Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The President has received a letter from Senator Parry proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:

The government’s refusal to acknowledge that direct action on climate change can be achieved without imposing a massive new tax on Australian industry and families.

I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today’s debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clocks accordingly.

4:10 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that direct action on climate change can be achieved without the need for a clunky, bureaucratic and ineffective massive new tax on everything reflects the choice available to the Australian people at the next election. On the one hand, with the coalition Australia has been given a plan which is cost-effective and practical and which provides a direct pathway to reducing our carbon emissions. Under Labor, Australians get a cocktail of unsurpassed, complicated verbiage and a massive tax that will impact everything and everyone, but Labor’s approach lacks two vital ingredients: that of being effective and that of being practical.

What we have learnt from Labor after two long years in office is that Mr Rudd has no practical or effective solution for anything. We have learnt that long, nonsensical sentences do not translate into practical policy solutions. Remember his war on petrol prices? Remember his war on grocery prices? Remember his war on housing affordability? Remember his war on whaling? Mr Rudd’s war on everything has led to no changes, let alone changes for the better.

And so it is with climate change. According to Mr Rudd in 2007, climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time. It needed to be rushed through the parliament and implemented to start at the beginning of this year—we would all be doomed otherwise; a double dissolution would be called. Now, all of a sudden this great moral challenge of our time has become either less great or less moral, I am not quite sure which. Labor itself delayed the introduction of its proposals until 2011 and talk of a double dissolution seems to have fallen off the agenda. This greatest moral challenge of our time, surprisingly, was not even referred to anymore in the Prime Minister’s Australia Day addresses as he was increasing his own carbon footprint flying around the country.

Mr Rudd and Labor fail to recognise that Australians are rejecting his new massive tax on everything because it is neither practical nor effective, but it is hugely expensive and hugely bureaucratic. Indeed, in question time today the Prime Minister’s own representative in this place could not answer the most basic of questions about costs and compensation under Labor’s scheme. If Labor do not understand their own scheme than Labor should not be blaming their fellow Australians, who also do not understand the scheme and are therefore quite rightly rejecting it. Given the fiasco of Copenhagen—not my words but the words of Labor’s own climate change guru, Robert Garnaut—you would have thought Labor would have at least—

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

What is his name? Ross Garnaut. Given the fiasco of Copenhagen, you would have thought that Labor would have at least put their flawed scheme on hold. Pride, arrogance—whatever it is—will not allow Labor to be mugged by the reality or the will of the Australian people, and so on they trudge supporting the indefensible. I know a number of people who did support the ETS last year on the basis of the expectation that Copenhagen would deliver workable outcomes. These same people are now saying, ‘Thank goodness Australia was saved from the madness of going before Copenhagen,’ and of course they are thanking the coalition for that situation.

Because we have rejected Labor’s flawed, big new tax on everything, Labor simply take the lazy approach. They do not defend their policy position; they just seek to attack us. But those tactics will not wash, especially now that the coalition has a sustainable, effective and practical plan for direct action—an action plan that will reduce our carbon emissions, increase our land’s fertility, increase the efficiency of energy transmission, increase the productivity of our farmlands and allow all Australians to make a practical contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. All that and more is achievable through the coalition’s leadership, vision and fresh thinking.

Our $2.5 billion emissions reduction fund will provide business with a direct financial incentive to reduce their CO2 emissions. The fund will provide incentives for the oldest and most inefficient power stations to reduce emissions in an orderly manner which protects jobs and gives certainty of power supplies. The Greens would shut them down overnight, without a care for workers or consumers. Labor’s ETS would simply let the rot set in and let them die the death of a thousand cuts. One thing at least that you can say for the Greens’ policy is that it would be more humane; it would be a quick execution.

We have a clear path forward—a path which allows a transition, thereby protecting jobs, protecting power supplies and protecting investments. We have a plan to replenish our soils. We have a plan for one million additional solar energy roofs. What clear, innovative thinking to harness two natural assets that Australia has been blessed with in adundance—soil and sunshine. The coalition will use our natural advantages of soil and sun to drive our initiatives. And, yes, there is more. We will support innovation with $50 million for geothermal and tidal power initiatives. We will commit to putting those ugly and inefficient high-voltage powerlines underground, making them transfer power more efficiently and converting the scars to green corridors—carbon sinks. That clearly is a win-win for energy and for the environment. This is all about real, practical, effective, direct, common-sense action, which the coalition can and will deliver. On the other hand, under Labor, the Australian people can have an expensive, ineffective, great big tax on everything, with no environmental dividend.

