House debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

3:12 pm

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

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

The importance of legislating net zero emissions by 2050.

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—

3:13 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

This week we've seen the Seinfeld policy launch: all the build-up and then it was all about nothing. No new net zero policy, net zero legislation, net zero modelling or net zero unity from those opposite. They left it to the last possible minute to outline a scam that leaves everything to the last possible minute. It's out on the never-never because this government will never, ever take climate change seriously. After all of the build-up we just got a glossy brochure. When launching it, they said the word 'plan' 94 times—94! Well, saying it doesn't make it true. The fact is that the Prime Minister isn't known as 'Scotty from marketing' for nothing, because that is what we saw. The brochure mentions the word 'modelling' 44 times but doesn't produce any. Maybe it's in a blind trust?

Those opposite are simply not fair dinkum. They're led by a Prime Minister who said that electric vehicles would end the weekend, who said that batteries for renewables were as useful as the Big Banana or the Big Prawn and who said that the Renewable Energy Target was 'nuts'. He says that they're going to reach a 35 per cent reduction by 2030, but that they can't change the Abbott target of 26 to 28 because that would be different from the last election. But at the last election they opposed net zero by 2050, the whole basis of what this has allegedly been about.

When Australia was burning down, during the Black Summer, they were apoplectic at the idea that there was a connection between the bushfires, and the drought that came beforehand, and climate change. To talk about that was 'woke inner city'. But now that the Prime Minister wants to strut across the global stage in Glasgow, they say, 'Oh, no, net zero by 2050. With all this new technology, it's just going to happen.'

Australia can spot a fraud from a long way away, and they're onto the marketing guy. But it gets worse. When he jets out, as of tomorrow, Barnaby Joyce will be the acting Prime Minister of Australia, the bloke who knocked off Michael McCormack, a good man, in order to strongly oppose net zero. That was the whole platform of why the coup happened! He didn't support it but it's National Party policy, apparently, anyway.

He still doesn't support it, like a majority of National Party cabinet ministers. This is what he said when he became the leader, talking in the third person as sometimes people with particular afflictions do:

The likelihood of Joyce getting endorsement from his party room to agree to net zero is zero. That's where the net zero lies.

That's what he said. He doesn't even support it. He described climate change as a scam. And remember the bizarre video in the paddock, shouting at clouds, with the cows all around him, saying, 'I just don't want the government in my life'? But he said he doesn't mind the Deputy Prime Minister's pay. He doesn't mind a making a career out of taxpayer directly funds.

What we know from the announcement yesterday is: (1) they can produce glossy documents and (2) there are two big changes. One change is that Keith Pitt, the minister for resources, is now in the cabinet. This is a guy who said that solar and wind don't work at night. This is a guy who gets a shock every time he turns the tap and water comes out, because it isn't raining outside. He doesn't get the whole idea about storage of renewables and what's happened. He just doesn't get it. That was the one change, the one job, we know occurred. The other change is a Productivity Commission review. Every five years they're going to have a look at it, to see how it's going. But the Deputy Prime Minister said this: 'I use them when I run out of toilet paper.' That's what he had to say about Productivity Commission reports. That's how seriously he takes them. That's all that we know came out of this.

Barnaby Joyce is the whoopee cushion of Australian politics. You know you shouldn't laugh when you hear him make noise, but somehow you just kind of have to. And as we sit here in question time, listening to the human whoopee cushion opposite, you've just got to have a chuckle. We need subtitles up on the screen to explain it. The Nationals have become a clown show and he is the perfect figurehead.

He is trying to turn the word 'legislation' into a pejorative term. Someone should tell him that's what parliament does! The debates that we have in parliament are about legislation, and they are about laws, but he is trying to turn it into a pejorative term. The newsflash for him is: that's what parliaments do. But there's a second newsflash: investors need certainty, going forward. That's why you have legislation, so you can go forward. When Dennis Denuto in The Castle spoke about laws being about the vibe, it was satire. They think it was a documentary. They just don't get it at all.

We on this side, of course, have had a net zero by 2050 policy for a considerable period of time. In terms of how you get there, we backed that up with a rewiring the nation policy—$20 billion announced in my first budget reply—to make sure that electricity transmission is brought into the 21st century. That's the most significant and easy thing that you can do between now and 2030. We have a policy for community batteries, making sure that you can maximise what you get out of solar energy. We have a plan to make electronic vehicles cheaper by reducing taxes. We asked the government about that today. The don't seem to comprehend that that's a large part of the high price for electric vehicles. If you want to change behaviour, you do make it cheaper. But, of course, they said that electric vehicles would end the weekend.

We want to make sure that Australian workers benefit. That's why we have a new energy apprenticeships plan. We want new industry, and we've said how we will pay for it: a $15 billion national reconstruction fund to transform existing industries. But we also want to talk about the opportunity that's there. We have abundant resources in this country. I've got an idea. How about we use those resources to make things here and to create jobs here? That's why it fits in with the buy Australia plan that we have as well. They've adopted net zero by 2050, but we'd encourage them to adopt all the rest of that plan as well. We will have more to say, but we've already made significant announcements going forward.

