Senate debates

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Second Reading

6:36 pm

Photo of Lisa SinghLisa Singh (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak, once again, to the second reading debate of the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014. I do so, of course, as the shadow parliamentary secretary for the environment, climate change and water. The carbon tax repeal bills have returned to the Senate yet again, the bills that clear the decks for the implementation of the coalition's climate change policy vacuum. I imagine that every government senator has every digit crossed that this time they have got the simple things right enough to get their repeal legislation through this place. The last thing we need in the Senate is another week like last week, where the hubris of a government that is not up to governing was toe-curlingly clear for all to see. In the Senate last week, like a barrister badgering their own witness, the government filibustered its own guillotine. Outside, in the Senate lobby, it was Pythonesque to say the least. There were frantic whispers, dodgy deals, accusations, counter-accusations, tantrums and tremulous phone calls to unelected powerbrokers as the government ship of state went down like the Titanic. Nonetheless, the bills have been raised from the depths of a short trip to the other place to have some amendments tacked onto them.

As we consider our votes on these bills, I say to my Senate colleagues that, while your votes may be easily made today, it is our grandchildren who will pay its full price into the future. If senators want real action on climate change, if they want to reduce the economic and environmental price that will be paid by our descendants, they should vote for Labor's amendments in the Senate which will deliver an emissions trading scheme. This vote will be a major part of the legacy of all of you. We will see how history judges the efforts of government senators and all of those who vote for the government's repeal legislation. History will remember how we vote in this place today—or tomorrow or whenever the vote does come about—and why, over the next year or two, prices will refuse to come down on absolutely everything, much as the Prime Minister has outlined.

Remember the Prime Minister assuring Australian households that the carbon tax and the carbon pricing mechanism would force prices up and up and up on absolutely everything? He then promised, as he had to, that repealing the carbon tax would force prices down and down and down on absolutely everything. That was not just electricity and gas, but everything—groceries, airfares and house prices. 'Absolutely everything' was his promise. Remember the Prime Minister's campaign of fear and hyperbole, his sloganeering tour around the country endlessly repeating clumsy metaphors and foolish predictions? He promised that the carbon tax would be 'a cobra strike to the economy' and 'a wrecking ball'. Tumbleweed would blow down the main streets of Whyalla and Gladstone, towns destroyed by the carbon tax—so the Prime Minister said. As Whyalla and Gladstone mirror the economy in continuing to go from strength to strength, does the Prime Minister feel as foolish now as he sounded then? The country now understands the value the Prime Minister places on his promises—less than the correction fluid that covers them up.

We saw last week the release of a UN report highlighting how major emitting countries can cut their emissions and increase economic growth, not just increasing growth but tripling economic output. The Pathways to Deep Carbonisation interim report, released by Ban Ki-moon on 9 July, shows that not only can the world avoid a catastrophic two degree global warming scenario but we can all benefit from decarbonising our economy. According to the report Australia can deliver a 71 per cent reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 while growing the economy by 150 per cent. The numbers for the US show an 85 per cent reduction while GDP almost doubles. Over the past century Australia has built for itself a deserved reputation as an honest nation, a brave nation, a nation that accepts global leadership—indeed, seeks such leadership—when it is needed. We are a democratic nation prepared to make sacrifices to protect humanity's greater good. Australian leadership is needed now. But leadership scares the coalition too much. They will let others lead, let others lift. Instead of seeking responsibility for global leadership on climate change, they lean away from it.

Global warming will cost the world five per cent of GDP as a minimum. It is already costing us. Addressing it will cost us one to two per cent of our global GDP. If Australians try but make little difference—maybe only a small difference—we will have led, we will have made that difference for future generations. But what if we back renewable energy and find ourselves at the front of a global renewable industry that makes a big difference, makes the difference—an industry reliant on innovation and research and set up for Australia. Australia, of course, has a lot of sun, tides, wind and water—and a lot of scientists and skilled workers and, therefore, a lot of innovation and a lot of technological expertise. Australian researchers, scientists and investors will be leading innovation and creating economic growth by developing new energy technology and boosting energy efficiency.

That is precisely what the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency are already achieving—institutions that are part of the fabric of what Labor created in our clean energy package. These are bodies Labor established and the government wants to destroy. But they have been saved by the good sense of the Labor Party, supported by some on the crossbenches. I urge the Senate to keep using its good sense and to vote for Labor's amendment to move the country to an immediate emissions trading scheme, as Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, proposed yesterday.

Labor was right to put climate change at the front of the political agenda. We are right to support an emissions trading scheme and we are right to support renewable energy. Labor will always fight for the right policy for Australia. We are right now; we will be right in 2050 and in 100 years.

An emissions trading scheme guarantees the lowest cost for Australian businesses and families. An emissions trading scheme delivers business certainty and it positions Australia so as to maximise economic benefit from the growing global trend on pricing pollution. And it puts Australia on the crest of the wave of the unprecedented new market opportunities in clean energy and green technology, opportunities that are supported through the CEFC and ARENA. It gives Australian innovation and ideas the chance to thrive. The Leader of the Opposition proudly noted that since Labor:

put a price on pollution two years ago, emissions in the energy sector—the main industry covered by the carbon tax—have dropped by 10.4 per cent.

Since the Renewable Energy Target was introduced, $18 billion has flowed into Australia’s renewable energy sector.

Under Labor, wind power generation—tripled.

The number of jobs in the renewable energy sector—tripled.

And the number of Australian households with rooftop solar panels increased from under 7,500 to almost 1.2 million.

Abolishing the RET

the renewable energy target—

will put Australia out of step with the rest of the world—and it will cut us off from the next wave of international investment in clean energy.

Labor objects to these bills because, if these bills pass in the Senate, we will see no cap on carbon pollution, no discipline and no rigour at all on the amount of carbon pollution produced in Australia

We will see no market mechanism whatsoever to deal with climate change, no effective price signal to discourage polluters from polluting our atmosphere with carbon dioxide much in the way the GP tax will discourage poor sick people on low incomes from seeing the doctor.

The shadow minister for the environment, Mark Butler, was right to express our concern that:

We will see no legislated short-term target for carbon pollution reduction. The five per cent reduction target for 2020 will go. … there will be no legal mechanism to implement Australia's international obligations. There will certainly be no longer term target, as in the current legislation—the 2050 target that Australia signed on to, apparently with the support of the then opposition, the now government, to reduce carbon pollution by 2050. Again, there will be no such commitment by Australia anymore.

So what will there be? There will be Direct Action, the government's plan to pay big polluters to pollute and remove the cap on pollution, the plan that will not change behaviour. In fact, Direct Action rejects action, and it is a coalition policy that is still yet to find any broad support out in the community from economists and environmentalists. Let us not forget the number of economists last week that all wrote an open letter to the government on exactly that—on the fact that Direct Action does nothing on climate change policy, whilst an emissions trading scheme, a legal cap on pollution, is what Australia needs to do. But we all know this, no-one more clearly than the Minister for the Environment, who spent 19 years and most of his political purpose arguing that a price on carbon was in fact the best way of reducing pollution. Much of the world now agrees with the minister's long-held and cogent views. However, they are views that he does not wish to express at the current time. Perhaps it does not politically make any sense for him to do so. It certainly does not make him come out in support of his own policy of Direct Action.

Sitting suspended from 18:50 to 19:30

If removing the carbon tax was all that these bills were about, the opposition would be able to join the coalition and support these bills. But, of course, this is not what this package of bills is about at all. It is about dismantling even workable measures to further the case that this Prime Minister has consistently propagated, arguing against the science. This is the settled science that tells us we need some significant action. The saddest component of this package of bills is what is not included. We have sought to substitute for that with our amendment and for an emissions trading scheme. On an emissions trading scheme, we know again that the Prime Minister has propagated furphies when it comes to international action.

Today, 39 national and 23 sub-national jurisdictions—accounting for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions—have implemented, or are on track to implement, carbon pricing instruments—very much what we are talking about when we talk about an emissions trading scheme. Yet this government will continue to carry on flogging the Direct Action dead horse, rejected by economists and scorned by climate scientists, and will stumble in shame into the Paris conferences next year wearing only a fig leaf, I am sure. They will not go as an example of an emissions-intensive economy with an integrated, effective emissions trading scheme. They will not be asked to inform the world how they are contributing to the global effort on climate change. The government will go with nothing but limited and ineffectual subsidies, no policy for 2020 and the decade after when global emission cuts targets will increase; no policy after 2018 and no funding after 2016. They will go with nothing. And there is the rub: no courage, no leadership—the definition of 'un-Australian'.

There are certain moments in parliament, which are inscribed in Hansard, where our successors will download what legislation was passed or repealed and ask themselves, 'What were they thinking? What were they scared of? Who voted for this and why?' These are narrow minded, partisan, ignorant mistakes. We can see them in the past—the White Australia Policy, the Stolen Generation, the Vietnam War. I believe that this is one of those moments, the moment when Australia might give up on global warming. This vote is about a choice between a few bits of money in 2015 or a future in which the environment might satisfactorily support our demands upon it.

As I said, the government has yet to demonstrate that its alternative policy can achieve Australia's minimum commitments. All that independent analysis to date indicates that emissions will continue to increase under its current proposed framework. If that is the case—and I have to say I put my money on economists and scientists over this government—then Australia is doing nothing on climate change. It is doing nothing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It is doing nothing to support our future generations . On that front, I would like to read into Hansard that the government can keep its 30 pieces of silver, because I am voting for the future. I am voting with Labor for climate change policy that will make a difference to our future generations—that is, an emissions trading scheme.

