House debates

Monday, 19 October 2020

Private Members' Business

Climate Change and the Economy

4:45 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires more than 400 people died of smoke inhalation and over 4,000 people were hospitalised;

(b) the Australian Medical Association warns that global warming will lead to significant health impacts, including but not limited to, rise in respiratory illnesses, heat-related illnesses, cardiovascular disease mortality, asthma, spread of disease vectors, reduced labour productivity, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill-health;

(c) the interim report of the Royal Commission into Natural Disasters Arrangements states that further warming is inevitable and that Australia is likely to experience more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires and drought;

(d) University of Melbourne modelling projects that if we fail to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, the Australian economy will suffer an estimated $2.7 trillion in cumulative damages over the next three decades; and

(e) that the 2019-20 bushfires resulted in an estimated $20 billion in lost economic output and over $2.4 billion in insured losses;

(2) further notes:

(a) Australia is in recession for the first time in 30 years;

(b) the effective unemployment rate is at 13.3 per cent and may remain over 10 per cent for the next several years;

(c) that young people will now face the dual challenges of climate change and the economic recovery from this pandemic, which will limit their quality of life and future employment;

(d) before COVID-19, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation estimated that limiting emissions to net zero by 2050, amongst other factors, could result in 2.75 to 2.8 per cent GDP growth annually—as opposed to 2.1 per cent under less ambitious scenarios;

(e) that acting on climate change will lead to a jobs boom in clean technologies like energy efficiency, manufacturing, renewable energy, and electric vehicles; and

(f) in order to unleash investment in clean technologies, investors need a bipartisan climate change framework and policy certainty;

(3) acknowledges:

(a) countries and jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Fiji and the State of Victoria have enacted framework climate change legislation;

(b) in the United Kingdom, there are now more than 396,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains with the low carbon economy growing at 11 per cent, per year—four times faster than the rest of the economy;

(c) framework climate change legislation supports reducing emissions, protecting against climate risks to health, and accelerates investment in a growth economy; and

(d) Australia has no Commonwealth framework climate change legislation; and

(4) calls on the Government to adopt framework climate change legislation.

As the facts set out in this motion establish, climate change is the biggest challenge that we face as a society. Last summer's bushfires showed us the worst of climate change's impacts. Over 400 people died, over 4,000 were admitted into hospital with respiratory illnesses and still more have mental scars from forced evacuations. Over 5,900 buildings and 18.6 million hectares were incinerated. There was an estimated $20 billion lost in economic output and $2.4 billion in insured losses. Three billion animals were wiped out. The fires left no person on the east coast untouched. Economists like Professor Tom Kompas are warning that, if we do not meet our Paris targets, the cumulative economic impact of damage to the Australian economy of these kinds of disasters and other factors will be $2.7 trillion over the next three decades. Others are warning that significant uncertainties about climate impacts over the next decade and a lack of planned measures for adaptation to these impacts will impede our economic recovery from this recession. We must address the pandemic and climate crisis simultaneously.

While some of the measures of the budget were great and will help, including the temporary full expensing measures, it was also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lower emissions and safeguard our jobs and communities from the disruptions that are coming. Australia is in a recession for the first time in 30 years. Sensible future forward policies are what is required to lift us out and ensure our competitive advantage going forward. While so many countries around the world are embracing opportunities, our government seems determined to put the brakes on our transition and undermine our opportunity to be a leader in the world. In the last few months, the government has offered to build a gas peaker, is attempting to change the CEFC mandate to underwrite gas projects, has directed funds to open up five new gas basins and has released over 100,000 square kilometres of gas exploration acreage.

