Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Matters of Public Importance

5:40 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that at 8.30 am today three 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 a letter has been received from Senator Siewert:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

The impacts of climate change are ravaging Australia right now, yet the Liberal, National and Labor parties are intent on propping up coal.

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.

5:41 pm

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

Money talks, doesn't it, folks? Looking at the donation disclosures released on 1 February, we see that there has been $5 million donated in the last four years to the Liberal Party, the Labor Party and the National Party by mining and resources companies. So is it any wonder that we have a virtually non-existent climate policy from the current government? And, sadly, yesterday we saw Labor release a climate policy that's basically the scraps of the Liberals' climate policy. Money talks. Interestingly, those same companies which are able to make very generous donations to the large parties to buy their way out of decent climate laws can also afford good accountants, because they have paid barely any tax. It's no wonder that people in the community are outraged by big corporations writing their own rules, when they can see that donations buy them outcomes, yet they don't even pay tax.

People want action on climate change. I'm from Queensland. We saw unprecedented bushfires late last year which wreaked havoc in central Queensland. We've also just seen devastating floods in Townsville, which had been stricken by drought for many years prior to that. People understand that we are changing the face of this planet with our profligacy. You need only look at the Great Barrier Reef and the fact that we have had two of the most severe bleaching episodes in back-to-back years, which have, as the scientists tell us, killed half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef—which, incidentally, provides 64,000 people with a job. So we are talking about the future of our planet.

We're also talking about the future of our community here. Regional Queensland is crying out for jobs, and we hear that; we hear that loud and clear. What we also hear is Adani bragging to the share market that they're going to automate from pit to port. Both facts can't be true: they can't be providing jobs, which they admitted they massively exaggerated by a factor of 10, when, at the same time, they're telling their financial supporters—not that there are terribly many of those—that, actually, they're not going to create any jobs because they're going to automate. You won't hear those facts from either side of parliament, sadly.

Not only would there be no jobs created by this proposed new coalmine—flying in the face of all of the science, which says we can't take any additional coal being added to our system—but the massive water impacts of this proposed coalmine would wreak incredible havoc on that already devastated region. It is desperately unfair that this coalmining company and others would get free water when all of the other water users in that region are paying through the teeth for it. It is desperately unfair and, again, it just shows that the big corporates write their own rules. They don't comply with environmental laws and they write their own tax rules, and people are absolutely fed up with it. There's one possible piece of good news here, in that, when the election is called—and, frankly, it couldn't come soon enough, because Australians and the Greens are sick of this awful government and cannot wait to see the back of it—Adani's groundwater management plan will need, under the caretaker conventions, the Labor Party to say yea or nay to it. It will be interesting to finally see Labor have to take a position on Adani, in particular on the water impacts of this new proposed coalmine, because, I might say, they've been rather slippery up until this point in time on whether or not they actually want to see this proposal go ahead. Once we hit caretaker mode—and that might be very soon—we will find out. Acting Deputy President Hume, I see the clock has just reset somewhat bizarrely. Can I seek some clarification on how much time I've got left?

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, thank you. The speaking list has you down for four minutes and this clock was accidentally set for 10 minutes so it has been reset.

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

Have I just used all of my four minutes?

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've used your four minutes.

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

I have some gold in there, but I will do it at another time.

5:45 pm

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not sure 'gold' would be how I would describe what we've missed out on from Senator Waters, but I'm sure we'll hear it another time.

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Fool's gold.

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Fool's gold—perhaps you are right, Senator Cameron. I think you're spot on. Democracy is a beautiful thing, and the people of Australia never get it wrong. That's why the Greens are in the minority, frankly. That's why they'll never form government unless they hop into bed with the Labor Party. I hope they don't get the opportunity to do that at the next election. This matter of public importance was proposed by Senator Siewert this morning:

The impacts of climate change are ravaging Australia right now, yet the Liberal, National and Labor parties are intent on propping up coal.

The Greens are so virtuous. They are the only ones who care about the environment, if you ask them. They're the only ones who do anything in the way of policy or lawmaking or practical initiatives to assist this country to manage its environment. They're the only ones who care. Just listen to them; it's what they say. It's complete bunkum, frankly.