7:34 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

As you well know, tonight there are parties going along in the corridors and around the Parliament House as the government celebrates that it has now got the numbers to repeal the only effective package of legislation we have, which is bringing down emissions in Australia and which has successfully brought down emissions in the electricity sector by 11 per cent over the last couple of years.

I want to say to the children of 2050: the people who voted for the repeal of the carbon price, the people who voted to abandon strong action on global warming knew full well what they were doing and they chose to do it. Do not listen in the future when people try to argue that they did not know about the seriousness. They did and they proactively chose to do it.

We stand here in this parliament at a critical moment of time. It is critical because we as a national parliament are choosing our response to the climate emergency, which we human beings have wrought on the planet. It will impact on every generation who comes after us on a global scale. It is a critical moment because the rest of the world is watching to see whether Australia is going to take up a responsible position as a global citizen or whether we are going to retreat and become a laggard—a global pariah in the family of nations. It is a critical moment because it is the moment when we decide, as a nation whether to embrace the opportunities that the future offers—a society powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, by the sun, the wind, the waves, the earth itself—or whether we remain captured by vested interests of the old order, the old coal and gas industries and remain tied to the last century.

Voting for the abolition of the clean energy package is voting for failure: failure to face up to the four to six degrees of warming that we are currently on a trajectory to reach, failure to do our fair share globally in the effort to constrain global warming to less than two degrees and failure to take up the opportunities, the jobs, the innovation in the green powered future. But the greatest failure is that those who vote for abolition of the clean energy bills are imposing on our children a harder life. They are imposing on our children a higher degree of anxiety about the world in which they live and imposing on them a far less awesome planet than we have now. That is not leadership; it is intergenerational theft. The Prime Minister and every single member who votes for the abolition of the energy bills are engaging in intergenerational theft. It is also the day when the Abbott government confirms what Machiavelli knew in the 16th century when he said:

… there is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating change … The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience.

It is certainly true that the vested interests of the old order have won this pyrrhic victory because it is the community who will be paying with their lives, their farms, their futures, so that the big polluters can get off scot-free in Australia. The vested interests of the old order who have fought like partisans include the coal miners, who want to dig coal out of the Bowen and Galilee basins. The vested interests also include the Business Council of Australia and the Chamber Of Commerce and Industry.

In 25 years in politics I have never witnessed such a dismal failure of the business community in Australia and never will the business community be able to say to this parliament that politicians do not show leadership. The Greens have stood here showing leadership on management of society and the economy at a time of a global emergency and the Business Council and the Mineral Council of Australia have said, 'Forget it. We want to stick with the greed and the money of the last century.' I think at some point we will have a website of climate criminals and I would have a few people to put on that list. It would include Dick Warburton, Brian Fisher, David Murray, Maurice Newman, Mitch Hook and so you could go on, with Chris Mitchell, Gina Rinehart, Innes Willox, Ian Plimer, Rupert Murdoch, George Pell, Andrew Bolt, John Roscom, Martin Ferguson and so on and so forth. In years to come, those people will try to pretend that they did not tear down the climate bills, when they have and the record will clearly show it.

The good news tonight is that this is the last stand of the vanquished. To all those people partying around the corridors, enjoy it because it is your last stand. The fact is you have misjudged the temperature. As Machiavelli said, the old order fight like artisans; the lukewarm new order are lukewarm in their support, but I can tell you they are not lukewarm in their support on this occasion. The temperature is rising. You do not have to look around to find that people want Australia to lead to global warming. They want to embrace the future. They love renewable energy. They love innovation. They want the new jobs and investment but the people who want those things do not have the megaphones and the echo chambers of the Murdoch press. They do not have the false balance of the mainstream media which feels it has to give the same column mounts to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to Ian Plimer as an equal, for example.

When we look at the temperature of the planet rising, let us look at the climate science. The fact of the matter is we are on track for four to six degrees of warming. That means people will not survive. Part of the world will be uninhabitable. There will be one million deaths per week for the next 90 years if it gets to 4 degrees. Three degrees is deemed to be a tipping point from which the feedback loops make it impossible to stop. So now we have a situation where the ice sheets are melting. Just last week we had research about the warming waters around Antarctica, the changed situation meaning that those ice shelves are melting faster than anticipated in the recent UN climate panel report released just a few months ago. It is the same with the Arctic ice melt, progressing faster than first thought. There is now genuine concern about the 50 gigaton reserve of methane stored in the form of hydrates in the East Siberian Arctic shelf. That methane can either be released gradually or suddenly.

We also have ocean acidification and warming. We have calcium shelled creatures in our oceans unable to form new shells, a simplification of the food chain in the marine environment. We are seeing a loss of coral reefs around the world and we are seeing more extreme and more intense weather events. The Greens have had the courage for a long time to call it as it is—that is, extreme weather events are made more intense by global warming. We will not be silenced by all those, when the extreme weather events occur, who say, 'Oh, you can't say that. You can't say it is to do with global warming.' It is; and as people suffer through heatwaves, droughts, more extreme bushfires, storm surge and flooding, let it be known that that is what people are voting in this Senate tonight to achieve. We are going to see not only that but also loss of food security around the world as crops are destroyed through drought, fire and flood. We are going to see conflict and disease. Dengue fever is already spreading further south in Australia than ever was expected. And we are seeing loss of species. How heartbreaking is it that a quarter to a third of all species will be extinct by 2050 if we stay on the trajectory we are on? That is what I mean when I talk about simplification and loss of the awesome wonder of our world.

The second thing about which global action is rising in terms of temperature is the willingness of the world to act—and that is something I really welcome. We have now got President Obama out there saying, 'Yes. We must get a 2015 treaty.' We have the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Cameron, out there saying the same, and the European Union. The fact is that global emissions need to peak and come down and it should have been in 2015. That is what the scientists said: 'peak and come down by 2015,' but they have pushed that out because we have clearly missed that deadline. The fact of the matter is—and this is where I get to the point about what needs to be done—that it is not about asking the question 'Is global warming real?' It is about how fast we have to act on it and how deeply we have to cut. That is my challenge to the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Palmer United Party. It is no good saying that you want an emissions trading scheme. An emissions trading scheme is a tool to deliver what? What is the target? How rapidly do you want to bring down emissions? We have not heard a peep out of anyone except the Greens in this parliament about the level of ambition and the urgency that is required.

I put on the record that the Greens have a second reading amendment which says that we are on track for four degrees of warming. That means no new coalmines, no extension of existing coalmines, no new coal export terminals. And it says we need to adopt a trajectory of 40 to 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030 and net carbon zero by 2050 in order to go into the negotiations on the 2015 treaty. I have not heard from any other party, including those who claim to be leading on global warming. What is your level of ambition and how fast do you want to achieve it? If you are not prepared to say what your cap is on an emissions trading scheme, then it is empty words.

There is such a thing as being too late to address global warming. As I said, this is a critical moment for Australia. It is a fact, as Tim Wirth, a former Clinton secretary of state, said, 'The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment.' That is why the opportunity is now before us. We need transformation. We need a wave of social, technical and economic innovation that will touch every person, community, institution and nation on Earth. The irony is that this transformation is still viewed as an economic cost when it is in fact an enormous economic opportunity—an opportunity that we are increasingly being forced to recognise; and the Greens do.

Australia is in the right place at the right time in our history, and we should not be squandering this opportunity. We should be saying to the global community that we have a vision for this country to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. We should be out there chasing more efficient homes, more walkable cities, more public transport, more—some, at any rate—high-speed rail, for example. We want sustainable food systems. We do not want coal seam gas ripping up our farmlands. We do not want to lose our agricultural lands. We want to make sure we keep them so that they can produce food into the future. But we want to look after our biodiversity as well. We want to protect our forests and our wetlands, because they are wonderful homes and habitat to other species, but they are also fantastic carbon sinks. We want to have solar thermal in this country. We the Greens managed to achieve the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in our negotiations in the clean energy package, and we will fight to secure and keep the money for those organisations and keep them strong, because we want to see all of these technologies rolled out in Australia, because they bring jobs, they bring innovation and they are developing renewable energy. At that point we can celebrate. I said before: it is the last stand of the vanquished, because the renewable energy sector has won. The future is with us.

The Abbott government can stand up in the middle of the road and try to hold up the future. They can try to do that. They can actually line the pockets of the coal billionaires. They can do all of those things, but they cannot stop the future. We have got solar already achieving grid parity in many countries around the world, and here in Australia we have this massive rearguard effort from the old coal-fired generators trying to knock out solar. But it is too late. People power has won. More than a million homes across Australia have solar panels on their roofs, and everywhere I go people are excited about the new technologies that have been developed in Australia by the CSIRO and by other organisations. I can tell you that the pilot project of supercritical steam, that was achieved by a combination of CSIRO and ARENA, would power a turbine from solar thermal heat instead of burning coal. The inventers proudly compared it with breaking the sound barrier, and yet the Abbott government slashes the funding for it. If ever there were a symbol of choosing the past and not the future, it is that particular decision.

