Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Matters of Urgency
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 Di Natale:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose to move that in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
That stopping Adani Carmichael coalmine poses no sovereign risk to Australia, and we must show leadership to address the great challenge of climate change.
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 speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
That stopping Adani's Carmichael coal mine poses no sovereign risk to Australia, and we must show leadership to address the great challenge of climate change.
We are at a critical moment in human history. We are facing a test of our collective intelligence in the face of a threat to the existence of all life on Earth. We now know beyond any doubt that opening up new coalmines, new fossil fuel reserves like the Adani megamine will result in devastating climate damage and will result in a legacy left to future generations that no responsible community would inflict upon them. We know that we have, right now, the opportunity to stop this mine going ahead. Of course, the Liberal Party, dominated by climate deniers, are showing no signs of rising to the challenge that lies ahead of us. We know that both parties receive massive donations from the coal, oil and gas industries, and so we are not seeing the leadership that we should be seeing, not just here in Australia but on the international stage, from our parliamentarians.
The Labor Party say that they can't act, but we know the opposite is true. We know that if Bill Shorten said there was going to be a review of our environmental approvals, it would send a very clear and direct message to the Adani corporation. We know that if Bill Shorten and the Labor Party were to support our bill to prevent another new coalmine from ever opening up in Australia, that would be the end of this project; instead, they don't. They don't join with us and with so many Australian people like the young people who came to the parliament today to exercise their democratic right to protest against this megamine going ahead. They don't do it, and they cite the notion of sovereign risk as a reason for not being able to stop this mine. Well, what a lot of garbage! What a lot of rubbish! What a meaningless, hollowed-out term 'sovereign risk' is. It is thrown around by political parties who don't have the guts to take a stand when it really matters.
You see, investor uncertainty always exists when it comes to a project like this one. Go and have a look at the foreign oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria or Russia or Turkmenistan or a dozen other countries with huge resources but very little rule of law and tell me that stopping a coalmine here in Australia is somehow going to drive investors away from investing in our shores. What nonsense. What garbage. No-one seriously believes that, if we were to tighten up our regulations around digging coal, around burning coal, it somehow would pose a threat to other operations in this country.
You see, risk is an inherent part of a capitalist system—the bigger the risk, the bigger the return. That is never truer than in the mining industry. In the mining industry, the huge rates of return come because there is risk associated with those projects. That is part of the reason why mining companies are so profitable, because they live with that risk every day. Governments pass laws all the time that outlaw the mining or production of hazardous materials. We are not re-inventing the wheel here. We didn't pay compensation to companies when we decided that asbestos was killing people, and we stopped it. We didn't compensate tobacco companies when we passed laws that said that we weren't going to allow tobacco to be consumed in the way it was previously consumed. We don't need to pay compensation. We are not creating any additional risk by stating the bleeding obvious. In fact, what we are doing is sending a very clear signal to other companies who are looking to invest in other areas or sectors that are harmful to our health.
We want to discourage companies from investing in businesses that harm the community. This is the right signal to be sending to the coal industry. Adani didn't just learn today that coal was harmful. We have known that for decades. The truth is that we need to come together as a nation and say, 'Your industry is now doing harm and it is time to stop it, to end it.' We don't see the action we need to see, because we see those millions of dollars flow into the coffers of both major parties. We see the Liberal Party dominated by climate deniers. Here we are, the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, the last generation to do something about it, and we are squibbing it. We have stop this megamine from going ahead.
I can actually hear the frustration in Senator Di Natale's voice, and not just on this occasion; in fact, it's present in all of the Greens as they make contributions around coalmining. Their frustration is, of course, that they can't get anyone else to agree with them. Nine times out of 10, the majority of the Senate lets them sit over here, with their motions, where there is this lonely cohort of people—a very disciplined group, might I say, in supporting each other. I think it is intellectually offensive that nine people can vote the same way every time for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of votes—as we all know, from human nature, that's not possible. Their problem here is: the reason that their arguments don't resonate in the community is that they are simply based on false premises. We heard a very good contribution here the other day from Senator Williams, who happens to be in the chamber. It was a very good contribution. He laid it out as it is. He laid out the facts, laid them bare. If you were to compare his contribution to the Senate to the contribution just made by Senator Di Natale, Senator Di Natale would not have a single leg to stand on.
