Monday, 22 June 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Customs) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-Excise) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges-General) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009
This is going to be one of the largest debates this chamber has ever had. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation involves some of the most fundamental changes not only to the economic policy of our nation but also to the tax policy of our nation in many instances and many areas. There will be a huge change to the social policy of our nation. The legislation will have an immense effect on those that it touches and it has to be taken with the utmost seriousness, because we have to realise what it is that we are about to deliver and impose on so many people, especially the weak, in our economy.
What is wrong with this legislation is that, despite the desires held by so many and so fervently by so many, when the reality hits the ground it will be the weak and the exposed who will wear the cost. There is something fundamentally immoral and wrong about formulating a policy in this chamber which, when it is passed, is going to cause such wide ramifications to mining workers, steelworkers, aluminium workers, farmers and people in the tourism industry. All those people who bring in the export dollars for our nation are going to be affected by this. I know that so many of my colleagues will give so many speeches and that there is a wealth of information that has to come on board on this, but the outcome of this legislation completely impinges on your belief of the rights of the individual. I will explain how.
The individual should be allowed to progress through life and reach their highest level of self-fulfilment. So many times in this chamber and so many times in our nation we impinge on that, using a bulwark of a moral position or a strongly held belief that the ultimate result is that someone, somewhere pays or has a reduction in what was the primary asset in their lives—their capacity for self-fulfilment. So far the debate in trying to even reach that of the Kyoto protocol has meant that the asset of so many farmers—the vegetation on their property—especially in my state in Queensland, was overnight just taken from them. That is a form of theft. It is theft when there is no payment. When the government comes in and divests the individual of an asset without fair compensation for the purpose of investing it in the community, there is a name for that. It really is a form of communism, a form of communal ownership. That has already happened. An emissions trading scheme goes to the sense of production, something that a person who believes in business should adamantly fight against, because such a scheme—and we must remember the ETS is only a subset of the CPRS—says that it does not matter whether you make a profit or not you will be taxed if you produce. This is the ultimate intrusion into the lives of so many people. If you produce, regardless of whether you make a profit or not, the government has the right to create a product that it insists you purchase.
From that philosophical premise alone, no matter where you stand, the whole nature and structure of this emissions trading scheme is wrong and it must be defeated. What this is all about and what makes this really galling is that, if the scheme goes forward, we are looking at something that is going to reduce the carbon levels of 1990 by five per cent in a nation that only produces about 1.4 per cent of global emissions. We have to remember that anthropogenic carbon emissions, those that are produced by humans, amount only to about three or four per cent and that carbon, the air that we breathing here in this chamber tonight, is only about 380 parts per million. So tonight we are devising a piece of legislation, the effect of which on the world will be 0.0000000798 of one per cent. That is obviously no effect at all. So let us put it aside. It will have absolutely zero effect on the globe. Even if you believe chapter and verse everything about global warming, then you must acknowledge that this legislation has no effect on the climate of the globe.
So what is it about? What do you call something that you put forward that has no effect, about which you incite a welling up of a moral good, a moral paradigm? It is a gesture and it is extremely dangerous in our nation when we start voting for gestures, because there are a whole lot of gestures out there that are worth while voting for. I remember my curiosity being stirred when I was listening to a science report as I happened to be going past a place called Lake Keepit in New South Wales. An emeritus professor, chair of one of the Ivy League colleges—I cannot remember whether it was Princeton or Harvard—was talking about the hierarchy of concerns in the world. He was asked if global warming was an issue and he said: ‘Yes, it is an issue, but it’s not the biggest issue. Malaria is a big issue. Tuberculosis is a big issue. A whole range of things are large issues and are happening right now that we must deal with. This is an issue but it’s not a big one.’ So should we therefore now in this chamber put motions to deal with malaria and tuberculosis, motions to deal with Zimbabwe and the Sudan, motions to deal with the rights of people in Iran? All these things are wonderful issues and should be pursued, but the reality is that in Australia our capacity to effect them is no more than a gesture.
In this debate there has been a moral bulwark put forward to incite the emotion of the Australian people, with statements about the CPRS legislation such as, ‘This will stop any problems in the Great Barrier Reef,’ ‘This will stop droughts,’ ‘This will stop diseases,’ and, ‘This will stop bushfires.’ If you take a step back and really think about it, it is all ridiculous. It has no capacity whatsoever to deal with any of those issues. So what does it do? Let us look at who wins and who loses in this. Who are the losers? The losers will be those people who cannot pass on the cost: the people pushing the shopping trolleys—they will be the losers.
