 take effective action on climate change.

I call upon those 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 Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a matter of public importance because, as we meet today in the House of Representatives, the nations of the world are meeting at the 24th conference of the parties, the COP, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This morning, perhaps the most famous naturalist in the world, David Attenborough, addressed that conference and said: 'It is a man-made disaster on a global scale and our greatest threat in thousands of years of human existence.'

This very grave statement by the most legendary naturalist on the face of the planet follows the recent publication of a confronting report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, which laid out the impacts of climate change at a level of two degrees Celsius of global warming on the one hand and 1.5 degrees Celsius following the Paris climate agreement of 2015. That report shows that two degrees of global warming will have a devastating impact on our natural environment and human society as we understand it.

Just as one example, the IPCC has said that, at two degrees of global warming, more than 99 per cent of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed—almost all of our world's coral reefs will be destroyed. Our own coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, has already been subject to two major bleaching events in the last three years. And the Bureau of Meteorology only recently advised that there is a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino building in the Pacific over the course of the coming summer, which would place the reef under threat of a third major bleaching event in just four years. Before these last three years there has been only one major bleaching event in the recorded history of the Great Barrier Reef.

It's not just the IPCC report that has underlined the gravity of even two degrees of global warming. The World Bank only a couple of years ago indicated that two degrees of global warming would wipe out as much as 20 per cent of global cereal production, including fully 50 per cent of cereal production on the continent of Africa, which, as we know, is already struggling to feed its people and will be the area where most of the world's population increase over coming decades occurs. The grave thing about these reports is that we are not even close to tracking to keeping global warming below two degrees. At the moment we're advised that we're currently tracking to somewhere between three and four degrees of global warming, whose impacts are barely able to be imagined.

The world is now facing a climate emergency. This emergency won't unfold over the course of the coming year or even few years; this emergency will unfold over coming decades, but we are starting to see the impacts of climate change now. Much earlier than 20 or 25 years ago we were advised that we'd see those impacts. We're starting to see them now and they are frightening. Barack Obama said when he was President of the United States:

We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.

Last week here in Australia literally thousands of students, overwhelmingly with the permission of their parents, decided to take a day off school and march in the streets to protest at the lack of reasonable action by this parliament and this government. We all want kids to go to school, but I think on this side of the parliament we also understand the deep frustration that young Australians at school and beyond school age feel at the lack of action by our generation on climate change, particularly in this building. I talk to young Australians, as I know members of this House across the aisle talk to young Australians, all the time. I hear them saying just how let down they feel by our generation in dealing with something that they feel is going to be such a substantial issue over the course of what we hope will be their very long lives. They feel let down in an unforgiveable way.

None of us should fall for the rubbish that is often spouted by commentators—and unfortunately some on the other side of the House—that what Australia does doesn't matter in this debate. Yes, we are a small nation. We don't even rate in the top 50 of the world's nations in population, but we rate in the top 15 in the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted from this economy. We are a wealthy nation that has, along with other members of the OECD, grown wealthy on the back of long-term industrialisation. We are the highest per capita producer of greenhouse gases. If Australia won't act and take responsible strong action on climate change, which nation on the face of the planet should be expected to act? We have a deep responsibility in this area, as a good global citizen, a friend and a neighbour to communities in our region for whom climate change poses a threat. As parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties we have a generational responsibility to do everything we reasonably can to ensure our children and grandchildren enjoy a natural environment at least as good as the one that we enjoy.

We are a wealthy nation, but it is in our own self-interest to act on climate change, because our continent is deeply vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This continent already pushes us up right against the limits of human tolerance to heat. This continent has agricultural regions that are deeply vulnerable to very clear structural trends, already identified by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, in rainfall, particularly the Murray-Darling Basin region in eastern Australia and the Wheatbelt in the South West of Western Australia. We largely live on coasts, with coastal communities that are deeply vulnerable to very quickly accelerating sea level rise, which over time will pose risks to literally billions and billions of dollars of assets. And we know that already the increase in heat events and other extreme weather events is posing a substantial risk to the health of Australians.

In this area, government action and government policy matter. When we were in government, carbon pollution levels came down by more than 10 per cent in those six years. We were the fourth most attractive investment destination in renewable energy. We had state governments in New South Wales and Queensland finally acting on an end to broadscale land clearing of remnant vegetation.

This government's record could not be different. Carbon pollution has been rising since this government came to office and is projected to continue to rise all the way to 2030, which is as far as the government's projections go. The new climate change minister can't even pinpoint a day on which she thinks carbon pollution might eventually peak. We are now pretty much the only major advanced economy where carbon pollution and greenhouse gases are going up rather than coming down.

In spite of the Prime Minister and all of his ministers getting up at the despatch box and doing media conferences to say that we'll meet our targets in a canter, no-one believes them. Their own data doesn't show it and the United Nations Emissions gap report 2018 from a couple of weeks ago doesn't show it, because it simply is not happening. As Malcolm Turnbull said again today, as Rob Stokes said on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, this federal coalition is simply genetically incapable of taking climate change action. It is so deeply divided that it is incapable of taking action in this policy area.