Let's look at the impacts of what the Greens are having to say. They want to close down the entire coal industry in my home state of Queensland and, in fact, across the country—in fact, across the world; they'd be happy to do it across the world. Yet they have gone back to their offices now to work under the illumination of energy created by coal. It was overcast outside earlier, so solar wouldn't have been able to provide them with that energy. Of course, if the wind stops blowing, they'll be sitting there in the dark, which I don't think would necessarily be a bad thing for the nation.
Nonetheless, the contributions by the Greens around these matters are hypocritical. We have got a Greens senator who had their Senate office refurbished, and it was reported publicly that nearly $200,000 was spent on a timber floor in their refurbished office—not a tofu floor; not an old, dry, compressed grass floor; not an old leaf floor; not an urban floor but a timber floor. Both the electorate and chambers like the Senate are alive to this complete nonsense expressed by the Greens, and that's why they can't get anywhere. They can't get their motions supported here. Their motions fail one after the other.
I see three Greens senators here. My understanding of the polling is that only one of them will be here come a few months time.
No, I'm not going to be here, but neither are you, and neither are you, Senator Hanson-Young. I suspect that Senator Hanson-Young will be ringing me up for a job. She can do a bit of back-burning on the farm; I'll have a bit of work for her there. She can catch a few possums so we can all get our protein levels up.
The fact of the matter is the Greens can't get the electorate to support them. They can't get the electorate across the country to support them. They can't get the Senate to support them. In the electorate, certainly in my home state of Queensland, there is an absolute wake-up to them. They can't get the Supreme Court to support them, and there have been 12 actions—not one or two or three or four but 12 actions. Their problem is the fact that they are not an honest cohort of people. They are a dishonest political party. For example, the other day we heard Senator Waters talking about the ILUA. We know that the Wangan and Jagalingou people in Queensland voted—listen carefully; I'll give you a second to pick your pen up—294 to one to sign the ILUA for the operation of these mines in the Galilee Basin. But if you go to the Hansard for Senator Waters's contribution the other day, you'll hear a different expression on it. Her contribution to it indicated that the native title, the people of that area, did not support the development of the mine.
They know what we know, they know what the Queensland electorate knows and they know what the national electorate knows—that the development of this mine and the movement of this coal will have zero impact on carbon emissions in the world. For the closing of the mine to have an impact, they would have to prove—and the proof, as presented by Senator Williams, is to the contrary—that these mines would stop, that these power generators overseas would stop. We know that is not true. What we do know is that they would rely on inferior coal that emits more carbon into the atmosphere than the high-quality coal that will come out of the Galilee and what already comes out of the Bowen Basin.
The fact is that when colleagues from the Greens party make their contributions they really think that everyone is as dumb as dog-doo. They just sit there, listen to this persistent drone that comes into their ears and think, somehow, that if they say it often enough, if they make misrepresentations frequently enough, people will adopt it as being the truth. The electorate and the chamber haven't been tricked on this.
One of the things that always amuses me with the contribution from the Greens is the fact that they ignore what might be the alternative for 186,000 jobs that rely either directly or indirectly on the coal industry and the 40,000 or 50,000 more that will come with the development of Galilee.
'Jobs on a dead planet,' I'll take that interjection. What they're going to do is take all the coalminers and close down Mackay, Rockhampton, Moura, Moranbah, Blackwater, Emerald—just close those towns down; just turns the lights off. The economic impact is not only on my home state and the nation but on all those hundreds of thousands of people. They'll have them polishing wind turbines. That's the alternative industry, these wind turbines. These are turbines made of steel that are smeltered from iron ore. There's an estimate—I don't have it in front of me; otherwise I'd quote it more precisely—that it takes about five years of generation before they've offset their own carbon footprint with respect to their structure.
To anybody listening, sadly—I hope that most Australians have a life and are not sitting glued to a television set listening to the tripe that comes out of our colleagues here—all I ask them to do is this: go back over the contribution of Senator Waters or Senator Di Natale or Senator Whish-Wilson or any one of the clan and pick three facts that they've stated in their contributions. They could be today's contributions, yesterday's or those from a week ago. If you're having trouble, contact my office and I'll provide you with both their contribution, their statements of facts, and the science that they plead about so frequently. And you can do your own comparison. I'm not here to tell you what to think. I'll provide you with the facts and you can make your own decision. I promise you that you'll arrive at the same place as so many in this place and so many in the electorate have—that this is nonsense and hogwash.