I want to make the point that there is no environmental dividend under Labor’s proposed ETS. Because, in the absence of world action—in the absence of the world coming together, given the failure of Copenhagen—under Labor’s proposal our clean zinc producers, for example, in my home state of Tasmania, who produce about two tonnes of CO2 for one tonne of zinc produced will be outpriced on world markets by zinc produced in China that emits six tonnes of CO2 per tonne of zinc produced. Under Labor, we would be mugging Australian jobs and the Australian economy, and the actual environmental outcome for the world would be worse. Given the circumstances that we have a positive action plan and Labor’s policy is fatally flawed, what do Labor do? They pathetically describe our policy as ‘uncosted’. That is false. It is fully costed and the details have been put out publicly.

They then inflate the costs—once again, false. The numbers are there for all to see, with the backing of Frontier Economics. Then they descend into name calling, saying that it is a con job. The Australian people expect better from the Rudd government. After only two years in government, they have become tired and bereft of a vision. Under Tony Abbott, the Australian people have seen a new visionary coalition that will deliver for the economy, for jobs and for climate change.

4:20 pm

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question that we have in front of us for discussion in this matter of public importance this afternoon is one that invites a comparison of Labor’s responsible, fully-costed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme with the so-called ‘policy’ released by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. I welcome the opportunity to make the comparison.

The day that the climate sceptics took over the Liberal Party late last year was a very sad day for Australia. It was a sad day particularly for our children and then our grandchildren. If the policies and the approach espoused by the Liberal-National Party had the opportunity to be put into practice, it would be the young people of today who would have to carry the burden of a changed environment and an economy that could not manage the impact of increased greenhouse gasses. Our children and their children will be the generation that shoulders the burden, if there is no action on climate change.

The fact is that the Liberal Party has had myriad positions on climate change over the last few years. Mr Howard took a while to come to his senses. After many years of inaction in government, Mr Howard took the position that an emissions trading scheme was the only sensible and reliable way of dealing with dangerous climate change. After considerable consideration of advice, Mr Howard and his cabinet agreed that they would adopt an emissions trading scheme as government policy, and he said:

It is fundamental to any response both here and elsewhere that a price is set for carbon emissions. This is best done through the market mechanism of an emissions trading system.

That was the policy that the coalition took to the last election. That is the policy they put in front of the Australian people and asked the Australian people to vote on. Now we have a completely different position from the opposition. As I said, it was a sad day when the climate sceptics took over the current opposition.

An emissions trading scheme is recognised by most economic commentators around the world as the most sensible method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As Lenore Taylor said in today’s Australian in analysing the Liberal-National Party approach to climate change, ‘This is a climate change plan to get Tony Abbott through to the next election, not a serious plan to refit the Australian economy so that it emits less carbon.’ This so-called policy is a political fix. Michelle Grattan described the plan as ‘Mickey Mouse’ and a ‘summersault on emissions trading’ that is ‘a short-term election pitch, not a sweeping reform to meet the threat of climate change’. Phil Coorey from Fairfax said that taxpayers will foot the bill for the big polluters under the opposition plan.

As I said, those opposite have had a number of positions on climate change in the last three or four years and by my reckoning Mr Abbott has had three different positions in the last 12 months. Initially he was a sceptic, then he became a pragmatist and then we had the unedifying spectacle late last year of Mr Abbott doing his numbers in order to gain the leadership and realising he would have to revert to being a sceptic yet again. In order to gain the votes that were required to put him into the leadership of the party, he has rephrased his approach to climate change and now he is an avowed climate sceptic. This is a dangerous position for Australia and it is a dangerous position because, if it were allowed to be put into effect, it would wreak havoc on our economy and on our environment.

The Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong, has consistently said that an appropriate policy response to dangerous greenhouse gases is a response that is economically responsible and effective in reducing greenhouse gases. The Liberal-National Party policy fails on both counts, but you do not have to rely on me to tell you that story. Matthew Warren from the Clean Energy Council said, ‘Any genuine, effective climate change policy needs to provide investor certainty across the entire energy market and beyond.’ He also said that it is difficult to see that the Liberal-National Party plan provides that long-term certainty. Peter Cosier from the Wentworth Group said this morning on radio that the best policy on the table is the amendments agreed to between the government and the opposition, referring to the agreement last year. He went on to say that the proposal to plant 20 million trees falls well short of proposals included in the current ETS, under which farmers would be paid four times as much to plant trees. I am interested that those in the National Party would accommodate less money for their so-called constituency. This is a political con designed to take the Liberals to the next election. It is not about responsible policy development that will actually deal with the threat that we face in climate change. It is economically irresponsible and environmentally useless.

Climate change is real. Australia is the hottest, driest country in the world and we have a responsibility to act in concert with the world to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Nowhere is that threat more real than in my state of Queensland. Last weekend Mr Abbott said:

… even if dire predictions are right and average temperatures around the globe rise by four degrees over the century, it is still not the ‘great moral challenge’ of our time …

Those words are of great concern for those in North Queensland whose livelihoods rely on the Great Barrier Reef. The common, well-understood and agreed science is that if we have a two-degree increase we will not have a Great Barrier Reef. We know that with a two-degree increase there will be significant bleaching events and the time between those bleaching events will be shortened, reducing the ability of the reef to recover. We know that with increased climate change there will be an increase in the intensity of cyclones. We have seen recently that cyclones of higher intensity do enormous damage, especially to the outer Great Barrier Reef. With a four-degree increase in temperature over the century, which according to Mr Abbott is not a great moral challenge, there will be no Great Barrier Reef.

I take this opportunity to remind people of the wonderful asset that this natural attraction is to our community. It is a natural wonder of the world. It contributes $5 billion of economic value to Queensland and to Australia. Thousands and thousands of people are employed in tourism and fishing and other industries directly related to the existence of a healthy Great Barrier Reef. We cannot afford to lose it and it is morally reprehensible to allow its demise. I remind senators that the Great Barrier Reef is the best managed coral reef system in the world. It is still the best reef experience in the world. I encourage people to visit the Great Barrier Reef now, to experience how wonderful it is and how well managed it is. It is a fragile ecosystem and we have to do all we can to protect it. But, can I say, it is still well and truly healthy and open for business, so we encourage your visit now.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Australian Institute of Marine Science and was given a presentation by Janice Lough, who published an article in Science on 2 January 2009 entitled ‘Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef’. I think this is some of the most compelling evidence to say that we have to act on climate change. The authors say:

Reef-building corals are under increasing physiological stress from a changing climate and ocean absorption of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. We investigated 328 colonies of massive Porites corals from 69 reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia. Their skeletal records show that throughout the GBR, calcification has declined by 14.2% since 1990, predominantly because extension (linear growth) has declined by 13.3%. The data suggest that such a severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years.

                  …              …              …

The causes of the decline remain unknown; however, this study suggests that increasing temperature stress and a declining saturation state of seawater aragonite may be diminishing the ability of GBR corals to deposit calcium carbonate.

Calcium carbonate is the skeleton of the Great Barrier Reef. If we have lost 14.2 per cent in the last 10 years, that should be cause for alarm and that should cause action on climate change. I commend the article to the chamber.

Mr Abbott likes wandering around Cape York Peninsula, so I encourage him to come up a little further in the Torres Strait. I encourage him to ask the people of the Torres Strait if they think climate change is real. They will tell you in no uncertain terms that climate change is real. We have seen increased tidal inundation and increased frequency in inundation over the last while. In the last couple of seconds I would like to refer to an article in today’s Daily Mercury that talks about some polling that has recently been done—(Time expired)

4:34 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion before us is:

The Government’s refusal to acknowledge that direct action on climate change can be achieved without imposing a massive new tax on Australian industry and families.

At the core of that is the assumption that a massive new tax is in fact inherent in the government’s legislation. The government and the opposition have debated this. I take that terminological attack on action on climate change, which has come from the National Party and been adopted by Mr Abbott in opposition, to be a defrauding of the information base and the intelligence that we have in this parliament to act on climate change. It undercuts the intelligence of the Australian people, who understand that climate change is a big threat to the future and who want action taken.