The Australian Greens stand for not only a safe climate, not only ambitious targets on global action and a treaty in 2015, but we want to invest in our young people, in our universities, in education and training, in new technology, in research and development. That is where the excitement is, and that is what we need to protect our environment. As it stands, the Abbott government is going to leave us exposed to non-trade tariff barriers. If you think the rest of the world is going to put up with Australia behaving as a pariah, have another think. The Koreans will put a tax on coal imports. The Indians have already done it and that will be something that continues.

We will end up with stranded assets all over the place as people divest from the old coal past, especially as people come to realise that all of these companies that are the old coal companies only have their asset value because it is assumed they can mine their asset, their resource. The world is saying: 'No, you can't. Your asset value is about to go up in smoke.' It is the carbon bubble, literally, that will be occurring.

The Greens will choose the future. We are going to choose life for the planet, for our oceans, for our species, and for our precious places like the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo. We are going to choose life for people who live on Tuvalu, Kiribati and Bangladesh. We are going to choose hope for the young people, the future generations who come after us. We are saying to them, 'Yes, no wonder you feel anxious and depressed by the complete lack of leadership, by the greed and self-interest of the old order, by the fact that we have a coal billionaire leading a political party in this place voting to put money into his own companies.' That is our reality. We will see Hydro Tasmania with one-tenth of its profits as a result of taking away the carbon price and 100 jobs will be lost in Tasmania by a decision to abandon carbon pricing. It is a huge cost to the future around the country.

But the great news here is that we have won. We may lose this vote tonight and we may lose this version of carbon pricing, but we will be back stronger and even more determined than we are now to make sure Australia does rise to the challenge. We will pursue 100 per cent renewable energy for Australia. I want to finish with:

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.

That was Martin Luther King. We can see the stars and the sun through the cold mess of the Abbott government. We will pursue those dreams not just for ourselves but for everyone out there at the moment who is uncertain. Take heart because whilst we live in a country governed by a Prime Minister who is a climate denier, the Greens are here to campaign for very strong action on global warming. And I now move my second reading amendment:

  At the end of the motion, add:

     but the Senate

  (a) condemns this Bill and the related Bills;

  (b) recognises that:

     (i) the world is on track for 4 degrees of warming; and

     (ii) warming of less than 1 degree is already intensifying extreme weather events in Australia and around the world with enormous costs to life and property;

  (c) calls on the government to:

     (i) protect the Australian people and environment from climate change by approving no new coal mines or extensions of existing mines, or new coal export terminals; and

     (ii) adopt a trajectory of 40-60% below 2000 levels by 2030 and net carbon zero by 2050 emissions reduction target in global negotiations for a 2015 treaty.

7:55 pm

Photo of Glenn LazarusGlenn Lazarus (Queensland, Palmer United Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the chamber that this is not my first speech. I rise today to support the repeal of the carbon tax which now includes the Palmer United Party's key amendments, which require the full cost savings from the removal of the carbon tax to be passed on to all Australians. With the inclusion of the Palmer United Party's historic amendments, the resultant package of carbon tax repeal bills, the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014 and seven related bills, will now deliver full and immediate benefits to all Australians, including families, pensioners, single parents, the elderly, low-income workers, businesses, sporting organisations, schools, farms, producers, manufacturers and hospitals.

The Palmer United Party's nation-changing amendments will deliver many real and immediate benefits to Australians and, importantly, will ensure that Australians experience a reduction in the cost of their power bills. For too long Australians have been lumbered with the cost of the carbon tax which has added to the cost of living and doing business here in Australia. Australian families should not have to bear the cost of an unfair, unjust and anti-competitive tax, which only serves to hurt the Australian community.

The Palmer United Party's changes will put money back into the pockets of all Australians. The Palmer United Party's amendments, which have been incorporated into the resultant package of bills, include measures such as: ensuring that electricity and natural gas retailers and refrigeration gas importers are required to pass on the full cost savings to all Australians resulting from the repeal of the carbon tax; ensuring that companies are obliged to ensure they do not exploit customers by not passing on cost savings from the carbon tax repeal; making it a contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to engage in price exploitation where the price for the supply does not reflect the full pass through of all the corporation's cost savings relating to the supply; strengthening the powers of the ACCC to require companies to explain the way in which cost savings have been passed through to customers; and placing general obligations on electricity and natural gas retailers to provide information to the ACCC and customers on the cost savings that have been or will be passed through to consumers.

As a result, retailers of electricity and gas will now need to do two things. Firstly, they will need to give a carbon tax removal substantiation statement to the ACCC, setting out the retailer's estimate on an average annual percentage price or annual dollar price basis, of its cost savings resulting from the carbon tax repeal that have been, are being or will be passed on to consumers during the 2014-15 financial year. In addition, retailers will also need to provide information that substantiates their estimate. Secondly, they will also need to inform customers by 31 December 2014 of their average estimated cost savings for 2014-15 resulting from the repeal of the carbon tax that have been or will be passed through to consumers.

The Palmer United Party have, through the incorporation of our amendments into the resultant package of carbon tax repeal bills, ensured that all Australians will be empowered with the information they need to ensure they will receive the full and immediate cost savings from the removal of the carbon tax. The Palmer United Party strongly believe that all Australians deserve to know how cost-saving information will be passed on to them. Accordingly, the Palmer United Party has incorporated into the package of carbon tax repeal bills an obligation for electricity and natural gas suppliers to provide clear information to the ACCC and to their customers about the way in which suppliers will pass on the cost savings resulting from the carbon tax repeal. Cost savings can be calculated on percentage or dollar value terms. Savings might be calculated at the specific customer level or as averages across groups of customers. This information must be provided to the customers by 31 December 2014. In most instances, suppliers will directly inform consumers of the cost savings resulting from the carbon tax repeal through the information on invoices or in specific bill inserts or brochures. In addition, a supplier may also provide information on a website or web link to electronic invoices or statements.

The package of carbon tax repeal bills, inclusive of the Palmer United Party's amendments, make it clear that information should be readily accessible to a customer and that the supplier should expressly ensure that customers are clearly made aware of the information and how it may be accessed. Importantly, this means that the information cannot be buried in small print on an invoice or hidden on a website. It would be expected that, at a minimum, this information was clearly highlighted on the front page of an invoice or accessed directly from the home page of the supplier's main customer-facing website.

The package of carbon tax repeal bills, inclusive of the Palmer United Party's historic amendments, reflect a balance between the need for public and individual customers to receive clear information about the way in which cost savings will be passed on and the potential compliance costs for industry of imposing any new obligation. Importantly, there is flexibility for power suppliers, including how the cost saving information is calculated and how it is communicated, but, also, there is a very clear obligation to ensure the information reaches every customer.

Palmer United Party has gone a great lengths to ensure that Australians are provided with the information they need and the protective mechanisms they deserve to ensure they receive the full cost savings associated with the removal of the carbon tax. The package of carbon tax repeal bills, inclusive of the Palmer United Party's amendments, will put much needed money back into the pockets of Australians. For too long, Australian families have been hurting—paying high prices for power bills and basic commodities—because of the carbon tax and it is time for things to change.

For too long, Australia businesses have faced increased operating costs which have hurt their ability to employ people, to compete and to grow in the marketplace. For too long, Australian producers, farmers and manufacturers and other operators have struggled to keep their heads above water with the increasing weight of operating costs. This must change before it is too late. Australia must take care of our own—no-one else will.

The Palmer United Party cares about the people of Australia. We are supporting the removal of the carbon tax and ensuring that the resultant financial benefits now flow to the people of Australia. The Palmer United Party's historic amendments, which have been incorporated into the resultant package of carbon tax repeal bills, guarantee Australians all over our great country will benefit financially and experience reduced power bills.

In closing, the Palmer United Party has secured important changes to the package of carbon tax repeal bills that will help Australians get the full and immediate benefits from the abolition of the carbon tax, ensuring the Abbott government is held to its word and that consumers get the full power price cuts that they deserve—for this is the Australian way. For Palmer United, it is the only way. This is what Australia voted on in September 2013—to abolish the carbon tax and to receive the benefits of the cost savings.

Palmer United is listening to Australians. We respect Australians; we are committed to honouring their wishes and the Palmer United Party is delivering on this. As the leader of the Palmer United Party in the Senate, and on behalf of the Palmer United Party, I support the package of carbon tax repeal bills inclusive of the key amendments secured by the Palmer United Party.

8:04 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

And what a really, really tragic day to be part of this parliament. Almost three years ago I sat here—I sat on the other side—and voted for climate action. It was the happiest day of my parliamentary life—and, certainly, one of the happiest days of my actual life. I was really proud of the parliament that day. Today, I hang my head in shame and embarrassment at the absolute lack of vision of the people in this place, the wilful ignorance and the placing of selfish greed ahead of the public interest and ahead of the interest of all of our children and those to come.

I find it particularly embarrassing that Australia is the only country that is, in fact, going backwards on climate when we have many of the world's other nations taking steps forward in all sorts of different ways—some huge steps forward, some small steps. We saw last week the UK Tory Prime Minister come out and say that even he was embarrassed that Australia was stepping backwards. When we have that sort of clear signal from the rest of the world, and when this government continues to ignore that global action, again, I hang my head in shame.

If I think about why it is that we are in this place, it is for a three-word slogan—it is for rank politics in a little rhyme 'axe the tax'. To me, the greatest tragedy is that there is an absolute lack of understanding or, perhaps, a wilful lack of understanding of the significance of what it is that we are doing here tonight, and that has been driven by that base rank politics simply to get elected off the back of, mostly, lies.