The funds for ARENA and the CEFC, whilst welcome, are only about one-tenth of what is needed to transition to net zero. These are effective agencies that are essential in our transition to net zero. Some of the facts are staggering. Economically, since 2012, ARENA has supported 566 projects, with $1.63 billion in grant funding, unlocking a total investment of almost $6.69 billion. The CEFC has deployed $6 billion and has leveraged over $27.3 billion in private capital to support over 18,000 projects. Jeopardising these entities is going to put a brake on our recovery. Countries around the world like the UK, Germany, France, the European Union, are all recognising that acting on climate change will lead to a jobs boom in electric vehicles, energy efficiency and renewables. These countries have realised that the best way to leverage private investment is to set a climate change framework, to legislate net zero by 2050 and to provide policy certainty. That's why I'll be presenting the Climate Change Bill on 9 November, to offer that opportunity for Australia, for the Australian markets, to have that policy certainty.

Modelling by the Investor Group on Climate Change released recently shows that a long-term framework and a net zero target by 2050 will attract over $64 billion in private investment by 2025 and much, much more by 2050. We know that there is a global race on to attract private investment to ensure that we are future focused in our recovery. We need to stop putting the brakes on that with policies like a gas-focused recovery and actually embrace where we have advantage and where we have the opportunity. In the UK, where they have enacted a climate change bill establishing into legislation net zero by 2050, they have now seen over 400,000 jobs established in clean industry sectors. Low-carbon industries could grow from around two per cent of UK total output in 2015 to up to around eight per cent by 2030.

So it is clear that the case is there for why we should do it. The question is: do we actually have the motivation to get out of this recession and future proof our jobs and economy? There is no doubt that building more gas-fired power stations, in this talk of a gas-led recovery, will be poor economic management. The private sector knows this. There is a global race to attract investment and, if we continue with the government's current fixation, we will miss out.

4:50 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder for the motion?

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

4:51 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very glad to be able to speak on the motion tabled by the member for Warringah and speak to the hard work that this government is doing to take climate action and our commitment to ensuring that future generations of young people have opportunities for work and to succeed in the economy.

The Morrison government knows the heavy impacts that this country has felt as a consequence of the bushfires and COVID, which is why we have made record investments in the recovery efforts. The government has been dedicated to action on climate change and waste reduction. Under the leadership of Minister Sussan Ley and the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, the federal government has invested millions of dollars in improving our environmental practice and, in doing so, creating jobs for our future.

I would particularly like to point out the significant efforts that have been made by the federal government in the recycling and waste reduction space. These investments have been truly transformative for our environment in encouraging more responsible waste management and facilitating industry to be more innovative in creating new technologies to solve the issue of waste. This government is leading the charge when it comes to innovative and creative solutions for waste reduction and, in doing so, we are limiting the amount of waste that is getting into our environment and landfills and we are stimulating the future employment of our young Australians who are looking for work.

By partnering with industry, this government is helping businesses to get on with their day-to-day activities but in an environmentally friendly way. We have worked with industry so that they can lead the way in finding innovative solutions themselves in their own industries to modern problems and providing reasonable and responsible time frames for this change to occur. By 2024, non-processed waste product will no longer be exported overseas. We have taken responsibility for our own problems and found a way for Australians and our environment to benefit in the process. It has been through working with private enterprise in a collaborative manner, rather than slogging industry with heavy-handed taxes, that we have found the most effective solution when it comes to tackling and improving our environmental management. The Morrison government is committed to finding solutions like these that improve our environment and lower emissions through new technology, not new taxes.

But that isn't all—we are investing in sustainability and we are serious about doing it. The Morrison government has, in this budget alone, the 2020 budget, invested $674 million into oceans and marine ecosystems; $319 million into parks and heritage areas; improved research and development in the Great Barrier Reef and the Antarctic; and waived the environmental management charge for tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef to continue to support our eco-tourism industry and to showcase this beautiful environmental wonder to the world.

These investments are just a few of our commitments to take action on climate change and improve sustainability in Australia. We have targets which are in line with the Paris agreement and we are set to beat those targets. Australia beat our targets for Kyoto and we will beat our targets for Paris. We have a plan to invest in technology that will allow us to meet and beat our targets that we have set in the Paris agreement—and, unlike the Labor Party, we are doing it all in a way that doesn't cost Australians an enormous number of jobs or impose on them taxes that simply can't be quantified.

