Senate debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

5:14 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that at 8.30 am today 10 proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator McKim:

Pursuant to standing order 75 I give notice that today I propose to move that in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

Australia's coal exports are the are one of the most significant contributors to climate change globally.

Is the proposal supported?

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

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

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

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

Australia's coal exports are one of the most significant contributors to climate change globally.

Australia's coal exports are one of the most significant contributors to climate change globally. It's very timely for us to be drawing this matter to the attention of the chamber, because last week Mr Bill Shorten claimed, in relation to the Adani mega coalmine, that the emissions created by the mine would not be Australia's problem—because they wouldn't be on our books, because of complicated international carbon accounting. Well, we call BS on that, and the Australian public knows it. What an absolute joke, to completely wash his hands of any leadership on this mega coalmine and on what would be the first coal basin to be opened up in 50 years.

Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter and, sadly, both sides of politics are very happy with that situation and would like to see it continue. All the while, the international science gets clearer and sharper and, frankly, more terrifying with every instalment they give us. We are cooking our planet. We are sending ourselves to extinction, let alone all the other species we share this place with. That's why we are moving today to debate this matter.

It's very interesting that I moved a motion, earlier, calling on both parties to take a stand on the Adani mega coalmine and to simply say that it should not proceed. Labor have been very tricky about this, to be perfectly honest. They keep saying how clear their position is, yet they keep being deliberately unclear. They're saying that it shouldn't be publicly funded, but they're not saying whether they will step in and stop this mine from proceeding. It's perfectly clear. We have legal advice. We had agreement from the government yesterday in question time. There are three ways this mine could be stopped, even using our current incredibly weak environmental laws, and I say that as an environmental lawyer. I know this stuff.

If Mr Bill Shorten and his party want to take a stand on climate change he could come out today and say that he will review the environmental approvals that have been given to the Adani Carmichael coalmine, on the basis of a litany of new information that's come to light since those approvals were granted. That is a formal trigger, under our environmental laws, to review the approval. It could be reviewed and then it could be revoked. That's your first option.

There are other options. They could simply deny the groundwater management plan. It hasn't yet been approved by Queensland Labor. It hasn't yet been approved by the federal environmental minister. Either of those people could simply acknowledge that more than half of Queensland is in drought and not give free groundwater to an international coal company—when half of Queensland is on fire due to extreme weather events driven by climate change. The last way that this mine could be stopped would be to not grant approval for their water pipeline. Again, it's 12½ billion litres they want to take from surface water in addition to unlimited free groundwater. Why is this mega coalmining company, with a history and track record of appalling environmental practices and breaches of environmental conditions, getting free water when more than half the state is in drought and farmers are desperate to use their water allocations? Why also are they getting a four-year royalty holiday? The favours just keep on coming for this international, multinational coal company, and you've got to wonder why.

If you look at the donations made by the resources sector, including coalmining companies, including the Adani companies, it tells a very interesting story. There has been $3.4 million donated to both sides of politics over the last four years, so it isn't any wonder that we don't see a single spine on either side of this chamber when it comes to standing up for a safe climate, for a healthy future for our kids, for a prosperous economy based on clean energy, which we know creates jobs and won't cook the other half of the Great Barrier Reef. We've already seen 50 per cent of the reef's coral cover die.

The science is clear. It is being driven by climate change and extreme weather events. We are now in a climate crisis, and both of these big parties are sleepwalking into worse damage to our communities, to our economy, to our very social fabric and to nature itself. They are sleepwalking into this because they are both completely in hock to the coalmining industry, they are hooked on the donations that this industry makes and they should be ashamed of themselves. It's about time we saw a position from Labor on this. Indeed, we were given one today when Labor voted to block my motion and instead voted to say that Adani should proceed. Shame on you! The Australian public don't want this mine to proceed and I, for one, will be joining them in the non-violent direct action that they will take to stop this mine ever going ahead.