Apparently, we are in a budget emergency. Yet we know from costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office that the carbon price would bring in $18 billion over the forward estimates. Some budget crisis if you are willing to forgo $18 billion! Given that money seems to be the only thing that makes any sense to these people, I would have thought that $18 billion would have made some kind of impact in their ideology—but apparently not.

I want to move now to the fact that the carbon price is not—as Greg Hunt tries to claim—failing. It is, in fact, delivering. Perhaps, that is why this government is so eager to get rid of it. It is, in fact, doing its job; it is, in fact, inconveniencing the big polluters who are lobbying so hard to get rid of it. Every time I hear this government parrot this absolute tripe that the carbon tax is not working, it makes me embarrassed to be a member of this place. The carbon price is working. In the first six months of the scheme, emissions from electricity generation came down by seven per cent. We know that, since the carbon price was introduced, total emissions from the national electricity market have fallen by more than 10 per cent. We know that emissions from all sectors combined, excluding land use and forestry, fell 0.8 per cent. Despite the fact that the scheme covers only 60 per cent of this nation's emissions, total emissions have remained flat while the economy has continued to grow. One notable exception is that emissions from coal seam gas and coalmining have risen a massive 13 per cent. Is it any wonder that this government—and, frankly, the last government—have never met a coalmine or coal seam gas application that they have not approved? I echo the comments made by Senator Milne in her excellent speech earlier that we have a complete bankruptcy of commitment to climate change when we have the espousal of an emissions trading scheme with absolutely no detail on the actual target for reducing pollution.

Money seems to be the only thing that counts for this government. They claim that they want to axe the tax because they are concerned about households. What an absolute joke! If you are concerned about households, why on earth are you bringing down the harshest, cruellest and most unnecessary budget that we have seen in living memory? Any which way you turn it, there is no logic to this government's rationale. We know that households were overcompensated for the impacts of the carbon price through the income tax changes, that the carbon tax was working, that the economy was still growing and that emissions were coming down. There were absolutely no losers in this situation except of course the big polluters, who do not like paying to pollute. They are all ready to sign up to this ridiculous Direct Action scheme. Nobody seems to know what that is; it is gradually taking shape and it still has not found anyone to back it or describe it with any sort of credibility. They are ready to line up for their handout from the taxpayer so that they can keep polluting—instead of what we now have, a scheme where they have to pay to pollute.

I want to talk briefly about what is at stake—and again I echo the concerning and very well expressed remarks made by Senator Milne. We know that extreme weather events are going to become more intense and more frequent—and I am from Queensland, where we have an awful lot of them. I remember the community sentiment in 2011 when we had the worst floods in my living memory. I remember how people banded together. There was a great sense that, no matter how far the chips were down, people would stick together and fight, that we really did not want to see this sort of thing happen again and would stick together so that it did not. Well, with the action that this parliament is proposing to take tonight, we can expect more of those sorts of floods. We can expect more of the terrible bushfires that the rest of the nation experienced—and Queensland did too in some places. We can expect more of those vicious cyclones that attack our coastlines and ruin so many people's homes with the loss of so much life. It is absolutely mind-boggling that we are even contemplating taking an action that would invite that sort of consequence.

I want to mention in particular a place that is really close to my heart—which I hope many Queenslanders and many Australians feel similarly about—and that is the Great Barrier Reef. For a long time now, we have known that climate change is the biggest threat to the reef. Sadly, we know that it does not require a two degree rise in temperature to see the reef acidify and massive coral bleaching. In fact, the latest science is that, with a one degree temperature rise, we will see mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. We are on track for that; we are already at a rise of 0.8 degrees. There is real peril facing the reef. I love the reef for its beauty and its biodiversity. It is one of the most wonderful places I have ever had the joy of experiencing. It is also the employer of 63,000 people. It is a huge backbone of the Queensland economy. It is our most popular tourist attraction. It supports many sustainable fishing industries. It is our most popular tourism icon. In fact, a recent study found that the reef contributes almost $6 billion to Queensland's economy every year. That is an awful lot of money that could continue to roll into our coffers if we actually look after the reef. But the reef is not just beautiful and it is not just a job creater; it is actually really important biophysically. It is a barrier for the coastline from those damaging tropical storms and cyclones that we can expect more of. It is a physical barrier without which the Queensland coast would be a far more dangerous place to live.

I have talked already about the fact that climate change will cause mass coral bleaching, and we know that corals are highly sensitive to what are effectively underwater heatwaves. Before 1979 there were no scientific reports of mass coral bleaching and coral death, but in the last 25 years there have been numerous events. In both 1998 and 2002 we had over 50 per cent of the reef affected by bleaching and we lost about 10 per cent of the corals. By 2050, if carbon emissions across the world are not drastically reduced, it is expected that such events will result in the loss of 100 per cent of corals on the reef—that is, the entire Great Barrier Reef will be lost by 2050 if we remain on the emissions trajectory that we are on and if we continue tonight with the foolish, self-interested and disgusting proposal to repeal our climate laws. I cannot believe that the parliament is actually facing that choice and making a choice to get rid of climate action and sacrifice the reef. And for what? It is for the profits of the fossil fuel companies, most of which are overseas owned and do not deliver dividends to the Australian economy, do not generate many jobs and do not keep the economy ticking—although they frequently make over-inflated claims about their influence on the economy.

The Galilee Basin, along with the Great Barrier Reef, is in my home state of Queensland and it is the latest coal resource that the big miners want to get their teeth into. Mr Palmer is one of those miners, as is Gina Reinhart and a number of other, huge Indian conglomerates. The Galilee Basin is the biggest coal deposit that we have in this nation and if it were mined, as the big miners propose, the Galilee Basin would be the seventh largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It would rank as the seventh largest country—if it were to be considered a country—should all of that coal be burnt.

Thanks very much, Mr Palmer, for directing your senators tonight to ensure that your profits will be able to continue and that you will be able to plunder the Galilee Basin with impunity. I think you will find that Queenslanders will have quite a lot to say about that at the very next opportunity they have to express their views.

I am also disappointed in the Palmer United Party's amendments that we saw tonight and surprised at how quickly they rolled over on what was a fairly expansive amendment last week but now much diminished. Again, it was much lampooned for the fact that it will not deliver a $550 dividend to households. It might be more like $80 or $100—maybe not even that. What a surprise that all the claims about the carbon tax being a wrecking ball through the economy did not eventuate. I think households will soon realise that. I am sure they are expecting to get a lot in the way of a refund but there is not that much due back, because the carbon tax was not that much of an impost. In fact, it was doing good work in bringing down emissions.

I want to take the chance to apologise to my daughter and to future generations to come for this parliament failing them tonight and for selling out their future and sacrificing their health and their way of life for the sake of propping up the big polluters. Tonight we have seen a triumph of profit over people and politics over science. It makes absolutely no economic sense. Again, I hark back to money as being the currency, it seems, in so many ways in this place. It makes absolutely no economic sense to stymie the burgeoning renewable sector and to see those job-rich industries flourish. We know that that is where our economic profitability will lie into the future. We know that that is where infinitely more jobs will be created than in the increasingly mechanised fossil fuel industries. And we know that that is actually where the world is going and where we should go if we want to have our place on this planet as both an economic leader and a climate leader.

As I have already mentioned, Direct Action is basically a slush fund for the big polluters. It is a complete sham. There is not an economist or a scientist that has backed it. The government have not even committed to ensuring that a five per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would occur through Direct Action, because they have capped the amount that they are going to pay out to the big polluters under that ridiculously titled excuse for a policy.

It is funny, isn't it, that the government does not believe in supporting industry? I hark back to cars, SPC and Qantas and how, all of a sudden, they are very willing to make big handouts to the fossil fuel industries. I want to remind senators in this chamber who have espoused the need for an emissions trading scheme that we have an emissions trading scheme. We will have it for possibly another two or three hours, depending on how long it takes this government to chop through their pathetic repeal legislation, treating this Senate like a rubber-stamp after having sold out to the latest senators who have arrived.

We have an emissions trading scheme; it is working. The Greens have moved, as have other people in this place, to bring forward the floating price on the existing emissions trading scheme that we have. So many of the stated demands of some of the other senators in this place would be met with that course of action. In the remaining time that we have for this excellent policy, I ask them to seriously consider that.

If this parliament votes down the carbon price tonight it stands condemned—the parliament dominated by old, white men, out of touch with science and ruled by greed. I, as a woman, Senator Nash, do note the presence of you as one of the few women on that side of the chamber. Thank you for being here and please have a word with your colleagues. I echo Senator Milne's comment that we may lose this fight but we will not lose this war. The momentum is there; the community is with climate action. People out there know that global warming is real and they want to do something about it, because they actually think about the future. They do not just think about their hip-pockets and they certainly do not think about the private profits of overseas mining companies.

I am excited by the folk who we have coming to parliament on a regular basis, particularly the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which came here last week, when we last thought we would lose these good laws. They had such hope and such optimism. They are our future leaders. They are the people who we are meant to be representing—all of us. Certainly, the Greens are doing that job. They will be the people who inherit the future that we create with the decisions we will make tonight. Whilst I am incredibly disheartened about the decision that I expect this parliament will take, I have an unshakable optimism that not even this torrid government can stop the momentum that is climate action. Clearly, the rest of the world is moving. Australia is evidently going to have a little bit of a setback, but it will not last. We will get back on board. We have too much at stake and too much to lose and there are too many people who know that that is the case for this pathetic and underbaked policy of the government to stand.

