Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
I am very pleased to be able to lead off in this debate, but I have to say it is going to be one of the most difficult debates to prosecute, because the bill before the chamber today, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2], is exactly the same bill that the Senate voted down three months ago. So what we are debating today is a piece of flawed legislation that the Senate has already expressed its views on.
But we are told by the media that there will be amendments to this bill. None of us yet know what those amendments will be. We have no idea of the detail of those amendments but, according to leaks in the press from Senator Wong, there will be an amendment about agriculture. Certainly the coalition has been very keen to see the issue of agriculture addressed in the CPRS Bill—the so-called CPRS Bill, I might say, because it is really an emissions trading scheme wrongly named the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme by the Labor Party. We know, of course, that carbon dioxide is essential for this planet. Trees will not grow without it, so it is always amusing to me to think that carbon pollution is being reduced. But that is by the way. We are pleased to see that the government has eventually followed the call from the Liberal Party and, I think, the National Party to include agriculture in the bill. That is, of course, endorsed by the National Farmers Federation and by all of the serious farming groups. But we do not know what the detail of that is.
Mr Acting Deputy President, the government’s climate change policy is in complete shambles. You will recall that it was originally all about global warming, and then a few months ago the ‘global warming’ term was dropped and it became ‘climate change’. But nothing in this bill has changed in the three months, so as it now stands I can confidently say that the coalition would be voting against this bill.
When Mr Rudd was first elected, he promised the Australian public that he was going to sort out climate change, and he very quickly went up to Indonesia and ratified the Kyoto Protocol—a protocol, I might say, which had been negotiated by Robert Hill on behalf of the Australian people at those conferences. A lot of people had believed Mr Rudd when he indicated that ratifying the Kyoto Protocol would fix everything. Suddenly climate change would happen no more. That was the impression Mr Rudd gave before the election and certainly in the euphoria of him and Minister Wong when they grabbed the Australian front pages by ratifying the protocol not long after they were elected. But, of course, nothing has changed, and we are back in the Senate today debating the exact same bill that the Senate voted down three months ago.
Copenhagen has been talked about by Senator Wong and Mr Rudd in hushed tones for the last 12 months. Copenhagen was going to fix everything. Everything had to be done before Copenhagen. Australia had to have a legislated position before Copenhagen. Of course, as we on this side all knew, as time has moved on we have found that the Copenhagen process is in a complete shambles, and the recent APEC meeting has let the cat out of the bag and has let the world know that nothing is really going to happen at Copenhagen.
In recent times we have also been alerted to the fact that Copenhagen, according to the Australian government, was going to involve the signing of a treaty that nobody had seen. Just a few weeks ago we suddenly learnt something about this treaty and how horrific it would have been for Australia. Since that was exposed, the treaty seems to have been ripped up by those organising the conference, but I would like Senator Wong to explain in this debate just what part she had in that draft treaty and what the Australian government’s view on it was. Did we support it? Why wasn’t it exposed to the Australian public and particularly to this parliament? I would be very keen to hear from Senator Wong why that treaty was kept so secret and why it now appears to have been ripped up and a new position formed. Was it only because of the pressure brought by the Australian people, the media and indeed the opposition to look at that particular treaty?
My personal position on this whole issue has been very simple right from day one. I have been very consistent about my view. Is the climate changing? Yes, of course it is. It has been changing for a hundred million years. We all know that the earth was once covered by ice. We even know how the climate has changed in my lifetime. I do not think that there is much doubt about the fact that the climate is changing. It has been for a hundred million years; it still is. Is the climate change caused by human activity? Quite frankly, I am not a scientist; I do not know. I have read reports, I have listened, I have been to lectures, I have sat in meetings with dozens of respected scientists around Australia and I have read what scientists right around the world have said on this particular topic. About half of them say that it is the fault of man; the other about half say that it is not anthropogenic. If those scientists who are trained in this area cannot make up their minds, what chance have I got as a layman in this area?
I have always said that if the rest of the world is going to get involved in some sort of emissions trading scheme then I do not think that Australia has an alternative but to get involved at the same time. But why would we do this in advance of the rest of the world when Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? Even if this bill were passed in its present form, Australia’s emissions to the world would reduce from 1.4 per cent to about 1.2 per cent. I have begged Senator Wong at any number of estimates hearings, in this chamber and in every forum to please tell me what difference a 0.2 per cent reduction in carbon emissions will make to the changing climate of the world. Senator Wong and many Labor Party people have been running around the country, dishonestly saying that the Barrier Reef is in danger if we do not pass this so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. What absolute fraudulent claptrap. We all know that a 0.2 per cent reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions will have absolutely nil impact on the changing climate of the world. So why would we put Australia, its economy, its lifestyle and the jobs of tens of thousands of working families at risk with this particular piece of legislated claptrap just to build, support and assuage the egos of both Mr Rudd and Senator Wong?
Very often the Minister for Climate Change and Water accuses the coalition of doing nothing, yet yesterday in question time she was pointing out—quite rightly, and I am pleased to see that she has at last acknowledged it—that it was the coalition government that set up the first greenhouse office in the world. It was the coalition government that established the Greenhouse Challenge, which actually did reduce Australia’s carbon emissions, and it was the coalition government that ensured that Australia, almost alone, was the country that actually met the targets set by the Kyoto discussion. That all happened under a coalition government. So the coalition understands these issues and is keen to do something about them. But we do not do things that will impact upon the Australian economy.