The problem is that their resistance to these matters, I believe, inhibits the ability for governments to properly engage in the debate around some of these issues and settle at some middle ground with respect to some of the policies—not just of the government but when and if, at some future time, the opposition takes government. So I urge people to watch and listen, and I urge them to be very careful. This tail over here, this tail of the Greens, is going to wag this Chihuahua over here if the Australian people make the mistake of putting them back in to govern this nation. I call on people to be very careful with how they apply their vote.
In 2014, the warmest recorded year in human history, this government made Australia the first country to go backwards on climate change. Nothing has improved since. In fact, I would dare say things have got worse, as our emissions since 2011 have continued to rise. It has been made very clear by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in their annual report this year that Australia will require declining—not increasing, but declining—emissions in every sector of economic activity in order to achieve its Paris commitments at least cost. That, of course, means new investment in large-scale renewable wind and solar energy, not new investment in new coalmines.
What has been made very clear since the toppling of the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is that there are so many in government who simply do not believe in climate change, deny that it is happening, do not understand global warming perhaps or just want to at least reject the science. I say that based on information received just yesterday from the former Prime Minister himself. He said:
There is a significant percentage of the Coalition members who do not believe climate change is real, who think we should get out of Paris … who would rather the government, instead of building Snowy 2, built a new coal-fired power station.
There you have it from the horse's mouth. That's from the former Prime Minister. It shows exactly why we have no action on reducing our emissions.
In relation to this particular proposal put forward by the Adani company with another idea to build a new coalmine, admittedly a smaller sized one, I think we all need to be made aware, firstly, that global coal demand fell by two per cent only a couple of years ago and the year before that. The International Energy Agency finds that meeting the Paris climate targets means the coal trade will shrink 25 per cent by 2025 and that new coalmines are not needed. The Australia Institute has done a lot of work in this regard.
I made my position very clear very early on in relation to Adani's first proposal. I made clear my opposition to it. In doing that, I also met with various stakeholders. One of them was the Stop Adani Alliance. The Stop Adani Alliance, as we know, is made up of some 40 different organisations. Those different organisations include the Australian Conservation Foundation, who surveyed the Australian population. This was on 1 February this year. They found that nearly three-quarters of Australians, some 73 per cent of Australians, support a policy to halt the expansion of coalmining and to fast-track solar power and storage to reduce the threat of climate change. That shows you the position of the Australian community. That shows you what the Australian community are wanting.
In relation to the coalmine that Adani is now proposing, I still remain, as my colleagues on this side of the chamber do, very sceptical about this proposal. We have to look back at what this company's projections were in the past in relation to jobs. That shows clearly that what they were claiming was incredibly unrealistic. It was simply fake. It wasn't true. It was telling that there was not one bank that wanted to invest in this project. Not one business wanted to invest in this project. I think that is because banks, businesses and the business community understand that we have gone beyond peak demand for coal globally, as referred to in that International Energy Agency report. Most of them do understand we have gone beyond peak demand for coal. That is the economics. We know that the economics didn't stack up. We know that the jobs didn't stack up. On top of that, some of those stakeholders I met raised a number of outstanding environmental issues, particularly in relation to what happened in the past with this company's behaviour around water sampling.
This company doesn't have a great track record of behaviour. I'm sure many people in this place saw the Four Corners report into what occurred in India and what happened to the community and the people in India after a certain project by this exact same company. We have said all along that this has to stack up environmentally and economically, and I do not believe it does. Therefore, it remains a project that has very little support from me, from the community, from the business sector, from the banks—the list goes on.
I did want to highlight, though, that, when we're talking about this whole downturn in peak demand for coal, there is still a need for energy, there's still a need for electricity, there's still a need for all of that, but it has to be clean, and that is where Labor has such a fantastic policy. We have an energy policy. We have a climate change policy. We have a policy to deal with just transition. These are the things that this government has absolutely nothing of. Now, why do we have a just transition policy? We have a just transition policy because we care for workers, be they workers who are working in the coal industry or workers who will need jobs in that sector in the future. It is inevitable that there will be the closure of coal-fired power stations, because many of them are already operating beyond their original lifespan. Therefore, it is inevitable that we need a just transition for workers and communities to support those who will be affected when those coal-fired power stations close.
Seventy-five per cent of coal-fired power stations are already operating beyond their original design life. It is impossible for these to continue to stay open. They cannot stay open forever. Therefore, it's completely irresponsible for the government to play politics with this and to pretend otherwise. These coal-fired power stations are going to close. It is a fact. If those opposite want to bury their head in the sand and not understand climate change, not want to embrace the science, not want to accept the fact that these coal-fired power stations have to close, be it on their heads, because they are giving those workers in those communities no support in having that attitude. We must have a plan to help those workers and communities respond to those future closures and that is why we have a just transition plan.