The Prime Minister leaves for Glasgow tomorrow. Glasgow did give the world Billy Connolly, so they do recognise a joke when they see one. You will have to wonder what they will make of this Prime Minister walking into that conference. He'll stand up and say, 'Technology! We want technology!' They will say: 'Hang on. Isn't this the guy who said electric vehicles will end the weekend? Isn't this the mob that said that renewable energy targets are bad? Isn't this the government that says that solar and wind don't work unless the sun is shining and the wind is blowing? Isn't this the government that tried to get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA?' He did get rid of the fund that was there for carbon capture and storage.

An opposition member: The government doesn't mention that.

They never mentioned that. They got rid of the fund that was there. Now this Prime Minister says that he accepts that climate change is real, because he knows that his opposition to net zero is simply unsustainable. But there's no conviction there. This guy is all show and no go. He's not fair dinkum, and Australians know that. He's all marketing, no substance.

What we need to deal with the challenge of climate change is a government that understands the opportunity that meeting that challenge represents—an opportunity for Australia to take advantage of being in the fastest-growing region of the world in human history and an opportunity to create jobs by becoming a renewable energy superpower for the world. That means committing to net zero by 2050, but it means actually setting about creating it, not having people speak who once argued that we need to get— (Time expired)

3:23 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

It's very good to be able to speak on this important motion, because what the Leader of the Opposition has just outlined is his commitment to failure. He attacks, for instance, those people who say we should have an international treaty that includes the world's largest emitters. I am resolutely proud that I want China to be part of the global solution. I want the United States to be part of the global solution. Heck, I even want New Zealand to be part of the global solution. They all ran away from the Kyoto protocol. When it comes to the Leader of the Opposition, he takes more of a Donald Trump approach to engagement in international fora than this side of the chamber—a government which focuses clearly on how we bring the rest of the world to follow our leadership. That's what we saw yesterday, when, for the first time, Australia had, yes, a 2050 target as a nation. Yes, we then had a time frame for the delivery of that target of net zero. But, more critically, for the first time in Australian history we had a comprehensive plan on how we were going to achieve it. We are proud of that as a government because (1) we take our approach to climate change very seriously and (2) what we have understood at every point is that Australians want action on climate change but they don't want to lose their jobs. They don't want the government to burn down the village to save it, as the Australian Greens would have us do. They want to know the government is on their side, to work with business, industry and households to be part of the solution. That's why we've taken a balanced approach and, more critically, taken an Australian approach—the Australian way of reducing our greenhouse gas missions while also making sure we back Australians and their jobs.

I was only reminded of this yesterday. Late last night, I did an interview on BBC World, and in a particularly shrill and hostile interview—from the interviewer—they kept asking why I kept arguing for an Australian solution to this problem. Eventually I had to break it to her that they haven't factored in the affordability of energy as part of their plan and there are millions of people in northern Europe who are at risk of high energy prices, and that now, in the lead-up to winter, there's a very serious risk that northern Europeans will literally die in the tens of thousands because they have not got access to affordable energy—and that that is not our solution. That is not our approach.

But it is the approach of one group of people, which includes the Australian Labor Party, who are more interested in cutting emissions without any consideration of the consequences than this side of the chamber is. We're focused on what we need to do to build the future Australian economy, cut emissions and be part of taking responsibility through a global solution.

We heard this explicitly today from the independent member for Warringah, who moved a motion to bring forward her bill. What she said in that speech, I've got to say, was profoundly enlightening and extremely disturbing. She said explicitly that the objective of her motion was to introduce a bill that would take the decision-making away from duly elected representatives. I saw members on the other side of this chamber nodding along with the independent member for Warringah about that policy because what they want to do is introduce targets in legislation so they can empower bureaucrats to veto the decisions of this very parliament. It is not something that we are ever prepared to accept. We saw this before in the independent member for Warringah's bill that she introduced last year, which literally would have empowered the appointment of climate tsars to veto the decisions of this parliament. There is nothing more antidemocratic. And now the Labor Party want to do the same, because what they want is legislation that activists can use in the courts to override the decisions of this parliament—and we will not stand for it.

We want to make sure we deliver a solution for the Australian people. And what matters in this debate isn't intent; it's outcomes. Without a legislated target, this government hasn't just reached a 20.8 per cent emissions reduction on 2005 levels; more critically, the OECD average for emissions reduction over the same time frame is only seven per cent. So we're beating it by a factor of three. In the 130-page comprehensive plan we released yesterday, the updated projections show we'd reach a 35 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. At the same time the Labor Party hasn't even got a plan. Let's not even talk about when you're going to legislate. You don't even have one and you don't even have a target. How can you legislate air, nothing? You on the other side of the chamber have got nothing to offer. What we're doing is delivering that plan and making sure we cut emissions along the way.