5:19 pm

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

I want to make some comments on a couple of points that Senator Waters made about donations to political parties. I just find it amazing that, at the 2010 election, Graeme Wood, former owner of Wotif, donated $1.58 million to the Greens. At the time, it was the greatest donation to any political party in the history of Australia. Of course, come the 2 July 2016 election, Mr Wood tossed in another $600,000. That's $2.2 million donated by one bloke to the Greens party. It gets worse. I did a little bit of research into the CFMEU. What does CFMEU stand for? Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. And they donate to the Greens. What do the Greens hate? The Greens hate construction, forestry, mining and any energy that's generated unless it's renewable. Why did that union donate $50,000 in 2015 to the Greens in the ACT? That's just amazing. This is such a farce. Let me just read a bit of my op ed that was in The Australian a month or so ago:

There has been a lot of discussion of late on coal-fired electricity and climate change. The IPCC has come out with another meeting and people like former Liberal leader John Hewson have entered the debate. Take a look at the facts. Australia has 22 operating coal-fired generating plants of at least 30 megawatts capacity—

There are 22 in total and we're shutting them down and not building any new ones. The article continues:

Compare that with China, our biggest trading partner, which has 1,003 coal fired power generating plants operating to the same capacity and a further 130 under construction.

We have 22 in total; China has 1,003 with 130 under construction.

The extra 130 planned in China will, on their own, produce more CO2 than the whole of Australia …

I'm going to ask a very simple question, Senator Macdonald. What do you think they're going to burn in the existing 1,003 coal-fired generation plants and the 130 under construction? They're going to burn coal.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source


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

Not goldfish, Senator Scullion. They're going to burn coal. Are they going to burn the inferior poor quality coal from Indonesia and China—the brown coal—or the more efficient high-energy coal from Australia? If they burn Australian coal, there are going to be less CO2 emissions. That is a fact. But, of course, the Greens want to shut down every coalmine in Australia and see that no more coal is produced.

I wonder if the Greens ever drive a car. I'm sure some of them do. I wonder what the car is made of. Is it made of leaves and bark from trees or is it made of steel? I bet you it's made of steel. How do we get steel? From iron ore. Processed with what? Coal—coking coal. We use high-quality coal to produce our steel. It's all right to have coal to produce everything the Greens want—perhaps their timber furniture, their timber floorboards, their steel-framed house or whatever they live in—but it's not all right for anyone else. This whole political line they run is just a farce. Steelmaking relies on coal. It's just a fact that the use of coal is going to increase as time goes on.

The International Energy Agency, the IEA, has declared that coal has made a comeback in the latest World Energy Outlook update. The World Energy Outlook 2018 shows continued strong growth in Asia and demand for coal through to 2040. You protest here about coal-fired generation. Why don't you go to China or Asia or India and protest there? You'd probably get short shrift if you did; that's probably why you don't go over there. The big emitters are producing and building new coal-fired generation plants, while we shut them down in Australia and then complain that our electricity prices are so high. Under the IEA's new policy scenario, which includes countries' nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, the WEO estimates that growth in demand for coal in the Asia-Pacific will increase by 492 million tonnes of coal equivalent by 2040. The Asia-Pacific region is going to burn an extra 492 million tonnes of coal a year, but we just shut our coal-fired generation plants. There are 22 here producing reliable energy, and we're going to change the planet? No, we're not. We go through the cost and we run the risk of shifting businesses overseas and shutting them down here, like the cement industry.

I remember the carbon tax days of the Labor government—the tax we were promised would never happen under a Gillard led government, but of course it did happen with the big push of the former member for New England, Tony Windsor. We produced 10 million tonnes of cement in Australia, and 0.8 of a tonne of CO2 for each tonne of cement. So 10 million tonnes of cement makes eight million tonnes of CO2. We were going to shut the industry down and go to China, where they produce one billion tonnes of cement a year. When they produce one tonne of cement, they produce 1.1 tonnes of CO2. So if we shut down our 10 million tonnes of cement, which produced eight million tonnes of CO2, and shifted to China, if we buy 10 million tonnes off them, they produce 11 million tonnes of CO2—three million tonnes extra for cement.

This is the crazy way that people think. We in Australia put our costs up, shut our mines down, put people on the dole, drive around in cars made of tree leaves and bark and don't have any steel through the process of coal contributing to that. Be realistic. Shut industries down and move them overseas, and those same industries that do the same job overseas will actually produce more CO2 on the planet. We don't have a tent over Australia. As Dr Finkel told Senator Macdonald at Senate estimates, we can cut all of our emissions in Australia, and the change to the world would be virtually nothing.

This is a political game being played. Be realistic. No matter what we do in this country, we cannot change the planet with CO2. But we can look after our environment. We can look after our rivers and water systems. We can look after our farmland and the topsoil that's got to grow the food for thousands of years to come. We can actually put carbon dioxide into the soil, build the carbon levels, make the soil better and have a positive effect on our environment. This whole emissions trading scheme, this carbon tax and all these costs we're running now will achieve absolutely nothing.