This government knows that in the COVID-19 recession this country is facing the greatest economic challenge it has seen since the end of the war. We are also aware of the importance of continuing our work to protect our local environment and Australia's environment. Only the coalition can be trusted to be responsible stewards of our economy, and it's only through responsible economic management that we can meet our international targets and continue to protect our economy and our environment. Only the coalition has responsible plans for Australia to meet its international targets without destroying jobs that we so desperately need to retain as we get out the other side of the COVID recession. We are taking climate action to ensure that Australia reduces its emissions, and we will protect our economy at the same time.

4:55 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this important motion because the summer bushfires that my electorate endured have shown in stark fashion that climate change is a health issue. Last summer, beautiful towns like Bright, Walwa and Harrietville edged out the world's megacities like Beijing and Delhi for the sad record of having the planet's most toxic air. For weeks and weeks our kids, our pregnant women and our elderly breathed in this toxic mix of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Researchers are identifying the impacts of this exposure. Across Australia, last summer's bushfire smoke resulted in over 1,100 hospitalisations for cardiovascular problems, over 2,000 hospitalisations for respiratory problems and 1,300 for asthma presentations in emergency departments. On top of this, 445 deaths can be attributed directly to the deadly smoke—445 deaths! These health costs are estimated to total almost $2 billion. That is almost 3.5 times higher than the next worse bushfire season in 2002.

But this is not about dollars and cents; this is about people. Today I will focus on our youngest people. A few days ago I spoke to Dr Rebecca McGowan, a local GP based in Albury-Wodonga. Dr McGowan had phoned me, alerting me to this story, a story that she said entailed a recent case review of one of her patients who had given birth after spending the summer in the alpine region of north-east Victoria, which was badly affected by bushfires. This woman's baby was small, Dr McGowan said, but the horrifying thing was her placenta. She had worn a mask, and she has never smoked in her life, but her placenta looked like that of a pack-a-day smoker. The placenta was in such bad condition—grey, grainy and coming apart—that the woman needed surgery to remove it. As a midwife, I am familiar with seeing such placentas in smokers or in people with severe hypertension, but not in healthy women such as this.

We can't jump to conclusions. An n of one does not make a study. But perhaps it wasn't just a one-off. When we look to the literature, we can see that there is more than one. The Royal Australian College of GP's news from February reported an almost identical story from a GP whose own baby was born with low birth weight, with a shocking granulated placenta, after weeks of bushfire smoke exposure. Again it is just a case study, but the article goes on to quote multiple similar cases reported and observed by midwives.

It is such cases that lead to much bigger studies being undertaken, like the 2019 study by Abdo et al. of almost 600,000 pregnant women in Colorado who were exposed to wildfire smoke in their second trimester. This study found a significantly increased risk of preterm birth. This large study concluded that as climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, so too it will increase the health burden on expectant mothers and their babies.

The government's own royal commission found that our warming climate will drive more intense bushfires into the future. It's crystal clear that if we are serious about protecting the health of our kids, building the resilience of our communities and avoiding mounting health crises in the future, tackling climate change should be our top priority.

The member for Warringah has put forward her climate change bill, which would set a framework to drive down emissions in the long term and grow new, clean industries. This is an important and practical bill that we can all get behind. The member for Warringah is leading here in Australia what the entire UK government achieved over there. This is a huge accomplishment. She's good at winning medals, and I reckon she should get a gold medal and for this one! I've put forward my own local power plan, which would build locally owned renewables in regional Australia. You see, we actually have some solutions in front of us, and the regions stand to benefit the most from taking climate action seriously. So, for the sake of protecting the health of our kids and the liveability of our communities, I commend this motion to the House.