The future is looking bright, despite all attempts of the Abbott government to keep us in the past and to keep us wedded to the fossil fuel sector. So many people across Australia are concerned—and we are not talking about inner city latte-sipping elites, as this government tries to perhaps marginalise anyone who cares about their future or their children's future—people in rural Australia. I want to particularly pay tribute to those in the coal seam gas movement, Lock the Gate and the like, who have stood to protect their land, their water and also the climate from this latest fossil fuel destruction waiting to happen that is coal seam gas, shale gas, tight gas and other unconventional gas, along with hydraulic fracturing that breaks open these seams, lets the gas flow and does not really mind when it leaks out of those pipes and wells. It does not mind how much energy it takes to liquefy it for export, because much of it is for export. This is the latest war in the climate war. We will oppose coal seam gas, as we oppose extended coalmining.

Being from Queensland, I want to reiterate the importance of that policy principle which Senator Milne has foreshadowed an amendment on to these bills tonight. We are exporting an enormous amount of coal to the world. It is doing us no favours and it is doing the rest of the planet and all of the other species that we share this place with absolutely no favours. There is no way that we should be increasing that coal export. Ten years ago, that might have been taboo to say that, being from Queensland, but that is an increasingly and widely held view.

So we will stand to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the effects of climate change. We will stand against the rapacious dredging and dumping to make ports bigger, to export coal and coal seam gas, as if the reef were just a highway for fossil fuels and not actually one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the most beautiful place you can ever hope to experience. We will stand against the short-sighted and self-invested greed of people in this place who would rather sacrifice the future of all of our children for the private profits of some multinationals. You will not dull our spirit and you will not dull our motivation. Ultimately we will prevail.

8:22 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The repeal of this package of clean energy bills will come to define this government, not just now but it sets Australia's place in history—but I believe not for long. The selfishness will be overturned. History will have hope. It is shameful. It is embarrassing. It is so deeply wrong. I also want to say that it is an honour to follow Greens Senators Christine Milne and Larissa Waters. Their speeches tonight have been outstanding, and they set out the hope that I know is so real.

The coalition government's rejection of action on climate change, its moves to bankrupt the renewable energy industry and its belittling of the important work of Australian and all scientists are appalling actions. The Abbott government is out of step with other developed and developing nations. Australia is on its own with these backward policies. Last week on Lateline we were reminded how out of step the Abbott government is on climate change. I very much recommend that senators, even when the debate is over, watch this program. It is so informative. Here we had a Tory, head of the British independent Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, John Gummer, spell out with clarity and directness the problem with the Abbott government. Lord Deben demolished so many of the out-of-touch arguments we have heard from the conservatives in this chamber. Here it is, straight from the lord, on climate change:

Only Australia and to some extent Canada, but particularly Australia, is actually going backwards.

Then, referring to Direct Action, Lord Deben said:

… I can't find anybody in the world that thinks that this package will produce a serious reduction in Australia's emissions.

The Abbott government are propping up an old, worn-out economic model which is failing communities across the country. The government's actions show that they take no responsibility for the wellbeing of our communities and of future generations. This is a turn back to the old economy, the one built on coal and dirty power resources, on multinational companies that will fire their workers without a moment's hesitation, which run vigorous campaigns to depose leaders and to topple any policy they do not like. They cry poor, while making huge profits off the backs of ordinary Australians and the resources of this nation.

This is the old economy. Every day, there are reports about its decline. The demand from China is slowing. That country is starting a slow but sure move to a new economy, one that does not cause its inhabitants to live with the particle pollution created by old coal fired power stations. The United States is doing the same, despite the hostility from some sectors wanting to retain the old economy. The movement is something that we have been a part of. We have been a slower part of it, and certainly we in the Greens would like to see it speed up, but at least the previous government had begun putting in place some of the basic policy infrastructure to help us transition to the new. I congratulate Senator Christine Milne and the Greens team she worked with to negotiate the carbon package that has been so important to advancing climate action in this country. The repeal of the carbon tax is a major step backward in this regard. It will create further uncertainty, and we will again allow the coal industry to take precedence above all else.

These international changes have recently brought our coal industry to the attention of academics at the Stranded Assets Programme that operates out of the University of Oxford. They have found that Australia's intense investment in and dependence on coal risks us developing a raft of stranded assets that will never be used. It is foolish to think that Australia can keep developing coal at the rate we are and still have it generate the profits that we have been used to. This is what we are seeing with the constant closure of mines and the controversy over take-or-pay contracts. It is also undoubtedly one of the reasons that the people of Newcastle, in the Hunter region of New South Wales, have had a reprieve from the increased traffic of a fourth coal terminal. The price of coal is too low to justify the building of all this infrastructure.

The world is moving away from coal, and we should do it too. We should be increasing public investment in renewable energy and solar thermal power. The benefits for traditional coal regions could be massive—the jobs growth, the boost to local economies and the all-important clean air and clean water. I can tell you, having worked with coal communities in Lithgow, in the Hunter, in Wollongong, that this is what people want. They know it is possible and they are ready to work with governments and community groups for that transition. As other Greens speakers have said, it is happening, and we need the political will from our government to work with these communities, because there is an urgency with which we need this to happen.

We are often talking about Newcastle and the Hunter region as a coal region, yet the ability to fundamentally transform our energy systems and move away from coal may very well come from this region. Only recently, the CSIRO in Newcastle has made a major breakthrough in renewable technology, using solar energy to generate hot and pressurised supercritical steam at the highest temperatures ever achieved outside of fossil sources. This is what proper government investment and initiative in science, research and expertise has the power to achieve, yet of course, along with the clean energy legislation, the government is looking to cut jobs at the CSIRO, and we have heard just in this past week that that is already occurring. Just as we are on the verge of major breakthroughs in technology, the government wants to ignore its responsibility on climate change, cut funds to research, push us away from the new economy and stick with the old.

In New South Wales, the Greens have a different plan. My New South Wales parliamentary colleague John Kaye has a concrete plan for transitioning to the new economy, and it is worth looking at what he has proposed, because it would be a fantastic model to follow nationally. We do need a phase-out of all fossil fuel power stations by 2030. We know that Labor has tinkered with this idea in New South Wales for our dirtiest power stations. But what is really needed is a proper plan to move away from this old economy power source. This is not something that we can do tomorrow. We need a long-term plan. It is imperative to deal with climate change. The basis of it is there now. We can develop a plan for low-carbon combinations of solar thermal and wind power with a proper plan to ensure workers in the old industries can transition to new jobs.

Renewable energy targets or mandates would be one step to initiating this move—and we have seen the effectiveness of this on a smaller scale already. Secondly, we need to remove barriers to the development of renewable energy technologies. Current planning laws in New South Wales, in particular, are made to favour the old economy. We need to implement planning laws that are more favourable to technologies like wind, to support their growth. Thirdly, we need investment—the all-important investment—and there is a role for government here.

A responsible government, governing for the new economy, would invest in the future economy and our future energy sources. The success of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is one indication that this is a profitable enterprise. We also need to remove the subsidies that go to the coal and gas industries. There has been a great deal of work done on identifying how huge these subsidies are and really shows that corporate welfare is still, despite what we hear from the government. They are propping up an industry whose time has come. The Australia Institute has recently estimated that subsidies are up to $17.6 billion. If we got rid of these subsidies it would even up the playing field between the old and new energies and help the transition to the all-important new, low-carbon economy. Further, we need to reform the energy market. One of the major barriers to changing to new technologies is the fact that the national electricity market is set up for large-scale coal fired power. This need not be the case. We could implement a strategic demand management policy to cut the need to further invest in transmission and distribution infrastructure.

It is not only the Greens who are recognising this need to move away from coal and dirty power towards new, clean renewable energy. Finance companies and smaller investors alike are also doing this through divestment choices. These organisations have seen the need for a different future and are moving their money to support it. Many organisations, including, Greenpeace, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Student Environment Network any many others, are organising divestment campaigns. Their work is absolutely inspiring. They have stepped up with policies that challenge the government's climate failures. Some of the bodies that are working include the Hornsby Shire Council, the ACT government and 17 universities including UTS, Monash Clayton, RMIT and the University of Queensland. They have been identified as institutions that are ready to act on climate change—and in many cases that work is well advanced.

These campaigns have also targeted the big four banks, Westpac, Commonwealth, NAB and ANZ, which have loaned almost $19 billion to new coal and gas projects in Australia—projects that we do not need; projects that are part of that old economy that we need to be moving past. The campaign has already had some success, with UniSuper announcing it will remove fossil fuel investments from its 'socially responsible' portfolio. This is the voice of the new economy. That shift was made because those community organisations and those environment groups are out there campaigning, lobbying, having the discussion and starting the dialogue. That is why those organisations have seen that it is time to change.

To build the new economy 80 per cent of Australia's coal must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change. In the new economy, investment in renewables, research and new infrastructure supporting a diverse range of electricity sources is recognised as a worthwhile investment in our future. It is something we can give to our children and their children—to the future. In the new economy we would have a well-educated, healthy population from which to draw inspiration as to how our economy could flourish. We would share our resources more evenly to benefit everyone, Multinational coal companies would not have the final word on what resources they could dig up. Rather, we would have a wide range of strong industries—education, health, tourism, research, agriculture and many more.

