Thursday, 21 February 2019
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019; Report from Federation Chamber
Eighty per cent—that is how much of Australia's thermal coal we export overseas. Twenty per cent we use here for generating power, and we're in the process of shifting away from that to renewables. But we need a plan to deal with the 80 per cent, because the world's scientists have told us that, if we don't have a plan to get out of coal within the next 12 years, we could hit dangerous global warming tipping points as soon as 2030, in 12 years time. By the time that my daughter is 14, she may face a world where we have tipped over 1½ degrees of global warming.
So what we here in Australia can do to contribute best to that and what those in the Pacific Islands are asking us to do with all their might and all their heart is to stop exporting coal. We need a plan to stop exporting coal by 2030—to phase it out, so that we look after the communities and the workers in the mines that are reliant on it at the moment, but, at the same time, pick up other export industries, like hydrogen and make sure that Australia becomes the place that you come to if you want to run a business with clean, green, cheap renewable energy. Others may disagree with that, but that's what the science requires.
At the very least, what we should all be able to agree on is that we should not be using taxpayers' money to facilitate the export of coal from Australia. But that is exactly what the government want to do—and it is what they want Efic, the finance corporation, to do, as one of their many ways of doing it. They are keen to write out cheques to coal-fired power stations here, but we also know that they are keen to use taxpayers' money, which should go to schools and hospitals, to fund the export of coal, even if it is run and managed by a big multinational like Adani.
We know that, because, back in 2017, the trade minister secretly changed Efic's mandate by a letter, by writing to them, saying, 'We'd like you to now use taxpayers' money for coal exports, including for Adani.' We also know that last year, Efic, the Export Finance Corporation—which is the subject of this bill and this amendment—had discussions with Adani and some of the contractors and suppliers associated with Adani to talk about how they could hand over taxpayers' money to facilitate what is a ticking climate bomb in the Galilee Basin. We cannot afford to open any more new coalmines, to open up new coal basins, if we're to have a chance of staying below warming thresholds—and we certainly shouldn't be using public money to facilitate it.
The amendment that I am moving should be unobjectionable. It allows the rest of this bill regarding the Export Finance Corporation, which I understand is agreed between Labor and Liberal, to pass through. I have some concerns about this bill, and the Greens will deal with those in the Senate. This amendment doesn't take anything out of the bill; it just adds in a rider that says, 'Taxpayers' money cannot be used through the Export Finance Corporation to fund and facilitate the export of thermal coal.'
We have to pass this amendment now. We are mere weeks away from an election, and we know that this government is keen to write out cheques for coal before the election and have them cashed. We know this government is hell-bent on opening up the Adani coalmine. I hope that this amendment gets up. I hope that Labor and people on the cross bench support it, because it should be unobjectionable. But I do note that the coal industry has been up here lobbying in Canberra this week, and I do know that, since 2012, the old parties, Labor and Liberal, have taken at least $3.8 million in donations from the coal companies.
I am worried that Labor is not being clear on where it stands on coal. We know the Liberals; they're a bunch of climate deniers who should be kicked out. But we have to get some clarity on coal. If you don't have a plan to get out of coal in Australia you're not serious about tackling climate change. This amendment is very simple: do you support taxpayer funds being able to go to Adani or any of its suppliers through the Export Finance Corporation? I hope that, on this amendment, the opposition sits with some of us on the cross bench and say, 'No; not one single dollar of taxpayer money should go to funding Adani and opening up coalmines.'
I oppose this amendment brought to the House by the member for Melbourne. This bill to change the structure of Efic is largely based around this country's commitment to the Pacific, our neighbours, and giving Efic the ability to fund projects that enable our developing neighbours to improve their welfare and improve the economy of their nations and also provide a return to the Australian people. Efic is not a charity. Efic is a financial device that has returned a dividend to the Australian taxpayer.
But on the member for Melbourne's contribution: I know that if you're a climate warrior and you're taking the high moral ground from your ivory castle in the most altered suburb in Australia that the truth doesn't matter that much. There is nowhere in this bill about Efic funding Adani; not one bit. When the member for Melbourne comes in here it might be an idea if he just sticks to the truth and the facts, rather than trying to scare the pants off the Australian people with innuendo and untruths that have nothing to do with this bill.
He might also want to explain why, when he represents one of the most altered suburbs across Australia—in the centre of Melbourne—he wants to remove 58,000 jobs from regional Australia and why he doesn't think that people in regional Australia should have a chance to have some of the benefits and lifestyle that his constituents do in the capital cities. He might want to ponder on that, if he's going to take the high moral ground.
I strongly oppose this amendment. It's based on things that are not factual and it has nothing to do with this bill, which has bipartisan support—for obvious reasons. I oppose this amendment.
Just briefly—I won't detain the House for too long. I hope that we hear from the opposition about their stance on whether Efic should be used to fund coal exports, because it's a crucial question.
Despite what the last speaker just said, this isn't some academic question. We know that the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment changed the Efic's mandate. He did it in secret, and he only got found out after FOIs. We know that Efic has met with Adani and suppliers—that is a matter of public record. So we are dealing with a very, very real issue here. The minister mentioned the Pacific islands. Can I say that the one thing our near neighbours are crying out to Australia for is to get serious on climate change! The one issue that is at the top of their minds is Australia's continued export of coal and the threat that we might export more of it. It is no use using Efic to help with some infrastructure in the Pacific island region if, at the same time, we're threatening those people's homes and livelihoods by making climate change worse, and that is what they're telling us. They're saying: 'Please, please! Wean yourselves off coal,' and, because it doesn't matter where the coal is burnt, 'Don't burn it at home and please don't dig up more of it and export it.'
The minister mentioned jobs. Well, there are nigh on 70,000 jobs that are dependent on a healthy Great Barrier Reef. What is going to happen to those jobs, in Queensland predominantly, when the reef has not only back-to-back bleaching but back-to-back-to-back bleaching, and when it is no longer the vibrant ecosystem that encourages people to come from all around the world? Those jobs are real jobs too. The 70,000 jobs dependent on a healthy Great Barrier Reef are real jobs.
We have to take this transition by the horns and to do it in a way that is fair to workers and to communities. That is why we are talking about a phase-out by 2030, even though some are saying it needs to happen sooner. We're saying, 'Let's do this properly.' We don't say, 'Oh well, what about the jobs in the tobacco sector?' when we talk about regulating tobacco. We accept that this product comes at a cost to community, so we regulate it. We've done it with asbestos and we can do it with other products now as well, if we have the wit and the wherewithal. So the only way to be honest, and supportive of the jobs, the workers and the communities that currently rely on this industry that is being phased out, is for the government to get serious about it.
But, at the end of the day, this is a simple amendment that says, 'No, what has happened over the last couple of years in playing footsies with Adani and their contractors through Efic now has to stop, and Efic needs a clear role of guidance.' Again, I implore the Labor Party to support this, because the Labor Party has said, correctly, that they do not support taxpayer funds going to coal. I desperately hope there's a change of government in the next few weeks or months and that this mob of climate deniers is not sitting on the government benches. But if money is being shovelled out the door that helps the Adani coalmine go ahead, then the next government is going to have to deal with it. The next government will have the capacity now to stop it by simply saying, 'No taxpayer money for coalmines through Efic.'
The question is that the amendment be agreed to.
A division having been called and the bells having been rung—
As there are fewer than five members on the side for the ayes in this division, I declare the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.
Question negatived, Mr Bandt, Mr Willkie and Ms McGowan voting yes.
Bill agreed to.