Now both the government and the opposition are claiming that each other’s policy is going to create a tax imposition on the Australian people which should not be there. Yet two days ago, in talking about the impact of an ageing population on the economy, the government’s own assessors—and this is coming from Treasury and the best economic advice in the nation—advised that, unchecked, climate change will cause an eight per cent reduction in gross national product by mid-century. Let me state that again: climate change, unchecked, will reduce the gross national product of this nation by eight per cent by mid-century. That is billions and billions of dollars. With that eight per cent will come hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost jobs and a tangible and great decrease in the wealth of people, their lifestyle and their safety. Yet both the parties in this parliament are hectoring each other into greater inaction, based on the claim that there will be an impost on us in 2010 as mature and rational citizens. Their view is that we should back off and leave the next generation to be assaulted in their time by an eight per cent reduction in gross national product.

The question again is: does this parliament have the long-sightedness to act on behalf of the national good in the long term as well as in the short term? That is a question that I think only the Greens are tackling with the maturity and the responsibility which it requires of the national legislators. We have seen from both the big parties a targeting of five per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 over 1990 levels, when the world’s scientists tell us it must be a minimum of 25 per cent and should be 40 per cent. These are the targets which the Greens have adopted, because that is what the global scientific opinion and, increasingly, economic opinion—from experts like Professor Ross Garnaut in Australia, who advised the Labor government, and Sir Nicholas Stern in Britain, who advised the Blair government but has become a globally respected figure on the economics—say that we should be aiming at.

If we do not act now, the impact on coming generations is going to be far greater. As Maggie Thatcher herself said two decades ago, every day we delay on climate change action, the cost of remediating that, of taking later action, increases. And yet we have both parties aiming at a five per cent reduction, when a 25 per cent reduction is required. Why is that? It is because of the power of the big end of town and, in particular, the coal conglomerates. I remind the Senate that the coal corporations acting in this country are 75 per cent owned outside Australia, and yet the government’s action plan for a five per cent reduction would hand across $24 billion to the big polluters, including billions to those very same coal corporations, and a lot of that money would drain straight out of the country. The opposition, on the other hand, is saying—and I heard my colleague Senator Joyce, who is to speak next, saying this on radio this morning—’We will appeal to the greed factor in getting the corporations to take money from the state, in order to, if they do not reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, keep emissions where they are.’ I cannot and will not, and nor will the Greens, ever accede to any policy which is based on an appeal to the greediness of megacorporations like these coal corporations, who are 75 per cent centred outside this country anyway.

I heard from the coalition speaker Senator Abetz that there are thousands of jobs in the coal industry that are dependent upon proper protection. Then from the Labor government speaker we just heard an appeal for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. There are competing interests here. On the one hand, the coal industry has 30,000 jobs, which we Greens say need to be thought about. Those communities need to be assisted in transforming to the highly skilled new environmentally based industries of the future, including renewable energy. But there are more than double that number of jobs—63,000 jobs—in the $5 billion per annum industries of the Great Barrier Reef. You cannot fail on climate change and say you are looking after the interests of those jobs on the Great Barrier Reef and the thousands of small businesses which are dependent upon it.

We will have the scepticism of members of the big parties about climate change and the Great Barrier Reef, but I am indebted again to the former great Democrat senator in this place Norm Sanders, whom I saw Sunday week ago, for reminding us—as the last speaker has just done—that acidification threatens the Great Barrier Reef more than climate change even. What is acidification? It is carbon dioxide being absorbed in the ocean as we increase greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon in the atmosphere, making the ocean more acidic. This is threatening the whole food chain of the world’s oceans. This is besides climate change. You can be sceptical about climate change, but you cannot be sceptical about the increasing acidification of the oceans, beginning with the zooplankton and the phytoplankton, the starting blocks of the whole food chain, which are materially being diminished and threatened by acidification because coal-fired power stations are belching carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The opposition says, ‘We’ll appeal to their greed to see if they won’t at least limit it to what they’re doing at the moment.’ Business as usual will lead to the collapse of the ocean food chain, as acidification gets worse. Even if you do not regard as a possibility the heating of the oceans and climate change impacts on the ocean, we are headed for catastrophic impact on the whole of the ecosystem of this planet, the mass extinction of species. Scientists tell us that a third of bird species will be extinct by the end of the century, and there is a real threat to mammal species, including this one, Homo sapiens. There is an attendant megathreat to the whole of the oceans upon which we human beings depend, through acidification, and we have got the government and opposition arguing over who is best at delivering a five per cent reduction in carbon emissions into the atmosphere, when we need a minimum 25 per cent reduction if we are going to offset those threats.