5:00 pm

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

I'm pleased to see the member for Warringah raise the issue of air pollution in this chamber. It's something that I have long discussed, over a number of years, and something we need to do a lot more about. But the reality is we live with the Australian bush. The Australian bush burns. It burns regularly; it burns frequently. In fact, part of its health requires it to burn for regeneration. So, unless we are going to wipe out our bushlands, air pollution from bushfires is something we need to understand. We need to understand the risks and, especially during times of high particulate matter, we need people, especially vulnerable people, to shelter.

But that doesn't mean we should be misleading the Australian public. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, we saw a shocking example of deception and lies from none other than the United Nations themselves. Last week, the United Nations put out a report, which was titled The human cost of disasters: an overview of the last 20 years (2000-2019). They put out a press release with it titled, 'UN Report charts huge rise in climate disasters'. And we had the chief of the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, state, 'Extreme weather events have risen dramatically over the past two decades.' The only problem with that is, when you go to their report, they've got a chart in there that shows the exact opposite. In fact, since the year 2000 the number of climate related disasters has actually been declining. And yet here we have the head of the United Nations saying something that is completely false and deceptive, and misleading the world.

Now, how did they actually come up with such a deceptive and dishonest statement? They went to what's called the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, known as CRED, and looked at the number of disasters between 1980 and 1999, so the last 20 years of the previous century, and the first 20 years of this century. They said that data showed the number of disasters in the past 20 years is greater than the number of disasters in the 20 years prior to that. But what they failed to mention was that the database itself admitted that, before 1995, it did not capture all the disasters, and that it was down to an underreporting. In a 2009 report it said: 'CRED is fully aware of the potential for misleading interpretations of figures by various users. This is a risk on all public datasets.' Before interpreting the upward trend in the occurrence of weather related disasters as completely unprecedented and due to global warming, one has to take into account the complexity of disaster occurrence, human vulnerabilities and statistical reporting and registering. So we had the United Nations, one of the most respected and trusted organisations, misleading and deceiving the population of the world on climate change. We had the head of United Nations himself, none other than the UN Secretary-General, making false and misleading statements, deceiving the world. This is simply not good enough.

It's not only the number of disasters that is declining. Let's look at some of the other parameters. Let's look at the number of deaths. Let's compare the number of deaths in the 20 years of this century to those in the last 20 years of the last century. What does that show? Even the CRED data and the underreporting shows a more than 50 per cent decline in the risk of death for someone living in the last 20 years than in the last 20 years of the last century.

When do you ever hear that reported on the likes of the ABC? Never. The public is misled with complete false information. It's exactly the same thing on the insurance data. Insurance losses from weather related disasters have also declined over the last 30 years. We are being deceived. We are having lies told to us by none other than the United Nations. This is a disgrace, and it needs to be called out.

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

I thank the member for Hughes for that scintillating presentation. I call the member for Fenner.

5:05 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

For the sake of our children it's time to set aside childish things. It's time to set aside the coalition's denialism on climate change. Climate change is happening and humans are causing it. Since the industrial era, temperatures have risen one degree on average and 1½ degrees in some parts of the world.

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Thank you, Mr Hydroxychloroquine. I appreciate the interjections.

Australia is the developed country most at risk from unchecked climate change. Australia has the most to lose, as the bushfires have shown and as the damage to the Great Barrier Reef has demonstrated. As temperatures rise, more parts of Australia will become unliveable and unviable for agriculture, so we need to be urgently leading the world in measures to cut emissions, not blocking serious climate action, as the government did. In Madrid at the very time Australia was on fire the minister blocked other countries from acting.

The reasons for acting are optimistic too. Ross Garnaut's terrific book Super-Power outlines the great opportunities to be had for Australian renewable energy. Rebecca Huntley's How to Talk about Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference outlines a positive case for climate change action. Yet Marian Wilkinson's The Carbon Club demonstrates how the denialists and the coalition have chosen the opposite path. They're choosing to follow the denialism of the US Republicans rather than the sensible centralism of conservatives in places like New Zealand and Britain.

