Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:33 pm

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have to say it's pretty galling as a Tasmanian to be lectured by the Greens about an existential crisis and the need to act urgently on climate change today, while, at the same time, this same party is actively campaigning against a massive renewable energy development in my home state. Tasmania, of course, is the nation's leader when it comes to renewable energy. For decades, our primary energy source has been the clean, reliable, renewable hydro energy from our hydro-electric dams. It was these very dams that the Greens, who have raised this matter of public urgency today, opposed the construction of. Indeed, Bob Brown famously said that Tasmania shouldn't be building dams; we should be building—wait for it—coal-fired power stations. And now what's the latest thing that Bob Brown and the Greens are opposed to in Tasmania? A wind farm!

This is not just any wind farm, but the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. This wind farm, at Robbins Island in the far north-west corner of our state, would create major employment in the north-west of Tasmania and complement the abundance of baseload hydro-energy generation in Australia, to lower electricity prices and increase energy security. Perhaps counterintuitively, given their constant rhetoric on climate change, like what we are discussing today, the Greens at both a state and federal level have fallen in behind their former leader and confirmed they also don't support the Robbins Island wind farm.

Why don't they support $1.6 billion in renewable energy in a project in regional Tasmania? I will quote Bob Brown directly. Dr Brown said that the Robbins Island plan was, visually, a step too far:

Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50 kms out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from great distances on land. Its eye-catchiness will divert from every coastal scene on the western Bass Strait coastline.

Just so I've got my head straight on this, what we are discussing here today in this matter of urgency brought on by the Greens is an existential crisis which we must deal with urgently—unless, of course, the solution is something that might ruin the view. I have never heard such contradiction and hypocrisy in my life.

The Greens are virtually salivating over the prospect of campaigning against and trying to block this project, the Robbins Island wind farm in north-west Tasmania. Bob Brown has indeed described it as 'the next Franklin Dam'. What a great comparison! Forty years ago the Greens campaigned against and stopped a major renewable energy and job creation project in Tasmania. Four decades later they're setting up to do it all again.

This motion says:

… the government needs to act, starting by supporting the global climate strike on 20 September 2019.

Here's an idea: how about we act by supporting a $1.6 billion renewable energy project?

Is there anything that sums up the Greens better than preferring to mount a public protest rather than supporting a $1.6 billion project designed to tackle exactly the problem they're claiming today to be so concerned about? Actually, I can do one better: despite the existential crisis of climate change, in the last quarter of this year alone Greens members and senators spent more than $66,000 on domestic flights. The Leader of the Greens took 29 flights and spent almost $19,300 on Comcars. There was an additional $158,000 in travel for Greens staffers. So while climate change might be an existential crisis, it shouldn't get in the way of Greens members flying and driving around as much as they like.

The coalition government has a strong track record of meeting and beating our emissions targets while keeping our economy strong. We are on track to overachieve on our 2020 target of 367 million tonnes. This is a turnaround from the emissions debt we inherited when we took office. Through our $3½ billion Climate Solutions Package, we've mapped out, down to the last tonne, how we are going to meet the 328 tonnes of abatement needed to meet our Paris target. We have laid out how we will deliver our 2030 target 11 years ahead of time to the last tonne. Central to this is our $3½ billion Climate Solutions Package. This package will support farmers, businesses and the Indigenous community to reduce greenhouse gases through the Climate Solutions Fund, building on the success of the ERF which has purchased 192 million tonnes of emissions reductions since 2015. We're bringing new electricity generation projects online, such as Tasmania's Battery of the Nation and the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme—projects in my own home state that I'm particularly passionate about and which, of course, link into the Robbins Island wind farm development that I discussed earlier. And we're supporting households and businesses to improve energy efficiency and to lower energy bills.

We're seeing record levels of renewable investment. Last year alone we had more than double the per capita investment of comparable countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Not only are we going to meet our international commitments but we are also making a substantial contribution to reducing global emissions through our export sectors. For example, we are helping to lower emissions elsewhere in the world through our LNG exports. This has been confirmed by key players, including the CEO of Global Shell, who, when asked if Australia was doing enough on emissions reductions, recently said: 'Well, an area where it's definitely doing enough is bringing natural gas to market. I think it is massively helping in that respect.'

The Morrison coalition government is committed to emissions reduction while growing our economy and keeping electricity prices down. Those are the policies we took to the election, and they are the policies we will be delivering upon in this parliament. By contrast, the Labor Party and their good friends the Greens have a plan that will only destroy industry and agriculture and will impose these taxes on hardworking Australians. As I have outlined today, this hypocrisy is unimaginable. We see a party that today has moved a matter of public urgency regarding climate change but is actively opposing any policy initiatives or investment in my own home state of Tasmania which might actually help achieve the outcomes they are talking about.

So I urge my colleagues in the Greens to have a think about their rhetoric and about the policies that we in the government are pursuing nationally, but specifically in my home state of Tasmania. I think if they stop and have a think about these policies, they might consider that this government is not the big scary government that doesn't want to do anything about this important issue. We certainly are committed to doing that and we took that policy to the election, and that was endorsed by the Australian people.

In my state of Tasmania, our plan for Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link was backed by the Tasmanian people. These are projects that Tasmanians are very excited about. As I have outlined today, we have a proud history of renewable energy in Tasmania, dating back to our hydro scheme, and we are looking to diversify that proud history further by branching into wind farms, as we already have done in some areas of the state and as we have proposed to do at Robbins Island and other areas, including through the central highlands of Tasmania. There are future projects that are being examined at the moment that I think will certainly go some way to addressing this existential climate crisis that the Greens are discussing today and that they seem to think is so pressing for us to be debating and addressing.

In summary, the Morrison coalition government, as I have said, are absolutely committed to reducing emissions, and we see the key way of doing this is to simultaneously grow our economy and keep electricity prices down. These don't have to be mutually exclusive. We believe we can do both at once, and that is certainly what we are doing by charging up our energy grid through renewable energy in my own state of Tasmania. Only the coalition government have planned down to the last tonne how we will meet our emissions targets, and we remain confident that we will meet them. For the reasons I have outlined today, I am very confident that the plan that we have set out and that we took to the Australian people will be delivered, and that is what comes from good, responsible government.

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