As I said, this company, Adani, has made a lot of fake announcements and broken a lot of promises. Labor has a policy for real jobs in Queensland. We want to build critical jobs-creating infrastructure, like roads and port upgrades. I think it is really important that no government puts all of its eggs in one basket. There is no silver bullet when it comes to jobs. There needs to be a diversification of jobs, there needs to be a just transition plan, and there needs to be action on climate change and clean energy. That is why Labor backs investment in renewables, in solar, in wind, in hydro. We are setting a goal that, by 2030, 50 per cent of our energy mix should come from renewables. That's exactly why those students protested the other day—because that's what they want to see in a government. They don't want to see a government like we have currently—living in the dark ages, wanting to build new coalmines, thinking that there is no such thing as global warming. Wake up and get in the 21st century.
Earlier this week the parliament finally took a stand on Adani. The President took it into his own hands to make a ruling about Adani. Do you think it was about Adani's mine? No, it was about me wearing, 'Stop Adani' earrings. It is tragic that this parliament decided not to stop Adani's mine, but to stop Adani's earrings. That is unfortunately the quality of the debate that we see about climate science in this chamber. No doubt the contribution to follow mine will have that same tenor of an absolute 'bozone' layer between facts and science and those on the opposite side of the chamber.
It was interesting that it was raised that Adani have got 180 conditions, and therefore it's all going to be fine, because they've got these conditions written down. They have just been investigated by the federal environment department for breaching those conditions. They are being prosecuted by the Queensland government for breaching state conditions. They have a litany of overseas examples where they have breached overseas environmental conditions. They are now being sued, as is the federal environment department, for not following the right process in granting environmental approvals. So the whole process stinks. The company's track record stinks. The climate disaster that it would create if it were ever to go ahead stinks. The fact that it's being done because the company and other coal and resource companies make donations to both sides of politics stinks worst of all.
That's why I'm proud that today I introduced a bill that would stop Adani, and it would stop the eight other mega coalmines that are proposed for the Galilee Basin. We had the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change release their report just last month, begging humanity to stay within 1½ degrees of temperature rise. We've already seen the impacts of the extreme weather being turbocharged by climate change. If we keep pumping more coal into the system, if we open up the first coal basin in 50 years, the other half of the reef will die and we will see more of those extreme weather events that make people suffer.
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
I would hope that Senator Macdonald doesn't find amusing the fact that much of Queensland is still on fire from the extreme heatwaves and the catastrophic fire rating that we have never before seen. But he's still laughing. Anyway, be that on his own head.
I'm very proud to have introduced that bill. I won't expect support from the other side and, frankly, I won't expect support from Labor, either, because their latest contribution on the Adani coalmine has been to say that, because it will be burnt overseas, it's somehow not Australia's problem. We don't share the same atmosphere, do we? Australia has got its own atmosphere that's not connected to the rest of the planet, so it's totally fine to burn the coal from Adani's coalmine because it is not on Australia's books, so it's not our problem. Well, please, find a better excuse.
So they did find a better excuse. The next one was that there would be a sovereign risk to Australia if the mine weren't to proceed. Now, that sounds like a very fancy sort of phrase, but it means very little. It means investor uncertainty. I hope that Adani does have investor uncertainty. In fact, they've pretty much had that because no-one will invest in their project. They've had to self-fund because no-one else can see this as a decent investment. They know the science is real, they know the Indigenous communities don't want this and they know there are better options to keep the lights on, which Senator Macdonald might like to look into. So this sovereign risk argument is the latest in a very long line of pathetically weak excuses from the so-called opposition as to why they won't get off the fence and simply say that this coal should stay in the ground and why they won't listen to the majority of Queenslanders and Australians who can see that clean energy is the way forward. It's good for our economy, it's good for our communities, it's good for our health and it's good for the health of our planet. I wonder what excuse we'll see next week.
Do you know what it all boils down to? It boils down to the $3.4 million that both sides of politics have received from resource companies in the last four years. That's the thing that stinks most of all. We have the science that is absolutely clear. We are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis that we are driving, and you folk want to continue it because you're taking the money from the coal companies. Shame on you. It's about time that you gave back the dirty money, you started listening to the science and you didn't protest that somehow having 180 conditions—some of which have already been breached—is going to make everything okay or that Australia has got its own atmosphere, so it's all going to be okay. Please do better. We are actually in charge of the future of the planet's atmosphere here, and if you take the right decision we all might have a liveable future.