This morning, in the motion where the independent member for Warringah wanted to introduce her democracy-attacking bill, the member for McMahon came up here and attacked the government for exactly the same reason the Leader of the Opposition did just moments ago. Now, we all remember the member for McMahon from the last election, when he managed to elevate himself to the pantheon of Labor greats for quotes—like Paul Keating, who said it was the 'recession we had to have'; like Kevin Rudd, who said climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time, only weeks later abandoning his very commitment and his signature policy, such was his commitment; or, of course, like Julia Gillard, who said before an election, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,' only to introduce one after she did a sneaky deal with the Greens to form a coalition government. And, before the last election, the member for McMahon was one of those Labor greats, and it will always go down in the history of quotes: 'You are perfectly entitled to vote against us if you don't agree with our policy.'

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

One hundred per cent right, to the member for Stirling! He remembers that moment clearly, as all the members on this side of the chamber do, because it was the time that the member for McMahon gave permission to millions of Australians who he wanted to push below the poverty line to say, 'Don't vote for us,' and, 'We agree.'

Let's remember what the member for McMahon did before the last election. He came after Australian retirees and tried to slash their incomes by over 30 per cent by the introduction of a retiree tax. He failed, and we know on this side of the chamber he failed. But now he's come back with a vengeance where he wants to increase the nation's retirees' bills, particularly their electricity bills. There is simply no empathy or understanding of the impact of what he proposes on the Australian people, including some of the most vulnerable. We see it very clearly in this chamber every time he gets up to the dispatch box.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The assistant minister will pause for a moment. The member for Wills is seeking the call.

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

A point of order on relevance: the member for Goldstein is talking about economic policies that have nothing to do with this MPI.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's no point of order. Continue.

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I do thank the member for his interjection, because it shows how tin eared they are of the economic consequences of their decisions. But what we know is the member for McMahon went after the incomes of Australian retirees at the last election and failed. Now he is doing what he can to increase the electricity bills of Australian retirees, should they win the next election. At every point it's an assault and a tax that they seek to promote, because what it does is it empowers the Labor Party at the expense of average Australians. That's why they want a legislated target. They want a legislated target, because it gives them a back door to achieve every single policy agenda that they could.

You just need to look at what's happening in the United Kingdom right now. It's not just that there is a genuine threat with a tin ear to the economic consequences of environmental policies that make sure that Britons can't heat their homes but that activists are now using the courts to stop infrastructure development, the building of roads in communities and anything they don't like. And, sadly, we've seen similar behaviour here in this country, where activists have sought to use courts to stop projects and stop development and, frankly, stop job creation in this nation. And we know they'll do it against many of the wealth creating sectors of this country. I'm sure the member opposite, who I have no doubt is about to speak, will be able to tell you how often legal pathways are used to try and shut down investments in Australian economic growth. Of course she will run interference and defend it every step of the way in pursuit of their legislated target, but what they won't understand are the human consequences of what they propose. This side of the chamber stands by the Australian people, this side of the chamber seeks democratic endorsement for its work, this side of the chamber backs the creation of jobs and this side of the chamber wants to cut emissions too. (Time expired)

3:33 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Last summer, as the Leader for the Opposition pointed out in his kick-off of this MPI, the Deputy Prime Minister shouted at the clouds, 'I don't want the government in my life!' Well, as we say in the Hunter: 'Mate, you are the government! Seriously! And governments are elected to make laws. It's called legislating.'

Now, back here on Earth, out of the clouds, a road to Damascus experience is one in which a person has a sudden insight that radically changes their belief. You refer to it as the road to Damascus—he's gotten it. Well, we've seen firsthand from those opposite this week, before our eyes, on the road to Glasgow, they've had an epiphany! They've seen the light! They've heard the voice! They realise that they do need to get to net zero by 2050, but they're refusing to legislate for it They do need a plan for the future, but their plan is a sham. How can any worker in this country really trust this government? Workers who will be most impacted by these decisions have been left in the dark, with no real consideration and absolutely no input. We've seen this past fortnight that those opposite couldn't even agree with each other as to whether net zero was a priority for the nation or not.

For many years now, the energy industry and all Australian industries have gone it alone. They've progressed with their plans towards net zero in the absence of any leadership from this Prime Minister or, quite frankly, his puerile predecessors. Outside of the bizarre world of the coalition, climate action and the transformation of our economy through its transition to renewables have moved way beyond ideology. Globally, we've seen broad support from unions, resource companies and world leaders—Boris Johnson even. Locally, we've seen support from the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation—for goodness sake—state governments, local governments, churches and community groups. At every level we have seen this call to action, but this Prime Minister is truly still trying to play catch-up.

The blunt reality is that we have no legislated target for 2050. That's it. So nothing holds us to this target. All the benefits this Prime Minister is banking on to hit our 2030 target are based on what the states and territories and Australians themselves have already done. He's cashing in on your hard work and again claiming the credit for something he has actually had nothing to do with. He doesn't hold a hose, and he certainly hasn't helped you put your solar panels on your roofs. In term after term, under leader after leader, we have had neglect from those opposite. They don't appreciate Australian industry, and they don't respect Australian workers.