Regarding donations, the point was made by Senator Waters, in her last contribution, that big coal, these awful companies that do all these nasty things, are buying their way through the lawmaking process. As Senator Williams pointed out, the biggest political donation in Australian history made to the Australian Greens was by none other than Graeme Wood who, jointly with one other ecoactivist in Tasmania, shut down the Tasmanian forest industry. That's how they bought their way through the legislative process. If we want to use terms like 'slippery', as was used in the last contribution by Senator Waters—she referred to members of this place and other political parties as 'slippery'—a prime example of being slippery is taking donations from people like Graeme Wood, who wished to shut down job-creating industries like the forestry industry in Tasmania.

Returning to this ridiculous MPI we're now debating, as I said, the Greens stand there, sanctimoniously, telling us they're the only ones who care and they're the only ones who'll save the environment, but they're like anyone else. They're politicians. Don't let them fool you. They want to win votes. They want to get in and exercise power because they believe, strangely and scarily enough, in the things that they say and those kooky policies that they run out there. They use misleading statements and paint an inaccurate picture for the people of Australia. It's all emotive. There are not many facts backing up what they say. I was listening to contributions earlier on today from one of Senator Waters's colleagues, Senator Whish-Wilson, who is from my state of Tasmania. He conflated all of these things that happened as a result of Adani and these nasty farmers in Queensland who've cleared land to make it more productive for agricultural purposes—

Senator Williams interjecting

Food that we eat, Senator Williams—that's right. They conflate all of these things and put it all down to climate change and therefore we must shut down a whole heap of productive industries, shut down coal extractive industries and switch to completely renewable energy generation. Back here, in reality instead of la la land, where some of these policies are dreamt up, we know that's not sustainable and that's not reasonable.

We need to look at Tasmania as an example of what is happening when it comes to actual, practical, sustainable measures to generate energy in a way that is environmentally friendly. In Tasmania we have the Battery of the Nation proposal put forward by former Prime Minister Turnbull and supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It's something the Tasmanian government is right behind. We've recently seen an announcement around the Battery of the Nation proposal and the Marinus interconnector link, the increased interconnectivity between Tasmania and mainland Australia, enabling Tasmania, when we generate more power, to sell it to the mainland—clean, renewable, base-load power from our hydro dams in Tasmania. It's been described as one of the biggest economic opportunities for Tasmania over the next 15 years and one of the biggest in history. It has the potential to drive massive development in renewable energy, including pumped hydro. We've got a number of wind farm projects, which I'll talk about a little later on, and solar farms, injecting up to $5 billion into the Tasmanian state economy and creating thousands of jobs, particularly where they're needed most—in regional Tasmania, regional centres in our state, not capital cities or larger population centres.

We've got to remember that Tasmania has a goal of being 100 per cent renewable energy generation based. That's because we've got reliable hydro power. It's something we've had for almost a century now and something we should be very, very proud of. The good news about this practical initiative, contrary to the ridiculous claims put in the MPI by the Australian Greens, who are all about emotive politics rather than facts, is that a Liberal government in Canberra, in conjunction with a Liberal government in Tasmania, is investing in renewable energy projects—projects that will bring down power prices in Tasmania. We invested $56 million in the Marinus Link, which, as I said before, will enable Tasmania to get more investment in renewable energy generation, something that wasn't mentioned by the Greens in their MPI or by Senator Waters in her contribution.

These are very exciting things and, I think, things that need to be brought to the attention of the Greens, who, as I said before, seem to be off in la-la land rather than focusing on what's happening in reality—actual projects, actual attempts to bring down our emissions and support for renewable energy projects. But it is important to look at where the Greens are about. They're not talking about, and there's no support for, these wonderful projects in Tasmania. I haven't heard a peep from any of my Tasmanian colleagues in the Australian Greens about what is happening. When it's all about clean, green energy, they're nowhere to be seen; but when it is about spruiking rubbish, lies about Adani and other entities like that, you hear them all the time.

Let's turn back the clock a little bit to comments made by former Greens leader and senator Bob Brown. He is the Messiah of the Green movement in Australia. People look to him for leadership in this strange world that is Australian Green politics. An article by Wayne Crawford in The Mercury says:

TASMANIA'S environmental lobby has expressed its preference for coal-fired thermal power generation over the construction of more hydro-power dams. The director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society

which is far larger than just a Tasmanian organisation these days—

Dr Bob Brown—

later a senator and now a private citizen—

said yesterday that if there was to be a new power station, then coal-fired thermal was "the best centralised option we have."