There's an old adage that everyone in this Canberra bubble knows about, and I think increasingly across Australia people understand and accept and agree with this adage, and that is: Labor lies. No matter what they talk about, Labor lies. I think everyone understands that now. Mr Shorten goes to the Batman by-election—
Mr President, on a point of order: you did make a ruling, and you requested Senator Macdonald to comply with that ruling. He hasn't. I wonder if you could restate your ruling?
As bad as that is for the Labor Party, you'll notice yet again for the second time in a debate on coal and Adani in two days, where are the Queensland Labor senators in this debate? On our side, Senator O'Sullivan and I are putting the case because we are Queensland senators. We understand jobs. We understand what it means for the Queensland economy. We understand what it means for Queensland workers. We understand what it means for the bottom line of the budget of the Queensland state Labor government, and so do the Labor senators here. They understand how important Adani is, and that's why you won't see them within cooee of this debate. I can appreciate that, and I thank them for at least not showing the hypocrisy, as members of the Labor Party in Queensland at state level have by agreeing with Adani, issuing permits and approvals—not just for Adani but for other coalmines as well. I appreciate not having the hypocrisy of joining federal Labor down here who are suddenly opposed to Adani and coalmining.
You don't need to remind too many people about Mr Shorten going to the Batman by-election in the south of the country, right down in the bottom of the country in Victoria, telling everyone before Batman he was opposed to Adani. Then, of course, a few days later he was up in Queensland, in Townsville, telling everyone how good all the jobs were that Adani was creating. That's the sort of hypocrisy you get from the Labor Party, which supports the old adage that I've mentioned previously.
As bad as the federal Labor Party is—I think people understand the hypocrisy of the Labor Party—the Greens are yet another question altogether. Not only do the Greens political party tell untruths, not only do they deceive, but they deliberately go out and tell lies about anything related to the environment. What you've seen today in this debate is another classic example of that. 'Forget about the facts. Work on the basis that if you repeat it often enough schoolchildren and those who live in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney will eventually agree with you, because if you say it often enough they think it's true.'
Everything the Greens political party speaker said earlier is simply an untruth. The coalition government does understand the climate's changing, and, as I often say, once upon a time, Australia was covered in ice. Once upon a time in a later eon, the centre of Australia was a rainforest. Have a look at it today. Clearly the climate has been changing since the planet was created.
We on this side are accused by the Greens political party—deliberately misleading the Australian public and anyone who might be silly enough to listen to the Greens political party—that we don't believe the scientists. Well, I keep inviting Senator Waters to explain this to me but no-one in the Greens political party ever will because there isn't an answer. I keep saying to the Greens political party, 'I follow the scientists'. In fact, I follow the Chief Scientist. In an estimates committee on 1 June 2017, I put to him: 'If we reduce the world's carbon emissions by 1.3 per cent'—which is Australia's emissions as a percentage of the world carbon emissions—'what impact would that have on the changing climate of the world?' Dr Finkel answered, 'Virtually nothing'. So Senator Waters will tell you we don't trust scientists and we don't listen to scientists. Have a look at what the Chief Scientist said. Nothing we emit from Australia is going to make any iota of difference to the changing climate of the world.
Senator Waters said if we allow coalmines to happen, the other half of the barrier reef will be dead. She knows that's not right; she is not that stupid. The Greens keep propagating these lies to children, kindergarten children, people who teach them. I have a great concern about our educators who peddle this misinformation. And Senator Waters keeps trying to convince people on a broadcast day—as though, if she says it often enough, it will suddenly get through—but it's simply untrue. It's a deliberate misinformation. We believe what the Chief Scientist says.
As I continually point out, Australia is one of the few countries in the world that's actually met its emission reduction targets. We did far better than we were required under the Kyoto protocol and we're well on track to meet the commitments we've made in the Paris agreement. So we're doing our bit; other countries aren't. And yet the Greens political party, in a most un-Australian approach, keep blaming Australia for killing the barrier reef, when nothing we do in Australia will make one iota of difference to that. Read what Dr Finkel said.