As many in this place know, I have never shied away from being on the side of coalminers and coal industry workers, and I will always proudly stand up in this place and outside it for them and the industries that they represent. I proudly care about my community, and I'm not afraid to call the government out for failing to look after them. For years I've been on the ground talking to miners and to the industries that depend on mining and making sure they have a role in these vital decisions about our future and about their future. My colleague the member for Brand has been on the ground talking to the industry, and she knows what workers want too. She knows what industry needs, and it's certainly not being delivered under this mob.

Labor will legislate to ensure transformation does not leave Australian workers behind. That's a commitment this Prime Minister cannot make, and he will not make it even in the eleventh hour on his road to Glasgow. I say to the mining families of the Hunter: I want you to know what this means for you. This government is not backing you in. All you have seen from this government is denial, outright lies and bickering. How can any worker trust this Morrison government in the absence of any transparency or any consistent legislated plan? Let me say to you: do not trust them with your vote and do not trust them with your future.

3:38 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The topic of this matter of public importance today is, of course, 'the importance of legislating net zero emissions by 2050'. I was surprised, then, when the member for Grayndler, the Leader of the Opposition, took 10 minutes of this chamber's time and didn't actually mention what he would legislate if he were Prime Minister. This seems to me to be a glaring omission. In fact, I don't think I've heard anyone from that side of this debate talk about what it is they would like to see legislated.

The government absolutely accepts the necessity of reaching a net-zero-emissions platform by 2050, and the PM has made that commitment in this place. He will also make that commitment in Glasgow next week. Then the whole world will know exactly where Australia stands on this, and it will be with a number of other leading democracies around the world that have the target of net zero by 2050. I've raised many times in this place and outside the concerns that I have about a number of other countries of the world who will say one thing and do the other, but I will let the Prime Minister deal with that. Just as we signed up to Kyoto 1, Kyoto 2 and the Paris commitments without passing legislation saying, 'We shall meet these particular targets,' so we have done with this one—and so we shall do exactly the same. We've set the target and we will meet and beat that target. The track record of this government is that we underpromise and overperform—that we overdeliver—and I think we will do the same with this.

We've had outstanding results on emissions reduction. We've heard a lot in this chamber, from this side of the House at least, about our more than 20 per cent reduction since 2005. But, in fact, it's a much better result than that; we've had a more than 38 per cent reduction in our domestic emissions. But, at the end of the day, we have very little control over what other countries do with their emissions, and regardless of where they source their energy requirements from—for instance, whether they buy the coal from us or anyone else—the net result for the world will be the same. If I have time at the end of my five minutes I will get back to that.

On the matter of legislating a target: what does 'legislating a target' even mean? If we legislate that we will be at zero by 2050, what does that actually mean? It doesn't mean anything unless the government does something to facilitate that. That is the legislation that counts: what is done to bring about that outcome? Well, we might as well legislate for world peace, or we could legislate for an end to cancer. But, if you don't do anything about it, you're not likely to get to that point. We could legislate, for instance, that no child should live in poverty. But, if you don't do anything about it, you'll never get to that point. If you want to achieve world peace and you say you are going to legislate it, you could legislate to get rid of your defence budget. I don't think that would work. In fact, I'm absolutely confident that it wouldn't work. You could legislate to double it, but I don't think that would work either. If you wanted to get rid of child poverty you could legislate to give every kid $1 million. But I am pretty confident that that wouldn't fix the problem either. The point is that having a legislated target means absolutely nothing; it's about the tools, the incentives and the rules you put in about it.

That makes you wonder what it is that Labor actually want to legislate. Do they want to legislate the end of the coal industry? Do they want to legislate that people can't use fossil fuel driven cars anymore? Do they want to get rid of diesel? That's the legislation that really counts. As the Deputy Prime Minister has pointed out, nearly all our laws actually stop people from doing things. The world in a vacuum has no laws except the laws of nature. In a civilised democracy like Australia we have developed laws that say thou shalt not kill and you shall not drive on the right-hand side of the road. We don't pass a law saying that you should drive on the left-hand side of the road; we pass a law saying that it's illegal to drive on the other side of the road. It's the same with climate change or emissions targets. All you can do is legislate to stop people doing things, and that is the sting in the tail of where the opposition comes from. What are those taxes? What are those things that they are going to stop everyday Australians from doing?

I spoke about coal. I don't have much time, except to say that we are a minor producer of coal in the world. China produces eight times what we produce and India produces three times what we produce. We are well down the pecking order. (Time expired)

3:43 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] My constituents in Gilmore want action on this climate crisis. Those that sit opposite are divided and all over the place when it comes to addressing climate change, and we are seeing that again with another climate denier now back in cabinet. It is the ultimate irony that the member for Hinkler is now the resources minister when he does not support net zero emissions. He does not support the resources jobs, the jobs right throughout regional Australia, that are provided by the resources industry. That was the deal that had to be struck to even get to the bare minimum of net zero by 2050. Furthermore, they traded off $250 billion for fossil fuel projects that the banks won't even touch. And what of the coalition's flirtation with nuclear energy?

