Thursday, 30 October 2014
Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading
There is not one serious commentator who agrees that the government's direct action policy will achieve the bipartisan minimum target to reduce carbon pollution by five per cent by 2020. In fact, a recent report about this from RepuTex, an expert modelling firm, reported that the direct action policy would fall about 70 per cent short of the five per cent target. Of course, we all know this, no-one more clearly than the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, himself, who spent 19 years of his life and most of his political purpose arguing that a price on carbon was the best way of reducing carbon pollution. Yet this government will carry on spruiking direct action, action rejected by economists and scorned by climate scientists, and will stumble in shame to the Paris climate conference next year wearing only its fig leaf to camouflage its actual purpose as a wrecking ball to global climate change consensus.
Where does that leave Australia's reputation in its wake? They have already started their cobra strike and the world has already noticed. Australia has fallen sharply this year in international green economy rankings, coming last out of 60 countries for performance on political leadership on climate change and 37th overall. According to the 2014 Global Green Economy Index, since the change of government our performance lags behind developing nations such as Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia and Rwanda. In the 2012 index Australia came second out of the 27 countries for political leadership and 10th overall for its growing economic performance. Look how far we have dropped under this Abbott government. So much for leadership and so much for courage. This legislation will see billions of taxpayers' dollars wasted. The Emissions Reduction Fund is a feeble and redundant slush fund. Its failure will be this environment minister's legacy to Australia, the sum total of his political career, and, let us not forget, it is in complete contradiction to his PhD. Labor's position is clear. Labor supports a floating price, an emissions trading scheme with a firm legal cap on carbon pollution, and then letting business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate below that. We do not support this amendment to the CFI framework, because it will facilitate an embarrassing and inferior way of dealing with climate change.
In conclusion, Labor have strongly supported the carbon farming initiative ever since we set it up as a means of enabling the land sector to engage in carbon abatement activities. We still stand by the carbon farming initiative as it was originally set up. However, this bill, as it amends Labor's carbon farming initiative to use the CFI structure of crediting and purchasing carbon emissions for other industries under the government's Emissions Reduction Fund, will not have the support of the opposition. I urge all of those current participants in the CFI to contact the minister immediately to get an assurance from him that their projects will be funded out of this $2.55 billion of taxpayers' money that is apparently available for the abatement funds of the ERF. With that, Labor will not be supporting this bill. I move:
At the end of the motion, add: but the Senate notes:
(a) that since the election of the Abbott Government in 2013, Australia's international reputation on climate change action has been profoundly damaged by Australia becoming the first nation to move backwards on climate change while the rest of the world, including China and the US, is moving forward;
(b) the need for the Abbott Government to establish an Emissions Trading Scheme to place a cap on carbon pollution and drive a clean energy future for Australia, instead of their current policy of an Emissions Reductions Fund paid for by taxpayers rather than big polluters;
(c) the need to fully examine the range of changes proposed to the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) and the impact this will have on the existing land sector projects; and
(d) the lack of robust and defensible assurance from the Government about the ability of the CFI amendment and the Emissions Reduction Fund to achieve Australia's emissions reduction target.