So as both the big parties fail their duty to this nation to tackle climate change—through their so-called action plans, which are in fact fail plans—it is left to the Greens to be the champions for this nation of responsible, mature and appropriate action on climate change. We have put an interim proposal to the government for, effectively, a carbon tax of $20 per tonne of carbon. We are negotiating that with the government. This is a very serious matter and requires serious action. It requires this parliament to raise its sights. It requires the big parties to raise their sights from the five per cent target to the 25 per cent minimum target they should be aiming at.


4:44 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Finance and Debt Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

It is interesting to rise today to find out, as my colleague Senator Bob Brown says, that we are on the cusp of extinction. It is unfortunate. I hope it is not the case and it does seem slightly alarmist. However, that seems to be the metaphor that has driven this debate. We have also heard from Senator McLucas of the impending collapse of the Great Barrier Reef, which is also unfortunate. Professor Peter Ridd, who is the oceanographer at James Cook University and one of the most eminent people in that field, does not agree with her. He lives in North Queensland, so she probably has not met him.

It is vital that we understand the fear factor that has driven this debate. What the Labor Party put forward was a broker’s bonanza. They had something that every banker in Sydney would have absolutely loved. They had a program where they just creamed the money in with commissions. We had the environmentally conscious merchant banks with their hand on their heart saying, ‘This is all about the environment.’ But it was not. It was about them making a bucket load of money out of Australian working families because Australian working families had no choice but to pay. The Labor Party program is a broad based consumption tax that is delivered to you by the power point in your house. Every time you turn something on you are paying something to the Australian Labor Party institution of government. That is what they desire. They said that they were out to help the working family, but what choice do they have? We have had this argument about their market based system.

It was very interesting to get an email from a person—I will not mention him but he was very prominent around here in the past—who said that when governments want to reduce engine emissions and get clean the engines in cars, buses and trucks they mostly resort to direct action. That is how you deal with it, that is how you bring it down, rather than with price mechanisms. I surmise three likely reasons for this: it was the fastest and most effective way to get change; it meant that the whole industry changed, not just the most responsive part of it; and a price rise would have had to be so high to change consumers’ behaviour that it was unlikely to be possible. Who put forward that submission to me? I will tell you who it was: Andrew Murray. He said that direct action is how you deal with an issue.

If we go down the market based mechanism, so they like to call it over there, all that happens is you push up prices on the vital components in the cost of living of working families, pensioners and everybody else. But they do not have an alternative, they have got nowhere to go, and so they just pay the higher prices. It is not as if when you turn on your fridge it will start running on gas; it will not. It will run on electricity, but it will just cost you more. It will not be like you have the opportunity to say, ‘Sorry, tonight we will turn on half the light globe.’ You do not have that opportunity; you just pay more for it. Or you are going to say, ‘Sorry, we are only going to iron half the uniforms and not bother washing the socks.’ You have to do all of that, but you just pay more for it. Under the Labor Party’s program, you pay until you are poor. What the coalition has put forward is direct action.

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is greed.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Finance and Debt Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

Why are we getting so uptight about the words, ‘If you are motivated by getting your hands on money’? What is so spectacular about that? If it is not greed that you are on about, Senator Cameron, then I will give you a few charities and you can donate your salary to them. Are you willing to do that? Is anybody willing to do that? No, you are quite motivated by the factor of money, and that seems reasonable. But guess what? So are other people. I do not see anybody from the Labor Party, the Greens or anybody else handing back their salaries. We are saying that we are working on the principle that there are funds available for you if you want to do the right thing, but the costs are capped. The effect on working families is minimal. In fact, we are delivering to them a fairer package.

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What is the effect? How much?

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Finance and Debt Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I will go through the cost. The cost through your smelly tax and through your dirty little trick is to wind your way into the hands of working families and then to put out on the street the working families and the coalminers. What happened to you? You have changed. You no longer care for the working family. You have been sucked into the machine. You are now a machine man. You sit back there, you machine man. It is $4½ billion. They are going to start off with $4½ billion, next year $11½ billion, then $12 billion and then $12½ billion. They are going to rip in excess of $40 billion out of their working families with this naïve approach where they do not believe that cost will be handed on. It will be handed on to your working families.