5:27 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

As we sit in the parliament today, diplomats from around the world are themselves sitting in the United Nations annual climate change conference—give or take a couple of hours for the time difference. The conference this year is held in the Polish city of Katowice, a city whose industrial roots lay in mining coal. The conference halls where the discussions take place are heated by coal-fired power plants. It's a neat metaphor for the very broad problem we're struggling with across the globe.

This year's conference in Katowice is an extension of the process that began in Kyoto, passed through Copenhagen and then passed through Paris. It is our attempt as a global community to use the international rules based order to create a system that can reduce carbon emissions in a way that is fair and in a way that is economical for nations all around the world. That attempt, however, does butt up against the ongoing legacy of carbon-intensive industrialisation—a legacy that is still visible and ongoing in Katowice, Poland, as indeed it is in many nations around the world, including our own.

How we navigate these two immovable facts is the problem at the heart of climate policy, and it is a challenge that Australia is failing to meet under this government. That is in no small part due to the actions of the party that put forward this urgency motion for debate, the Australian Greens. We heard in question time today the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, congratulate and thank the Greens political party for voting against the CPRS put forward by the Rudd government. I can see why he would want to thank them, because that vote by the Greens—some of whom are still here with us in the chamber today—set off the climate wars that have consumed Australian politics for over a decade. It is time for the Greens to grapple with the consequences of what they have done. I have never seen any contrition nor any admission of the mistakes that have led us to this point. Their vote undid the best chance Australia had to legislate an enduring and effective policy response to climate change. I have never heard the word 'sorry' from anyone up that end of the chamber. And the consequences of that decision are stark.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you embarrassed about the carbon tax? You should be proud of it.

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator McAllister, please resume your seat. Senator Di Natale, Senator McAllister is entitled to be heard in silence.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. The consequences of that decision are stark—half a decade of government with a party described by their own Minister for Women as a party of homophobes, sexists and climate denialists, and we've had absolute policy stasis on climate change. We heard just now from Senator Williams, in his contribution, a total failure to accept our obligations to reduce our own emissions and a total failure to understand the realities of what it will take to transition our economy and, indeed, the global economy to a low-carbon economy. As Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute noted:

… it remains a fact that we don't have a climate change policy in this country.

Australian's inaction on climate is unacceptable in the face of mounting visible evidence of the impact climate change is having on Australia and the world. The science is clear and compelling. Recent studies show the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years and the top four have been in the past four years. Climate action must be increased fivefold to limit warning to the 1.5 degree Celsius increase that scientists tell us according to the UN.

This evidence is not accepted by many in the coalition. The member for Hughes, whose preselection has just been rescued by the Prime Minister, has previously said:

It's CO2 we are talking about: it's what turns water into soda water; it's what makes chardonnay into champagne.

Well, unlike many in the coalition—and, indeed, I suspect most who are in the chamber today—Labor believe in the science of climate change, and we believe in action on it. Labor's climate plan includes delivering 50 per cent of power from renewables by 2030, zero net pollution by 2050, a plan for batteries in households and an additional $10 billion in capital for the Clean Energy Corporation to effect a transition.

Like the UN meeting about climate change in halls heated by coal-fired power plants, our own efforts in Australia run up against our industrial and mining legacy. And the answer to that legacy lies in the international rules for carbon accounting and reduction that are being discussed in Poland right now. That system accounts for emissions at the point of use, rather than at the point they are mined. As a consequence of those rules, the greatest threats to the viability of coalmining are international carbon reduction efforts and investments in renewables that are rendering the mining and use of thermal coal uneconomical and undesirable. The International Energy Agency's next annual report on the global coal market is due next month. The 2017 report, however, was clear: demand for coal will be stagnant over the next half a decade. And this is optimistic compared to some other assessments. A report, for instance, by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis this year forecast profound drops in the demand for coal if you take into account the falling price of renewable energy and global action on climate change.

There are decarbonisation efforts in effect in some of Australia's biggest thermal coal importers—countries such as China, South Korea and Japan—and the effects are already biting. We can see the effects of a decreasing global appetite for coal in the Australian projects. The Adani project has been forced to self-fund because it was unable to raise capital from financiers either in Australia or aboard. The reason for that isn't a sudden attack of conscience by the banks; it is because coal increasingly represents a serious risk to investors. Even self-funding, Adani has been forced to proceed with something that is just one-sixth of the size they initially hoped for.