He said that despite disgracefully misleading claims—that the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had made a whole range of misrepresentations about it—he stated:

… the conservation movement regarded a coal-tired thermal station as a "manifestly better" option than more dams.

That's quite the turnaround in recent times! But he was adamant. In an article in the same paper, the Hobart Mercury, dated 1 July 1980, it reported that Dr Brown had said that thermal power had nowhere near the same potential for destroying Tasmania's environment as hydro schemes did. We back, we support renewable schemes—things like hydro, which has generated thousands of jobs over a very long period of time in our state's proud history—as opposed to coal, which former senator Bob Brown backed at the time.

I'm disappointed my Tasmanian Green colleagues aren't here now. In Tasmania we do have a coalmine in the Fingal Valley, the Cornwall colliery. The people that work there are in a very small regional community. It is also the coal supplier for the Australian cement factory in Railton, north-western Tasmania, bordering the electorates of Lyons and Braddon. Again, it's an entity that employs many Tasmanians. I'd love Senator McKim and Senator Whish-Wilson to join me. We'll go on a bit of a drive to the Fingal Valley and talk to the workers there about the Greens' insane desire to just shut up shop and close down the mine. Then we can go along the road, along the Bass Highway, to the cement factory and talk to the workers there about how they're going to have to find far more expensive sources of energy generation to make the product that they make there. I dare say that would lead to a loss of jobs and perhaps the closure of that facility, noting that it is difficult for us to sustain business entities like that in a place like Tasmania, which is geographically isolated.

There is a cost to this zany world of Australian Greens politics over here. They can go on with this amazing rhetoric about how awful the major parties are—as I said, thank God the Greens will always be in minority. That cost comes in the form of jobs, lost royalties to state and territory governments and the fact that many Australians rely on coal, amongst other generation types, for their energy—53,000 direct jobs, most of them in regional areas, a part of Australia the Greens do not care about. Coal sector royalties contributed $3.8 billion in revenue to the Queensland state budget and $1.8 billion to the New South Wales state budget. Our coal exports are growing and in 2018 were worth $66 billion to the Australian economy, a huge amount that would be ripped out if the policies of the Greens got off the ground. Let's note that 60 per cent of Australian energy is coal generated. Take that out of the market and it would be a disaster: higher prices, job losses and economic stagnation—madness!

5:56 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Duniam talks about madness, and I think that's quite appropriate for talking about climate change in the coalition. The madness that has dominated the coalition for over 10 years about climate change and coal-fired power stations is just a disgrace. The situation we now have is this hypocritical proposition from the Greens: 'The impacts of climate change are ravaging Australia right now'. We know that. Labor understand that. Yet it goes on to say, 'yet the Liberal, National and Labor parties are intent on propping up coal.' A purely political position adopted by the Greens! Hypocrisy just oozes out of them. In 2009 there was an opportunity to have a carbon pollution reduction scheme, but, because it didn't meet this pure standard that the Greens wanted, they voted with Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party to kill a price on carbon. It's crazy for them to stand up here. Phil Coorey in 28 June 2014 wrote this very interesting article about climate change, which said:

The only mainstream party never to have taken a risk, never to have put any skin in the game, and never to have lost a vote over it, is the Greens. Throughout the entire eight-year saga, they have chained themselves to the altar of policy purity and watched others suffer for their ideals.

The result is a big fat nothing.

…   …   …

Because they believed the CPRS to be inadequate, they voted it down twice. The second time was the day after Abbott knocked off Turnbull. Liberal senators Judith Troeth and Sue Boyce realising the need to establish a foothold for carbon pricing, crossed the floor to vote with Labor. The Greens helped the Coalition kill it.

That's the record of the Greens when it comes to climate change. They have absolutely nothing to be proud of. When we lost government, we produced a report on its implications and how it affected the Labor Party. The report said that dealing with the Greens caused great harm to both Labor and environmental policy objectives.