It doesn't have to be that way. The UK Conservatives understood that this was in the national interest. They're tracking to a budget at around 2030 of not a five per cent reduction in carbon pollution, which is this government's track record, but a 61 per cent reduction in carbon pollution. At the same time, they're producing about three times as much steel as Australia and have 800,000 workers still working in the automotive industry—an industry that this government shut down in Australia—which demonstrates that decarbonisation and the maintenance of a strong industrial base are possible and are consistent with a strong, growing economy.

As Malcolm Turnbull has said, this coalition is just incapable. Its division, its ideological obsessions, are holding this nation hostage on a critically important policy area. The division in the coalition party room is holding future generations hostage. That's why they were marching in the streets last week. Labor isn't just ready. We're not just ready to take action here; we are impatient to take action, because we know that this is in the national interest, that this is in our children's interest, and that this is in our grandchildren's interest. But to look after those interests, we need a change of government.

3:27 pm

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

The Labor Party does have some nerve. We still don't know what their climate policies are but we know they've got a track record. It's right up there with their track record on the economy—we know that that's a mess, and once again we're left to clean up the mess. Their legacy on climate change was failed policy after failed policy. They have no substance when it comes to policy—plenty of noise but no substance, and we're hearing that across the chamber now.

The member for Port Adelaide wants to lock in a 45 per cent emissions target—45 per cent! Can you believe that? But they can't explain to the Australian people how they'll get there. They can't explain to Australians how much it's going to cost and they won't explain how many jobs will be lost as a result of it. Labor needs to explain to every farmer, every truck driver, every factory worker and every smelter worker where their future lies, because under Labor their jobs are gone. Labor hasn't delivered a single climate policy that didn't result in chaos.

We saw this last time they were in government. We remember pink batts. What happened to the pink batteries? Have you heard any more about the pink batteries? No? Anyone heard about the pink batteries? Are they gone now? They're off the agenda. That went well, didn't it? We remember the carbon tax that was never going to happen, until it was sprung on Australians after an election. When this government removed that carbon tax we saved Australian households $550 a year. And we remember how the Labor Party, who described climate change as 'the great moral challenge of our time', walked away from delivering a climate policy when things got difficult—and they'll do it again. They talk big now; they talk big in opposition. But when they get into government and once they have their hands on the till, we cannot trust them. We know you cannot trust Labor. They'll talk big and talk even bigger in opposition. They will pluck numbers out of the air, which is what they've done with their 45 per cent emissions reduction and a 50 per cent renewable energy target. But what do we know about those numbers?

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

You really are the L-plate minister!

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Shortland is warned.

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

What are Labor so desperate to keep out of the public domain? Let's have a look at what the broader population have said about our policies and the economy-wrecking policies of the Labor Party. The Business Council of Australia said:

The emissions target of 26% is appropriate and achievable. 45% is an economy wrecking target.

What did the CFMMEU say about Labor's policies? They said:

… an increased renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030 will increase the cost of electricity for manufacturing and ordinary households while being a poor tool to reduce Australia's overall global warming emissions.

The National Farmers' Federation said that it would hinder agricultural competitiveness and economic growth. The Minerals Council of Australia, on the 45 per cent emissions reduction target, said:

The target is not based on detailed economic analysis of its impact on growth, living standards and energy costs. … The proposed target has the look and feel of an ambit claim.

The list goes on. I'm now down to six minutes and 40 seconds left.

We know the Labor Party is a wrecking ball to the economy, because we've seen what Labor has done in the past. The Climate Change Authority modelling indicated that a 45 per cent target would require a new carbon tax of $135 per tonne. That is more than five times Labor's first carbon tax. You can't make this stuff up. It's more than 12 times the cost of one tonne of abatement through the Emissions Reductions Fund. That's one of our climate change policies, by the way—just to educate those on the other side. The Australian Energy Council has stated Labor's plan for a net zero emissions target by 2050 would cost at least $230 billion by 2050—and it would all be paid by the electricity consumers. Everyday Australians and small- and medium-sized business people would be paying for that. It would be $230 billion in new costs to our economy to back up the $200 billion in the new taxes that we will get if those opposite ever sit over here. Who is going to feel the pain of that? Retirees, pensioners and homeowners will all suffer under that lot opposite.

How many more costs does the Labor Party want to impose on the Australian economy? We have achieved five years of strong economic management. That's what the good men and women of the coalition have achieved in the last five years. We stand by our record and are very proud of our record, but the greatest risk to what we've achieved for the Australian economy is those people sitting on the other side of the chamber. The Labor Party don't care about jobs or the economy. They're walking away from ordinary Australians. But we haven't walked away. We've been getting on with it. We're not interested in grandstanding, ideology or plucking numbers out of the air. We are not interested in that. We are interested in delivering real policies and real outcomes for everyday Australians.