The rest of the world is moving. China will aim to hit peak emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. President Xi has called for a 'green recovery' of the world economy post COVID. Europe is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. If Joe Biden wins, as the betting markets and polls currently suggest, the US will aim for a 100 per cent clean energy economy and net zero emissions no later than 2050. In early 2021 the European Commission will adopt a more ambitious plan, focusing on climate proofing, resilience building and prevention. We have recently seen South Australia produce all of its energy from renewables for the first time in history. The ACT has 100 per cent renewables. The United States, were Joe Biden to win, would chart a path to zero carbon pollution in their electricity sector by 2035. The Democrats plan to invest in clean rail systems and zero emission public transport in every American city with more than 100,000 residents by 2030.

That would leave the Morrison government increasingly isolated on the world stage. Indeed, over 60 countries have pledged commitments to net zero emissions by 2050. Every Australian state and territory has done so. The Business Council, the Australian Industry Group, our largest airline, our largest miner and our largest bank support net zero emissions by 2050. The Morrison government is increasingly appearing out of touch.

Here in the ACT the Canberra Liberals had their chance to move towards the centre and chose to stick with the extremes. They expressed gestural sympathies for climate change, but they voted against the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme in the ACT. They opposed the climate change strategy that will get the ACT to zero emissions. As an article in The Canberra Times put it, Alistair Coe 'could not detail how his party would do that'—that is, cut emissions—'aside from vague references to advancements in electric car technology'. Gary Humphries has belled the cat today in The Canberra Times, saying:

The Liberal Party has been locked into a crippling, paralysing conservatism that is robbing it of any chance to speak to the aspirations and values of the Canberra community.

He said:

... the more they looked at the Liberals, the more uncomfortable they became at the prospect of voting Liberal.

Here in the ACT, the Canberra Liberals have seen the results of moving to the hard Right and siding with the Prime Minister and his pet rock, the Deputy Prime Minister, and his attack on woke greenies rather than the sensible centrism of the ACT. I congratulate the Barr government on their re-election and the climate change strategy that was at the core of that campaign.

5:10 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I hope you too loved the platitudes from the member for Fenner. Typical Labor on this issue of climate change. We talk technology; they talk taxes. We talk policy; they talk platitudes. We're all about action; they're all talk. And we've heard it yet again from the member for Fenner, who leaves the chamber now, I am sure very embarrassed about the words he's just spoken in this chamber. The Labor Party, if I'm not mistaken, started this term of government wanting to declare a climate emergency. That emergency is so great that the first action they want to take is focused on three decades from now. That's how big an emergency the Labor Party put on climate change. They have a vision for 2050. What are they going to do this year? Don't know about that. Next year? Don't know about that. Policy for the next election? Don't know about that. How about 2030? Don't know about that either. The Labor Party are full of platitudes. They talk big. They love talking emotion. They'll talk about climate emergency, but it is shallow and they are empty promises, because they have not one policy plank for the next 30 years. Deputy Speaker Gillespie, I don't know about you. You're a young, good-looking bloke. I'm not going to be here in 30 years, I'm afraid. You might be. Maybe the members of the Labor Party will be. Maybe that's why they're so fixated on 30 years from now without any merit whatsoever for a policy today, tomorrow or the next year—zip. We hear nothing.