Why do you not acknowledge that the issue has changed? Your working families, pensioners, farmers and Australian consumers are saying, ‘We do not want to go down this path.’ You are so arrogant and so conceited that you have brought back to the parliament, as the premier item of your agenda, the emissions trading scheme. That is apparently what you are all about. If you want to know what the Labor Party is about, it is the emissions trading scheme. That is what defines the Australian Labor Party. To quote Paul John Keating once more, we are so happy you have brought it back because we are going to do you slowly. Slowly, day by day and piece by piece we are going to drag you in here and see if you have got the courage and conviction to nominate the increase in costs to the people who will have to pay, the people who gave you the Treasury bench. Is this the reward that you have delivered to them? What we have delivered is a multifaceted environmental policy, for which the costs are controlled and for which we can budget, which is completely unlike yours. And then we hear the Greens say ‘a reward to polluters’. It is your scheme that ultimately ends up paying them $40 billion, not ours. It is your scheme that delivers the buckets of money to the major coal companies, not ours. Ours is a clean scheme. It costs $3.2 billion. People ask where that is going to come from.

Here is the Labor Party, who over the next four years are going to spend about $1.4 trillion—$1.4 trillion in expenditure—and we are going to be looking for $3.2 billion. That is 0.2 of one per cent of your expenditure. I reckon we can find it. I reckon we can find that 0.2 of one per cent of your expenditure. But I tell you what else costs $3.2 billion—

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Finance and Debt Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

The pink batts scheme. Maybe we could have found it there, but it is all up in the roof with the rats and mice urinating on it at the moment! But we can pull it back out to pay for our scheme! That is a good place for us to start.

4:52 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, here we are with the coalition’s A-team in terms of the climate change debate! There is Senator Joyce, Senator Abetz and, bringing up the rear, who do we have but the biggest climate change sceptic in the country, Senator Bernardi. We have Senator Abetz coming into this place and talking about those opposite being ‘a visionary coalition’—before Christmas, a rabble; after Christmas, visionary. Politics do not work like that. People know that you have changed your leader but you are still the same old rabble that you were, with absolutely no ideas and no capacity to deal with the real issues that are facing ordinary Australians in this country. And what do you give us? You give us a slogan. You have given us slogans before. What was the big slogan that Senator Joyce kept putting his hand up for? What was that big slogan? The big slogan was ‘work choices’. That was the big slogan from the coalition. From a coalition that were concerned about Australian working families, we got Work Choices.

And now we have got ‘direct action’. Direct action will never deliver. You know that direct action is a con job. You know that this policy is an absolute con job on the Australian public. The press are onto you, we are onto you, and the public are onto you. We know what it is about; it is about trying to pretend that you care about the environment and it is about trying to pretend that the extremists have not taken over the coalition. But the extremists have taken over the coalition—the industrial extremists and the climate change extremists.

The coalition have failed to meet the challenge of climate change, the greatest political, economic, social and environmental challenge that this country has. The challenge for the divided, extremist coalition is to change what you are doing and actually think about future generations in this country. You know that the science is in, the science is there: surging levels of greenhouse gas emissions, underlying warming trends, acceleration in the melting of the ice sheets, glaciers and ice caps. You know it is there but you deny and deny. Rapid arctic ice, sea decline—the current sea rise is underestimated. Delaying action risks irreversible damage, and the turning point may come soon. It is not me who is saying this; it is the scientific community around the world and in Australia.

The coalition policy is a Clayton’s policy. It is a con job. The coalition policy will not work. It will not require anything from the polluters. It slugs the taxpayers instead of the polluters. It is unfunded and it will mean higher taxes. Senator Joyce has a responsibility to say where the cuts to the services will be—where the cuts to schools will be, where the cuts to hospitals will be—under the unfunded, unacceptable and unthought-through program that you have put up to try and get you through to the next election. The coalition policy is really a product of despair in the coalition, onto their fourth leader. It is a product of division. The Nationals do not like the Liberals, the Liberals do not like the Nationals, and the Liberals do not like each other. That is the reality. If you try to produce a policy from that chaos, you get what you see: a policy that is a Clayton’s policy, a policy that will not deliver and a policy that relies on fear and scaremongering within Australia by the coalition—the experts on fear, the experts on scaremongering, at it again to try and cover up their lack of cohesion, their lack of unity and their lack of leadership on the key policy issues facing the Australian public.