Let's talk about another good environment policy. Let's talk about our record on renewable energy, which those opposite think we've done nothing on. The coalition has driven investment in renewable energy in the last five years. We're leading the world in rooftop solar, with some two million households around Australia. It's the coalition who has driven nearly $20 billion in renewable investment through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, under our government, is investing in next-generation technologies. We're investing in hydrogen. We're supporting lithium projects because we know batteries are key to a lower emissions future. That's what we're doing. Wind and solar generation in the National Electricity Market is projected to increase by 250 per cent over the next three years. I think that's a pretty good record. We will reach our 23.5 per cent renewable energy target because we have put in place real policies that work. That's action. They're not just words, which those opposite just continue to throw across here.

We cannot forget the Emissions Reduction Fund. Nearly 200 million tonnes of abatement was contracted through this program since it was instigated in 2015 by this side of the House. It's been a resounding success. It's been a cost-effective method of reducing emissions that has actually created jobs. The Emissions Reduction Fund is an excellent climate policy, but the benefits go far beyond just reducing emissions. We've contracted with farmers, landholders and Indigenous groups to lower emissions. About 80 per cent of the carbon abatement through the Emissions Reduction Fund has been delivered by farmers. As someone from a regional seat—the largest seat in Australia—I am very proud of that. We know that many of the farmers, especially on the east coast at the moment, have been doing it tough and we know the drought has been hard on agriculture. Because of the Emissions Reduction Fund, the farmers who have tapped into that program have been able to have another stream of income. People say it's an alternative stream of income, but, for some, it's their only stream of income. So I'm very proud of what the Emissions Reduction Fund is actually doing for regional Australia.

These farmers have been able to revegetate degraded land, which is an excellent outcome for the environment. They've had the support of the coalition when times are tough. That's what we do on this side: we look after regional Australia. This program is not only supporting the farmers but also supporting regional communities. These projects will generate revenue of more than $1.8 billion over coming years through the sale of carbon credits, creating jobs, improving the environment and reducing emissions.

I've heard the member for Port Adelaide say that the Emissions Reduction Fund is 'a colossal waste of taxpayers' money'. The member for Port Adelaide needs to explain his comments. He needs to look regional Australians in the eye and explain to them why he thinks investing in their community is a colossal waste of money.

On this side, we're about supporting Australians, not hitting them with new taxes. These aren't ideas or thought bubbles. We're actually doing it. We're doing it right now. These are real outcomes and real policies that are reducing emissions whilst strengthening our economy. We can look after our economy and the environment at the same time. Sometimes we've just got to try a bit harder, and that's what we're doing on this side. We're a responsible government and we know that we will not need to wreck the economy to address climate change. We're committed to reducing our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent under the Paris Agreement, and we will get there. It's responsible, it's achievable and it won't cost jobs or wreck our economy.

Next week I'm off to Poland, and I'm very proud to be able to do that. We've got a good track record and I look forward to sharing our good policies with people in Poland. We know that we only contribute 1.3 per cent of global emissions. We will take our place in the globe, and I'm very, very proud of our record.

3:37 pm

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm a bit flustered, I have to admit. We've just seen a demonstration of what I could only describe as peak denial. We've got to a point now where the Australian federal Minister for the Environment is in peak denial. We've got a government in which we know there has been political failure. We've seen their abject failure in trying to get a policy of climate change through this parliament and implement it for this country and have the responsibility of implementing an actual climate change policy. They've failed politically, but I think it's more than that.

We, on this side, have tried. We've tried rational argument, we've tried scientific data and we've tried logic, but none of this seems to work. We've been confused for years here. We had thought: 'It's just a political failure. They're tearing each other apart and they're unable to get four different policies through their own party room.' But I was sitting there thinking and listening to the minister, trying to understand what she was saying, when it dawned on me that it's not just political failure; there's a failure of imagination on the other side by this government. There's an absolute failure to take responsibility for not just this generation but future generations in a policy area which is existential. It is about the future for our kids and our grandchildren and also the future of this planet, and they have failed miserably to actually implement any type of policy. This is something that we can argue about and we can do the politics around, but it's deeply saddening.

The member for Port Adelaide quite rightly pointed out the children and the young kids that protested over the last couple of days' strike on climate change. I was there at the Treasury building in Melbourne, Victoria, where there were thousands of kids speaking up for their future, asking us as politicians to do something about their future and the future of the planet. A lot of people on the other side said, 'They shouldn't leave school,' and all the rest of it. Do you know what I tell kids when I visit schools? I say: 'Even though you can't vote, you're part of this democracy. You're participants. You have a right and you have a voice in our democracy. And you have every right to advocate for issues that have an impact on your lives and the lives of your families and your friends and your communities.' So I take my hat off to these kids, who fundamentally understand what this issue is about. It's about their future and the future of the planet. I think they're just as confused about why this place, this parliament, and this government can't actually implement a policy.

This issue is so important for so many in my electorate and across Australia. People are screaming out for a plan to be put in place—something sensible that does something. The minister over there pointed out that we didn't have a policy. That's just not true. We know what our policy is. We've announced it. The member for Port Adelaide, our leader, our frontbench team—all of us on this side—have talked about what we are planning to do if we win government. It's pretty clear-cut. We've got a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. We've got a target of 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. And we have a commitment to inject billions of dollars of additional capital into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $5 million into the Energy Security and Modernisation Fund. They're big figures. It's about making sure that we invest in renewable energy and renewable energy infrastructure. That's what we need to build in order to utilise the renewable energy that is so abundant in this country.