The raison d'etre for the Greens party over the last decade has been to attack, undermine and/or colonise the Labor Party's policies with an increasing ferocity in an attempt to win over one or two inner-city seats in Melbourne and Sydney. The effect has been that these policy objectives have themselves been undermined, attacked and turned into political footballs. Had the Greens supported the CPRS, Australia would have transitioned to a carbon pricing scheme years ago and with the support of the Australian public. Rather than seize this historical opportunity, harness the mood of the nation and build on the momentum the Greens party set in train a bitter and divisive political storm. I think if you cut this back to what it really means, it was the Greens' political stupidity, their political purity, their self-interest and, deep down, a lack of care for the environment. If they actually cared about the environment they would have done something about it.

I have said on many occasions in this place that I brought my family up on the back of coal. I worked at Liddell power station. It was a piece of crap back in 1973 when I started work there, and it's even worse now. There's absolutely no reason why we should be putting any public money into Liddell power station. But the hypocrisy of the Greens is absolutely huge. I looked after families in the Muswellbrook-Singleton area who relied on coal to bring their families up, but the reality is that coal, as a baseload proposition, is now not the modern way to produce power. That's the reality.

We hear lots of talk about coal. We heard Senator Duniam talk about the coal for the cement factory in Tasmania. The reality is, unless there is some new scientific revolution about how to produce either steel or cement without coking coal, we've got a problem. Coal will be around for a long time to come, producing coke, producing steel and producing cement. That's why you produce metalliferous coal, coking coal. There's a big difference between coking coal and steaming coal. Even the CFMEU understand that there is an issue with the long-term viability of steaming coal, and that's why we have indicated that we will take steps to reduce carbon pollution in this country. We will probably do it without the Greens support.

If the Greens continue to run this ideological purity, this nonsense that they talk about all of the time and use as an excuse not to deliver a decent scheme in this country, then my view is they will pay a big price for it in forthcoming elections. You can tell the Labor Party that you won't be supporting our policy, but that will have repercussions for the Greens in future elections. I think the public are over it. I won't be lectured by the Greens on climate change. I won't be lectured by the Greens on any issue where they are running ideological purity over common sense.

It's common sense to actually deal with this issue. Workers will be working producing coking coal for years to come. Steaming coal will decline. What we need to do is to make sure that we have the technology and the jobs to look after the workers in the Hunter Valley, in Queensland and in Victoria. I was in the Latrobe Valley last week, and the workers down there don't know how long their jobs are going to go. Good, working-class families are concerned about their future, and they're entitled to be. We need a government, a Labor government, who will look at ensuring that we have a modern industry in renewable energy in this country and provide opportunities for coalminers around the country. That won't be achievable if we continue to support the nonsense that the Greens spout about coal in this country. There is always going to be a need, unless there is a massive change, for coking coal in this country. I want to make sure that we have alternative jobs for workers in coalmining areas in this country. I don't want them to be treated the same as the workers in the Appalachians in the US, where they are thrown on the scrap heap and left to rely on nothing but a terrible social security system in the United States. We want to have new skills and new jobs, and only a Labor government will deliver that.

It's only Labor that understands these issues. The Greens patently do not. They are too busy carving each other up. They are too busy attacking each other. They are in chaos and disarray as a political party. You've only got to look at what they're doing. I wish they would, for once, consider what we need to do to actually change the situation in this country.

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

I remind senators that the Senate will suspend at 6.30.

6:06 pm

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is not my first speech. Today we are debating a matter of public importance from the Greens criticising the coalition for propping up coal. This is a bit rich, because the coalition haven't made a decision yet. They are still in policy paralysis. They're not yet propping up coal; it might happen soon.

If they do end up propping up coal, it will probably just offset the fact we have policy that props up renewables. For two decades, we have had the Renewable Energy Target introduced by John Howard and ramped up by Labor. The Renewable Energy Target essentially involves providing renewable generators with whatever it takes to achieve a certain market share. These subsidies to renewable generators come, effectively, from non-renewable generators like coal-fired generators. That means that over the past 20 years, if you've contemplated investing in new capacity for coal-fired power, you've had a dagger hanging over your head. Who would ever invest in coal-fired power if the proposition is that you are liable to pay your competitor whatever it takes for your competitor to achieve a certain market share? You would have been crazy to invest in coal over the past two decades, because of the Renewable Energy Target. Unsurprisingly, we've seen next to no investment in new capacity in coal over the past two decades, and unsurprisingly, because of the lack of new capacity in coal, we've seen price rises, on average, of eight per cent over the past decade.