But the lies continue. She said the other half of the barrier reef would be dead. Well, it's not the other half. The barrier reef is doing very well because of fine management by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and, dare I say, with some slight hesitation, by the James Cook University scientists—some of them understand; some of them get a bit tied up with the Greens political party, I think. The majority of opinion is that the reef is doing well. It will continue to do well. It will continue to attract tourists from all over the world and continue to provide jobs for Australian workers. Yet the Greens political party, as they always do, want to denigrate Australia, knock Australia down, kick Australia in the guts. Senator Waters, the Greens political party and federal Labor—not Queensland Labor—want to throw the jobs of those workers who make their living out of tourism on the barrier reef or who manage the coalmines, manage the railway systems in the mines to the wolves.
I noticed Senator Singh repeats the rhetoric that's now coming through, and I can see it here—the CFMEU have got on to them. The CFMEU said to Mr Shorten, 'Hey, hang on, these are our jobs that you're opposing.' So now we have this rhetoric from the Labor Party of a transition plan to transition workers out of the coalmining and railway industries. I'm not sure what they're transitioning into. Perhaps we expect them to become tourist guides, which I think would be interesting for some of the coalminers I know. Perhaps we're going to get them to be cyberexperts but that's not their job. They're very qualified, very professional miners and they should be allowed to continue their jobs.
What we're concerned about in the Morrison government are the consumers. That's why we want a mix of electricity energy: some from renewables, some hydro, some pumped hydro and a lot of coal, because coal is the cheapest. It's readily available, and Australian coal is clean by world standards.
We're interested in the jobs of the union members that the Labor Party should be looking after. I'm pleased to say that in Queensland they are; federally, Mr Shorten doesn't give a damn about them. And we're also trying to address the poverty in India, which we often hear the Greens, in their hypocrisy, talking about—the poor people around the world and how Australia should be doing more. Here is an Indian company wanting to send coal to India to—heaven forbid! Do what?—give those poor Indians some of the electricity that Senator Waters enjoys every day of her life. But don't give it to the poor people in India! 'Let's stop the export of that coal because we really care about the poor people in India. They should stay in poverty without electricity.' That's the Greens' hypocrisy. That's the absolute disdain I have for those in the Greens political party who set out deliberately to mislead the Australian people.
I too rise to make a contribution in this matter of urgency: 'The stopping of the Adani coalmine poses no sovereign risk to Australia and we must show leadership to address the great challenge of climate change.'
We always have to take issue with the some of the contribution in the first couple of minutes from Senator Macdonald. I can always dispense with half a page of my notes after his contribution. But I think the Labor Party has been exceedingly clear on this. There have been three public statements, from the Hon. Bill Shorten, from Hon. Tanya Plibersek and Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, saying that we're not in the business of ripping up proper, well-made approvals. No country, and especially not a country like Australia, will profit by ripping up agreements that have gone through the appropriate environmental checks, state and federal, and which have had the scrutiny of the marketplace. If this is a bad deal, then the marketplace won't provide the capital. And, if it's a bad deal, then I'm not sure that Adani would be putting its own money in to do the deal. I think those things should be on the record.
Let's just have a look at this risk to sovereign risk. Australia's export mix continues to be dominated by minerals and fuel. If we look at the combination, it's basically iron ore and $54.3 billion worth of coal. I have had the great honour of travelling on parliamentary delegations in my short time in this place, and I have seen a steel mill—a boutique steel mill—in Taiwan that had in its reserve stockpile 750 million tonnes of Australian coal. It had a four-kilometre long wharf which had mooring facilities for ships to come on every tide, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. I said, 'My goodness, this is a production capability that's quite large.' They said, 'No, no, Senator, we're a boutique steelmaker.'
So, if we were to look at the steelmaking that goes on in Japan, Korea, China and other places in ASEAN, it's all fired by coal. It may seem to the Greens political party that we should just bump Adani off the map and not allow them to use their own capital or borrowed capital and not allow them to go through a process of state and federal environmental approvals and just say, 'No, you're not allowed to do it,' but what signal would that send to the other people in the industry who have invested to the tune of $54.3 billion? It would be catastrophic to Australia's sovereign risk. And yet the leader of the Greens said that it's no big deal! 'It's no big deal; you can just bump Adani off the map, don't let them do it and it'll have no effect on the second-largest export that Australia has.' Coal was 14.5 per cent of our exports in 2016-17 and iron ore was 17 per cent. And they're intertwined.
I accept that there's a debate. I find it exceedingly ironic that this is coming from the Greens political party, which had the chance in previous parliaments to agree with the Labor Party and put in some sensible pricing to send proper signals to the market place about what we should be doing about climate change. They threw that out.