I sat through two of the four Senate committees dealing with climate change policy. We heard dozens and dozens of witnesses over 14 days of hearings. We heard all sorts of views, but it was quite clear from the evidence presented—and it was evidence that was supported by fact and by research that could be seen and understood—that in the mining industry 23½ thousand jobs would go by 2020 if the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme were adopted. If you go to 2030, evidence showed that almost 70,000 jobs of Australian mining workers would disappear. In Queensland alone, we would lose about 11½ thousand jobs by 2020 and 35,000 jobs by 2030 in the coal industry. That would of course flow on to all the support industries in Central Queensland. It would flow on to restaurants, shops and taxis. The impact, particularly in my state of Queensland, would be absolutely devastating.
I heard a ridiculous comment from one of the Labor senators—and, I think, from Sharan Burrow from the ACTU—saying that the Bowen Basin coalfields towns, when they lost all their work in the coalfields, would turn into a Silicon Valley. What absolute claptrap. It just shows what ignorance there is around some of the Labor Party. The local member for the biggest coalmining areas, the member for Dawson, James Bidgood, continues to demonstrate the Rudd government’s ill-informed and shambolic approach to the ETS. He said in the debate in the House:
This legislation is absolutely essential to safeguard mining jobs. Yes, we need to cut emissions and we need to have the legislation to do that—because it will save jobs. It will not lose jobs; it will save jobs. The Rudd government is taking responsible and decisive action immediately to tackle climate change by introducing this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
That just demonstrates how clearly out of touch the local Labor members are with their electorates. Nobody believes that this ill-conceived emissions trading scheme could do other than cost jobs in the coal mining, mineral processing and other essential industries in my home state of Queensland and elsewhere.
I did a survey, randomly picked, up in the north of Queensland—Cairns, Mt Isa, Bowen, Clermont, Moranbah, Rockhampton, Mackay, Collinsville and other parts of the Dawson electorate: 27 per cent of respondents supported the government’s ETS; 88 per cent of respondents had little or not much knowledge of the government’s proposed ETS. Most of them wanted to know more; 74 per cent of respondents want the government to wait until after Copenhagen before it determines its final position. I am not here to help the Labor Party, but I think the Labor Party should know that, of those who did indicate in my survey their voting preferences—and I have to concede it was not the majority—and of those who indicated that they were Labor voters, only 50 per cent supported the ETS; 17 per cent were against it and 33 per cent did not know. Of Labor Party voters, 41 per cent said to do it before Copenhagen and 33 per cent said afterwards. Across the board, for those who did not indicate party preferences, the results were overwhelmingly against Copenhagen—and that was by the highest margin—and against the ETS proposed by Mr Rudd.
The challenges facing Australia are ensuring that our economy keeps going, our lifestyle continues and we keep jobs. The Great Barrier Reef will adapt if we do the other measures like water quality and such that we are doing in the Reef Rescue package. The essential thing for Australia is to develop food security. It is not to increase electricity prices from anywhere between 40 to 50 per cent and 200 per cent, depending upon which of the people who gave evidence to our committee you believe—and if you look at the evidence you could believe both of them. That is how much the ordinary household electricity price will go up.
Next Friday at James Cook University in Townsville I will be attending the launch of a new technology that with the help of sunlight converts CO2 into algae which can then be used for food, cosmetics, synthetics or diesel fuel, and it is a workable scheme. It is being launched by the Queensland Premier. That is what we should be concentrating on to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We should look at new technologies to move ahead rather than try to destroy the Australian economy in the way this bill does.
What is Europe doing? Why are we not treating our farmers and coalminers the same as Europe? Why are we not treating our coalminers, aluminium producers, bauxite miners and mineral processors in the same ways as our competitors? There is no doubt, and the evidence to the Senate committee showed, that investment in Australia’s mining and processing will continue to fall if this legislation goes through. It will all move offshore to Indonesia, Columbia and South Africa, where they do have adequate supplies of coal and where they can compete against us because our coalminers will have a tax on them which their competitors will not have. Why the Europeans—always holier than thou, the Europeans—do not have as many greenhouse gas emissions is that countries like France have 70 or 80 per cent of their power coming from nuclear energy, and yet you mention nuclear energy to the Labor Party in Queensland or, it seems, at Commonwealth level and they all go to water. Why are we not using nuclear energy if the Labor Party is so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions?
We keep hearing about the Americans. We have said it time and time again from this side of the House. We have been laughed at by Senator Wong, belittled and derided. But, of course, everybody knew the Americans would not go to Copenhagen with a legislated response to climate change. There is a great deal of doubt whether they will advocate anything that is meaningful in their reduction and the tortuous passage of legislation through the American congress clearly demonstrates that there is no immediate result at hand.
I have always said when China, India, the United States, Russia, Columbia, Indonesia and South Africa get involved in an emissions trading scheme then so should Australia. But until that time all we are doing by getting involved in the sort of scheme proposed by Mr Rudd is destroying our country, destroying the jobs of Australian working families and destroying our lifestyle. And if there were a purpose in that—if it were going to achieve anything—you could say that perhaps that is what we have to do. But this legislation proposed by the Rudd government, will do absolutely nothing for the climate change of the world. It will not fix the Barrier Reef. It will not fix the occurrence of cyclones and fires. It will not do any of that. It will do absolutely nothing. What it will do is cost Australian jobs, the Australian economy, for no benefit at all. Unless the Rudd government can accept all of the conditions imposed by the coalition—the suggestions we have made for improvements—then I do not see this bill going anywhere. But, as this bill now stands, I will do as I did three months ago and vote against it.