We're in footy season, as you know, Deputy Speaker, so maybe for those opposite, to make it a little bit more clear: the footy season and the grand final—are you focused on being on the field and tackling climate change with Team Australia? No, you're not focused on that. You're not even focused on next season. You're focused on the season of 2050. If you look at the scoreboard today, what does it tell you? Kyoto 1: done; tick; delivered. Kyoto 2: done; tick; delivered. As for Paris: absolutely on track; shall be done; shall be ticked; shall be delivered. The National Electricity Market, the NEM, is today delivering the lowest emissions in its history. We have $18 billion committed to low-emissions technology which shall unlock an extra $50 billion from states and territories in the private sector. They don't want to look at the scoreboard of climate change achievement in Australia because it says Team Australia is delivering, and they're not on the side of Team Australia. They have vacated the field, ashamed of the fact they are disunited in this key policy area. They have no unity whatsoever, and why would they? The last time they had a policy, they promised to strip Australian jobs, promised to cut over 400,000 jobs from this economy and promised to cut $9,000 from average wages. It's an absolute disgrace from the Labor Party on this topic. Yet the member for Fenner—the shadow Assistant Treasurer, no less—just stood in this Chamber and tried to lecture this parliament about climate change and the virtues of Labor's approach.

Now, I haven't heard the member for Fenner on this topic before. He is known to me and probably most people in this place as the warrior for industry super funds; that is his usual champion cause. Today The Australian Financial Review has an article about Australian industry super funds. The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors has called out ASX companies who have made a net zero commitment to 2050, saying:

… it is not good enough to make a 30-year commitment and then leave the detail for later.

Maybe the member for Fenner and those in the Labor Party should be listening to the very industry super funds they support so vocally. It is very clear that they have vacated the field and are not prepared to tackle climate change front-on. If they were, they would have the courage of their convictions and name a target for 2030.

5:16 pm

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge the work and commitment of the member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, who has brought forward this motion for discussion. Unlike the member for Fairfax, people around Australia hate politics for politics' sake. They actually want people to work together.

The impact of climate change looms large around Eden-Monaro. Climate change is a day-to-day reality from Tumbarumba to Tathra. At the end of the hottest and driest year on record, sparks of lightning lit the fuse of a defining chapter in our history. I've spoken about the 750 Eden-Monaro homes destroyed in the angry flames that followed, so today I'll use this opportunity to explore a couple of other experiences. As the member for Warringah says, 400 people died of smoke inhalation as a result of the 'black summer' and 4,000 people were hospitalised. The sky was orange and the air was thick with smoke as I stood in evacuation centre after evacuation centre with thousands of people during January. Time and time again people asked me about the health impacts of breathing in air from our traumatised environment. Our volunteer firefighters were also worried. The women and men who went running into the smoke often did so without the very best protection. We even saw crowdfunding campaigns spring up to buy local firefighters better-quality breathing protection. These are questions and situations we really haven't had to comprehend on this scale before. But as climate change bites these are the shoes we will walk in again, and we need to know more and have better protections in place.

I recently met with researchers from the Australian National University in my Queanbeyan electorate office. They are looking at the effects of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on the physical health, mental health and lifestyle of residents in Eden-Monaro and the ACT. The health impact on pregnant women and their children is a particular focus and an area of work that remains unfunded. The findings of this study will be used to influence health advice and procedures for future events. Researchers are currently looking for more people, especially women who were pregnant at the time, to take part in this research. Details are available through the ANU website.

Parts of Eden-Monaro—around 75 per of our national park estate—were burnt out. Members don't need to travel too far from here to see the harsh devastation for themselves. On Friday I visited the Two Thumbs koala sanctuary at Peak View, near Cooma. Tragically, three American aviators lost their lives trying to protect Two Thumbs when their massive firefighting air tanker crashed to the ground in January. Since that time James Fitzgerald and a tribe of volunteers at Two Thumbs have rescued 41 koalas from their burnt habitat—but, as James told me on Friday, he estimates that hundreds more perished. In the days that followed the flames he remembers hearing koalas crying out in pain at night. A Go Fund Me campaign was set up to assist him, and he has kindly donated $100,000 of that money to the ANU koala research project that is also supported by the Minderoo Foundation. The project will examine how koalas recover after fire and how fire impacts their environment. It is knowledge we need now in order to safeguard the future of this precious species. But I fear the momentum of climate change might beat us to that knowledge and the work we need to do to protect the koala. This research shouldn't need to be funded from a Go Fund Me account. It should be backed and funded by this government.