The best approach, of course, is not to prop up anything. If we didn't prop up renewables, of course, there'd be no question you wouldn't need to prop up coal. The Renewable Energy Target lasts till 2030. People say, 'Oh, it's winding down.' No, it's still in place till 2030. It should be abolished now. We still have the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which is providing grants just to renewable projects. It should be abolished now. Any commitment to technology neutrality should mean we abolish it now. Finally, there's the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which provides loans to uncommercial renewable projects. We should abolish it now.

6:09 pm

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

Rarely do I agree with Senator Cameron, but I have to say I couldn't help but agree with him enthusiastically today when he said that hypocrisy just oozes out of the Greens political party. That is so obvious not only in relation to climate change but also in relation to just about everything. The Greens are the party of hypocrisy. The grand poobah of the Greens, the founder of their party, of course is on record, as Senator Duniam pointed out, as supporting coal-fired power. Yet the Greens continue to tell lies around the world about climate change and about coal. In the face of the facts, the Greens cannot accept the common sense, the actuality of the fact that Australia's export of coal actually helps reduce carbon emissions in that it lessens the reliance of the rest of the world on poorer-quality coal.

Now, I have to say, that's as far as I can go in praising Senator Cameron—although, did I detect, and did anyone else detect, a slight change from the Labor Party as we approach the election? That is the first time I have heard any Labor senator being so enthusiastic about the jobs of coal workers. We always talk about that. Particularly where I come from, in Northern Queensland, coal workers' jobs are vitally important to us, but they never seem to be for my Queensland Labor Party colleagues in the Senate; they don't seem to be interested in the jobs of workers in the mines in Central and North Queensland. But their state counterparts do rely on royalties from coal to keep the state budget afloat. As Senator Duniam mentioned, $3.8 billion goes from the coal industry into the coffers of the Queensland state government. Without those coal royalties, Queensland would be even broker than it is at the moment.

Yet the Labor Party people—and I appreciate that the Labor Party are a bit conflicted on this—when Mr Shorten's in the North, he likes Adani and coalmining, and when he's in Melbourne and Victoria, he's totally opposed. The poor old current member for Herbert, Ms O'Toole, doesn't quite know where she is. She doesn't want to support Adani, because that's a swear word in the Labor Party, I understand. But she's trying to pretend that she's interested in workers' jobs—and not just workers' jobs, but all of the small businesses in Townsville, Mackay and North Queensland generally, and Central Queensland, who make their living out of supporting the mining industry generally and the coalmining industry in particular.

Senator Cameron's change of heart is good to see. I hope that follows through. But of course we know we can never trust the Labor Party, and we understand their hypocrisy as well. I was in this parliament when the then Labor leader, hand on heart, three days before an election, gave this rolled-gold solid promise to the Australian people, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' And what was the first thing she did when she got into power? She introduced a carbon tax. That's what you can take from what Labor says. They too, I regret to say, are full of hypocrisy.

I desperately ask, in every one of these debates that we have: can someone—anyone—tell me what is wrong with this proposition? Nobody ever does, and I can guarantee that nobody in this debate today will. But tell me, anyone who's prepared: Australia emits less than 1.3 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. The Chief Scientist is on the record saying what everybody knows: that 1.3 per cent of carbon emissions, if you stopped it completely, would have absolutely no impact on the changing climate of the world. It's a matter of common sense, but the Chief Scientist actually said that on the record. And I ask people: why does Mr Shorten want to cut emissions by 50 per cent and the Greens want to cut them by 80 per cent, when if you cut them by 100 per cent it won't make any difference at all to the changing climate of the world? I accept the argument that Australia has to do its bit, and Australia does more than its bit. We are one of the few countries in the world that have met their Kyoto targets and that will meet their Paris targets. We are genuine when we enter into these agreements, whereas most other countries in the world aren't. So I ask someone to please explain it to me—I've been begging for this for the last 10 years, in fact—but no-one ever can, because there is not an answer.

We talk about renewables. I live in the Townsville region. My office is in Townsville. I live in Ayr. A couple of months ago, we had a period of about four weeks of rain in Townsville. Those who relied on solar energy for their power—sorry—had to turn on the grid electricity and go back to the coal-fired power to keep their lights on. This is one of the problems with wind and solar energy. When the wind stops and the sun disappears, where does your energy come from? It's got to come from a base-load power station, and in Australia at the moment that is principally coal-fired power stations.

