Monday, 30 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]
As the last speaker, Senator Williams, is very well aware, I have strenuously opposed carbon sink forests for a number of the reasons that the senator himself acknowledged. That is essentially because I think the issue of green carbon needs to be looked at holistically in the context of food security, water security, biodiversity and resilience in rural communities. I do not believe the way that it is being dealt with now is going to lead to a process that does not have perverse outcomes. We saw perverse outcomes from managed investment schemes, and I do not want to see them again.
In terms of the transformation which I spoke about, if you allow companies to buy unlimited permits from overseas—especially if they can get cheaper permits overseas than here in Australia—they will do that, and that removes any pressure on them to transform what they do here. That is my main focus here. In terms of carbon in the atmosphere, providing they are verifiable credits then in theory they are the same. So the atmosphere will not change as a result of this but the issue of transformation in Australia will, and this is where my great concern with this scheme lies—that it will not drive the transformation away from the heavy, fossil-fuel-intensive emissions to smarter, cleaner technologies or new jobs in manufacturing. We are talking about new technologies and new jobs, and that is why I want to make sure that we have that drive for investment here.
I will come to this when we talk about compensation for the coal fired sector shortly. We now have a system where the coal fired generators have an agreement with the government and the coalition that they will keep on producing the same amount of power out to 2020 and that in effect they can, if they want, buy overseas permits, bank them and do as they like until that time. There is no pressure on them to change. In fact, there is more pressure on them under the compensation agreements to keep going with old and antiquated plants, so ultimately it could lead to being completely uncompetitive in a global environment if other people make the transformation and we do not. The clever new technologies are where the money, the intellectual property, the jobs and the manufacturing are. It has been my experience in politics that giving more to industry to allow them to carry on with business as usual and not invest in upgrading ultimately means they close down and go elsewhere with complete dislocation. That has happened endlessly in the Tasmanian context, and I am sure it is the same if you look nationally. The best way to keep industries in Australia is to require them to innovate and upgrade—to invest in their plants—so that they cannot just walk away.