This is what a government with any true sense of leadership would steer us towards. They would be investing in the new economy and strengthening the carbon tax, the minerals resources rent tax and our environmental standards. They would be following the footsteps of those who have already stood up and said, 'This is enough' the reign of king coal must end.' They would be supporting those in the communities fighting coal mines and those campaigning for renewable energy. They would be investing in the research and skills needed to implement these massive changes. They would be actively moving us to the new economy. That is what we should be debating in this chamber tonight. That is the type of legislation that we should be working together on.

The bills before us should not pass. The carbon tax is one small but most significant step into the new economy. I do believe the sun is shining on a bright future. We might lose with the passing of these repeal bills, but action on climate change will win. Good people will triumph over this shameful government.

8:36 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It is times like this that I really have to reflect on what I have learned in my two years in politics and in the Senate and how students of political history or even students of politics are going to look back on this period in history. A few months ago I asked the head of the Antarctic Division about reports that week that there had been an irreversible collapse in the Antarctic ice sheet. And may I give a plug for some of the best scientists in the world, who are based in Hobart and work at the Antarctic Division, CSIRO and IMAS? They said, 'Yes. This has been a long-standing internationally cooperative study, and it is very disturbing.'

I weigh that up on one hand—that we have this developing evidence from our scientists that the world is rapidly changing, and more than we anticipated. And, on the other hand, I am standing here tonight, about to farewell the clean energy package—work that the Greens, and Labor, but especially Senator Milne and, previous to that, Senator Bob Brown, and a number of other people in my party have put their heart and soul into, literally for decades, to try and get action on climate change. And I have to ask myself: how did it come to this?

The more I have been thinking about this in recent weeks, the more it has really become obvious to me, and self-evident, that politics is about winning. Politics is about winning—not necessarily about the citizens or the voters in this country winning, and not necessarily about good policy winning, but about political parties winning, and people within political parties winning. That is what this is about.

I think about the Antarctic ice sheet and I think, 'How can we do things differently?' I think the editorial in The Canberra Times this week described Prime Minister Tony Abbott's style of politics as 'total politics'—you know, the 'do whatever it takes, say whatever it takes,' style of politics. That was seen especially in his three-year negative election campaign, on a policy that was only just coming into play and only just being implemented, and that he never gave a chance to succeed. Is it just this determination to win and to grab power and to put your political party before good policy and before the good of the people, or is it more than that? I actually do think that this fierce determination to win at all costs—say whatever it takes; lie; deceive—is a big part of it. But I also cannot help thinking that, when you have big backers—when you have people pulling your chain: big think tanks, with their ideologies, and special interests, vested interests, that are influencing your party and donating to your party—that has also had a really big role to play in why we are standing here tonight, seeing a very sensible policy, to tax carbon pollution which leads to global warming, which is the biggest market failure of our time, being thrown down the drain because of short-term politics and short-term self-interest.

As an economist and someone who has taught environmental finance, I am going to have to go back and have a good look at my textbooks, because this idea of government having a role to play in correcting for a market failure is an idea that goes back to some great thinkers from the last century, such as Arthur Pigou. Interestingly, I enjoyed Senator Leyonhjelm's first speech to the Senate the other night, where he plucked out—I must say, highly selectively—some interesting academics and great thinkers to support his philosophy and why he is here in the Senate. One thing he talked about was where individual freedom intersects with impacting on other people and the necessity for laws. That is exactly what we are dealing with here, with pollution. When a company's activity or an individual's activity impacts on someone else, it is exactly the same as looking at individual freedoms in our legal system. This theory that government has a role to play in correcting these types of behaviours is exactly the role that government has to play in fining people who offend or providing imprisonment or other services.

When a company dumps something in a river and it kills everything in the river and the fishing industry dies, a government has to step in and fine that company and provide incentives to make sure it does not happen again. In the same way, if I have a factory that is polluting the atmosphere and creating acid rain and that ruins the livelihood of farmers in my area, that externality—that external impact of my activity—once again has to be dealt with by government. Who else will do it if government will not? This is well-established economic theory. It is exactly the basis for what a price on carbon is. It is supposed to cover the externality gap that is caused by carbon pollution.

To get back to the very basics of what we are dealing with here, we are dealing with a comprehensive package. It is ambitious, showing global leadership on taking action on climate change—which my party deeply believes is necessary. I know lots of young Australians believe it is deeply necessary. From an economic perspective, it is the most efficient way of dealing with this issue of global warming.

The carbon package was not just a price on pollution. On its own, a price on pollution may not necessarily do the job. But this package was very cleverly structured to collect the revenue and collect the data and information that is necessary for a flexible pricing scheme further down the track. It was also necessary to collect that revenue and direct that revenue towards behavioural change in the economy, towards providing a green bank that is going to invest in renewable energy projects, through, for example, ARENA or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or provide money for a climate change authority or for a whole range of other initiatives that were absolutely complementary and necessary to transition the economy here in Australia—and, hopefully, overseas—to a clean energy economy and along the way create hundreds and thousands of new jobs and incentivise innovation, research and development and new technology and new jobs in the industries of the future—all the sorts of catchphrases that you hear in this chamber. Yet it is being thrown out. It is being thrown out because of this government's total politics, its determination to win at all costs, regardless of whether this is a good policy—good for the Australian economy and good for the future of our grandkids.

And may I say, as to the emissions reduction targets that have been talked about in the media recently: five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 is not enough. There is no point in reducing emissions unless those emissions have been reduced enough to actually tackle the problem that has led to things such as the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. That is our moral obligation not just as senators but for every citizen.

It does not help when you have vested interests, special interests, pushing their agendas. Senator Waters talked about $18 billion that would be collected on forward estimates. That $18 billion would fill a pretty big hole in anyone's estimates in tackling a budget that needs to be reduced and brought towards surplus; just like fixing the mining tax would also help plug holes; tackling tax minimisation and avoidance overseas; tackling fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry. There are so many different ways we can raise revenue sensibly to reduce debt in this country. But instead we have a range of budget measures that have been introduced to take money off those who can least afford to pay it—off the most vulnerable.

Once again I have to ask myself in the dead of night: why do we do these things? What is driving this? I have no doubt about the special interest theory. I have no doubt about the influence that lobbyists have. And it is not just in the mining industry—it was very obvious when we saw the previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd being deposed around the whole debate on the mining tax and of course the aggressive advertising of the mining industry to prevent that tax from going ahead. I have also seen it with container deposit schemes in this country. I have seen the lengths to which Coca-Cola and the beverage industry will go to prevent a recycling refund scheme that works everywhere it has been implemented, because they see it as an impost on their profits regardless of the public good. We are seeing it with the big polluters in this country.

So, instead of doing what economic theory tells us and taxing big polluters, we are actually going to take a couple of billion dollars' worth of taxpayer funds to start with and pay the big polluters. That is correct. We are going to pay the big polluters under this government's Direct Action Plan. So it is $18 billion down the drain and then the taxpayer has to cough up money to the big polluters. It is not as if they do not get given enough already.

I would like to read you a couple of lines from 'The economists' open letter', which was published last week in media right around the country. The letter supports a price and limit on carbon pollution and is from a number of very well respected economists right across this country:

We are writing this open letter as a group of concerned economists with a broad range of personal political views, but united in the judgment that a well-designed mechanism that puts a price and limit on carbon pollution is the most economically efficient way to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Such a mechanism is a necessary and desirable structural reform of the Australian economy, designed to change relative prices in a way that provides an effective incentive to consumers and producers to shift over time to more low-carbon, energy-efficient patterns of consumption and production.

Then it goes on to talk about how a well-designed price and limit on carbon pollution has benefits to other schemes. This is from leading academics in this country. Why aren't we listening? I will tell you why we are not listening. It is because it does not suit the political mantra of this government, which is: 'Axe the tax, the toxic tax'. It does not suit the vested interests that pull their chains.

I noticed that Mr Murdoch—who, none of us could deny, is a very influential man in this country—said on the weekend that he pretty much thinks climate change is a waste of time and we should all be very sceptical of whether climate change is real. That is coming from a guy who controls nearly half the media in this country and has significant international influence on what everyday Australians read every day. Is it any wonder we are facing the troubles that we are in trying to take effective real action on climate change?

I would like to talk a little bit about Tasmania. The Greens often get criticised as not being 'economically friendly' or 'not delivering on jobs' in my home state. I have talked about this till I am blue in the face: the price on carbon has been a very positive thing for Tasmania. I have an email here directly from Hydro Tasmania that gives me all the information. They said that 'in the financial year 2012-13, the first year of the carbon price, profit before fair value adjustments was $237.7 million.' Hydro Tasmania said that this result was 'the largest in our history and more than double the previous record set last year'. It led to total returns to government of $263 million and a dividend of $115.7 million. To put that in perspective, that is nearly 13 per cent of the Tasmanian government's non-Canberra revenues. That pays for schools for hospitals for policing, for homelessness and issues that we have in every state. Tasmania is under the pump. I notice that Senator Leyonhjelm and others are happy to try and take GST off Tasmania, yet they are going to support the repeal of a price on carbon when Tasmania is one of the biggest economic beneficiaries of a price on carbon.