There are the people in areas, such as Mackay, where Frontier Economics have clearly pointed out that there will be a 20 per cent reduction in the economy. There are the coal workers and manufacturing workers around Gladstone, the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra. Those in the farming areas and the coal belts of Australia are the losers. There will be a 20 per cent reduction to their economy. What you must ask yourself, if you think it is moral, right and just to impose that on those people, is: are you prepared to put your job first? If you are not prepared to put your job first then isn’t it just a little bit selfish to not be prepared to say, ‘Because this is so imperative, I put my job first onto the funeral pyre, one which will have no effect on global climate change, for a gesture’?
Who wins? The winners will be the bankers, the bureaucrats and the brokers. They will win. But they do not actually put anything on the boat to pay for our standard of living. They do not put anything on the boat that pays for everything that is so apparent around us and which sustains our standard of living. So we are taking away those who are producing for our economy to replace them with those who are, to be honest, a form of parasite on our economy. Why are they parasitic? It is because, in essence, in the way that they will deal with this emissions trading scheme they will only be profiting from the depletion of the productive sectors of our economy.
We have heard the story about green jobs and, in some of the Senate inquiries, some of it descended into bathos—the belief that we can take people out of the coal industry, the steel production industry and the farming industry and somehow find them green jobs in a way that is not even apparent in the economy at the moment. There is no way that anybody can say that there is the capacity for us to take the people who are currently employed in the sectors of farming, mining, manufacturing and tourism and put them into jobs that just do not exist. When we look at areas such as the photovoltaic cell industry, even now, we see that this is an industry that is predominantly based overseas. Even the wind farms talked about are predominantly based overseas. We might import the product but, even in the importation of the product, what do we put on the boat and send in the other direction to pay for it? We put on the output of the areas that we are taxing, the areas that we are reducing.
Then we have the argument that it is politically right that we go forward with this because we should lead the world. We are creating an awfully high bar for ourselves. Let us drill down into that. Do we believe for one moment that Dmitry Medvedev in Russia stays awake all night worrying about the position of Australia on climate change? Do we believe that Barack Obama is currently, somewhere in the world, tossing and turning because of the position that Australia may take on climate change? Do we believe that Hu Jintao is really concerned about what Mr Rudd might say on climate change, or that Manmohan Singh is really concerned about Australia’s position on climate change? It is the ultimate form of conceit to think that 1.3 billion people in China and 1.1 billion people in India, with all the issues that pertain to them, are really going to be expecting some sort of lead from Australia.
It is an issue of conceit and it is an issue of pride—and pride comes before a fall. It is also completely and utterly impractical. What it does is to hugely expose our nation to the effects of the globe and enlarge the capacity of our exploitation by others. People say, ‘What about the Waxman-Markey bill that is currently before the United States congress?’ Initial costings of the Waxman-Markey bill by Lord Christopher Monckton are in excess of $60 trillion, so the form that the bill is in at the moment is not the form that it will go through in. It will be utterly changed. They just cannot afford it. It is impossible. The Chinese have asked for one per cent of the United States GDP to go forward as a form of compensation. These are outrageous claims. They are not going to happen.
So the reality of the politics is something that is a million miles away from the rhetoric of Mr Rudd and the rest of the Labor Party on this issue. Even if we drill down into this legislation and look for the authenticity of it, if there were true authenticity in this legislation—if people truly believed the proposition that it is going to reduce carbon emissions and that it is there for the purpose of making the globe cooler by Australia flying solo—you would think you would be able to underwrite that with a guarantee that said that, if you got it wrong, you would pay the money back. But the Australian government have never said that. They have said that they will collect the money, but there are no guarantees whatsoever that, if they have got it wrong, they will ever pay it back. I remember reading the white paper, and the first thing I noticed in it was a huge disclaimer against any responsibility in case of it being used in a court of law or in case of someone saying, ‘You have misled me’. In essence, they all add up to a piece of legislation that is entirely dangerous.
