Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022; Second Reading
I rise to speak in relation to the two bills before the Senate this evening, the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022. In doing so I might address a few preliminary comments, if I could. First, in reference to Senator Faruqi's speech, can I just, with indulgence, give my sympathies and thoughts to the Pakistan diaspora in Australia who, no doubt, are suffering from seeing what is happening in Pakistan at the moment with respect to the devastating floods that are occurring in Pakistan. My thoughts and prayers are with you, as I'm sure are the thoughts and prayers of everyone in this place, and I do hope the Australian government can lift its game in terms of providing assistance to the people of Pakistan. I simply don't believe we've done enough in that regard.
The other point I'd like to make is in relation to gas, and it is one of the touchpoints in this debate. Whilst the Greens and Labor will both be supporting the legislation, there is a material difference between their positions with respect to gas in particular and the approval of future gas projects.
I want to put a number of observations on the record with respect to the importance of gas for the foreseeable future. I note that, with respect to what is happening following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Germany at the moment is going as fast as it possibly can in constructing LNG terminals to allow them to export additional LNG. Just recently a company called EnBW Energy, a major German power producer, has entered into a 20-year contract, commencing in 2026—so, 2026 to 2046—to purchase an immense amount of LNG from the United States.
The second point I would make with respect to the importance of gas is that, if one looks at a company like POSCO in South Korea and its recent investment in a great Queensland company called Senex, again you can see that our near neighbours in North Asia are absolutely focused on securing their LNG supplies and are investing in Australian companies in order to secure those supplies on a long-term basis. I should say that POSCO at the same time is investing an immense amount of capital in relation to hydrogen. My third reflection in relation to gas is that Japan is again looking at increasing its LNG imports and is also, I should note, reconsidering its position with respect to nuclear energy, given its energy constraints. So, there you have a number of our major trading partners, all of whom recognise the issues relating to climate change. Each and every one of them are searching the world for LNG in order to assist them to meet their energy requirements and deal with climate change issues. That should be recognised and it should be put on the record.
The Senate is a house of review, Mr Deputy President McLachlan, and I know that you know that very well—indeed, you have experience in another place's upper house, which presumably has a similar perspective. I commend everyone who participated in the committee report that was prepared in relation of this legislation. I've read it very carefully. There are 10 points I'd like to make in relation to the committee report in relation to these bills, which are considered by the coalition senators who served on that committee. The first is that there was insufficient consultation with respect to this legislation. In a situation where, by the government's own admission, this legislation is not necessary, it is absolutely gobsmacking that they haven't engaged in sufficient consultation with respect to this legislation. For example, the Australian Forest Products Association has raised concerns with respect to the legislation, with respect to the lack of consultation. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was not consulted in relation to the legislation, which is just baffling. In addition to that, if one looks at paragraph 1.13 of the dissenting report of the coalition senators:
These concerns are bolstered by evidence from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry admitting that they have done no modelling on the impacts of the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022 on rural and regional Australia.
I mean, that is just astounding—that the relevant departments, including the Department of Climate Change, has done no modelling on the impact of this legislation on rural and regional Australia. How can that be?
In this place I represent the great state of Queensland, as does my friend Senator James McGrath, who is in the chamber this evening. We represent the people of rural and regional Queensland, and we do so proudly. To see a situation where this government is putting forward legislation where the department of climate change hasn't done any modelling to consider the impact of this legislation on rural and regional Queensland is just unacceptable. It is unacceptable.
The second point I'd like to make is that there has been no credible pathway thus far presented with respect to how the government is going to achieve its plan of firm—I emphasise that point: firm—82 per cent renewables by 2030. We simply don't have a credible plan with respect to how the government is going to achieve that goal. I don't think it's too much to ask that, just as the previous government did prepare a credible plan with respect to the goal of net zero by 2050, the government provide a convincing plan with respect to achieving their nominated goal of 82 per cent renewables by 2030.
Thirdly, there's no assessment of the economic cost of higher power bills that will flow from this policy. Be honest with the Australian people. Be honest. Do the work. Tell us how much their electricity is going to cost. Do the work before you come to this place and introduce a bill such as this.
The fourth point is lawfare, something we're very, very familiar with in the state of Queensland, in relation to actions being taken by non-government organisations. The concern has been raised that there will be unintended consequences from this legislation in relation to NGOs—in particular, environmentally focused NGOs bringing legal action on the basis of this legislation to stop development on a piecemeal basis. An example of that in the overseas context is the action that was taken by an organisation called Plan B against the expansion of Heathrow Airport. That legal action went through a number of levels in the UK court system. In fact, they tried to refer the legal action to the European Court of Human Rights, I think, when they were unsuccessful before the United Kingdom Supreme Court. All of this causes cost, all of this causes delay, and it's done on a piecemeal basis, not on the basis of an overall, overarching strategy and plan.
I refer those who are listening to this debate to paragraph 1.27 of the coalition senators' dissenting report, where they state:
Environmental groups which provided evidence to the Committee refused to rule out using this legislation to challenge agriculture, primary producing, infrastructure, energy, resources, or forestry projects.
Those are the actual NGOs who would potentially use this legislation in order to engage in this lawfare. Notwithstanding the fact that the government says, 'There's nothing to see here; you don't have to worry about it,' the actual NGOs—who are the ones that society should be concerned about in terms of undertaking this piecemeal lawfare activity—are not ruling it out. In fact, when given the opportunity to rule it out, they specifically don't do so. When one of my colleagues raised that earlier this evening in the debate, a number of the Greens senators—I don't think the Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate was in the chamber at the time—actually applauded and clapped and said, 'Fantastic!' So we're concerned about those unintended consequences and what it means to major infrastructure projects and major development projects which are needed by this country.
The fifth point I would like to raise is with respect to the change of the objectives and functions of a number of major Australian government agencies. I give you the example of Infrastructure Australia. Again, I refer to paragraphs 1.43 and 1.44 of the coalition senators' dissenting report:
Coalition Senators are also gravely concerned that Infrastructure Australia could not explain the consequences of the Bills on their own decision making.
They couldn't explain how the bill would impact their own decision-making.
The agency could not explain how they would weigh the emissions of applicant projects versus the job creation opportunities … When asked repeatedly how this legislation would alter Infrastructure Australia's decision making, officials stated: 'We're still determining that' and 'We are receiving advice on it at the moment'.
Prior to this legislation coming to this place, perhaps that should have been determined. Perhaps we should have been in a position to understand in practice—moving away from the written word in the act to the practice of application—how Infrastructure Australia is going to practically implement the changes put forward in this legislation. We do not have the answer.
The sixth point I'd like to raise—