I'm pleased that our state party and, I believe, the federal party are keen to promote a HELE coal-fired power station in Queensland. It's one that will use the latest technology, which will mean that emissions will be very, very limited but still much, much less than the alternative coal suppliers around the world. As Senator Williams continues to remind me, China has 103 coal-fired power stations. They are building 130 new coal-fired power stations as we speak. In India, they are building, as we speak, 70 coal-fired power stations. Australia has in total just 22. I repeat: China is building, as we speak, 130—and India, 70—to go with the 1,003 already in place in China, yet the Labor Party want to cut Australia's 1.3 per cent of emissions by something like 50 per cent, and the Greens want to make it 80 per cent. It is just ridiculous. It defies logic. It defies any common sense whatsoever.

People accuse me of being a climate change denier; I'm not. I'm the first one to say that the climate has been changing since records have been kept and even before records were kept, because anthropologists and geologists can work this out. We know that the climate has always changed. Once the world was covered in ice. Once there was a rainforest in the centre of Australia. Once there were dinosaurs everywhere. Clearly, the climate is changing. It has always been the case. We hear people getting up and saying, 'Yasi is the biggest cyclone that has ever hit Australia. That's because of coal-fired emissions.' 'Yasi is the biggest cyclone that has ever hit Australia'—and then they mention sotto voce—'since 1928.' 'The floods in Brisbane were the biggest we've ever had, all because of climate change! They're the biggest that they've ever been since 1933.' It's always: 'This is the hottest day we've ever had in Australia since records were kept'—since some date in relatively recent times.

For all the interjections you get from the Greens, please answer this. Don't just abuse; don't just accuse everyone who doesn't agree with your warped view on life of being idiots or climate deniers or whatever. Just answer the question—because you don't, you never have and I say you never will, because the facts are obvious. I look forward to the day when I'm in this Senate when someone can explain it to me. The Chief Scientist couldn't. The Greens never can. No-one in the Labor Party can. They always avoid the topic. They go on to some other abuse. This happens on Facebook. If you point out the facts, all you get is abuse from the trolls in the Labor Party and the Greens political party. This debate is about hypocrisy: the hypocrisy of the Greens and the Labor Party. (Time expired)

6:19 pm

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

I'll just try and recover my composure. It's always great going after Senator Macdonald! I've been working, one way or another, on climate and environment policy since about the turn of the century. When you say it like that, it's quite a long time.

There's one observation that I always make if I'm talking to a group of people that are keen for change, that want to see change. It's this: in politics, whatever the issue, whatever reform you're prioritising, opportunities come and go. The window opens up for change. There's a moment when the public is ready to have the debate. You have to act at that time, because often—not always, but often—the window closes again. I was very active around 2006, when a very big window opened up. People might remember that Al Gore made a documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, about the human and biophysical costs of allowing climate change to go unchecked, and it caught the public's imagination. Australia was gripped by the millennium drought, and Sir Nicholas Stern issued his report. He described climate change as the biggest market failure the world has ever seen.

All across the country, here and globally, popular support for action accelerated. The Walk Against Warming saw 100,000 people turn out across the country. A Labor government was elected. It was elected with a mandate for action. My colleague Senator Cameron spoke earlier in this debate and reprised the sorry events, the folly of the Greens political party's decision-making in 2009, when they voted against a progressive government that sought action on climate. That was a golden opportunity for reform. It was a golden opportunity for reform not realised, and we have been condemned to years of inaction as a consequence of that decision, that failure to understand that an opportunity presented for reform and for action and that that opportunity failed to be taken. We can't allow an opportunity like that to come and go again, because I would put it to you that we're on the cusp of a moment like this again.

A record share of Australians accept the science of climate change. We can find anyone on the street to explain this to Senator Macdonald. Ipsos had a survey out in the last couple of days showing that 46 per cent of Australians now agree that climate change is entirely or mainly caused by human activity. That is the highest share since Ipsos started asking the question back in 2010. Another 33 per cent say climate change is partly caused by human activity. Sixty-five per cent of the people who answered the survey say that climate change is already affecting Australia, and it's not a challenge for the future; it's a challenge for today. These same people know that climate change is causing the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and they know that the government isn't doing anything about it. They know that, because of the attitudes of people like Senator Macdonald, nothing has happened in six years. All that has ever happened is attempts, over and over again, to destroy those institutions put in place by Labor to effect change in the carbon intensity of our economy. The share of Australians that rate the federal government's management of climate change as 'fairly or very good' has fallen from 18 per cent, which was a pretty pathetic benchmark, to just 13 per cent in the past year. I tell you what: those in areas where people care about this can't be given much hope by having someone like Senator Macdonald come into this chamber and make the speech he just made. He rejects the science, he rejects the impacts of the science on assets like the Great Barrier Reef—and he's said it repeatedly in this place—and he rejects our obligation to act. He rejects the idea that we are part of an international community and that we have a responsibility to act.