We should applaud the reduction in carbon emissions that comes from global efforts to reduce the demand for coal, but we shouldn't celebrate the effect that it has on jobs and industry—not for one moment should we celebrate it. We cannot wish away our industrial and mining legacy, and we cannot ignore the communities and jobs that have grown up around it over the past decades. These are communities filled with decent, hardworking people doing decent jobs that are well paid—union jobs where people are properly represented. And these people should not be asked to bear the costs of decarbonisation alone and without support.

We benefit collectively from action on climate change. We have a collective obligation to help those on whom the consequences fall. A climate change policy is incomplete if it does not account for the working people whose jobs and communities are affected. Unfortunately, time after time, the Greens political party fail this test. A just transition has to be something more than an empty phrase tacked onto the end of a speech. It has to be a meaningful response to the very real upheaval that the closure of power plants and mines has on very real people's lives, because the costs of economic adjustment are not fairly distributed. We've seen under this government a complete failure to support those affected by the closure of the car industry. There has been no action. I don't see the Greens out there fighting for those workers, either. There has been no action whatsoever to support those people. But that will not be Labor's approach, not for this industry or any other industry. That's why we have committed to establishing an independent just transition authority to help plan for and coordinate the response to the eventual closure of coal-fired power stations in the future. We will also make it mandatory for power stations and coalmines to participate in pooled redundancy schemes to help ensure that every worker impacted by a closure is provided an offer of employment at a nearby power station or coalmine, subject to enough positions being created.

This isn't happening tomorrow; this is happening in the long term. But people are crying out for long-term planning and a long-term transition—a way of dealing with the very large change that is washing through our economy and through the global economy. The UNSW Business School recently put out a report on the pathways for transition in Australia. It's entitled The Ruhr or Appalachia? It reflects on the very different post-industrial experiences of the German and American working classes. The German example reflects real investment and engagement with the needs of working-class people. The American example does not. The Greens are fond of using this chamber to talk about the rise of right-wing populism. They would do well to reflect, and consider whose example they would rather we follow in Australia: the Ruhr or Appalachia.

5:39 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Deputy President McCarthy, I apologise for laughing, but I've heard in the last two speakers all of the mantra, all of the slogans and all of the Canberra-bubble comments you can get without any thought going into what is actually being said. Like the schoolchildren they praise so much, they have simply been brainwashed and propagandised. It's a disgrace that in our country people of the Left are so devoid of decent arguments that they have to try to get children, who don't understand any of this, propagandised to do the work for them.

As a Queensland senator, I am here to support my state. I'm so very disappointed with the mover of this motion, who is a Queensland senator. He doesn't care about jobs in Queensland and he doesn't care about the Queensland budget, which only exists because of royalties from coalmines. He doesn't care about the Labor Townsville City Council and the people they represent. He doesn't care about these small businesses in North Queensland, where I come from, who will create genuine employment from the Adani mine. I'm delighted, and congratulate Adani for proceeding with the Carmichael mine under the most severe impediment by those on the Left in our country.

I'm pleased that Senator Moore is here, as a Queensland senator. It will be interesting to hear what she says. I notice that the other Queensland senators always run when this argument comes up, because, federally, Labor oppose Adani, but in Queensland Labor support it because they need the money.

The previous speaker said we don't follow the science. Well, I'm sorry, I follow the Chief Scientist of Australia. I refer people to the Hansard at page 76 on 1 June 2017, when I asked the Chief Scientist:

If we were to reduce the world's emissions of carbon by 1.3 per cent, what impact would that make on the changing climate of the world?

Dr Finkel responded:

Virtually nothing.

Virtually nothing! So the Greens and the Labor Party get themselves into a tizz over wanting 50 per cent, 80 per cent or 100 per cent reductions in Australian emissions for no purpose at all! It won't make one iota of difference to the changing climate of the world! Don't take my word for that; ask the Chief Scientist. Ask him yourself!

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

They don't believe in the science!

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They don't believe in the science! They get in here and mouth the words and mantra that we get from the Greens political party in particular and Labor when they think it suits their purposes.