We have the imagination to take that step and do something for the future. That's what we're about. There are important details around this, and I won't go into all of them. But we do have a very strong policy on climate change. We've seen this government try four times—help me out here, member for Port Adelaide, because I'm losing count—in putting forward an energy policy. I'm trying to remember. There was a clean energy target, which then Prime Minister Turnbull tried to put up, and it collapsed. Then there was the emissions intensity scheme. They tried to put that up, and it collapsed. What was the next one?

Photo of Madeleine KingMadeleine King (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

The NEG.

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The NEG. I forgot about the NEG! It got put up, but it was an absolute failure. They couldn't get it through the party room. It shows the abject, absolute failure of this government to do what is right by the people of Australia and the world and for the future of the kids who protested last week. We're going to do better. We're going to have a climate change policy that makes a difference to future generations and to this country. (Time expired)

3:42 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

As a rural and regional member of parliament, who represents the people out there, not the people in here, I would like to bring some of those voices to this debate today, because it's very easy to the play games, which we see Labor indulge in, about 'What's the latest tweet?' and about 'Who is saying what to whom?' and about the gossip, the innuendo and the rhetoric. We're here for the people out there, and I want to bring their voices front and centre to this debate.

What we've heard from the shadow minister and what I know we will hear from the rest of the speakers is a combination of criticism and of frightening people with impending doom, without recognising that clear-sighted, sensible policy actually produces results in both the energy and the climate change space. If you fail to recognise the need to bring those together in a sensible way, you won't build the economic future that Australians deserve.

Here are some of those voices, my constituents. The Chairman of the West Corurgan Board of Management, which looks after water delivery and farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin, said:

Growers facing increased charges of more than 100 per cent. Exorbitant electricity costs will only hasten the demise of our small communities.

Ken Rebetzke in Griffith said:

How can a country like Australia with its vast natural resources allow people to sit in the dark and in the cold and not be able to pay for an essential service? How can any government allow this to happen?

Roger Conway from Tocumwal said:

I worked hard to keep my wife as a stay at home mum which we succeeded in doing, what is going on?

My electricity provider just put my weekly payment up from $52 pw to $91 pw. We are using less electricity now than we have done in the past, but paying more.

John, from a busy central Albury coffee shop and cafe, said:

These electricity charges are killing me—worse still they are stopping me putting on more staff.

In fact I have had to put some of our casuals off as a result.

If you go out and walk a mile in their shoes, members of the Labor Party, you will understand this too, and you will know that the policy parameters matter a great deal around energy and climate change. No-one is suggesting that there isn't a real issue for the globe to face on man-made climate change. Of course we have different views. Of course we understand that people in the community have different views. But where it lands, doing the hard yards, is working out a policy that makes sense. I can tell you that Labor's policy makes no sense.

We know that, to have an effective energy policy, you look at a reliability guarantee that provides for investment in dispatchable power and you look at an emissions guarantee that defines what your emissions target is. We've defined ours at 26 per cent by 2030, and we're on track, as the Prime Minister said in question time, to smash Kyoto 1, smash Kyoto 2 and meet our Paris obligations. Where Labor lands on this policy is in a place that has no regard for the cost of electricity, because with a 45 per cent emissions reduction target—and the member for Port Adelaide has even squibbed that with a couple of his greener audiences by saying, 'Of course, we want to increase that'—we know that electricity power prices will go up. When you look at all of the fact sheets that Labor's putting out now about its climate change policy, they don't mention power or the cost of power. Labor knows that its climate change policy is completely incompatible with keeping power prices down, but that is not its rhetoric. Here we have Labor's current policy on more renewable energy and cheaper power, and I'm quoting:

Australia is in an energy crisis … Power bills are out of control … Labor has a plan to deliver more renewable energy and cheaper power.

We know that those two elements in its policy are totally inconsistent. So Labor pays lip-service to cheaper power, but that's all it is, because in the real world its policy can't deliver that. Labor's policy continues:

Labor's Household Battery Program will provide a $2,000 rebate for … households …

So that's money much like the pink batts scheme. It continues:

    Look at every Labor policy, and you find money for the unions. I know that's the way they operate, but how is this going to help? Then there's a curious policy:

      somewhere else. But what Labor is not doing—in fact, it's making a mockery of our policy to do this—is taking a big stick to the power companies that would seek to gouge consumers. So they're saying, 'Let's look after the workers in these companies'—okay, fine; I get that—'but let's not do anything against the gouging that electricity companies are engaging in with consumers.' We're on the side of consumers.