Hydro Tasmania goes on to say:

Over the next two years Hydro Tasmania expects to return more than $450 million to the State. However, the outlook after that is challenging as a result of a range of factors, including a subdued wholesale market for electricity driven, in part, by reducing overall customer demand and uncertainty around future carbon pricing in Australia.

While the businesses provided strong returns to government over recent years and is again on track to make a record underlying profit this year, the financial outlook for the next few years is challenging for Hydro Tasmania. They say that they expect profits will fall below $20 million in 2015—that is, less than one-tenth of levels under a price on carbon and the clean energy package. That is something the Greens with Labor have delivered to Tasmania.

Hydro said in the media last week that 100 jobs are going to be lost when the price on carbon goes. That is 100 jobs in Tasmania. That is a very significant loss to my state; not to mention the funding cuts we are seeing to CSIRO and the Antarctic Division around climate science and the uncertainty that is creating. This is in a community—especially in Hobart in the south of the state—that is absolutely critical to Tasmania. And it is not just critical because it employs a lot of people. It is strategically critical because it is something that my state very proudly has a competitive advantage in. We are world leaders in climate science based out of Hobart.

It really concerns me that on one hand we have a government that is unwinding action on climate change, which is what we are debating here tonight, and on the other hand it has the world's best scientists leading research on climate change. At what point does the science on my left hand start embarrassing the government on my right hand? They do not want to hear about the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet or ocean acidification or extreme weather events and the damage it is doing.

Let's talk a little bit about extreme weather events. Every scientist who understands global warming has talked about the expected increase in frequency of these types of events. Just today we saw a settlement payout to victims of the Victorian bushfires of nearly half a billion dollars. In the future those types of events and the risks that they pose will need to be managed by governments and communities. Climate change is going to cost our economy. There is the death and destruction it is going to do to communities and the damage it is going to do to ecosystems. Some things you cannot value in monetary terms, but it is absolutely important to our spirit and who we are. The loss of species and biodiversity is irreplaceable. How are we going to manage that if we do not take effective action now?

When I used to teach students, I said to them, 'You don't have to believe in climate change to take action. You don't need proof to be prudent.' That is what the insurance industry has run on for hundreds of years. You do not have to have proof; you just need to take sensible risk management action. Being weak on action on climate change and putting the questionable increase in electricity bills ahead of action on climate change is not only dangerous but very sad. That is all I have heard in this chamber.

Senator Macdonald and others come in here day in and day out saying all the slogans and all the nonsense. I hope that when he retires he goes away and is proud to tell his grandkids that he worked in the Senate to try and lower people's electricity bills. I hope he goes away and is proud of that achievement. All I can say to people like Senator Macdonald and others is: we may not win this battle tonight, but we will be on the right side of the chamber when the division bell rings and we will be on the right side of history. People like Senator Milne and Senator Brown, who have taken this action, are going to be remembered when they are gone, but people like Senator Macdonald will not be. We are the only ones who have the courage to stand up and implement this, and also take all the rubbish day in and day out that goes with it, and still stand here with dignity and say that we are going to have another go because we are not going to let big polluters and special interests, which have so much vested interest in protecting their profits, win over action on climate change, especially when the rest of the world is starting to catch up. We have shown global leadership in this area, and that in itself has to be worth something. One day this country will be remembered for it. But, the way we are going now, we are an international embarrassment on so many levels, whether it is whaling, the environment, refugees and what we are doing to some of the most vulnerable people in the world, or action on climate change. We are currently an international embarrassment.

We have three years, maybe less if we go to a double dissolution—and I certainly hope we do—to throw this government out, take some action on climate change when it is needed and stand up for our grandchildren's future.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to contribute to this round of the debate on the government's attempts to get rid of the clean energy package—the wrecking of a package that is carefully designed to address, as Christine Milne and my colleagues have said repeatedly, the real emergency facing this country: the climate emergency. I join with my colleagues and say to any future grandchildren that I may have that I did my level best during the debates in this chamber to stop the Abbott government putting the wrecking ball through the clean energy package. I will be able to look them in the eye and say, 'I recognised this.'

I have spent most of my life trying to address climate change. As many people in this chamber know, I used to be the coordinator of the Conservation Council of WA. I remember that I had some farsighted teachers. I remember my teachers talking to me about what they then called the greenhouse effect. I know that what is being done today is wrong, that it will impact on our climate and that we do need to put in place measures that address climate change. The clean energy package does just that. It has a number of measures—not just a price on carbon but a number of measures that complement that.

Two new pieces of information have come out in the last couple of days about the impact climate change is having already on Australia and my home state of Western Australia, and I will go into that in a minute, but also on Aboriginal and traditional landowners, and I will go into that in a minute. An article in The Guardian talked about a paper on the nature of climate change and regional rainfall decline in Australia, attributing it to anthropogenic greenhouse gases and ozone levels. It points out that in Perth and the south-west part of Australia, we are going to have a massive 40 per cent reduction in rainfall. That is on top of the rainfall decline that we have already had over the last couple of decades—a well-documented decline in rainfall that various Western Australian governments over the last 20 years have recognised with their efforts, but not strongly enough—for example, in providing a water resource for Western Australia. This research points out that Perth has been identified as the most vulnerable city—the prediction is a 40 per cent decrease in rainfall. The research points out that the rainfall could mean that the capital of Western Australia, Perth, my home city, will have to rely on alternative sources of water. But the point here is that it is just not about having to supply further water sources for Perth; it is going to impact further on our agriculture. I say 'further' because, as I have highlighted in this place before, climate change and climate variability is already adversely impacting on our agriculture in Western Australia.

Our farmers in Western Australia are some of the best at adaptation and that has also been recognised. We have had to adapt because we have been farming sand for over 150 years. We have to be able to adapt, but adapting to a 40 per cent decrease in rainfall, on top of what we have already adapted to, is virtually impossible. Then we look at what impact it is going to have on natural ecosystems. Already, we are seeing drying of those ecosystems. It is going to have a devastating impact on what is left of our forests. It is going to have a devastating impact on our biodiversity, bearing in mind that Western Australia is a biodiversity hotspot. It has got plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. A biodiversity hotspot means that it has got one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. That is at risk. Let us look at the impact it is going to have on wetlands. Western Australia, the Perth metropolitan area have already lost between 80 percent and 85 per cent of its wetlands. Those wetlands are connected to the groundwater systems. If the rainfall is reduced by 40 per cent, it will have a devastating impact on that environment.

This study talks about why climate change is impacting on our rainfall in Western Australia. It also says that Perth is particularly vulnerable because most of our rainfall—when we get it—falls between May and September. In other words it is a winter rainfall pattern and that is the pattern which is going to be affected. I am not going to go into all the technical details that the paper goes into about why climate change is going to hit so extensively on southern Australia, particularly south-west Australia and Perth.

Rainfall flow in Perth reservoirs has already reduced by 75 per cent over the last 50 years. I make this point because with the dropping in rainfall of 40 per cent, it actually decreases the run-off by a much more significantly higher percentage. For example, a one-third drop in rainfall multiplies out to a two-thirds decline in the run-off. If you think a 40 per cent decline in rainfall is bad enough, it is going to have a devastating impact on our dams.

Points have also been made about the impact of climate change and reduced rainfall on our beautiful wine-making area of Margaret River. Amongst the Greens, we have a bit of competition about who has got the best wine-growing areas in Australia and we in Western Australia think it happens to be Western Australia. Whoever happens to win that title, the fact is that the declining rainfall here is going to have a significant impact on the beautiful wine-growing area of Margaret River. As I said when I started my contribution, this study has only just come out and is further evidence of the impact of climate change.

Unfortunately, when I sat here listening to the contributions from the government to the last debate on this package of bills, it was absolutely clear from the contribution made by government senators that although they say they acknowledge climate change, what they do not acknowledge is that the climate is being changed by human activity. Effectively, they deny climate change. I urge people to go back and look at those contributions because nobody listening to those contributions can be in any doubt that they do deny the impact of human activity on the climate.

Another important point that came out at the end of last week was that traditional owners have made public now their concerns about the impact of getting rid of a price on carbon on their abatement activities. Kimberley Land Council expressed concern last week that carbon projects worth millions of dollars to their communities will be lost as a result of the abolition of clean energy package. They said that carbon projects registered by Aboriginal organisations and native title lands in the state's Kimberley, in my home state of Western Australia, had generated carbon credits through fire management practices. They are concerned that 230,000 credits generated so far at a value of $5 million will be dramatically reduced causing a massive loss to remote communities. The KLC said:

When you look at the size or the scale of the activity in the area, you're talking millions of dollars and lots of opportunities for income to be generated to provide a number of outcomes, particularly around employment, and jobs and training and business opportunities.

All the investment of time, peoples' energy, developing capacity, people that are getting geared up to try to do something with their lives.

Rug being [pulled out from] under them is an understatement.

To be very upfront, I have not always seen eye-to-eye with the Kimberley Land Council on some other proposals. We talk to them a lot about their excellent work on land management practices, on Indigenous protected areas and on Indigenous rangers programs. We have worked very closely with them and I absolutely take a point here. This will significantly impact on their building development opportunities in the Kimberley in their understanding of the country. I have spent time up there. I have spent time with the rangers. I know of the work they are doing. It is excellent land management work and here is an opportunity they are going to lose when the government is joined by some of the crossbenchers in the Palmer party to vote down this package. Not only are they denying the impact of climate change, are they getting rid of this excellent package and pricing mechanism but also they are impacting an opportunity for traditional owners to earn millions of dollars from their land management packages.

