Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2013


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013, Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates and Other Amendments) Bill 2013, Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; First Reading

8:05 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

I apologise, Mr Acting Deputy President. I will do that. Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Birmingham has certainly abandoned his claim to believe in the science by adopting this so-called Direct Action policy and getting out there being a warrior for so-called Direct Action. When you look at the science, every organisation of any standing in this country says that there is a problem that has to be dealt with. There is the CSIRO, the pre-eminent scientific organisation in this country, part of the top 10 scientific organisations in the world, and what do they get for saying there is a problem that has to be dealt with? Massive job cuts by the coalition. The Bureau of Meteorology—again, eminent scientists; again, leaders in their field—say that there are huge problems with climate change in this country. The Australian Academy of Science overwhelmingly take the view that this is a problem that must be dealt with.

I can foresee the same thing happening here as happened to the scientists on the public payroll in Canada. The scientists with the Bureau of Meteorology or the CSIRO will suffer the same fate as the scientists in Canada. They will be told, 'You are not allowed to speak out on this issue. You will subjugate your scientific thought for the political correctness of the government.' That is what I think we will see here in terms of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

You have to wonder why we are doing this. Do we want to abandon the children of the future? Do we actually want to accept that there is a reality out there that has to be dealt with? I have to go to the pre-eminent scientific analysis on that, and that is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They have put out a clear position. But, before I go to that, let me take up one issue that Senator Abetz raised in his contribution. He said that the coalition were supportive of a price on carbon only if the rest of the world moved. Let me provide you with a bit of refreshed memory in relation to the coalition. Former Prime Minister John Howard set up a task force to look at the issue of climate. That task force was chaired by Peter Shergold and commissioned by the Prime Minister in 2007. That task force said that the cost of delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would far outweigh any short-term benefit of not acting. This was the coalition's task force, the Shergold task force. I will quote what they said so we can understand where Senator Abetz is coming from. The Shergold report said:

After careful consideration, the Task Group has concluded that Australia should not wait until a genuinely global agreement has been negotiated. It believes that there are benefits, which outweigh the costs, in early adoption by Australia of an appropriate emissions constraint. Such action would enhance investment certainty and provide a long-term platform for responding to carbon constraints. Combined with Australia’s existing domestic and international work on technology development and cooperation, including the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, it would position us to contribute further to the development of a truly comprehensive international framework.

So there is the Howard government's adviser. This is the Shergold report saying unequivocally, 'Don't wait, don't hang around. The cost will be more if you hang around and do nothing. If you want to be part of developing a truly international framework then Australia has to play its part.'

Following the release of the Shergold report, as it became known, the Howard government promised to introduce an emissions trading scheme if it were to be re-elected at the 2007 election. Mr Howard would later describe his decision thus:

We had bitten the bullet on emissions trading with the Shergold report released on 1 June rapidly being turned into clear policy. This was the agenda of an active government so policy-confident and by no means spent and exhausted after 11 years of power.

This was in Mr Howard's personal and political autobiography Lazarus Rising. So let us not fall for the re-invention of the coalition's position on this. Let's not fall for a change of history by the coalition. Quite clearly, they supported a price on carbon. Quite clearly, they supported doing this prior to a truly global response emerging.

It was not just the Howard government that was looking at these issues. If you look at the Australian Bankers Association at the time, they said:

Climate change has considerable economic, social, environmental and business risk. Continuing uncertainty is disrupting the efficiency of existing markets as well as creating difficulties with regard to financing terms and investment decisions. Australia needs leadership and early action to provide business investment, operational and market certainty. It is important for Australia to take action now and minimise the impacts of uncertainty.

This was at the time the coalition was supporting a price on carbon. The ABA went on to say:

Climate change also presents considerable opportunity. Trading, product creation and ancillary services including risk consulting, funds management, legal and accounting should be developed as export services regionally and globally. It is important for Australia to take action now and take advantage of the opportunity to position itself as a carbon hub within the Asia Pacific region.

I am afraid for the Australian Bankers Association that we are not going to be a carbon hub. If this legislation gets through we will be a carbon joke. We will be an absolute carbon joke because no-one believes that Direct Action can deliver.

