House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Climate Change Bill 2022; Consideration of Senate Message

4:02 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

Our parliament and our country have seen too many bad days on climate change. Today is a good day for our parliament and country, and we're going to need many more of them. Today is one step, but it's a big step. It will give this country a sensible climate change policy, and will give this country a climate change policy which sends the message to the world that we are open for business for renewable energy, for transmission and for storage.

This is a good day for our climate. It's a good day for future generations. It's a good day for workers in Australia's regions, because that message that we send to the rest of the world—that we are open for business—is a message that investment should come to the regions which have powered Australia for so long and will power Australia under clean, renewable energy. They are regions that will create so much energy that it can be exported to the rest of the world, and we can be a renewable energy powerhouse. That's what this message from the Senate does. That's what this bill does—this bill that will become an act as a result of this House's actions and the actions of the other House.

We have left it too late as a country. We are starting today to achieve an emissions reduction goal for 2030, which is 87 months away. That is not long. Therefore, we have not a second to waste. That's why I say this parliament and this country need to see many more good days for climate as we ensure we're reducing emissions in electricity generation, in transport, in industry and in agriculture. That's the process we begin today. But the first step is to send the framework, the message and the signal to the world that we're ready, and that's what we're doing.

I thank the House. I thank the members of the government for their steadfast support, not just today and not through just this bill, but from 2 December last year, when the now Prime Minister and I released the Powering Australia policy. It was a controversial thing to do. More than one political party has lost an election on such issues. I thank the members of the government for their steadfast faith and support through all those months.

I thank the crossbench for their support, working in good faith with the government, improving the bill and making suggestions that the government was more than happy to accept in this House and in the other house. That's how a good parliament works. That's how a government of grown-ups work. That's what a sensible process does. So I thank those members of good faith in both houses who voted to make this bill a law.

I want to thank the key officials in the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water: Deputy Secretary Jo Evans, Kath Rowley and the entire team—finer public servants you would not meet. I want to thank them for their very important contribution to this bill. I want to thank Andrew Garrett and Peter Nicholas, from my office, for all their work in making this bill a reality.

Again, I thank the House. This is an important day. It is one step but it is a very important step. In the world of climate change action, Australia is back! In the world of sensible climate change policy, Australia is back! In the world of investment in the clean energy of the future, Australia is back! The message goes out from this House today to the world: 10 years of denial is over; 10 years of delay is over; 10 years of dysfunction is over; 10 years of division is over—and today the real work begins.

4:06 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Today is the day that the Labor Party's climate change policy comes to fruition and into legislation. They took this policy to the Australian people, a policy that included not one but two key targets. The first target was a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. The second target was a reduction in household power bills of $275. It was based on this climate policy that the new government came to power, looking the Australian people in the eye and promising them that they would not only reduce emissions more than the former coalition government but also reduce power prices more than the coalition government—the coalition government, by the way, that achieved an extraordinary performance on both counts; a coalition government that saw emissions reduce by over 20 per cent on 2005 levels and a coalition that ensured that power prices came down by 10 per cent over the last term of government, with power prices coming down for both households and businesses. But the Labor Party went to the Australian people and they said to them, 'We can do better.' Not only did they promise to get emissions down further; they also promised that prices would come down further.

But, as we are here today, with the Labor Party celebrating the Greens-Labor legislation, the Albanese-Bandt government's legislation, we have households throughout this country who are opening up their power bills, and what do they see? Higher prices—prices that are going through the roof. There are probably business owners, people who have invested their own money into their businesses, listening to this very debate and hearing the celebrations of the Labor Party, despite having told them that they will reduce their power prices, but their power prices are going up. We are talking to businesses today that might have to close their doors because of the power prices. And this Labor government have no solutions—none whatsoever. The only thing they bring into the House by way of this legislation today is the claim of 43 per cent—something they had already advised the United Nations on. We had the minister himself standing up—he had gone public before showing this bill to the House—and saying that the bill was not necessary, and yet in it comes.

We saw over the last month, through the Senate inquiry, the very concerns that we had raised in this House being confirmed. The department, under the minister, had done no work on modelling the impact of this bill, especially on rural and regional communities. For any regional and rural community, any resident of regional or rural Australia, this government, this minister and his department have not done their homework.

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Let them scream about the last nine years. Well, they had nine years to get this right—nine years to do some modelling. They had nine years, therefore, for the department to have something.

They claim they've done modelling. Guess what modelling they have done? It's modelling that says power prices will come down by $275. Why is it that over the last couple of months neither the Prime Minister nor the minister have been able to stand at this dispatch box and confirm that $275 is coming off household bills? Why? Because they did not look the Australian people in the eye and tell them the truth of what their plan was. So, as power bills go up, it is on them. As businesses close, it is on them. We know the truth. This 43 per cent legislation was unnecessary. They're the words of the minister, and he will live by that. (Time expired)

4:11 pm

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

I rise simply to say that I welcome the message from the Senate and I welcome this bill returning amended and strengthened some more by the amendments moved by crossbenchers in the Senate. This is an important step, and it's very important for the Australian people not to be caught up in the political games and the rhetoric that exists in this place.

The reason why we have an energy crisis and rising energy costs is that for too long we have denied what needs to happen. We have failed—the coalition failed for too long—to implement policies to ensure that we are at the forefront of the energy transition. Let's be really clear: the cost-of-living pressures are directly impacted by global warming and climate change. Insurance premiums are escalating and rising rapidly. We need to address that. That has a direct impact on households and their cost of living. Food supplies are all directly impacted by climate change and global warming events. The only way we will have domestic fuel security is if we electrify transport as rapidly as possible, and that requires electrification and transitioning to renewable energy as fast as possible.

I welcome the message from the Senate and the bill as amended. I want to thank the Australian communities that have asked both sides of politics since 2019 to legislate Australia's commitment to net zero by 2050. They got behind the climate bill that I presented in the last parliament, and they support this bill, because we need that certainty of legislating net zero by 2050.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy is well aware of my position—that I want to see greater ambition—but I recognise that this is a start. It is a good start, but we need to make sure we increase that ambition and accelerate that emissions reduction as soon as possible. We are on track to exceed two degrees of warming. This reduction is not enough. If we're going to be consistent with the Paris Agreement, we need to ensure we reduce emissions at a greater rate. We have the technology. The Australian people want to see it happen. You need to be brave and embrace the opportunity. That does mean not approving more fossil fuel projects, and that is something that I look forward to having more discussions about, but, for today, this is an important day. Let's be really clear: this does provide policy certainty for businesses and for investment—to know that Australia is committed to reducing emissions, being in step with the rest of the world and embracing a net zero world.

4:14 pm

Kate Chaney (Curtin, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

As we see the increase in floods and fires across the country, I think the majority of Australia will be really pleased to see this symbolic start to a new era. This gives us an opportunity to shift our focus from the past to the future. Australia really has an opportunity to have a bright future as a green energy exporter. Just as we have had waves of economic activity in the past that have been driven by foresight from previous governments and investments in infrastructure, this too represents a new era, where we have the opportunity to be thinking about what our economy will look like in 20 years time.

I am grateful for the collaborative approach that has been taken by the government in this first symbolic step towards the shift that we need to see in our broad economy. The Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022 lists a number of the places where we need to start, which is the beginning of the work that we need to do together. This transition will need to be smooth but will also need to be bold. I'm very excited to see this change and look forward to continuing the work that needs to be done.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the amendments be agreed to.