Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:50 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

So there we have, yet again, the kind of action and the kinds of words that actually cause the problem. It's interesting that, with the bushfires that are currently occurring, it is the Greens who resort to that sort of language. And I quote here from an editorial in The Australian in November this year:

Aside from the deaths and suffering wrought by the disaster, it was the callous, cynical politicking of climate change activists, especially Greens MP Adam Bandt, party leader Richard Di Natale and West Australian senator Jordon Steele-John, that has left a bitter aftertaste. Their blaming Scott Morrison and his team for the loss of lives dragged politics to a repulsive low. It is time for a dose of icy water.

Climate change did not cause the fires. Drought and even deadlier blazes have been part of Australian life for more than a century. Climate change, many scientists argue, intensifies the dangers. But even if Australians eliminated all of the nation's greenhouse gases (about 1.3 per cent of the global total) and pandered to extremists who wanted meat consumption, grazing and flying reduced markedly, virtually nothing would be achieved. Mitigation must be global. And global emissions are rising, significantly.

My point is well made here in the chamber today by the Greens, who continue with this kind of hyperbole and extreme language that is doing harm to young people, regardless of your view on this debate.

Today we come to the motion moved by Senator McCarthy about carbon pricing. One of the comments that has frequently been made is that we'd all be better off if that carbon pricing scheme had gone through. Bearing in mind that affordability of power is one of the critical things for Australian families, Australian small businesses and, particularly, Australia's manufacturing industries—where energy intensity coupled with high prices mean that many of these industries, the workers who support them and the supply chains that support them are at risk with high prices—I quote from a report from the Parliamentary Library into energy market challenges. Again, the Parliamentary Library is not a partisan body; it is an independent group of researchers, who say:

Between July 2012 and June 2014 there was a period of relative stability and declining wholesale electricity prices in the NEM as a result of the repeal of the carbon price arrangements.

So what we see is that pricing carbon drives up price. There are a whole range of other factors that come to bear. Certainly, instability in the market and driving out base-load providers who can't amortise their costs, because of the spot prices that can be achieved by renewables—heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, I might add—contribute to rising prices, but so, clearly, do carbon prices.

One of the final things I want to highlight is paragraph (3) of Senator McCarthy's MPU, in which she:

… calls on all parties to end the political opportunism and work together to agree an enduring solution to the challenges of climate change.

I was very pleased to see that Mr Joel Fitzgibbon MP, who I regard as a friend in this place, gave an address in which he refers to lesson 5 for Labor. He says:

… Labor needs to reach a sensible settlement on climate change. How many times are we going to let it kill us? Indeed, how many Leaders do we want to lose to it?

Australia is responsible for around 1.3 percent of global emissions, nothing we can do alone can have a meaningful impact. But act we must … as a wealthy nation…

Further on, he says:

But what would be the outcome if Labor offered a political and policy settlement to make 28 percent the target by 2030? The focus would then be all about actual outcomes, and the Government would finally be held to account and forced to act.

A political settlement would also restore investment confidence and for the first time in six years, we could have some downward pressure on energy prices.

He then goes on to say:

Based on recent history, 28 percent would be a meaningful achievement, certainly a better outcome than the one Labor's last climate policy is now achieving.

The good thing that I can report to Mr Fitzgibbon is that, according to the ANU and scientists Professor Andrew Blakers and Dr Matthew Stocks, a study they've produced indicates that Australia is, in fact, on track to meet those targets here in Australia, which is good news. I welcome also Mr Fitzgibbon's support for states like Victoria to end their ban on fracking, because we need various suppliers of energy in order to mitigate the high costs and uncertainty around dispatchable power.

So, in response, not only does the coalition have firm targets that have been set but we're taking meaningful measures to actually reach the targets, to make sure that dispatchable energy is available when Australians need it and to drive down the cost of electricity through a range of sensible measures in both dispatchable power and renewables—in which, as the ANU said, we're seeing investment at record levels—as well as bringing in measures to firm up or stabilise that power supply. (Time expired)

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