      3:47 pm

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

      This is a government that has failed to take any effective action on climate change, at a time when Australians are constantly calling out for action. We just saw thousands of young people taking to the streets and making their voices heard. They want action from this government, yet the Liberals and Nationals have walked away completely from their responsibility to address climate change. They have walked away from their responsibility to future generations, because this government just doesn't listen and just doesn't care. They're too consumed with talking about themselves and with their chaos and their dysfunction, which are on full display. This is also a government of climate change deniers—in particular, the National Party. As I often say in this House, National Party choices hurt. Can I tell you: when the National Party choose not to take action on climate change, that hurts regional and rural Australia. It's only this side that understands the needs of regional Australia.

      In contrast to all the current government's inaction, a Shorten Labor government will make taking action on climate change a priority. It is our promise to future generations to take that action. Of course, as we've said, our preference is to achieve a bipartisan agreement on energy policy, but the Prime Minister and his government are too divided and too out of touch to agree on a policy that can lower power prices, boost renewables and address climate change. That's what's needed.

      The fact is that, under this chaotic government, carbon pollution is continuing to go up and up, and this after pollution actually fell under the previous Labor government. This government's latest data, released on Friday, shows carbon emissions are now at their highest level since 2011. We are now essentially the only major advanced economy where greenhouse gases are rising rather than coming down. We are not meeting our targets, and the government has no plan. We have a massive environmental and economic challenge in getting pollution levels down. Recent studies have shown that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, and the last four have been the hottest. Just today we heard from the world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who said:

      The world's people have spoken. … Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.

      Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations, and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.

      But this government just doesn't care. And why is that? Because the climate change deniers have taken over the government; that's why. They're the ones whose run the show.

      The fact is that we have a Prime Minister and a government who refuse to act. The only way to get action from Canberra on climate change is to change the government. That's the only way. The Liberals and Nationals have presided over an unprecedented energy crisis that has seen power prices skyrocket and pollution rise while investment confidence has been smashed. That's the reality. Quite frankly, this is a government of environmental vandals. We see it federally and we see it at a state level in New South Wales.

      I'd like to raise an issue in relation to this locally—in Tweed Heads, in my electorate. We've seen the economic vandalism on display with the Nationals plan to impose a large hospital at Cudgen, on state significant farmland—rich agricultural land. Thousands of local farmers and residents continue to rally against the proposed site, highlighting its unique value as high-yield agricultural land. At a time when we are feeling the impacts of climate change, at a time of extreme drought, we should be preserving our precious farmlands. But what do the National Party do? They destroy it. They just want to build on it. They want to sell it off and build on it. Make no mistake: the National Party are no friends of the farmers. These concerns about potential environmental impacts on this hospital site are also held by the Tweed Shire Council, who publicly expressed their opposition. Recently they moved a motion to refer the project to the federal Minister for the Environment for assessment under the EPBC Act, and I commend them for this action. Today I wrote to the Minister for the Environment requesting that she urgently refer the project for consideration under the EPBC Act.

      Acting on climate change at all levels is vitally important, and it should be driven by a federal government. That's the reality. But the fact is that the Liberals and Nationals are anti renewables, anti climate science and anti any real policies that will bring down power prices or pollution. The only way to ensure that action on climate change is actually taken and is seriously taken is by electing a Labor government. We have a very strong track record on acting on climate change, and we understand the dire need to act. Australians deserve a Shorten Labor government that will take that action and reduce carbon pollution in line with our 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. And of course Labor will invest in a renewable energy future which will indeed lower our power prices and secure clean jobs—and the focus should indeed be on lowering those power prices. That is what people are calling out for: action. We'll drive new investment in renewable energy generation and storage and we'll transform Australia's energy supply systems, delivering more renewables and cheaper power for all Australians. The time to act is now. It is very, very urgent, and the calls are being heard right across the country. We saw thousands of young people out there demanding some action. Well, it's only Labor that's listening and only a Shorten Labor government that will take action on climate change.

      3:53 pm

      Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      When I was elected to this federal parliament and had the privilege of representing a forward-looking, modern liberal community like the good people of Goldstein, they elected me because they believe in having a balanced approach to leading this country. Yes, they want leadership. They want economic leadership. They want to be able to create jobs and opportunity for Australians for the next generation, to steward the economy so that those who inherit it get something better than we inherited. They want social stewardship. They want cohesion and social stability. They want a meritocratic society where there's social mobility. They also want environmental leadership. They want environmental stewardship. They want their children to inherit a cleaner, healthier planet than the one they received. That in the end is the vision and the objective of this government, because we want to provide—and are providing—the leadership that this country needs in order to deliver the sustainable future for future generations.

      You heard it from the minister right at the start, when she talked about the consequences of what our opponents are advocating versus what we are advocating. What we're advocating is sustainable, lowest-cost emissions reduction. Modelling of Labor Party policy has been done whereby it's going to cost $120 per tonne of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions reduction and abatement. The coalition's able to deliver it for between $11 and $12. Yes, all right; that's more efficient—and it is. But, more critically, it means that we can do more with less. We can cut more greenhouse gas emissions more cheaply than the opposition can.