While the people, environment and economy of Eden-Monaro have waited for this government to act on climate change, koalas and their habitat have burnt. While the people, environment and economy of Eden-Monaro have waited for this government to act on climate change, our lungs have filled with deadly smoke. As the member for Warringah says in her motion, countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and even Fiji have moved towards a decarbonised economy. They are reaping the benefits, with almost 400,000 new jobs created in the UK's new low-carbon economy. I look forward to working with the member for Warringah and my colleagues in the Labor Party to prepare our community for the impacts of climate change, to limit the toll climate change takes on our health and environment and to make the most of the jobs and opportunities that come with action on climate change.

5:20 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wasn't going to speak on this motion but, having listened to some of the piffle, I will. First of all, if you want to completely destroy the Australian economy then 'decarbonise' it. Australia's largest export is fossil fuels, whether you like it or not, and there's nothing on the horizon that looks like it's going to take their place. If you want to be earnest and honest about this discussion then you must suggest what you're willing to give up, when you have a budget that doesn't have nearly the capacity to pay for the social services you expect, after you take away the coalmining industry, the gas industry and the LNG industry. What is your solution? There is no point—in fact, it's just plain rubbish—to say, 'Oh, there'll be jobs in the future.' We need to see the jobs now.

I'll take you to one example. One of the largest sectors of renewable energy is in my electorate, in Glen Innes, where we've had $2 billion of investment in wind towers. In the last census, the population of Glen Innes went up by one person. This goes to show you that the rhetoric is a long way from the reality. If people believe that there's something morally appropriate in their electorate having renewable energy then they should be advocating for it to be positioned in their electorate and lead by example. There is absolutely no reason why we can't have wind towers off the beaches of Manly and Warringah—it's technically possible—but, of course, the member wouldn't want that because she wants to see them somewhere else.

Then we can go to some of the issues that have been happening lately. I read with great interest that Dr Bob Brown and Christine Milne are now fighting against wind towers. I'll repeat that: they are now fighting against wind towers. They do not want Tasmania to be the battery of Australia. In fact, they're fighting against the interconnector. Why? It is because they believe wind towers are an eyesore. How things change! Just wait, and the situation changes. I've seen it in my own electorate. There are protests in Nundle and Kentucky, where people—who in some instances, I would say, voted for the Greens—are now fighting against wind towers. If you just hang around and wait, the sentiment changes. The same thing is happening around Euroa. They're fighting against solar farms because they don't want to be next to a large mirror.

So how do we solve this? We solve it, if you earnestly believe in it, by putting it in your electorate. That's what you should do. But, of course, if you want zero emissions—

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You can giggle, but if you came out and advocated for it, it would be much braver. Member for Warringah, if you believe in it, stand up and say you want it in your electorate. You could do it, but, of course, you won't.

The issue is that if you want zero emissions—I've got no problem with that—the most logical way to do that is nuclear. That's the way to do it. But, of course, once more, they all line up and say they don't want nuclear. Let's go through it. They don't want windmills. We can see the lead being taken by Dr Bob Brown, formerly of the Greens, and Christine Milne, to whom the baton had subsequently been passed. She also doesn't want it. They don't want gas because it relies on fracking. They don't want coal because they just don't want coal; it's against their religion. They don't want nuclear because they seem to be stuck in the mindset of the 1980s, with Chernobyl. We all know about that, but that was 1950s Soviet technology. If you've ever driven around in a 1950s Soviet car, you know how that is.

So where do we go? How does this work? They deny the fact that in the Australian economy our largest export is fossil fuels, and they've got no suggestion of what's going to take its place. They put up China as a good example—China! China is building in excess of 600 coal-fired power plants as we speak; they're building them right now. And then they say, 'Well, Germany.' Germany are refurbishing their brown coal-fired plants, so what I suggest you do is have a look at the most efficient way and the cleanest way to produce power from the food stocks that are available at the moment—high-efficiency, low-emission coal-fired power—and show the world for our largest export the best technology and the cleanest technology in how it is utilised.