I am disappointed that in this country we cannot have a serious argument or debate about this without going into the old slogans that the Greens political party keep churning out and can never argue the case for. I keep asking the Greens. Australia emits less than 1.3 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. If we shut Australia down completely, it would mean virtually nothing to climate change. That's the fact of the matter. I ask the Greens about it, but they will never answer me. They never answer me, because there is not an answer. There is not an answer so far as Australia is concerned. Australia does its bit. We've reduced our emissions as a good corporate citizen of the world. We've met our Kyoto targets—plus, plus, plus. We're meeting our Paris accord targets—plus, plus, plus. We're doing our bit. But to go beyond that—as the Green Party always call for, and Labor when they think it wins them a few votes—will mean absolutely nothing to the world's carbon emissions.

The rubbish you just heard from previous speakers about these days being the hottest days we've had, the most fires we've had and the greatest floods we've had—it's all rubbish! When we have a cyclone, the Greens will always say, 'There you are; it's climate change.' 'Cyclone Yasi was the biggest cyclone we've had in Queensland,' they used to say. 'The biggest cyclone we've ever had in Queensland,'—and then, in a low voice—'since 1928.' 'The hottest day we've ever had in Queensland, since 1932,'—it's always 'since', which just shows that the climate's always been changing. I have a graph here—I can't table it—that shows that the temperatures in the world, going back tens of thousands of years, are lower now than they have been in one, two, three, four periods in the earth's history, and they're a little bit warmer than two other periods in the earth's history. But this is not new. This has happened in the past. Antarctic scientists have proven this by the work they've done geologically to show what the climate has been like in years gone by. So nothing the Greens political party will ever tell you is based upon fact. It's simply based upon a pitch to the strange sort of people who support the Greens political party and the children that they've brainwashed and propagandised into doing their dirty work in Australia.

Already, there are other countries opening up coal-fired power stations. As Senator Williams so finely and accurately pointed out, the amount of carbon we emit in Australia as a nation is less than what these new power stations are already emitting. Look after the jobs of workers—that's what we're doing. The comments from the previous speakers from the Labor Party, written by the union movement, try to have two bob each way, I have to say. But we in the coalition, we in the Liberal-National Party, are serious about the jobs of workers in the coalmining industry, and, in fact, in all mining industries. We look after them. We look after the Queensland Labor government's budget bottom line, because without coal the state would be broke, and they know that. We are the party looking after workers and their jobs, and we try to bring a bit of sense into this argument that is otherwise full of rhetoric, slang and slogans by the Greens political party.

5:47 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

Sometimes when I look at the agenda for these debates, and I see that this is supposed to be a matter of importance, I get excited. Then, all too quickly, my excitement fades, because what happens is, rather than having a genuine discussion looking at a matter of genuine importance and trying to share knowledge and experience, it degenerates into what we often see whenever the issue is around coal or energy: a position where people have already made up their minds. They determine what they believe is right regardless of what other arguments they hear and regardless of what people are asking for in the wider community, which is some genuine understanding and acceptance that people, while they may have different views, have a common goal.

On this particular argument, as we always see, it is not coming together to try and find out how we genuinely look at protecting our planet, understanding that we are global citizens. It doesn't matter whether we live here, whether we live in the Pacific islands, whether we live in Europe or whether we live in Antarctica: we are global citizens. The issues around climate change do continue to be debated in this place, because there do continue to be people who think that we have no role to play in this debate. They think that we can close our eyes, curl up in a ball in the southern part of the world and pretend, as we've just heard Senator Macdonald say, that there is nothing we can do to impact change, and that, therefore, we should just go ahead and ignore any of the evidence that's come forward that actually points to the fact that there are issues around our use of energy, that there are issues in the way that we celebrate, in some parts of this chamber, and that there is no alternative to the use and continued mining of coal with no limitations, with no restrictions and with a complete focus in our energy production and usage around coal in every sense.

This afternoon we've heard people taking widely different positions, and that will continue because there doesn't seem to be any willingness to listen. People have already determined that either there is a problem and we're part of it or there could be a problem and we're no part of it, and that absolutely none of that problem relates to the use of coal and the continued mining of coal not just at the current levels but at ever increasing levels.

What we hear from the people who do support, in this strange way, doing things in the same way is that it's not enough that already—the international evidence is that while Australia doesn't feature in the top 50 nations by population we are one of the top 20 economies, proven by our engagement in the G20, and we are one of the top 15 nations in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions. There is not an argument about that. That's fact. There may well be argument, as I've heard from the other side, consistently, about what causes greenhouse emissions. But in terms of the fact that they are real, I do not believe that there is an outstanding argument on that issue.