Then we heard the disgraceful contribution, alleging corruption and impropriety, from Senator Waters. It is the lowest form of debate if all you've got is to say—
An honourable senator interjecting—
I don't get up every time and mention Mr Wood or Wotif or $1.3 million. If they're able to get someone to donate $1.3 million to them, good luck to them—as long as it's disclosed and we all know it. But I don't say that he has bought their organisation lock, stock and barrel and that he tells them what to do. I don't say that. I could, but I don't. But for them to get up and say donations from minerals companies, exploration companies and the like to the major parties is corruption is I think a very low standard of debate. We don't need that low standard of debate in this chamber, and we don't need Senator Macdonald's allegation of lies and the rest of it. I doubt that that will change in the short couple of hours we have left before the end of this parliamentary sitting year.
I do agree with Senator Macdonald's contribution with respect to where this coal may end up and what it may do. There are still 31 million Indian homes without electricity. Base-load power is nuclear, hydro or coal. They're the three cheapest alternatives. It's probable that in a large country like India they've got a bit of nuclear and a bit of hydro, but they look to be needing a lot of coal. As a base-load power generator it's cheap. It's 50 per cent cheaper than gas. If Australia's investment in coal-fired power stations is falling—because they're all antiquated, would cost too much to revamp and people are looking at new technology in gas-fired plants—so be it. The market will make that decision. Intriguingly, this federal coalition government seems to be the most interventionist Liberal government in history, to be actually contemplating—not a big stick—a giant stick. That was Senator Cormann's contribution: a giant stick of intervention. More to the point, this is a grave sovereign risk.
The Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the shadow spokesperson for foreign affairs are clear and unequivocal, on the public record, that we would not change properly constituted arrangements if we were lucky enough to be in government in the near future. There couldn't be anything clearer than our position. If he looked at the size of the contribution that coal makes to our economy, Blind Freddy could see that interfering with a properly constituted market-delivered project would send a catastrophic message to those who are currently invested in coal exploration or coal excavation and export. It would be catastrophic for our sovereign risk. Don't take it from me; take it from a former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Varghese, whose famous saying was: 'Australia can neither bully nor buy its way in the world.' Australia needs rules based order. It needs WTO rules. It needs rules around sovereign risk. It needs to be an exemplar to attract investment into this country. If we were to pull levers ad hoc, in the manner that the Greens are suggesting, it would be absolutely catastrophic for the export income of this country, not to mention catastrophic for Queensland in terms of jobs.
Whatever the Greens actually believe, and that's sometimes very hard to put your finger on, they should believe that people who lose their job won't vote for them. This tactic of encouraging people to wear a button and say, 'Stop Adani,' as if that's going to be the talisman of a healthier world, couldn't be further from the truth. I want my grandkids to grow up on a clean planet. I grew up in places where when we burned coal it came straight down again and landed on the building, where people came out of coal mines and took two days to get clean, where pit ponies would come out of the mines blind and we used to ride them. You may have heard of those stories, Mr Acting Deputy President Williams. But we're a lot cleaner and we're a lot better now, and we will not move away from coal in the short term. There will be levers pulled that make sure that perhaps we don't build a coal-fired power station in Australia—that's fine.
We know that there's been a slight diminution in the exports of coal; it's down 3.6 per cent in 2017-18. But it would be absolutely catastrophic to take advice from the Greens political party in such an ad hoc, ill-considered and ill-thought-out manner—to put in jeopardy our second-biggest export and to put in jeopardy all of those jobs that are in that sector by singling out one proposition, which has to meet the hurdles of the marketplace, the state approvals, the environmental approvals and any federal approvals that are required. And there will be not a cent of taxpayers' money in it. That's the Labor Party's commitment: not one cent of taxpayers' money. If you're going to do this, it stacks up on your own: you build your own railway, do your own sums, do your own costing, get your own finance and, if it all stacks up, then you go ahead and do it.
'I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.' These were the words so beautifully sung out in the halls of parliament today, as young people from across this nation sat and exercised their right to protest in our very parliament to call attention to the reality that, when it comes to Adani, the choice is clear: it is between this megamine and the future of our generation. I was proud. I was proud to sit with them in their action. I was proud to sing with them, to cheer with them, to hear their stories—they, the young people of this nation, who must be, who have every right to be, a focus of the work of this place. They came today, as they came on the weekend, to demand from us, their parliament, their leaders, their representatives, action to ensure that their future is made safe for them, that an environment is passed to them which is liveable and clean. They came to us, demanding that we ensure that their future is not blighted by dirty rivers and nor is it the site of the deathbed of the reef. They came to us demanding that we put their future, their dreams, their hopes and their aspirations above the coal barons and the gas merchants and the desires that they peddle in this place.