This legislation is based on a premise of an equilibrium model. The premise of an equilibrium model, of course, is that no-one loses their job. Would you not think it strange that, when we are in the middle of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression—which is what everybody in the parliament has said—the only government in the world that has brought a piece of legislation in that is actually going to make the situation worse is Australia, with the emissions trading scheme? The ETS, for so many people, will be the employment termination scheme.
Wouldn’t you think that it would be prudent to sit back and make sure that we do not completely tip Australia into a state where it is completely at an economic disadvantage? No matter how wonderful our thoughts are, poverty gets you nowhere. Poverty does not give you the position or the power to negotiate on anything. The reality is that we will be putting great impediments, caveats, further caveats and imposts on the farming sector, the mining sector and the tourism sector, remembering that aviation fuel is covered by an ETS. All of those industries have said, ‘As soon as this comes in—it is a simple calculation of facts—we will reduce our service and our participation in the economy.’ The aggregate size of the economy will constrict. For a country that is heading towards $315 billion in federal debt, $150 billion in state debt and rising unemployment in the middle of the greatest economic crisis of postwar times, it is the height of stupidity and irresponsibility to be going forward with this right now. There are no other words for it.
Let us look at things in isolation. We know that agriculture ultimately, from 2013 to 2015, will be brought into this scheme. Many people say, ‘We’ll be able to offset it with soil carbon.’ No, you will not. Soil carbon is not allowed under, and is not part of, the Kyoto protocol. A bovine ruminant, as an example, produces about 70 kilograms of methane, which has an uplift factor in the Kyoto protocol of 21, so it works out at about 1½ tonnes of carbon per beast. The National Australia Bank—and these are prudent and competent people—are modelling a price of carbon between $10 and $100. Let us give them $50. At $50, the herd in Australia, approximately 28 million head of cattle, will have about a $2 billion-plus impost per year, and this is on just one industry. It would be the finish of the cattle industry. It will absolutely downgrade the prospects in the mining industry. Even in the sheep industry, it will downgrade mutton.
BlueScope Steel said 25,000 jobs will be moved out. Where are these jobs? The Illawarra, the Hunter Valley, Gladstone and Mackay—surprisingly enough, Labor seats. In essence, we have the National Party and others going in to bat for the working families of these areas to try and keep them in work. It is the working families of Australia that will pay the price for this. It is those who cannot offset the cost who will have to wear the cost and pay the price.
There is this illusion that the ETS is the only form of carbon pollution reduction scheme. It is mischievous politics on the part of Mr Rudd and Minister Wong to make us believe that the only form of carbon pollution reduction scheme that is available to us is the current ETS. It is not. There are myriad carbon pollution reduction schemes that have been part of our nation in the past and no doubt will be part of our nation in the future that do not involve a trading scheme that is to the benefit of the brokers, the bankers and the bureaucrats.
This debate must go on. It must be taken to its fullest extent. It must be ventilated. Although people have certain beliefs in some instances, on some issues such as global warming—let us be honest—the debate is changing all the time. We must acknowledge that people have a right to be sceptical as new facts come to light. Even those who want to do something to go forward are not properly informed of exactly what the emissions trading scheme is going to mean to them when it arrives at their dinner table, when it arrives in the cost of food, when it arrives in the cost of fuel, when it arrives in the cost of electricity, when it shakes them out of their farm—it will be the final straw that shakes the family farms to pieces—and when it takes them out of the coalmines. Some gorilla in a set of overalls will walk down the street and change the locks on the house because they can no longer make the payment on their house. It will destroy the whole social fabric of so many areas. It is these people that we must be going in to bat for, because it is these people that are being ignored in the palaver of love and affection that comes from one man’s desire to go on a solo crusade to try and save the world, when in actual fact he has not got a chance. We will be flushing our nation’s economy down the toilet in the process.
We must look for those people who have been left behind in this debate. We must make sure that we continue to fight for this. People say the delaying of the debate is a dirty tactic. No, it is not. The delaying of the debate and the continued ventilation of this issue are the only just, right and proper things to do. We must continue to ventilate this issue as long as we possibly can; otherwise, those who will be affected will be those who can least afford it. As I said before, it was Cato back in about 40 BC who brought about the extension of the debate to try and stop Julius Caesar basically becoming a tyrant in Rome. Why? Because he knew it was the right thing to do. That is what we are going to do. However long it takes, we will make sure that we continue to pursue this issue.