Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022; Second Reading
As the minister responsible for this has admitted, these bills, the Climate Change Bill 2022 and Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022, are not required. Even today, the Greens have conceded that these bills are largely symbolic. Let's not gild the lily: this legislation does nothing to fix the climate emergency. Let's not have a lend of ourselves: this legislation does not lower emissions by one milligram. Let's not paint stripes on a horse and tell ourselves it's a zebra: this legislation does not save the planet. One thing this legislation is not is a plan. But this form of symbolism has consequences, and the burden of these consequences will be borne by regional Australia.
I will sideline a little bit. I was hurt by the words, 'If you oppose this bill, you are some kind of psychopath or a shill for the mining industry.' I think we are better than that. I think that lowers the tone of people's experiences in life, and I don't think it ends in a solution that we want in this party. Unlike most members opposite, I have lived with coal for most of my life. Growing up, I could see the drag lines from my parents' kitchen window every morning. My community in the Hunter, which the Labor Party claims to represent, runs on coal. From the mines to mechanics and the general store, without support, as we have seen in Europe, it is these communities that will lose their jobs, security and, ultimately, hope. How do I face people I went to school with who work in the industry and tell them I didn't do enough to protect their jobs, their homes and their families? None of them want to hurt the planet. They don't want to jump in the Ranger and go off to work with dreams of melting glaciers. They just want to put a meal on the table and a roof over their heads. How do I tell Scott that if he manages to get a job paying $70,000 less I didn't stand up for him? We must not fall into the same trap as Europe. We must learn from their mistakes in the past and we must ensure we support those who will be impacted the hardest.
The Nationals believe in practical action to address the impacts of climate change and a 'no person and no place left behind' approach to the transition. It appears that all parties of government believe we need to reach net zero, and I think they do believe it can be achieved. But I also believe targets based solely on ideology without any real plan will not achieve a fair outcome for communities.
I am one of the few in this place that went to COP last year, I toured regions in the north of England and parts of Scotland that have been crippled by sudden and severe reduction and elimination of steel mining and manufacturing. The advice that was most common when I was asking the question about a way to look for a transition was, 'We can show you how not to do it.' The Nationals believe that decarbonising the economy needs to be fair and just.
I sat on the inquiry for this legislation. I also listened to the evidence presented to us of the intended and unintended consequences that these bills would yield. The committee was presented with evidence that a typical worker in regional Australia is over three times more likely to have their job put at risk by the policy of net-zero emissions by 2050 than a typical worker in the inner-city. This is because workers in regional areas are far more likely to work in industries such as coalmining, heavy industry and agriculture. We received submissions, as my leader before me said, that showed that, to achieve the government's target, all 89 coal, gas and oil projects in the construction pipeline must be cancelled. This will come at the cost of approximately 480,000 jobs which would have otherwise been created.
The UN has stated a global transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable economy will have both positive and negative impacts on employment. Policymakers must smooth the edges of this transformation by developing just transition policies for affected workers and their communities. In 2021, the European Union announced the European Green Deal, a package of more than 500 billion euros providing tangible investments to deliver sustainable social outcomes as member states transition their economies. Neither these bills nor the government to date have acknowledged the same principles outlined by the EU or the UN. The committee was not furnished with any evidence either by submission or by testimony that the government has any intention of a similar package being developed or considered.
Those opposite quote the science and the infallibility of the IAEA when they say that wind will grow 25 percent higher on average over the next five years and solar 24 percent, but they can't accept the same body and the same science saying that, without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder.
Those opposite also want all the corporate climate change strategies of Europe but want to supply none of the safety measures for regional communities that were put in place. Regional Australia under the Greens-Labor policy is to get all of the pain and none of the gain. The Australian government cannot guarantee through faith alone that the promise of carbon-neutral jobs from new industries, energy projects and technology will be in the same communities as those predicted job losses.
The Nationals consider that legislating a 43 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 without a complementary package of financial support for affected communities and carbon-intensive industries, particularly in rural and regional Australia, presents a clear and present danger to the welfare of our communities. The Nationals believe that a guaranteed investment package based on the United Nations principles, to develop leveraging opportunities generated from the global focus on technology advancements to decarbonise economies, is required. If managed properly and administered sensibly, such investments have the potential to grow the Australian economy and create new work opportunities in the regions whilst transitioning those impacted workforces and local economies.
The Nationals believe there is widespread community and industry support to establish a regional transition authority, or several, to address specific regional communities and outcomes. We need to get the boots on the ground. The inquiry heard it has specific support from the likes of the Business Council of Australia, the Grattan Institute and the Blueprint Institute to do this.
Over the last two decades we have been told we must listen to experts in transitions to net zero. Listening to the experts over two days of hearings, we heard Mr Tennant Reed say:
To achieve the net zero transition, we are going to need to build a lot of big things and many distributed small things around the country: major new mines for lithium, for rare earths and for a range of other inputs …
Can we afford to delay the mining approvals for these things if we are to transition but no plan is in place? Ms Constable said:
By 2030, globally, we need to increase lithium production fourfold, double rare earth element output, deliver a 67 per cent increase in nickel and produce 32 per cent more copper.
Our new net zero economy relies upon increased rooftop and farm solar products and electric vehicles, and all of these elements require rare earth minerals sooner rather than later. However, Ms Constable said, the problem is:
In terms of what is being suggested, we will need a lot more copper investment to occur, and nickel and cobalt to occur.
That is not happening. Mr Zavattiero said:
I don't think we're on the right trajectory with things like copper; we're not exploring enough and not finding enough of the new mines of the future.
If we aren't doing enough to build the things to get there, we are in trouble. Without these resources, building the connectivity required for Labor's 82 per cent target for renewables is not going to happen. If we are to transition to net zero, we need to increase mining of rare minerals. This will also assist in growing our economy and offsetting potential job losses. Where is the plan for this? Where is the support for this? There is none.
Tomorrow morning, this bill will proceed. It is a goal without a plan, giving the regions fear but not hope. We will be told we have to honour the percentage of science that affirms the views of those opposite whilst ignoring the science that they don't agree with. Essentially, that is what this bill is—what I stated at the beginning and came from the mouths of some opposite: a bill that is largely symbolic or, as the minister responsible said, a bill that is not required. Why are we doing this?