Thursday, 9 March 2023
Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading
Louise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I rise today to speak to the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022. As I have said many times in this place, there are few issues that were raised with me more often on the campaign trail than climate change—not just climate change itself but, more specifically, the previous government's failure to take the issue seriously and their actual standing in the way of climate action. My community were so frustrated at the denialism, the head-in-the-sand approach they saw from the previous government, as they watched one-in-100-year floods happening month after month in the eastern states and powerful storms wreaking havoc in areas that had never seen them before. They were frustrated at the previous government's failure to talk about the issue with any sense of reality, their failures to deliver on just one of the 22 failed energy policies, their failure to reckon with arguably the greatest challenge of our times. It was a complete policy vacuum. Even my South Australian colleague, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, burst out of the blocks the morning after the election to concede that the former government should have taken more serious action on climate.
This brings me to the current position of those opposite. After the election, we heard noises from the opposition that they got it, that climate was a key issue and played a huge role in the loss of so many of their heartland seats. And yet here we are: a Liberal National coalition in this place is actively opposing and criticising sensible, achievable climate policy that is backed by business, is backed by industry and is in fact an enhancement of their own policy.
This bill is part of a broader climate change policy that this government is committed to implementing. As I remarked during the debate of the Climate Change Act 2022, which enshrined our commitment to reach 43 per cent reduction in net emissions by 2030, we need to take action in a way that brings the community and business and industry with us. That bill, which was passed by this parliament on 8 September, lays the critical groundwork needed to deliver our promise on real climate change action. Make no mistake: that target is an ambitious target. It is going to be difficult to get there. We should have started a decade ago. So we need practical measures that will move us towards 43 per cent by 2030 and then towards net zero.
An enhanced safeguard mechanism, something this bill will allow, is essential to supporting Australia's transition towards net zero. It will help steer Australia's largest industrial facilities smoothly on the path towards reducing their emissions gradually, predictably and in line with our national targets. This bill supports a crucial element of the safeguard mechanism: crediting. Issuing businesses that have ready-to-go, low-cost abatement opportunities with tradeable safeguard mechanism credits incentivises climate action and is a way of tangibly rewarding those who are future-ready and able to reduce their emissions faster than required.
Australian businesses and their investors know the world is changing. Anyone in this place who is serious about engaging with their community knows that business knows this too. Those opposite might try to play them for fools, selling them a fantasy in which nothing is changing and no action needs to be taken, but Australian business and industry aren't buying it. They can see what's happening all around us. They know that following through with credible targets is necessary not just to remain competitive but to innovate and thrive in a dynamic market. That's why the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has backed our net-zero target and said that, in order to achieve it, changes to the design of the safeguard mechanism are essential. It's why BP—not exactly a climate hero; sorry BP—supports reforms to the safeguard mechanism to provide incentives for large emitters to reduce their emissions. And it's why the Clean Energy Council and Energy Efficiency Council both support reforms to the safeguard mechanism to drive innovation in new technologies like green hydrogen. Many businesses operating facilities covered by the safeguard mechanism have already made long-term climate commitments that surpass Australia's targets. These reforms will provide a strong investment signal to them as well as an effective, equitable, efficient and simple scheme to bolster their action.
We simply can't afford another wasted decade. This is always how real action on climate change was going to be achieved in the first place: by finding a sensible middle ground, by finding something workable, which maybe everyone doesn't love—that is perhaps too much to ask in a democracy—but something that people can live with and work with, something that will reduce the emissions and that will give industry certainty.
Above and beyond everything else, the people of Boothby last year voted for action on climate change. It was for real action on climate change, which meant that groups who for too long have been pitted against each other—industry and environmental advocates, people in cities versus people in regions—could find a reasonable, sensible solution that brings us all on the journey to net zero in a way that protects Australian jobs and Australian competitiveness. I say to those opposite, both to our left and to our right: are you really going to once again vote against real climate action?
To those on our political Right, I'm quite stunned that—after the election of 2022, after the fires, the floods, the cyclones, the droughts with increasing frequency and intensity, the dire warnings, the scientific consensus, and industry, business and agriculture calling for climate action—those opposite simply refuse to engage on this issue. It's the defining challenge of our time, and the Leader of the Opposition and those opposite simply have nothing to add, nothing to contribute. They will even oppose this policy—a policy based on one that they implemented, albeit in a toothless form, in government.