Neither Senator Joyce nor the Leader of the Opposition is capable of explaining this so-called simple policy that you have. You cannot tell us what services will be cut, such as what hospitals will be closed, and where we might end up in relation to the funds—and you are not prepared to identify where they will come from. You have actually failed not only the Senate but also the nation by not adopting a policy that will deal with the carbon pollution issue that faces everyone around the world. It is quite clear that the arguments in terms of the costings are all about fear and loathing. The so-called Treasury spokesman, Senator Joyce, just speaks more and more mistruths in this place and peddles more and more mistruths in the public eye.

If you look at the Treasury modelling, you can see that there will be 1.7 million jobs created between now and 2020 under Labor’s scheme. There will be 4.7 million more jobs by 2050. There will be a growth in gross national product. The value of output will increase in the economy. Average incomes will increase by $4,300. That is the Treasury modelling for the Labor Party policy, which is a funded policy and a policy designed to do something about the growing CO2 emissions. Early action is required to reduce uncertainty in business, to ensure that we get the investment that we need and to ensure that we can engage in what is happening all over the world, where progressive governments are looking to see how we can deliver the jobs of the future and ensure that we can build a low-carbon economy for our kids into the future.

The position put forward by Senator Joyce in relation to funding is absolute nonsense. It will be the coalition policy that will cost households jobs and cost households money because it is unfunded. The Labor Party policy will have an impact of just over one per cent and that one per cent for 90 per cent of households will be refunded totally. A cost of just over $600—$624 a year—with a rebate of $660 to those households: that is what is being put forward by the Labor Party. Households will be protected.

Under your policy there is no protection for households, no protection for jobs, no protection for hospitals and no protection for infrastructure. It is an example of the economic incompetence of the new shadow finance minister. You just have to watch Senator Joyce in action. The longer it goes the better it is because we expose the hypocrisy and the unintelligible gobbledygook that underpins all of your arguments. You are an absolute disgrace. You have been put in there purely to try to cover over the problems and the division in the coalition, and it is not going to work because you are going to blow it apart. We can see it every day. It is absolutely fantastic. (Time expired)

5:02 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

At the outset it is with some bemusement that I find that this policy is called direct action because those of us old enough will remember that ‘direct action’ was the name of the Socialist Workers League publication. I note that Senator Cameron was condemning direct action. It was a good Trotsky publication from uni days.

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I always had to fight with them.

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cameron always had to fight with the Trots, so there you go. If you want to have action on climate change—and I believe we must—it will not be cost free. If you are going to reduce greenhouse gases, there is no cost-free solution. To me the debate is about finding the most effective way to abate greenhouse gases to a sufficient level to actually make a difference when it comes to the issue of risk management in terms of climate change.

I understand that some of the sceptics about the science of climate change have been strengthened by some of the conclusions of the IPCC. There was some sloppy work in terms of some of the conclusions, but overall the body of work is still significant and robust in my view that we need, from a risk management point of view, to deal substantially with climate change. I agree with the Prime Minister, who said that dealing with climate change is one of the great moral issues of our time. I find it curious that the Prime Minister did not mention climate change once in his seven quite significant speeches leading up to Australia Day on his tour around the country. I find it disappointing that in those speeches about where we are heading as a nation there was no mention made of climate change, because climate change has made and will continue to make an impact on the Murray-Darling Basin, for instance.

I could not support the government’s scheme. I believe the government’s scheme was made even worse by the amendments agreed to by Mr Turnbull. They made a bad scheme even worse in terms of the payouts and the structural imbalances that would have been caused in the economy. It would have done nothing to assist the hundreds of thousands of small businesses with the impact it would have on the price of electricity. I believe this nation needs a well-designed emissions trading scheme, but it is true to say that what occurred in Copenhagen has been a setback for those wanting global action on climate change. The actions of China and India have not been helpful in order to achieve that.

So I cannot support the CPRS in its current form. I believe we need to look seriously at the Frontier Economics model, which is an intensity based scheme. It is much more efficient and you can go for deeper cuts. We need to have cuts that are much more significant than five per cent and we need to look to the science in relation to that.