We have a schism that's happening in the Labor party because we've got the Joel Fitzgibbon faction that believes in the coal industry and we have Pat Conroy, the member for Shortland, who doesn't believe in the coal industry even though many of his workers are in the coal industry. I think an epiphany will come Pat Conroy, the member for Shortland's way very soon.

5:25 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Last summer changed Australia. The cumulative effect of severe drought and global warming and climate change produced the most severe bushfires that our nation has ever seen. We all remember the choking smoke that infected the east coast of Australia and changed our summer lifestyle forever. Instead of Australians being outdoors and enjoying the summer period, we were advised to actually stay inside on a litany of days when the smoke was simply too much for many to bear, particularly the young and the elderly. We were advised to restrict exercise to only one hour a day and to stay indoors as much as possible. And, of course, those with medical conditions, particularly lung related medical conditions, suffered severely during this period. Our emergency services were under unprecedented pressure and struggled to cope, and we had the tragic loss of life and property. Towns were devastated by the bushfires that we saw over the last summer.

This was symptomatic of what's going on throughout the world at the moment. This was symptomatic of the fact that our nation and this world is in a climate crisis. We need to realise that and wake up to that and make sure that we're taking stronger action to reduce the impact of climate change on our community. In Australia, we've seen over recent years some of our natural resources under unprecedented pressure. The Great Barrier Reef is under enormous threat from, again, episodes of coral bleaching related to increases in sea temperature. The Great Barrier Reef is an important part of the Queensland economy: it's a vitally important part of the tourism sector for our nation and a leading attraction for tourists to come to our nation. If it doesn't survive, then Queensland is in a parlous state. The Murray-Darling and all those towns that rely on the adequate flows of the Murray-Darling are under extreme pressure. We saw that with the fish kills in the Menindee Lakes over recent times. Australia has the unenviable record of the highest rate of mammal extinctions of any nation of the world, yet some of those opposite want us to believe that climate change is not a threat and that we don't need to take it seriously and that we don't need to take action on it.

COVID-19 may have diverted the attention of the Australian public from this issue, but it certainly hasn't removed the urgency from the need to act and take this matter seriously. We have a moral obligation to our children to take stronger action to combat climate change and boost renewable energy if our kids are going to have any chance in the future of a liveable lifestyle in this environment. And this is the area where the Morrison government has failed dismally. The evidence of that is simply in the fact that, for the first 7½ years of this government, carbon pollution in Australia went back up. When Labor was in government, when we had a scheme in place to reduce carbon emissions, they were going down. But as soon as the Abbott government got elected in 2013 and removed the price on carbon emissions, guess what?

Carbon started to go up again in our economy, and they've failed ever since because we know that they still don't have an energy policy. Australians are paying too much for electricity, carbon emissions are going up again and they're using dodgy accounting tricks to try and meet the Paris commitments by using carryover credits from Kyoto.

The great shame about this government is that they allow the biggest polluters in the country to get away with increasing their carbon emissions, to get away with increasing carbon pollution, whereas the average Australian—the average Australian family, pensioner, small business—are expected to take action to reduce their carbon emissions, and that's exactly what they've been doing. They've been installing energy efficient lighting in their homes. They've been installing solar panels and batteries to reduce their carbon footprint and using water saving devices. The average Australian household and small businesses are acting, but, under this government, if you're a big polluter, don't worry. You can get away with increasing your carbon pollution footprint. That is not fair, and that is putting an impost on the people of Australia rather than the people who are causing the problem. That is why we need to get serious about a framework and ensuring that this country has a goal of zero emissions by 2050, and that is exactly what Labor has.

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

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order for the next sitting.