The IPCC's recent report that came down caused great concern in some parts of the world. It caused great concern in parts of our country as well. I know that Senator Faruqi quoted extensively from comments made by David Attenborough at the current conference in Europe, and I know other people in this debate have quoted from that too. It is extraordinarily concerning reading. You see across the world a group of experts, in the area of science, with no vested interest. The people gathered at this international conference do not have any particular ownership in saying that our situation has reached crisis. That benefits no-one.

The evidence we have before us talks about the gap in the way countries and individuals across the world are looking at the issues and taking measures for change. The gap that is occurring is leading to an urgency and a crisis across the world that may see significant changes in temperatures, our geography and the likelihood of the Arctic Ocean being free of sea ice in summer. The proportion of the global population exposed to global warming-induced water shortages will be up 50 per cent if we don't make change. Our coral reefs would, basically, cease to exist at the current level. And the indications go on. In terms of the fear that it engenders, it seems that it's selective. People are able to disassociate themselves from this situation, disassociate themselves from the concerns that have been raised. Indeed, as we've heard from Senator Macdonald, it does not seem to be a problem. Most specifically, it does not seem to be 'our' problem.

I think that's where the arguments diverge. You accept that there are serious issues around climate change. You accept that there are a range of factors causing these issues, and that does include coal production and coal use for energy. It is not the only cause. And that's another issue. In our enthusiasm to find individual reasons that we can blame, very often people find one or two things and think they are the only causes. That's not true. There are a range of causes. There are a range of issues that we have to address. First of all, we have to identify, share and accept that there is a problem and that we're part of it.

Last week in this place I had the joy of listening to a group of schoolchildren. These were not the schoolchildren to whom Senator Macdonald referred—who were ignorant, who were taking information from others, who were brainwashed—these were young people who were given the opportunity to do their own research. These were 11- and 12-year-olds. This is at a time when their brains are seeking information. What they did was research sustainable development goals. Amidst that, they accepted that we are part of the world and that we have shared responsibilities and that there are issues around climate change and energy. Some of the children decided that this was the area on which they would concentrate.

Using the research they had available to them, they looked at the way we use energy, the way we generate energy, in our country and looked at the desperate need to find renewable ways to have energy in our lives and how we can best use that. They were not running away from the issues. They did not see that, somehow, if you lived in Australia, you were not part of a global problem. They didn't see that they could be removed from any responsibility and they accepted that there would be impacts on their lives, on their family's lives and on their communities if we didn't take action.

So I think it is important that we do consider what is described as a matter of importance. But I do think it would be useful if, in this process, there was a degree of listening rather than just running the same arguments that we hold dear and attacking those who don't share those beliefs. I think that we had the opportunity to look at the international science evidence and also the significant evidence that has been produced locally by our scientists and by the researchers that work in the space in our communities here. I know Senator Macdonald quoted one statement from the Chief Scientist. If you look at the work that the Chief Scientist produced when he was doing his research across the country a few years ago, in building up to what was then the National Energy Guarantee, you can see that significant comments were made in that report about the need for us to look at alternate means of getting energy in our country and looking at the importance of renewables and looking at the importance of each of us taking responsibility in this space.

There are opportunities. We need to ensure that we look at and understand what the realities are in our community and that we accept that we need to take action. One of those actions, one of the many actions, is looking at how we can have alternate ways of using and finding energy in our country. That's already on the agenda. But Australia, and my own state of Queensland, is not immune from the international impacts of climate change, and we must be part of any solution, any action, to make our country's response stronger and to keep not just current generations safe, not just our current geography safe, but our world and our families into the future.

5:57 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The climate talks in Poland are happening right now:

Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

Those are not my words. They are the words of David Attenborough at the climate talks in Poland right now.

In the words of David Attenborough: 'This is a matter of life and death. The world's people have spoken, the message is clear and time is running out. You, the decision-makers, must act now.' We know the science is clear. We know that the coalition is dominated by science deniers and climate deniers. They are a lost cause. So my appeal is to the Labor Party right now.