I remind the House that I was part of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy nuclear energy inquiry in 2019. I speak as strongly now as I did then in my opposition to any shift towards nuclear power. But as recently as 2018 the Nationals even went so far as to pass a motion at the federal council calling on the federal and state governments to abolish regulation as necessary to allow the development of nuclear energy. The new resources minister is their biggest nuclear advocate. The Gilmore electorate will never accept a nuclear power plant being built in Jervis Bay, not now, not ever. The risks are simply too great—risks to our beautiful coastline and to our health, risks to the reputation of our primary producers and to our hospitality and tourism industries that thrive on our environment. We know that accidents happen. We have seen that.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet and the biggest economic opportunity in front of Australia, but it requires leadership and detailed framework. But all we received yesterday were some slides and more slogans and no solutions, no plan on how to encourage greater private investment in renewables, nothing. Only an Albanese Labor government will provide certainty and the detailed policy required. This government has been there for almost nine years, and quite literally two days before the Prime Minister jets off to Glasgow for the most important international conference on climate change this century he offers no new initiatives. That's right. In their own words, this plan is based on our existing policies.

Knowing this government is all about spin, legislation is paramount in providing the people of Australia with a commitment, the same certainty in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. All have informally legislated net zero emissions by 2050. So the Australian people have a choice: the Morrison government which doesn't really believe in net zero by 2050, with no plan to get there, or a Labor government which believes passionately that the world's climate emergency is Australia's jobs opportunity.

People in my electorate do want to see more renewables and more jobs in renewables. We should be the renewable superpower that will benefit the regions. Cheaper, cleaner power. Locally in Gilmore we have great community groups, like Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action; businesses; and organisations that are just waiting to have the policies in place under a Labor government to support more renewables and more jobs in renewables. I know we can turn good climate policy into good jobs policy and reduce emissions and create long-term secure work for people in the process. I know that action on climate change is good for jobs, good for lowering energy prices and good for lowering emissions. Cheaper, cleaner power. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Action on climate change doesn't cost jobs; it creates them. This Morrison government is frightened of the present and terrified of the future. Australia needs a government that has ambition to seize those opportunities, and that is an Albanese Labor government.

3:48 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm proud to stand to speak on the fact that this is a very momentous week in Australia's history, and that is because Australia is aiming to meet net zero emissions by 2050, and we're going to do that the Australian way. We are going to act in a practical, responsible way to reduce emissions while preserving Australian jobs and taking advantage of the new opportunities that this green future is going to offer to Australia and to the world. And we're going to do that because we know the practicalities of it. This is about practical plans, not wishful thinking. This is about getting the job done, not hoping you can get the job done. This is about a plan that brings the Australian people with us. It's a plan that incorporates both the environmental concerns of bringing down emissions and the economic concerns where we need cheap, affordable, reliable and secure energy.

Australia has benefited for over a century on cheap energy supply, but it's now time for us to develop a new, green, cheap energy supply not just for us but for the world. And, if you look at the work that this government has done in the last 2½ years since I've been elected, there's been an enormous amount of work on a plan.

In fact, I was asked on the ABC in October 2019 what my view of a target was. At that time I said that I'm not interested in a target until I know what the plan is. There is no point in talking about a target without a plan, but that is what we are seeing from the other side. There is a conversation about a target, about what that target may or may not be, but there's nothing about the plan. A target without a plan is completely useless. Every mother knows that. Every father knows that. Every business knows that. Every institution knows that. Every industry knows that. We need a plan that's reliable and affordable and the elements of which we know.

Our plan is based on five key principles. It's about technology. The scientists and engineers of the world are working day and night to solve the problems of energy for the world. We know there is no silver bullet. We know that we're going to have a diversified energy portfolio. We can see that in our five stretch targets, which have now become six stretch targets. The sort of debate I would like to see here on the floor is a debate about the diversified technology portfolio that we are developing. We're developing it knowing that we need to have affordable hydrogen. We know that hydrogen could be the firming power of our future. At the moment, it's going to be gas in our transition to a renewable future. We know that the sun and wind are great for Australia. We know that when the sun shines and the wind blows we've got plentiful energy, but we do need to have a firming capacity. That means that, when there is a wind drought, as there has been in the UK recently, or when it's overnight and the sun has gone down, we need to have more battery storage than for just an hour or so, which batteries can only provide currently, or we need to have some firming power, which might be gas for peaking gas stations, or hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, it will be supplied by hydrogen. If we can get green hydrogen to under $2 a kilogram, it will be incredibly commercialisable and scalable. That's what Professor Alan Finkel, the former Chief Scientist has been helping us to back in with an investment of more than $1.2 billion in clean hydrogen. I was visiting this morning the clean hydrogen hubs that we're seeing already sprouting here in the ACT. We have views on ultra low-cost solar; on energy storage; on low-emission steel and aluminium and even green cement; on carbon capture and storage; and, of course, on soil carbon measurement.

That is in stark contrast to those sitting on the benches opposite, because all they can talk about is targets and legislation. All they can talk about is the mechanisms of politics, not the realities of the plan. The Australian people need an authentic conversation, which means that we understand that you are the people—not you, Deputy Speaker O'Brien, but those who are listening—who are going to have to work to make sure that your clean energy future is going to help us get to where we need to get to.