      At the heart of what we are seeking to do is an agenda based on innovation and growth, for every Australian—while the only pathway our political opponents are seeking to advocate is one built on taxes and decline. Our plan is comprehensive. We are not just looking at the one-third of emissions that come from stationary energy, though that's a critical part of the discussion. We are looking at what we can do to deploy renewables so we can provide stability, reliability and affordability to the energy sector. We are looking at the expansion of the Snowy Hydro project to take in Snowy Hydro 2.0. There has been an incredible amount of forward investment in solar PV cells and we are also getting more thermal solar plants established in South Australia.

      But, more critically, we are looking at what we can do to develop the assets we have in this country to be able to create more renewable and sustain energy for Australia and the world. In particular, I reference the project in the Latrobe Valley around hydrogen—and there is also a project around lithium and being able to use batteries. But, more critically, we are looking at how we can be more efficient, because we do not want to waste a single drop of energy that sits within the grid in the marketplace to be able to deliver the energy that people need and to find ways to deal with reducing the demand so that companies are more efficient and reduce their environmental footprint, their emissions footprint and, of course, their cost footprint as well. But, critically, we are also looking at the two-thirds of emissions that come from areas outside of stationary energy. We are looking at what we can do to be able to drive change in land use and agriculture, in transportable energy and in making sure we can reduce every aspect of the environmental footprint that sits at the heart of our economy.

      That's what leadership is. It's not just about going down one rabbit hole and thinking you're able to deliver a solution to the Australian people without any sense of proportionality or understanding of the impact that it will have. It is about recognising that we as a country have a responsibility to take lots of measures that work with the Australian population and recognise that we have to take the whole country forward together. We can't have a situation where pensioners can't afford to heat their homes in winter and cool their homes in summer. We have to have reliable energy, sustainable energy and affordable energy as well. And considering what this government has achieved—we have the lowest emissions in 28 years despite 27 years of sustained and continuous economic growth—that balanced framework is working. We see the future and the opportunity of renewables to be able to drive the transition for our economy and our energy market. We see the potential of reducing emissions in the non-energy sector. We see the jobs and opportunity that will help build this country's growth. We Liberals know that the future is going to be awesome.

      3:58 pm

      Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Batman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      I rise to speak on the disaster that is this government's climate change policy. While the rest of the world—including those in the electorate of Wentworth—has accepted that we are experiencing a climate emergency, it is clear that this is not a priority for the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. Those who sit opposite are collectively burying their heads in the sand with no desire or political courage to start to repair the damage that global warming is inflicting on our planet. Recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a multinational panel comprising the world's top climate and environmental scientists, released a report on the impacts of global warming. The report calls for drastic action to reverse global warming. It warns of current and further damage to coral reefs and warns that there will be more extreme hot days and more extreme droughts. The IPCC also warns of the consequences of climate related risks to our health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and, of course, economic growth. This change will disproportionately affect people living in the developing world and the Pacific.

      The IPCC is not some radical body. International bodies like the IPCC are, by their nature, more likely to be conservative because of the consensus required from a vastly diverse membership—and still the warnings are stark. The earth is already too hot, and urgent action is required now if we are going to even begin to mitigate the already devastating effects of climate change. And what was our government's response? It was to dismiss it entirely. Climate change denial and dismissal, which the government is indulging in, is a convenient front to mask their completely ideological refusal to deal with, let alone lead, the climate emergency.

      Unlike those who sit opposite, my electorate of Batman is bursting with a community of activists who dedicate their time to acting on the climate emergency, including the young schoolchildren who came to see me whilst on climate strike. That's why I am so proud that Labor has started us on this journey with policies that fit the bill: subsidised solar batteries for 100,000 homes; neighbourhood renewable programs that will assist renters and social housing residents to access renewable energy; a just transition authority, a vital part of the social infrastructure we need to assist families affected by the change; and a $10 million retraining fund for workers in the coal-fired power sector, because we need to transition away from coal based energy but we can't leave those workers in the lurch. A Shorten Labor government will make taking action on climate change a priority. It is our promise to future generations. Australians deserve a Shorten Labor government that will take action on climate and reduce carbon pollution in line with our 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and our target of net zero emissions by 2050.

      Of course, these policies are not all we will do to ensure that we start cooling the planet. The member for Port Adelaide and the Leader of the Opposition have made that clear. My community, like me, are concerned about new coalmines. They are concerned about the rising cost of electricity, which can be contained with large-scale investment in renewables. I note the report in the media this week that quotes the energy consultants Green Energy Markets. They say that the current rate of installation means we are on track to see renewables provide almost 80 per cent of the energy market by 2030 and that renewables are now cheaper to build and run than any other form of new-build power over a 40-year life span. But that is not enough.

      Despite the dire warnings from the IPCC and others, I stand committed to the cause of hope, which is made possible by climate action: hope for a just world, a fair world and a sustainable planet and in the reshaping of our economies to meet its challenges. We know that the way we produce cars, our homes, energy, food and all of our systems of production, distribution and exchange need to change to meet the climate threat. It's sometimes only once in a generation that a great moment in time opens itself out just enough so that the organised movement of working people can unfurl a banner for structural societal change and can pin the brightness of its cause to its chest and thunder on through. We have reached the point of lethal stakes and dire opportunity. The planet is burning; the sea levels are rising. We can veer towards change at the greatest speed or permit this government's alternative of inaction that is as inept and incapable as it is unconscionable.

