Senate debates

Thursday, 10 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2], 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 [No. 2], Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; In Committee

10:03 am

Photo of Lisa SinghLisa Singh (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General) Share this | Hansard source

Yesterday I raised with Senator Cormann as to why the Liberal Party would not be supporting these amendments, because they bring in a market based mechanism to deal with carbon pollution—something that Liberal Parties usually support. However, Senator Cormann made it clear that, obviously, the government is not supporting this market based mechanism despite the number of conservatives across the globe that are urging the government to do so—that is, people on their own side asking this government to recognise that it is denying its own policy of supporting market based mechanisms by not supporting this amendment for an emissions trading scheme.

Beyond asking Senator Cormann why the Liberal Party will not support a market based mechanism, I now ask: why will the Liberal Party not support the science? The science tells us clearly why we need an emissions trading scheme. The science goes back to before 1990 when we had the first IPCC report and we have had subsequent reports—I think there have been five since that time, all of which have the support of over 100 countries who make it clear that there have been observed changes in the climate system and that we need to respond as governments across the globe to those observed changes.

What are those observed changes? I am sure Senator Cormann knows, but he needs to be reminded because this is, I have to say, a day where this country is going to go backwards on climate policy. These are the reasons Labor acted strongly, because carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40 per cent since pre-industrial times—primarily, from fossil fuel emissions and, secondly, from net land-use change emissions. The oceans have absorbed around 30 per cent of that emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide causing ocean acidification.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The best way for a country to address a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has been made very clear by economists and scientists: through an emissions trading scheme. We are debating this amendment, because it is so important for this country to play its part internationally in trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by putting a legal cap on carbon dioxide pollution. That is what an emissions trading scheme does and that is why it is so surprising that Senator Cormann provided comment yesterday as to why the Liberal Party, the coalition, will not support a market based mechanism. I am still baffled as to why the Liberal Party does not support market based mechanisms.

On top of that, though, the Liberal Party is ignoring the will of the Australian community. The number of people who came out this week, last week—since this debate was put on the table for this parliament—against having no legal limit on carbon pollution and against there being no price on carbon, has become stronger and stronger. This government cannot ignore those voices. The voices of some 20 civil society groups, ranging from youth, health, community, emergency services, trade unions and faith based groups have made themselves heard very loudly this week. I ask Senator Cormann: is he aware of this huge list of growing community groups who have made their dissent and their views known about this government's policy when it comes to climate change?

I could not say it more succinctly than they have said it, when they said in their statement: 'We support Australia having a price and a limit on carbon pollution. This is the fairest and most cost-effective way for Australia to address our economy's dependence on carbon pollution and reduce its impacts on our climate, our health, the environment, the economy and national security.' Therein lies the full breadth of what these repeal bills mean. Yes, they mean something for our environment, but they mean so much more than that. They mean something for our health, they mean something for our economy and they mean something for our national security.

This is a holistic policy issue. It is a holistic policy issue that commenced decades and decades ago when the science made it very clear—through the work of the IPCC and its associated hundreds and hundreds of peer reviewed scientists who have contributed to its reports—that the world needs to act swiftly on reducing carbon pollution, on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are continuing to have a huge effect in changing our climate, which has of course has had thrown-on effects to do with natural disasters and the like. That is why it is important beyond just our environment. That is why it is important for our health. That is why it is important for our national security, our economy and those issues that have been raised by those 20 civil society groups.

So I ask Senator Cormann if he is aware of those 20 strong community groups of various persuasions, including, as I said, emergency service workers and firefighters—some of whom were here yesterday out the front of Parliament House making it very clear that they want this parliament to act on climate change, to have a price on carbon pollution and to have a legal limit on carbon pollution. How can Senator Cormann ignore those 20 community groups? How can he ignore the 200 young people I joined earlier in the week? How can he ignore the science? And how can the Liberal Party ignore a market based mechanism to deal with a reduction in carbon pollution?

I understand it has been reported this morning that both the United States and China have signed eight partnership pacts on climate change, bringing the two powers—which both have extensive emissions trading schemes in place at different levels—closer together. So, as I said yesterday, it is a complete furphy for Prime Minister Abbott to claim that the world is not acting on emissions trading schemes. The world is acting strongly on them. This is made clear in the Parliamentary Library's work on the number of emissions trading schemes that have been in place in China, the US and elsewhere in the world—China, most notably, being the country proposing new schemes and with a network already of seven pilot schemes. They want to reduce their carbon emissions. They want to act on climate change.

After today, Australia will be the only country in the world moving backwards—going backwards. Yes, that will have an effect with respect to our international standing. How we are addressing this increase in greenhouse gas emissions will of course have an effect not only on our environment but also on our health and on our well-being as a nation. So I ask Senator Cormann again: why is the Liberal Party not supporting an emissions trading scheme? Why are you not supporting a market based mechanism to put a legal cap on carbon pollution? I cannot help but think that it is anything other than pure politics—and, of course, the ideological bent of some on your side. I think Senator Macdonald fits the mould of not accepting the science. In addition, I ask Senator Cormann about his knowledge and understanding of the statement provided by those 20 community groups and how he wishes to respond to their voices.

The CHAIRMAN: Senator Milne, you have the call.


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