The plan on the other side hasn't been talked about at all. Will they legislate taxes? Will their plan impact on manufacturing because energy prices have gone up? Is their approach going to be at any cost—a blank cheque? What I'm afraid of from those on the other side is that they are back-seat drivers in this energy debate. They are sour about the fact that they are not in the driver's seat. The Morrison government is in the driver's seat. They are in the back seat and are moaning about the direction, but in their heart of hearts the Labor Party and those on the opposite side know that we are going in the right direction. We know that Australia's future is certain with the Morrison government.

3:54 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] The rhetoric from government members has changed markedly over the past eight years, and that contribution from the member for Higgins just goes to show that if we had been having this sort of debate for the past eight years then Australia would be in a very different place from where it is now. The fact is that for the past eight years the Morrison government and the Abbott government before that have demonised and weaponised climate change and climate change action. We're getting a very different story from some government members now.

Labor understands that the world's climate emergency is Australia's job opportunity. We have always understood that. Labor understands that people in Australia's regions stand to benefit the most from stronger climate change action. Labor understands, and we have always understood, that technology is key to achieving net zero. It's why at the last election we offered incentives for the take-up of electric vehicles, incentives that were ridiculed by those opposite but, it appears, are now being copied by them. Labor has always been on the side of technology and making sure that we take stronger action towards net zero.

The Liberals have demonstrated again and again that they simply cannot be trusted. Whether it's cuts to pensions or Medicare, robodebt or their failure to address climate change, the Liberals have shown they have not earned and do not deserve Australia's trust. The member for Batman described the performance and behaviour of those opposite as 'a circus'. The Leader of the Opposition has described the Deputy Prime Minister as 'a human whoopee cushion'. Another analogy would be that those opposite are engaged in a cheap magic show, because all we have seen from the government this week is illusions, sleight of hand, distraction and fast talking. They have pulled out the full bag of tricks. But when you cut through the fluff you are left dazed and the only thing in your hand is a pamphlet. I remember Tony Abbott waving around a pamphlet; I think it was called 'Real Solutions'. It was launched with fanfare and photos, and it disappeared faster than he did!

All we have from the Prime Minister is this so-called plan with no new ideas, no new policies and no real commitment to achieving net zero by 2050—just so many words and slogans about aspirations, hopes, processes and maybes. 'The plan, the plan!' cries Prime Minister Tattoo, stranded on his very own Fantasy Island. After eight years of ridiculing climate change action, of trying to defund climate action bodies, of rejecting science and of abandoning regional energy jobs, the Prime Minister expects us to simply believe him. But he won't release the modelling. He does not trust Australians to see the assumptions on which he has built his so-called plan. 'Trust me!' As if!

Australians do not trust this Prime Minister on net zero by 2050 because his own government members don't trust him on net zero. Here is what senior members of the government have said, in their own words. The Deputy Prime Minister: 'Climate change is a scam. Clean energy is a scam.' Senator Rennick: 'Net zero is a fantasy target.' The Deputy Prime Minister again: 'Net zero by 2050 is ridiculous.' Senator Cash: 'Net zero by 2050 is a job-destroying policy.' The Deputy Prime Minister yet again: 'Net zero is an infliction on our rights.' The member for Dawson: 'The science on climate change is not settled.' And the member for Mallee, just the other day: 'Wind farms don't work at night.'

Let's not forget that the 'climate change is a scam' member for New England will be the Acting Prime Minister next week while the PM negotiates climate change action in Glasgow. The Acting Prime Minister will be joined at the cabinet table by the member for Hinkler, the anti-renewables minister promoted to cabinet in the same week the Prime Minister seeks to convince world leaders that Australia will do its fair share in meeting the global climate action challenge. You would laugh if it wasn't so serious, and it is serious.

Longer, harder droughts, floods and fire that are more severe and happen more often, acidification of our oceans—we have had eight wasted years that we can never get back. I want to rebuild our regions, and renewable energy is key to that aspiration. Tasmania is a leader in Australia when it comes to renewable energy and net zero, and it will continue to be a leader. I look forward to being part of it.

3:58 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's always great to stand up and talk about the achievements that the coalition government has achieved when it comes to emissions reduction. It's incredible how, in such a highly informed place such as the Australian Parliament House, everybody from the Labor Party, somehow, would rather forget to mention the fact that Australia is leading the way when it comes to rooftop solar. We are leading countries like Germany and Japan. We are leading every country in the world, and not just by a small way; we are leading the world by the length of the straight. With the uptake of rooftop solar sitting somewhere around one in every four to one in every three houses, we have a great opportunity to build on that start.

People from the Labor Party and the Greens want to say, 'How can you trust the coalition to go forward without legislation?' Well, the greatest indicator of future behaviour is always past behaviour. We're standing there in front of the Australian people saying, 'We signed up to previous agreements in Kyoto, Kyoto 1 and Kyoto 2, and we beat those targets easily.'