      Let me end with what I read in the newspaper this morning, which my colleague before quoted. This is from the wonderful David Attenborough:

      Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.

      4:03 pm

      Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      I rise to speak on this very important issue and to point out to the House that the coalition government has delivered in spades and we are not getting any credit. I will outline some of the things that we have done. We beat the Kyoto 1 emissions target by 128 million tonnes. We beat the second target by 249 million tonnes of reduction in CO2. On the Energy Security Board's figures—I haven't dreamt these up; this is the body responsible for guaranteeing our energy—we are going to increase wind and solar by 250 per cent by 2021. That's going from 17.5 terrawatt hours of renewable energy to 44.4 terrawatt hours of renewable energy. We are going to meet our Paris target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in CO2, which is below 2005 levels. We are going to reduce our intensity of CO2 per individual by 50 per cent. That is an incredible efficiency gain. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has put $5.9 billion into investments, which has triggered $20 billion of investments in renewables. We are the No. 1 rooftop solar nation in the world. No-one has greater penetration of rooftop solar than Australia. We are kicking goals all over the place. We will get to 23½ per cent of our energy from renewables by 2020.

      What do the people on the other side do? They dream up pink batts and 'cash for clunkers'. They want to shut down mining and forestry. They want to stop cattle farming and cut the ruminant herd. All they want to do is put us back in the Dark Ages. People have to realise that the modern industrial world relies on oodles of energy, a lot of it in the static built environment. People take for granted this magnificent building we're sitting in, the car you're driving in—the energy isn't in the petrol or the battery; it is in the actual building or the car. People focus on the last bit of energy that you used. The whole modern industrial world needs bucketloads of energy. Until the efficiency of solar and wind increases, 20 or 30 per cent of efficiency means you have to build five or three times the amount of nameplate capacity of solar and wind. Then you have to have a baseload power system behind it, because it runs only when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. By its very nature it is incredibly inefficient. I'm all for promoting renewables, but they have to do it on their own steam. We can't keep subsidising them. If we give them a legislated guaranteed market—20 per cent or whatever target we set—that means, by law, the retailers have to buy from an intermittent energy producer, which destroys the efficiency of the baseload system. If they go down the track that they are promoting, we won't have a baseload system. Then we will be back to like we were in the 1950s and 1940s, when you had energy rationing and little towns had diesel generators, like they had to do in Tasmania. They talk about Tasmania being the battery for the nation, because they have so much hydro, but it didn't work when they had a drought and ran out of water.

      There are a lot of practical things that they are not taking into account, but by the same token we are kicking goals. We have so much abatement going on. Our Emissions Reduction Fund has abated 190 million tonnes of CO2. The last couple of auctions were $12, $13 or $14 per tonne of CO2, as opposed to $150 for a carbon tax abatement. The Emissions Reduction Fund means farmers are doing things. Our forestry industry abatement from actively managed forestry estate, which is what we do in Australia, is 23 per cent more. People confuse forestry with deforestation. Australia has the best-managed forestry in the world, yet the other side is trying to shut down forestry. We provide black coal, which is much more efficient than brown coal, to other countries and to Asia. We provide steel, energy and liquid natural gas for the rest of the world. There are 25 million of us and we produce only 1.3 per cent of the world's CO2, but we are producing energy, steel, wood and other stuff for the rest of the world. (Time expired)

      4:08 pm

      Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      It gives me great pleasure to get up and talk about this particular topic, because this issue is urgent not just for our nation but for the world. When I hear the member for Lyne say that we want to take people back to the Dark Ages, I have to tell you that we will be in the Dark Ages unless we take action very soon to protect this Earth from the drastic changes that are taking place in our climate. This government's inaction is not just embarrassing but dangerous to this world and to our environment. We've seen this government change their prime ministers, spouting a need for new direction, but in reality there has been no new direction. The Prime Minister, just like all the previous Liberal prime ministers, has failed Australians. The Liberals continue to fail Australians every single day they refuse to not only accept but also act upon the overwhelming science that tells us that this planet is dying and that we are killing this planet. I heard members opposite say that we need sustainable and affordable energy, that we need to continue down a slow and 'take it easy' path and that we need to keep on using coal.

      I've got to say that, in the 5½ years that this government has been in power, we've seen energy prices rise 70 per cent and we've seen no clear policy on renewables and energy—absolutely none. If you were an investor in renewables, why on earth would you invest in Australia when you have a government that is divided on this topic and you have people who don't believe in climate change and believe that we should continue burning coal? What we need is more renewables. We need to set targets—and we have a target that will create jobs and investment in renewables instead of having some of our best brains in renewables go overseas.

      The Prime Minister and this government need to get with the program. They have to stop being dinosaurs from the last century and take real steps to reduce Australia's carbon emissions and to invest in renewable energy. Many have quoted David Attenborough, who has a seat at the two-week UN climate conference being held in Poland. He said to the leaders of this world:

      The continuation of our civilisations, and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.

