Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Economics Legislation Committee; Reference

6:29 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I withdraw. Because Senator Milne has asked me to withdraw, I will withdraw. I do have some regard for her. What I was saying to Senator Wong is that the whole bill has changed. The bill was based on the fact that Australia, Canada, the EU, the former Soviet Union, Japan and annex B countries would be in a scheme from 2010, with China and higher income developing countries being in the scheme from 2015. India and the middle-income countries would be in the scheme from 2020. And there would be full coverage—that is, everyone in an ETS, right around the world—from 2025. That is what the modelling was based on. I do not know how you were ever going to achieve it. I could never see it working. I sat back and thought, ‘This is going to be a disaster beyond all disasters,’ but I never thought it would be the disaster that it turned out to be.

What this parliament now has in front of it is a bill that has been modelled on the assumption that all the countries in the world would be involved in an ETS scheme by 2025. That clearly did not happen in Copenhagen. What happened in Copenhagen, as everyone knows, is that very little was achieved. What was achieved was that there was no agreement on mandatory targets, no process of verification of targets, no treaty and no timetable, and there was some vague commitment that the world would try, by all doing their own thing, to hold the temperatures at around two per cent. That was the outcome of Copenhagen and that is the agreement that the Labor Party signed off on. I put it to the Senate that the whole package of bills that is being offered to the parliament has changed. It changed at Copenhagen, because the modelling that was predicted was that all would be in it by 2025. The prediction that small business would be okay and would be reimbursed was on the presumption that overseas competitors would not have any advantage, because we would all be in a scheme. The prediction for pensioners was predicted on us all being in a scheme. We know that is not going to happen.

If you are going to present this legislation again to the parliament, you have to go back and remodel the predictions and the assumptions. The bill that you are putting before the parliament now and which we are referring to a committee has to be changed. You are putting up something now that is a fraud, a con, because you know it cannot work the way in which your modelling predicted. That is the reason that we should be sending it to a committee. I do not know which way the numbers will fall, but what I do know is that the legislation on the table is wrong. It is being presented to this parliament wrongly, because the assumptions are wrong.

Also, what Senator Wong signed up to was that we had to get the non-developed countries as part of a climate regime scheme. The world had to put $30 billion on the table between 2010 and 2012, and from 2012 until 2020 the world had to stump up with $100 billion. Senator Milne and I have continually asked Senator Wong: what is our share? We have not been told what our share is, unless Senator Milne has received some information that I have not received. Both of us have tried to find out what our share will be. That amount of money has to be referred to a Senate committee. What is our share of $30 billion for the lemon of a program that the government pushes forward? What is our proportion of $100 billion in 2020? How are we going to raise that money? Is it by tax or is it by some sort of levy? One of the proposals that the government supported was a tax or a levy on aviation and shipping fuel. This will further penalise our exports. These are the things that have to be presented to a committee so that we can get the information. I am sure that Senator Milne would agree with me. These are the things that the parliament must know before we proceed with debating legislation.

What we are debating is an entirely different bill to the one that was before Copenhagen, that assumed we would all be in one big happy party by 2025. We would all be in it—China, Russia, India, Brazil; we would all be one big happy family all joined up in an ETS. Well, it was never going to work; I could never see how it was going to work. I could never see how the world was all going to join together; I could never see how America was going to sign an ETS with a 10 per cent unemployment rate. It was just a Labor Party pipedream that could never happen. And it was exposed in Copenhagen.

Now you have the greatest lemon of a policy that has ever been presented—at least in my 30 years in this place. It started off that everyone was full of vigour and the people wanted it. They wanted it until they could see that they were going to be the only ones who were going to pay their insurance policy. I refer to some Galaxy polling that was done before Copenhagen. The polling said about 54 per cent did not want to do it until after Copenhagen; about 34 per cent wanted to do it straightaway. As the debate heated up people could see that they were going to be the only ones paying the insurance policy, and Australia would be the only one that would be involved in an ETS and the rest of the world were not going to be involved. And how close we came to that. How very, very close this nation came to the greatest disaster of all time; if we had put that legislation through. Senator Wong keeps using the 30 countries. Let me tell Senator Wong: yes, if she uses the EU as 30 countries—there are probably 27 or 28 countries in it—but because it is one collective economy, we would have been the only independent economy that would have been stupid enough, silly enough to actually vote. And how close we came! One vote and there was a change of leadership; one vote the other way and Australia was down the drain by $120 billion—and that is close. I hope the people who are listening to this realise just how close they came to Australia being saddled with a $120 billion tax, which was turned around by Tony Abbott and his colleagues. It was turned around, but it was such a close call.

You have to wonder. If you cannot sell $2 billion worth of batts and you are not marketing them, then you are just giving them away for virtually nothing. If you cannot do that, how are you going to run the most complicated, convoluted scheme that has ever been presented to the world—a world government scheme and everyone has to play their part? You can imagine how complicated that would be. And if you do not have the capacity to give $2 billion worth of batts away, you have absolutely no chance of ever coming to terms with an ETS.

The game is up. Senator Conroy understands that the game is up. Most of the hardheads in the Labor Party know that the game is up, but they cannot find the escape route. That is their problem. They cannot find an escape route. If they go with the Greens, they will get castigated. If they pull out, they will lose what we call the doctors’ wives votes, the soft leafy suburbs. So they are stuck. They would love to get out of it. If someone could give them a way out, if someone could release them from this $120 billion lemon that they have tied around their neck—


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