So few in here were brave enough to meet with them. So few in here were wise enough to heed their call. But I am proud to sit here as a member of a movement which not only met with them but celebrated with them, which held their hands and joined in union with their demand for action on climate change. I could look them in the eye and say that we, as a political organisation, are willing to put their future, the safety of the next generation, ahead of winning the next election cycle or taking the next fossil fuel donation. I was proud to say that I am a member of an organisation within which is Senator Waters, whose campaign is to end Adani, to get its filthy carcass off the body of Australia and drive out the political donations which have greased it into existence. I was proud to say that our organisation has such members among it. I was proud to say that we welcome young people, that we feel our existence to be one which is dedicated to the celebration, the empowerment, of young people—something I know firsthand as the youngest member of the Senate.
I sit here tonight brimming with hope, driven by the conviction that there is nothing in this world more powerful, nothing that can move this place more effectively than the passion, the energy and the commitment of the young people of Australia. I dedicate myself tonight to the service of my generation, to doing every single thing in my power to see that our movement for climate justice succeeds and that the future is one in which young people are able to thrive.
If the Greens want to talk about sovereign risk, then I'm happy to talk about sovereign risk, because there is no greater risk to this country than the Australian Greens. Right now, the streets of Paris are burning because the French government has implemented some of the ideas that the Greens are pushing for here. The Chief Scientist of Australia told the Senate in June last year that reducing carbon emissions by 100 per cent would make virtually no difference to the global climate. It's a wonder that the Greens want to push this, but they won't listen to or raise the facts stated by the Chief Scientist of Australia. I'll repeat it: reducing carbon emissions by 100 per cent would make virtually no difference.
Labor and the Greens plan to ignore the advice of the Chief Scientist of Australia and embark on a plan that will destroy the living standards of most Australian families, by driving the living standards down to those of Third World countries. The people are crying out, and we need to listen. If the other politicians in this place keep ignoring the people of Australia, one day they will wake up and find the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane looking a lot like the streets of Paris, because people are fed up.
The scariest thing about hearing the Greens talk is how much they sound like Labor, and heaven help us if Labor get their way on energy policy. Labor's promise is to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, but they have been coy about how this will be achieved. Labor's promise to create a just transition authority recognises that hundreds of thousands of workers will find themselves out of work as a result of Labor's energy and climate policies. Do I need to remind Labor and the Greens that governments don't create sustainable jobs? Labor's record of troubled schemes is legendary.
You want to listen to all this! This is what Labor did. There's the home insulation scheme that wasted $2.4 billion, or what about the Building the Education Revolution? They were great policies but they wasted $16.2 billion and saw money spent on schools that closed a short time later. I love this one: the cash for clunkers scheme. It wasted $430 million. It was supposed to be a good idea for pensioners. And there's the set-top box scheme that wasted another $308 million. The promise made by Bill Shorten this month, that no-one will be left behind—doesn't it sound good? It sounds wonderful, but it's as hollow as Bob Hawke's promise that no child would live in poverty. Today, 17 per cent of children in Australia live in poverty. In fact, ads are going on TV to support those children who are living in poverty in our own country.
Labor have a long history of selling out workers. I'm thinking of enterprise bargaining agreements and Labor's recent failure to support personal tax cuts for working families. To hear Senator Cameron say today that the 1,630 apprenticeship places One Nation has put up are going to be detrimental and that there will be lives lost—how disgusting. We have actually pushed forward for apprenticeship schemes in this country, yet they're criticising it. They will not stand by it. They're supposed to be for the workers; they're not for the workers. They've never stood up for the workers in this country unless it fills their own back pockets with money from union fees. They push around an agenda to get their seats in this place, and then they forget about the people out there. They're not looking after the battlers.
Labor's irresponsible plan to rapidly transition to a low-carbon-emitting Australia will end in tragedy. About 38 per cent of carbon emissions comes from the production of electricity, gas and water, so that sector cannot on its own deliver the 50 per cent savings promised by Labor. So I ask: where will savings in carbon emissions be made? There is a real danger that petrol and diesel prices will rise just as they have in France. Labor must rule out taxing carbon emissions on Australian passenger cars, trucks and other vehicles, including those used in agriculture and mining. The major emitters are in the Northern Hemisphere, not Australia, so go and clean up the rest of the world before you start having a go at us. (Time expired)