      The people in this place are leaders. They have a duty to this world and the next generation not of Australians but of the human race. I for one do not want to have my grandchildren and great-grandchildren say that I was here in this place and did nothing about the terrible state of the world. We as leaders in this place have an absolute duty to either leave this place in a better condition or try to maintain it, and that is not happening with this government.

      The Prime Minister walked in here with a hunk of coal and was so proud of it. That is a disgrace in today's world where we have all the science about climate change, about how it's destroying the world and about how we have to go towards renewables. We had the Prime Minister, when he was the Treasurer, come in with a hunk of coal and be so proud. As an MP and an Australian I'm absolutely embarrassed by that and that that is the message we're sending to our nation and the rest of the world.

      Children were protesting last week about climate change, the world and the environment, but they were really protesting about leadership. They want leadership on this issue and investment in renewables because they want a future. It is their future. It's not the Prime Minister's future or ours. Our generation won't be here in a few more years. It's the future of those children and their kids, so they have every right to protest and say to the government and the people responsible, 'What are you doing about fixing the planet and the terrible climate change that is taking place that will destroy the earth in years to come?'

      As I said, we've been bestowed the honour to be in this parliament. We have been given the opportunity and privilege, which so few have, to leave this place in a better condition than we found it. I'm ashamed of being in pretty much the only advanced economy where greenhouse gases are rising rather than coming down. What we're seeing is absolutely terrible. We need to act on it now. I know that a Bill Shorten Labor government will take real action on climate change and reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent.

      4:13 pm

      Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      I've been listening very carefully to the words of opposition members here today on the MPI. They are trying to perpetrate scaremongering in this debate about climate policies. With the opposition it's always important, especially in recent years, to compare their words with their actions and to compare their claims with actual facts.

      They talked down Australia and its achievements. It's worth remembering that, despite some hyperpartisan lines we've just been listening to, Australia has the following track record. Australia and its government are committed to global agreement making and to reducing carbon emissions. Australia did meet its Kyoto 1 targets. In fact, we beat those targets and smashed those targets by 128 million tonnes. Australia is about to meet its targets under Kyoto 2. We're on track to beat those targets and smash those targets by almost 300 million tonnes. Australia is on track to meet its targets under Paris. Those opposite talk Australia down, but Australia measures and reports on its progress. We see in those reports that, in terms of our target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent per capita, we have already achieved 12 per cent of that. So 12 per cent out of the 26 per cent to 28 per cent has already been achieved—right now, today. And right now, today, Australia has the lowest level of emissions per capita in 28 years.

      Those opposite have just been making the claim that there aren't policies in place to achieve further reductions, but of course that's entirely untrue. We have a suite of policies. The minister listed many of them in her speech just before, including, most notably, the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is already achieving significant emissions reductions and will be delivering increasingly larger reductions in future years as the projects it funds increasingly come online.

      I want to pick up just a couple of the comments that were made by the member for Goldstein just before, particularly around achieving balanced policies that achieve more and achieve more efficiently. If you conduct a quick compare and contrast between Liberal and Labor policies here, the Liberal policy, the ERF, achieves reductions in emissions up to one one-hundredth of the cost of what Labor policies, like the carbon tax, cost to achieve the same thing. So Labor's approach involves big new taxes and big imposts on households and businesses, whereas Liberal policies can achieve exactly the same results at up to one one-hundredth the cost and, obviously, without increasing taxes.

      The fact is that 2017, this past year, under current government policies, was the best year on record for Australia when it comes to investment in renewables. It was a record year for renewables. That will be the legacy of this government and this parliament. This government has announced the biggest-ever project for renewables in the Southern Hemisphere, namely Snowy 2.0. That will be able to power up to half a million homes. There you have it: a commitment to world-leading infrastructure. That will be the legacy of this government and this parliament, as will be the billion trees initiative that was announced just last month by the government. Let's not forget that there has never been a government in Australia's history that has invested as much in the preservation and custodianship of our greatest environmental asset, the Great Barrier Reef.

      I agree with some of the minister's earlier comments, as well as comments made by the member for Goldstein about leadership. I want to tell you a story about my first election campaign in 2016, because I was the only candidate in Brisbane who fought for and secured commitments and funding for significant environmental priorities. There was a Labor candidate and there was a Greens candidate, but all they amounted to was posturing hot air and words, just like what we've been seeing in some of the contributions from those opposite here today. Actions and delivery are what counts, not words. Leadership and custodianship are what matters and what this government is delivering—not posture and words like we're seeing from those opposite.

      A number of those opposite have tried to somehow buy into the vibe about the protests against coalmines and the student protests that were held around Australia last week. The member for Batman specifically noted that many of those were protests against coalmines. I have some news for those opposite about the protests we saw in Brisbane. Those protests were significantly directed at Labor. They were significantly directed at the Labor state government at that parliament. Pictures of that event show signs saying, 'Stop Labor's Adani mine' and 'Stop Labor's mine'.