Up until about two years ago, the term 'net zero by 2050' wasn't actually a thing. The criticism from the climate warriors of the world was all about, 'Australia, you're not going to meet your commitments from Paris,' the agreement that we signed in 2015. Effectively, that was talking about base figures from 2005 and how we were going to go against that base year by the time we got to 2030. We were criticised continually by those opposite, saying, 'You're not going to get there, and the only way you're going to get there is with some sneaky form of accounting.' Well, all that stuff was wrong. They were wrong then and they're wrong now.

The opportunity is for the Australian government to look the Australian people in the eye and say, 'We're going to go to Glasgow and we're going to make this commitment but, at the moment, the technology doesn't quite exist for us to get there.' That's just being honest with the Australian people. If you're honest with the Australian people, you have to say to them that the technology we need to get us there doesn't quite exist at the moment. It's not far away. At the moment we're sending some exports of hydrogen to Asia, but it's made from coal. We're also in the process of sending some hydrogen off to Asia again, but it's made from gas.

If we listened to our friends in the Labor Party, they'd say that neither of those technologies are good enough. They want us to be able to send hydrogen overseas and use hydrogen here, provided it's made from solar. But at the moment the cost of doing that is about four times the commercial rate that we need. So if anybody over there wants to go to the Australian people and say, 'Oh, we're happy to go into hydrogen but it's going to cost you four times the cost for energy that you pay currently,' do they want to have that conversation with the Australian people? No, they won't, because they're not honest enough to have that conversation.

We just need to be straight. We're putting in our plan that there are billions of dollars which will go into battery technology. We're going to invest heavily—we already are and we're going to invest more. We're going to invest serious dollars—again, into the billions—in hydrogen technology and battery storage. And we're going to continue with the plan which we started four years ago for pumped hydro and Snowy 2.0. That's going to be a significant base energy source for us.

And we're not going to be lectured to by these countries in Europe either. The 20 leading countries in Europe are effectively all leaning on nuclear to prop up their base energy mix. That's fine for them—they're lucky enough to be able to do that. But, again, the people who we're arguing with here in our energy mix don't want to hear about us joining the opportunity to have nuclear in our energy mix. They don't want that and they're not going to allow that—at the moment; I'm hoping that the decision and the conversation within Australia surrounding nuclear as a base energy mix may change in the coming years.

I think that people who want to stand in this place and talk about the Australian government's contribution to net zero 2050 need to have a touch of honesty about it. They need to acknowledge the achievements that we have done so far. We have been able to achieve all of these previous agreements without legislation and I don't understand, quite rightly, how, all of a sudden, our ability to meet net zero 2050 and our ability to continue to meet our Paris agreement have become contingent upon legislation. It just doesn't make any sense.

4:03 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister and his climate-denying dinosaurs in the coalition are trying to take my constituents for fools. They're waving around a marketing pamphlet that does little more than sweep dust off a few old policies and kick actual climate action as a can down the road. Northsiders are sick to death of being lectured to by this Prime Minister about how grateful they should be that he's in charge and how good he is in power, even as he delegates that power to the Deputy Prime Minister, the member for New England. There's not a morsel of responsibility that he will not shirk.

But that daggy dad from the Shire has really missed the mood on this one. He has misread the mood in my suburbs, that's for sure. At every mobile office I hold, people come to me and ask me to raise this issue in this place and to demand action in this place. That's because every suburb and every town in Australia is affected by climate change—every one. Australians in the regions are not the only people concerned about the effects of climate change, just as Australians in the suburbs and the cities are not the only people concerned about the cost of inaction.

My constituents want to protect the Bowen Basin and Moranbah just as much as we want to protect the Brighton foreshore or the Boondall wetlands, and they know that good climate policy is also good jobs policy, that climate action will not cost jobs; climate action will create jobs. The cost of refusing to act, to protect our environment from the harshening climate, is a cost that no Australian should be forced to bear because of the pig-headedness of this lot loitering on the government benches after nine years.

We know that climate change is no longer a theoretical threat. Our nation has been devastated by droughts, by fires, by floods and by crop failures in recent years. We also know that acting on climate change isn't just a moral imperative to protect our environment for future generations, it is an economic one. Because of Lilley's coastal location and because of Cabbage Tree Creek and because of Kedron Brook and because of our longitude and latitude on the globe, we are particularly vulnerable to some of the more destructive consequences of climate change. Approximately one-third of Lilley is vulnerable to sea-level rise and two-fifths of our electorate would be vulnerable to flooding events due to projected increases in the rainfall intensity. Cyclone paths are moving in a southerly direction, dramatically increasing the likelihood of cyclones in South-East Queensland. We had a tornado at the Brisbane Airport last week. The number of days above 35 degrees in Lilley is predicted to rise above 25 annually by 2070.

Putting all of these climate projections together, the cost of home insurance is expected to skyrocket, putting immense pressure on household budgets. Further, almost 5,000 homes in Lilley are expected to become uninsurable by 2050. So as the cost of living continues to rise for most northsiders, acting to mitigate climate change and investing in renewable energy opportunities is one way we can ease the burden on household budgets, by cutting electricity costs and by keeping home insurance rates in check.