I welcome the coalition scheme insofar as I believe it is an interim measure. It does not lock us into long-term decisions which will severely impact the economy but at least it does deal with a number of aspects that need to be dealt with in terms of soil carbon and R&D and at least it is beginning to tackle the problem. I only see it as a stopgap measure. Eventually this parliament will need to come up with an efficiently designed emissions trading scheme to deal with the problem. It is a stopgap measure until there is global consensus, but my concern is that once we are locked into the government’s scheme that will be it.

I believe we need to have meaningful targets. Neither scheme goes far enough. I believe there ought to be some bipartisanship. Where there is common ground, we need to get on with it and do all we can to cut greenhouse gases as deeply as possible and as efficiently as possible.

5:06 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I have an inconvenient truth for Labor and I have some words of hope for the Australian people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, upon whose report Labor have based and justified their ETS or great green tax, as the Australian public has come to know it, is built as a house of cards. It is built on rent seeking, on dodgy science, on intimidation and alarmism—all characteristics which the Labor Party have used in trying to justify their emissions trading scheme. But the only conclusion a sensible minded person can come to when you have a policy that is built on such dodgy foundations is that the policy response itself is dodgy, that it is flawed—and the Australian public is waking up to the fact that Labor’s ETS is hopelessly and horribly flawed.

Here are some of the reasons why the IPCC report is flawed and dodgy, and Labor have repeated some of them today. Senator McLucas and Senator Cameron, the dinosaurs of the climate change movement, are looking back at stuff that has been discredited and using it to justify their increasingly discredited arguments. Firstly, Himalayan glaciers: they were meant to melt by 2035. False, and proven false. That was another dodgy thing we heard repeated today. We have not heard that 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest is going to disappear. That is false too, but they probably did not have time to remark on it. The hockey stick graph was proved to be built on false and fraudulent data. The claim of wild weather and increasing cyclonic activity—Senator McLucas talked about that today—is wrong. It has been proved wrong but it is repeated by the dinosaurs in the Labor Party. The information they are relying on has not been peer reviewed. It has been taken from World Wildlife Fund journals, from Greenpeace journals—some German exchange student put it in his report—and produced as fact in the IPCC report. These are all used by the Labor Party to justify their great green tax.

What about the claim repeated by Senator McLucas today and first put around by Kevin Rudd that the Great Barrier Reef was going to disappear? Perhaps they did not have time to read the Australian today, where it said there is no evidence of coral bleaching and it did not appear that it was going to take place. This is a Labor Party that will do and say anything to justify their tax grab on the Australian consumers. They want to place the government at the very centre of the Australian economy so that every industry, every business, every person who wants to build this country and make it better and stronger economically has to go and ask for government largesse. Then the government will charge them for that largesse—which they are used to in the Labor Party—and then bequeath the funds as they see fit to the worthy serfs down there who will applaud them and say, ‘Thank you very much for looking after us, Mr Kevin Rudd and Ms Penny Wong and Co.’

This is not how Australia should function. This country is built on free enterprise. It is built on common sense. It is not built on a government doing everything and being at the very centre of the economic expansion of our country. Labor are misrepresenting their policy to the Australian people because they know it is not going to have an environmental impact. They know that Australia’s emissions are minimal, yet they know what they implement is going to be there forever. You cannot undo it. You cannot take it away. It gives rise to property rights that you cannot take away.

The coalition’s position, on the other hand, is built upon action that can be justified on environmental grounds, irrespective of whether or not the IPCC science is flawed. How can people complain about two million new trees? How can people complain about having a solar panel more accessible on their roof to provide electricity for them that is environmentally friendly? How can they complain about encouraging businesses to operate in a more environmentally friendly manner and in a cost-efficient manner that will not cost taxpayers $120 billion over 10 years? Make no mistake, that is what Labor are doing. They are going to suck $10 billion a year out of the productive economy and put it into government hands where they can determine who is worthy of it.

Let me tell you, the Australian people do not deserve this government. The Australian people deserve so much better. They deserve a government that is going to be responsible not only in dealing with the environment but responsible with taxpayer funds. If you want to know what is responsible, it is having environmental measures that will cost money—yes, they will cost money—but $3.2 billion is a whole lot less cost than the $120 billion the Labor Party are going to suck out the taxpayers’ pockets.

Photo of Guy BarnettGuy Barnett (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Chairman of the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for the debate has concluded.