Why are we doing this? If you go to the IPCC, they say clearly that there are observed changes in the climate system—

…that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed; the amount of snow and ice has diminished; sea levels have risen; and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

That is from the scientists. And in relation to the atmosphere, they say that each of the last three decades have been successively warmer at the earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850. 'In the northern hemisphere, between 1883 and 2012 it was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years.' They go on to say that we will have warmer and/or fewer cold days and nights, warmer and more frequent hot days and nights over most land areas, warm spells and heatwaves, the frequency and duration increasing over most land areas. And on and on it goes.

Over the last two decades the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass. Glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide. So on it goes: the sea level rising, the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide increasing. What is the response to that by the coalition? It is a joke. It is so-called Direct Action. No-one of any standing has supported this policy either as an economist or as an environmental scientist.

Then they want to take away some of the positive aspects that have been put in place to try to deal with what John Howard recognised had to be dealt with, and that is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is headed by Ms Jillian Broadbent, a very well-respected business person, who conducted the review. When she sent her letter of transmittal to the responsible ministers she said the establishment of a $10 billion fund dedicated to invest in clean energy—

…will capitalise and leverage the flow of funds for commercialisation and deploy renewable energy, low emissions and energy efficiency technologies. In this way we will be preparing and positioning the Australian economy and industry for a cleaner energy future.

I am afraid the coalition do not want to position the Australian economy to a cleaner and more energy-efficient future. They want to take us back to a position where we are solely reliant on carbon-intensive industries. Ms Broadbent goes on to say that after the CEFC's establishment, after 15 months of operation, they have acted with commercial rigour and have avoided excessive risks. It is absolutely untenable for the coalition to get up here and argue that this is about creating a bank and that it is all going to go into disaster. The CEFC have acted absolutely impeccably in terms of their operation. They have adopted a conservative approach to building their investments. They have given the taxpayer a return while reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. They have acquired what is described as 'positive externalities' to demonstrate how any project successfully addresses market barriers.

They have funded projects involving 500 megawatts of clean electricity generation. That is the equivalent of one unit at Liddell coal-fired power station. It is a massive amount of energy. Their total portfolio of $536 million has delivered $2.2 billion in value. They are delivering abatement at negative cost, $2.40 per tonne of CO2 abated compared to what would be probably $80, $90 or $100 for every tonne they try to abate under direct action. This is so far superior to the coalition's Direct Action policy that you wonder how anyone with any sense, any understanding of the science or any understanding of the economics could walk away from the Climate Energy Finance Corporation.

So it is delivering, if you look at some of the case studies—new wind farms in Taralga, the Macquarie Wind Farm in Victoria, Victoria's Portland wind farm expansion, the Moree Solar Farm, chicken manure and organic waste being reused to power and heat establishments, the tomato farm solar innovator, the GBES biogas and cuts to the grid energy use and on and on it goes. The CEFC should be congratulated for the work they have done. We should ensure that they stay in place because this is about doing something practical in addition to a price on carbon, and that is absolutely essential.

As for the Climate Change Authority, as I have indicated, what that is about is that the coalition does not want someone independent analysing the failure of Direct Action. That is what it is about, because Direct Action is destined to fail. Every analysis of Direct Action clearly indicates that you will not meet your abatement targets; that the cost will be over the top; that you will have to employ thousands of public servants to actually manage it; that those public servants will not be in a position to understand the projects that they are going to dole money out on; that by far, business will have the inside knowledge on it; and that there will be an information asymmetry in the public service trying to deal with this. You know that every report that has come through over the last few years about direct action-type policies, that is paying people to take on a project and do a certain outcome, has not delivered. It just has not delivered. If you look at what Direct Action will result in, it will be a fiasco.

We are entitled to stand here and say that millions of Australians voted for the Labor Party, millions of Australians want action on climate change and millions of Australians want us to ensure that children will get a decent future, and the Labor Party will not abandon those who voted for us. We are determined to make sure that our children have a future.


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