If the Morrison government are fair dinkum about achieving net zero by 2050—the people who came and legislated pins in strawberries, may I remind you—they will come into the House right now and table their modelling. They will come in and legislate for net zero by 2050. Without legislation, stronger medium-term targets and science backed modelling the Morrison government's plan for net zero is not worth the glossy pamphlet paper it has been freshly printed on.

The Morrison government are only okay setting up a 2050 target because none of us in this place will be here in 2050 to be held responsible. By 2050 the Prime Minister will be retired in Hawaii, and the Deputy Prime Minister will be back standing in a paddock yelling at a cloud about the government interfering with his pension. It will be the next generation, our children and grandchildren, who will be cleaning up the mess left by this Morrison government.

To finish off, let's play a few rounds of my favourite game: 'The Betoota Advocate headline or real Morrison government policy', the climate change edition. First off: 'Windfarms and solar panels do not work at night.' Was that Morrison government or Betoota?

An opposition member: Morrison!

It was the Morrison government proclamation. That was from the newly reappointed cabinet Minister for Resources and Water this week. Next one: 'Government that spent nine years gutting CSIRO funding now relying on yet-to-be-invented technology to deliver net zero'. That was Betoota. 'Net zero by 2050 is job-destroying policy.' Another government lie. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks to the member for Lilley for the light comic relief at the end. I find this kind of a puzzling motion, because when you make an international commitment—and I've been involved in a few in my lifetime—you do that by making a commitment with the treaty organisation that holds the treaty. When we made our Paris Agreement target we deposited what's called a nationally determined contribution, which is a treaty-level instrument with the repository of the treaty—the treaty being the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; the repository being the UN Secretariat in New York. That's how you make an international commitment.

When we signed the Kyoto protocol we didn't legislate the Kyoto protocol in Australia, we made an international commitment. We made the Paris Agreement—we made that commitment internationally rather than domestically. When we formalise our commitment to net zero by 2050 we'll do it in exactly the same way, by making a formal communication to the treaty body repository.

I think what this matter of public importance debate confuses somewhat is what the purpose of legislation is. Legislation is not an end in itself; it's a means to an end, the end being the policy goal and legislation providing the means. Legislation does not of itself fulfil a policy goal. If that were the case, we could simply pass a bill to end child poverty. We could simply pass a bill to effect reconciliation with Australia's First Nations people. We could simply pass a bill to end homelessness. We could simply pass a bill to abolish inflation. If it is that easy, if we just have to pass a bill and do it, let's do it right now. But it's not that easy, because legislation is about providing the means to reach a policy goal.

This is no difference. The legislation we were discussing and debating earlier today, the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021, helps us get down the road towards net zero by 2050. Our appropriations bills, which we pass, discuss and debate in parliament, help us get down the road to 2050, as do new regulations that allow ARENA to fund things like green hydrogen, low-emission steel and aluminium, carbon soil and carbon capture and storage. Those are the mechanisms by which you use legislation to meet our policy goal of net zero by 2050.

I also found this quite puzzling because, having realised this debate was coming on, I went and had a look at the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy's report on the climate change bills. That was a bipartisan committee: there were Labor members as well as coalition members on the committee. The majority report of that committee—which means that Labor and coalition members signed up to this—said:

The Committee recommends that the Bills not be passed.

That means that Labor members of the committee recommended that a net-zero 2050 target not be legislated. In fact, in the additional comments provided by the Labor members of this committee—including the member for Macnamara, who's sitting over there—they said:

Labor members support the need for the Australian Government to adopt a commitment of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 …

That was the Labor recommendation in that report—that they 'support the need for the Australian government to adopt a commitment of achieving net zero emissions by 2050'. Well, guess what we've just done. Guess what happened earlier this week. Guess what the Prime Minister announced in a press conference just yesterday. The Australian government is adopting a net-zero emissions target by 2050. I would have thought the member for Macnamara would be up applauding along with his colleague the member for Fremantle. Both of them were co-authors of those additional comments in that report.

How we're going to get to net zero is by continuing to do what we've already done: investing in new technology, providing consumers with choice, and enabling new capital to enter the marketplace to scale up these technologies and make them commercially available. It will come about because we will have helped make the measurement of soil carbon come in commercially at less than $3 per hectare. It will come about because we will be able to produce green hydrogen at less than $2 a kilo. It will come about because we will be able to manufacture large-scale solar that will produce power at less than $15 per megawatt hour. It will come about because we will be able to produce green steel at less than $700 a tonne and green aluminium at less than $2,200 a tonne. This is how we're going to get to net zero—not by passing a bill in the parliament and not by having meaningless debates about that bill in the parliament but by passing enabling legislation like the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill and the ARENA regulations, which will allow us to invest in clean technology, and then allowing the magic forces of new technology, new investment, consumers and investors to do their work.

If only it were as easy as just passing a bill to fix all the social ills of the world! If that were the case, we would have all the answers from those opposite. But it's not that easy. When you make a commitment like this, you have to be serious about how you're going to deliver it. This, unfortunately, is just a stunt.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion has concluded.