I do not think I can let this opportunity go without mentioning—and Senator Milne mentioned this yesterday—the editorial in The West Australianyesterday. Not often do I quote the West in this place but on this occasion I need to. Yesterday's editorial said:

Barring more Clive Palmer antics, the Federal Government will sometime this week axe the carbon tax. There will be cheers and celebrations among Government MPs—

and we have heard about that tonight—

and in some of the nation’s boardrooms.

But for anyone who cares about good economic policy, who thinks closely about Australia’s economic future and who acknowledges climate change is real … well, it’s time for tears.

There’s no other way to say it. The decision to get rid of a price on carbon is one of the poorest and most short-sighted economic policies inflicted on this country.

Shane Wright goes on to talk about the impact of some of the finer points. My point here is that this is economic vandalism. It is taking billions of dollars out of our economy. The Prime Minister said to the crossbench, 'Identify alternative sources of revenue.' Well, there are billions of dollars plus, helping generate a cleaner future for our children, for our grandchildren and for the biodiversity of this planet, and for traditional owners. We were providing leadership around the world but now we go to the bottom, we are at the back of the class. The world is now starting to see that we need to take urgent action on climate change but we are going out the back door, pedalling backwards to rewind what are recognised globally as leading measures on climate change.

Our children and grandchildren will look back to this time and say, 'What were you doing?' I will be glad to tell them that we did everything we could. We will continue to campaign. Believe me, in the not too distant future Australians will be saying to you, 'What did you do? You lied to us. Why did you not understand? Why don't you get it? Why didn't you get it then? You've set us so far behind.' We will ensure that we have effective action on climate change. This is a road bump to change because people around the world know that this is urgent.

How many more articles and how much research do you need to realise that, if you do not take action now, you are condemning the planet, that you are condemning the future of the peoples of this planet and the biodiversity of this planet? We on this side will not stop until we have effective action. We will be voting no to this repeal and we will be campaigning as hard as we can to make sure we have effective action on climate change, including a price on carbon. I swear to you that is what we will be doing.

9:12 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment) Share this | | Hansard source

While this is the third time I will be concluding the second reading debate on this package of carbon tax repeal bills, I can assure the Senate that the Australian people came to their own conclusion some 10 months ago on 7 September 2013. The Australian people have already debated this matter and come to that conclusion, and what a firm conclusion it was on 7 September 2013. The Australian people concluded that they did not want higher electricity prices, that they did not want higher gas prices, higher travel costs or higher food costs. They did not want to see their jobs destroyed with a tax that did absolutely nothing to the environment. The Australian people said very emphatically that they did not want the carbon tax.

The carbon tax increases the cost of absolutely everything it touches. It is the highest carbon tax in the world and it is the most far-reaching economic-wide carbon tax of the world. It punishes households, businesses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, charities, churches, council swimming pools and community centres. It hits each and every group which and every individual who uses energy. That was always Labor's goal— to make electricity and gas more expensive. That is why the people of Australia voted to get rid of it.

Labor knew that the carbon tax was a bad initiative. How do we know that? We know that because, in 2010, they went to the election promising 'there will be no carbon tax.' Then, having introduced a carbon tax, they knew it was so bad that they went to the 2013 election promising that there was, in fact, no carbon tax left at all and that they had somehow repealed it. If the carbon tax was such a good thing, why did Labor promise before the 2010 election that there would not be one and then, before the 2013 election, claim that they had somehow miraculously already got rid of it? We know that both of those assertions were simply untrue, and the Australian people have made their decision and cast their verdict in relation to them.

It is somewhat strange that in this chamber we get howls from the other side saying, 'You're breaking election promises' but we have had to have three cracks at trying to implement this election policy of getting rid of the carbon tax. We believe that it is now time for the parliament to show that it has listened to the Australian people.

A cornerstone of the government's plan for a stronger economy is lower taxes, less regulation and stronger businesses—and, of course, part of that is to get rid of the carbon tax. The first impact of the repeal of the carbon tax will be on households whose overall costs will fall around $550 a year on average. Electricity bills will fall by $200 and gas bills by about $70. These are real, bankable savings for family budgets. What is more, when we are talking about pensioners and those on welfare, these are real savings for the pensioners and welfare recipients in our communities—those who have difficulty affording the cost of heating their homes on the cold winter nights here in Canberra and in my home state of Tasmania. The people who voted for the senators around this chamber expected that 66 out of the 76 would actually vote to abolish the carbon tax. The most egregious group, of course, are the Australian Labor Party senators in this place, who betrayed the electorate not once but twice. And we now hear from Mr Shorten that he would seek to re-introduce a carbon tax if Labor were to win at the next election.

What are the benefits to Australian households? These savings are confirmed. In Queensland, the Queensland Competition Authority has said that the typical household electricity bill is expected to fall by 8.5 per cent. In New South Wales, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has said that gas prices will be up to 9.2 per cent lower without the carbon tax. In my home state of Tasmania, the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator has said that electricity prices will be 7.8 per cent lower with the removal of the carbon tax. And here in the ACT, the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has said that electricity prices will fall by 11.6 per cent after the removal of the carbon tax. Prices for groceries, for household items and for services will all fall because the price of power is embedded in every single price in our economy. The carbon tax has to go and it will go, if this legislation is passed, but the carbon tax compensation, especially for pensioners and welfare recipients, will stay. As a result, every Australian should be better off.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a wide-ranging set of compliance powers to ensure businesses do not mislead their customers about the impacts of the carbon tax repeal. The ACCC has received an extra $10 million in additional funding to take necessary enforcement action and also to inform businesses about their obligations and customers about their rights.

Under the original version of the repeal bills, penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals will apply. These penalties remain as they were in the original version. The ACCC has already issued over 560 requests for information from companies across the economy, including from electricity and gas, refrigerants and aviation. The commission has been given further powers to ensure that consumers will benefit from the repeal of the carbon tax, and these are now incorporated within these bills. These changes include—and we recognise the work of the Palmer United Party in this—ensuring that suppliers of regulated goods, namely electricity, natural gas and synthetic greenhouse gases, must pass on all cost savings. The changes will impose a penalty on electricity and natural gas suppliers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouses gases, equal to 250 per cent of any cost savings they do not pass on.

The changes will also require electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases to inform the ACCC and customers about how they are passing on cost savings and the amount of those savings. The changes to the main repeal bill balance new compliance obligations with the need to ensure that household and business customers benefit. Businesses should be able to explain to customers how changes in their costs are flowing through to changes in their prices. Indeed, just the other day during question time I was able to tell the story of Mr Gary Heilmann, a fisherman, who had been told by Qantas Freight that the carbon tax component of the freight bill had already been removed as of 1 July this year, in anticipation of the passage of these bills—a clear, living example that companies are moving to reduce costs, as a result of which this fishing company, small business that it is, will be able to provide its product to market cheaper, as a result of which consumers will be able to buy wholesome fish cheaper.

For the purposes of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, I confirm that the definition of 'electricity retailer' is limited to electricity retailers and electricity producers selling electricity into wholesale electricity markets to a retailer. The costs of synthetic greenhouse gases were significantly impacted by the carbon tax. Bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gas defined under section 13A(2)(c) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are covered by the new requirements. To minimise the cost of compliance, small imports of synthetic greenhouse gases such as imports of these gases contained in equipment such as fridges, cars and air conditioners are not covered. The new provisions are confined to those sectors. The bill already provides flexibility for the ACCC to expand the range of sectors covered should significant concerns arise. The government is confident that all businesses will do the right thing and pass on all the savings relating to carbon tax repeal. The government is aware that major electricity and gas retailers are already committed to providing this information to households and businesses on bills, inserts and through websites in any event.

The carbon tax has been a $15,000 million hit on the economy over two years. It has been a $15,000 million hit on jobs, a $15,000 million burden on investment and a $15,000 million slug to families, all of which we simply do not need. These bills need to be passed so that the carbon tax can be removed. I repeat for the benefit of the Senate that the carbon tax, as we know countless examples have shown, whatever its good intentions may have been, in fact, has had a perverse outcome for the environment because manufacturing, which has been relatively clean in this country in comparison to the rest of the world, has gone offshore.

Indeed, Senator Kim Carr, who always seeks to parade himself as the great industry minister, presided over the loss of 140,000 manufacturing jobs and he knows full well that, amongst all the other factors, right there at the epicentre of the loss of those jobs was the carbon tax. The carbon tax has to be removed for the sake of reducing the cost of living on Australian households and for the sake of protecting jobs in the manufacturing sector. In the dairy sector, the carbon tax costs the average dairy farming family an extra $10,000 per annum. This will be removed. For the fishermen I mentioned at question time, or for manufacturing, dairying, fishing or the agricultural producer that uses irrigation, and so the list goes on, it will be removed. It will be a huge relief to all employers and businesses in this country. It will help investment and all this huge damage to our economy for no environment dividend. As the Prime Minister has said previously, these bills are the government's bill to reduce the Australian people's bills. So the government commends these bills to the parliament and I thank honourable senators for their contributions.

9:26 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator Milne be agreed to.

9:34 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now is that the bills be read a second time.

Bills read a second time.