In 2010 we worked with the Labor Party, cooperatively, to put a price on carbon. We had a Prime Minister who rose to the challenge. We established the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and we established the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. We had a plan. It is time to re-establish a plan, and at the heart of that plan has to be a pathway to stop the burning of coal. The burning of coal contributes to catastrophic climate damage. It knows no borders. Whether the coal was dug up here in Australia and burnt overseas makes no difference to the atmosphere and oceans, who don't care where the coal is burnt. Just because this coal is burnt overseas and doesn't appear in our national greenhouse gas figures doesn't make it less of a threat. The great majority of what we dig up is burnt overseas, but it pollutes our atmosphere nonetheless.

We have a choice right now. We are the first generation to experience the impact of climate change and the last generation that will be able to do something about it. The choice is clear: we need to make sure that the Adani coalmine never gets built. I urge Bill Shorten and the Labor Party to review and revoke those environmental approvals. I urge them to work with us to prevent another new coalmine from ever being built in this country and to embrace the challenge that comes with making the transition to a clean, renewable energy economy.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The proposition put forward in today's debate by the Greens is that Australia's coal exports are one of the most significant contributors to human induced climate change globally. To assist debate, I'm actually going to try to put a figure on this contribution. Human induced climate change, to the extent it occurs, is a function of cumulative anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide emissions, over at least the last 100 years. So, first we need to recognise that for the first half of the last 100 years Australia's coal production and exports were negligible. Moving to the present day, Australia now produces around seven per cent of the world's annual coal production, and we export around three-quarters of our production. Globally, coal accounts for around a third of annual total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. So, in answer to the Greens proposition, Australia's coal exports make less than a one per cent contribution to climate change. This reflects the fact that Australia's coal exports made next to no contribution to cumulative anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions for the last 100 years, and are making a less than two per cent contribution to annual global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions now.

Let's talk about the two elephants in the room, China and India. China and India produce more than half of the world's annual coal production, and consume more than two-thirds of the world's annual coal consumption. Together, China and India account for more than a third of annual anthropogenic global greenhouse gas emissions. Given this enormous footprint, the cessation of Australia's coal exports would not contribute to mitigating human induced climate change to any realistic extent. The only way to mitigate human induced climate change would be to push for an agreement involving a commitment from China and India to not increase their annual emissions by many billions of tonnes over the coming decade.

To put their emission increases into context, remember that Australia's total annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are around half a billion tonnes. No-one is pretending it would be easy to strike an agreement involving a commitment from China and India to not increase their emissions by billions of tonnes; such an agreement would need to offer net benefits to each country that signs up, including China and India. This would mean either that at any reduction in business-as-usual emissions in China and India would need to be small, or that China and India would need to be paid off by the rest of the world to do more. Any irrational resistance to expanding nuclear power would need to be jettisoned. Only this sort of agreement would allow Chinese and Indian emissions to ease off, while allowing the people of China and India to continue their march out of poverty. Under such an agreement, demand for our coal could well fall, but the silver lining for us would be that demand for our uranium should skyrocket.

The issue of China and India's anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is a wicked problem, but it is absolutely fundamental to any practical action targeting human induced climate change. Those who purport to care about human induced climate change but who say and do nothing about China and India increasing their annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by billions of tonnes are clearly not primarily concerned about climate change; they are more concerned about self-flagellation—or, more accurately, about everyone around them being flagellated. They are suffering a neurosis, and they shouldn't be in charge. Maybe they belong in an institution, but that institution shouldn't be the parliament.

6:04 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have an urgency motion today with the usual hyperbole we expect day in, day out from the Australian Greens. Instead of using emotion, let's look at a couple of facts. Australia accounts for 0.005 per cent—it's a really small number—of global CO2 emissions and just 0.011 per cent of global coal emissions. Australia's contribution to global thermal coal production also is just under five per cent. Emissions per person in Australia are at their lowest level in 28 years, while we have unprecedented investment in renewable energy and one of the highest rates of household solar uptake in the world. Further, not only did Australia beat its first Kyoto target, by 128 million tonnes, but we will also beat our 2030 targets, halving our emissions per person. Australia's lithium reserves for batteries are among the world's largest. When all of that is taken into account, it becomes pretty clear the Greens are far more concerned with making emotive statements than they are with providing any tangible evidence. They're more interested in whipping up hysteria than in real environmentalism that can practically coexist with economic progress.