I cannot tell you how many people have approached me and continue to approach me across Boothby. People are telling me that, until last year, they had only ever voted Liberal, and, until last year, Boothby had not been held by the Labor Party for 73 years. I've had people of all ages and from all walks of life tell me that, while they had only ever voted for the Liberals in the past, they just couldn't this time. They couldn't live with themselves because of the obstinate, irrational, antiscience, climate change denial position of those opposite, and those opposite still haven't got the message.
There are plenty of reasons why the last election results were the way they were, and many with more political experience than me have analysed the results. From my observations, it was due to a decade of neglect and denial on a whole range of issues, from a failure to ease the pressure of the cost of living, to a lack of integrity from the top down and their appalling failures in the treatment of women. But the lack of action—indeed, a failure to even take the threat of climate change seriously—was to my mind the driving reason they lost so many seats. What are they doing differently? Nothing.
Katharine Murphy from the Guardian has described the Leader of the Opposition as a 'microwaved Tony Abbott'. Of course, I would never say such a thing, but she is referencing what is becoming increasingly obvious to all: the opposition's standard response to everything is just to oppose everything, irrespective of whether it's good for the country.
To those on our political Left, I too want more ambitious climate action, and I'll push for it wherever I can, but I did not come here to stand in the way of the possible or to stand in the way of the first steps. It may not be perfect—almost nothing that comes through this place is—but that is the nature of democracy, and it's not something to be ashamed of. This action will drive down emissions, and that's important. It will be the proof of concept that we can drive down emissions and support business, industry and agriculture—indeed, even create more opportunities for them. It will mean Australia can hold its head high on the world stage, and it's a huge step in securing our environment for future generations.
It's well past time to take real action on climate change, and I'd like to finish by reading a few of the submissions to the consultation. The Investor Group on Climate Change said:
A reformed safeguard is essential to Australia's competitive advantage.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
With the new climate change legislation committing Australia to reduce national emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, changes to the design of the Safeguard Mechanism are essential.
The Grattan Institute: 'The federal government has a mandate for reform and it should seize it.' Toll: 'We believe building on the safeguard mechanism will promote policy certainty and stability while delivering on the government's climate targets in a way that minimises costs and shares the effort across the economy.' The Australian Aluminium Council:
The focus of policy design for safeguard mechanism should be on establishing a framework to maintain industry, jobs and competitiveness while also decarbonising, through the period to 2030 and beyond to achieve net zero by 2050. The success of this policy will not be measured in 2030 alone, but in the transformation of Australia's industry in the biggest clean industrial and economic revolution this country has seen.
…reaffirms its support for reforms to the safeguard mechanism to provide incentives for large emitters to reduce their emissions in support of Australia's emission reduction targets. We support the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and believe ambitious climate policies, like the safeguard mechanism reforms, will be essential to enable the world and Australia to meet these goals. We look forward to working with the government as the reforms are finalized.
The Clean Energy Council:
A strong emissions reduction policy for the industrial sector can also be a catalyst to the development of new net-zero industries, such as green hydrogen, green ammonia and green metals.
The Energy Efficiency Council: 'We strongly support the government's proposal to enhance the safeguard mechanism by declining facility baselines. Overall, the EEC believes the reforms to the safeguard mechanism should make a substantial contribution to Australia's emissions targets and jump start the transition to achieving a net zero economy no later than 2050.' Rio Tinto:
… supports the use of a reformed Safeguard Mechanism as part of a suite of policy measures to incentivise genuine industrial abatement.
Origin Energy is, 'supportive of developing a policy framework that is consistent with ensuring safeguard facilities deliver a proportionate share of national emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, having regard to the relevant contributions of all sectors of the economy'. Woodside:
A fair, robust and transparent Safeguard Mechanism…can support a reduction in Australian emissions, as well as encourage businesses and industries to further innovate and adopt smarter practices and technologies in line with our collective emissions reduction targets.
APPEA: 'While the safeguard mechanism is not an economy-wide approach, appropriately designed it can form part of an economy-wide package of measures that encourage low-cost abatement whilst supporting economic growth.' AGL:
We strongly support the strengthening of the Safeguard Mechanism to meaningfully contribute to these climate targets and to meet Australia's overall emissions reduction task.
Carbon Market Institute:
At its core, the enhanced Mechanism should be designed to drive industrial decarbonisation in order to strengthen Australia's competitiveness in a carbon-constrained global economy.
This is a bill that has the support of business, of industry and of the community. It is the first step on our way forward to 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero. It not only offers us the opportunity to decarbonise it offers us the opportunity to transform our industry. I commend the bill to the House.