At the same time, we are exporting low-emissions sources around the world, which are supporting global emissions reductions. For instance, Australia's black coal emits fewer emissions than brown coal, because it tends to be high in energy and low in ash, meaning that less coal needs to be used for each unit of electricity generation. As such, Australia's high-grade coal is environmentally better coal than that which you can get from other countries with lower-grade deposits. Additionally, our LNG exports produce 50 to 60 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity output than coal. As a result of these exports, countries such as Japan, China, and Korea will save 130 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

However, for those people who are really concerned about emissions, it is important to note that our environmental action must not come at the expense of economic growth, of rising living standards and of low electricity prices. For example, in my home state of Queensland coal is a critical contributor to exports and jobs. The royalties provided by the coal industry subsidise a whole range of important public services such as health, education and infrastructure. For every one person who is employed in the mining industry there are four to five flow-on jobs created in Queensland. Further, in 2017-18 coal contributed over $61 billion to the Australian economy—totalling 15 per cent of our exports. It was the second-largest export from this country.

Praying for the demise of Australia's coal export industry is like praying for a monumental black hole in our economy. It would be very interesting to hear how the Greens party would pay for the substantial increases they'd like to see in government expenditure in the absence of the revenue that is provided year in, year out by Australian coal.

It's plain that coal plays an important role in Australia's economic prosperity, and it remains an important part of the energy mix, providing low-cost and reliable generation. It may not always be so, but for now promises of 100 per cent renewable energy are more than unrealistic; they're dishonest. It's simply not technically feasible on current technology. So the coalition offers a practical energy policy, which recognises the realities we face, while Mr Shorten and Labor are stuck in the past with their batteries policy, a throwback to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, where, on the promise of a $2,000 subsidy, they'd ask families struggling to pay their quarterly bills for power, to then shell out $10,000 to $20,000 of their own money to put in a household battery. How can anyone seriously believe that ordinary Australian families have the resources to be able to engage in such a strategy?

I remember the last time Labor offered to install things in households around Australia; it led to burning rooftops and dead tradesmen. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

With world electricity demand expected to rise by 63.5 per cent by 2040, coal will remain crucial in ensuring the lights turn on for millions of people around the world. It's a critical part of world energy generation and I hope it continues well into the future to be an important part of our economic landscape, as it sustains our economy, creates jobs and brings the benefit of low-cost dependable energy to those who can least afford virtue signalling for the cities.

6:10 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Adani or the future of my generation? That is the fundamental question which confronts this chamber as we consider the question tonight. For we cannot have both. We cannot have the mega mine, we cannot have the destroyed reef and we cannot have the emissions and address climate change. We cannot safeguard the future of this nation's young people while digging this dirty mine.

The choice for the Australian Greens is simple. Back young people. Invest in the future. Get coal money which runs this place the hell out of it. See our reef bloom. See our rivers run clean. See our cities powered by wind and wave and solar. Close the book on a dirty industrial technology, and close the gate to a corrupt foreign multinational which has no business doing business in Australia. This course of action is clear to us because we exist as a political movement to think not of the next election cycle but of the next generation. I urge the chamber to join us in this endeavour. (Time expired)

6:12 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If Senator McKim believes that Australian coal is one of the most significant contributions to climate change, he should stop travelling in cars, watching TV, flying in planes and using electricity, and he should throw his mobile into the bin. All of those things have been given to him via coal-fired power. The hypocrites who condemn coal need to understand that coal is used to boil water that in turn creates electricity. The Apple products that I'm sure the Greens are all using are made in China using cheap coal-fired power. And the coal that isn't used for energy is used to make steel. All those wind turbines, the ones the Greens actually love so much, are made from coal. It takes 220 tonnes of coal to make steel to make one wind turbine. All the steel in the wind turbines and solar farms making the so-called clean energy is made from coal. We have countries around the world laughing at us as we destroy our industries and manufacturing, while they reap the rewards.

Right now, there is a global get-together in Poland, where Turkey has officially requested to be downgraded to a developing country status so they, as well as China, can milk money from gullible countries like Australia. We are being taken for fools and the Greens are happy to play along. Fearmongering is not the answer. You talk about the Great Barrier Reef. Well, coral bleaching was first detected in the mid-1930s; that's nearly 85 years ago. We have had coalmining in this country all those years, yet the Great Barrier Reef is still there. They think that, just because Adani is starting up now, the reef will be dead by 2050. What they're telling the people of Australia is a load of rubbish.

So I say to the Greens: get your facts right. Listen to scientists. Science from the past should be reviewed again so we have the true facts and not fearmongering. (Time expired)

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion as moved by Senator Waters on a matter of public urgency be agreed to.