On the Labor side, we know that people are hungry for action now, as they were 10 years ago. People are hungry for a response, and we will not let them down. In the last few days, my colleague Mr Butler laid out the approach that we will take. We will reduce pollution by 45 per cent by 2030. We'll have 50 per cent renewables by that time. We will have net zero pollution by 2050. We'll invest in renewable energy. We will slash power bills. We will support solar batteries. We will work with the industry to cut pollution by extending the safeguard mechanism that is there and extending the coverage of that mechanism. We know that trade-exposed industries will need assistance to adjust. We'll establish a $300 million strategic industries reserve fund to work with industry to implement solutions to reduce their emissions. We will cut pollution in the land sector, revitalising and reforming the Carbon Farming Initiative.

We want to see a revolution in our transport sector. We know that transport emissions are going up, and we also know that Australians are paying too much, spending too much on petrol at the bowser, because Australia's vehicle fleet is simply not efficient enough. People are paying more than they ought to for petrol. It is a direct hit on cost of living, and we will put in place policies to improve the fuel efficiency of the Australian fleet. We'll introduce vehicle emissions standards which are broadly consistent with the standards in the US, because we know that a transition of our vehicle fleet is essential. We'll electrify Australia's national road networks with a $100 million grant program to match industry as well as state and local government proposals to establish fast charging, and that will be critical in rural and regional Australia to make sure that electric vehicles can be used in those areas. We'll re-engage internationally, and we'll kickstart the hydrogen economy with a $1 billion plan.

The response to all of this from the Liberals has been predictable, but the response from the Greens political party will be deeply dispiriting to many people, because progressive Australians are hoping that perhaps the Greens politicians have learnt something from the past. In December this year, we will be coming up to a very important anniversary. It'll be 10 years since the Greens political party, here in this very chamber, teamed up with the most conservative forces in our political system to stop the CPRS. I've been looking through the Hansard from that day—those who voted aye and those who voted nay—and it's an extraordinary list. Scott Ludlam is listed just under Barnaby Joyce. Christine Milne is listed just after former Senator McGauran and just before Nick Minchin. Bob Brown's listed: he's there just after Brandis and just before Bushby. There has never been any serious public reflection on this period—never any apology for that decision by the Greens political party, which condemned Australia to a decade of inaction.

It leads us to today. In bringing forward this misleading matter of public importance today, all the worst aspects of the Greens political party are on display, just as they were in 2009: the same unwillingness to consider ideas other than their own; the same lack of interest in the hard work that is required to build a broad coalition across industry and community to gain support for difficult reform; the same lack of interest in the work required to speak to more than 10 per cent of the population, to actually speak to the majority of Australians rather than a narrow group of people who already agree with you; and the same naked determination to differentiate themselves from the Labor Party at any cost, even if it means crippling prospects for real environmental reform. It is depressing indeed to see these tawdry motivations so obviously on display today.

I opened my remarks talking about windows for change, the way they open and the way they close. In the coming months, all Australians will be asked to make a decision about the next government, and Labor will be seeking a mandate from Australians to take serious action on climate change. We'll be seeking a mandate for a bold transition, and we'll do so knowing what it will really take to do that in a way that secures the livelihoods of the communities that will be affected and knowing what is required to truly ensure that our industries transition and thrive in the new economy. The truth is the only way to get a government that will take action on climate is to vote Labor.

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

Senator McKim, you've got about 30 seconds.

6:29 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

In recent times, apocalyptic scenes have dominated our news. In Tasmania, communities have been threatened and our World Heritage wilderness devastated by terrible bushfires made more likely and more dangerous by climate change. We've seen those terrible, awful floods in Queensland and a million dead fish floating in a parched Murray-Darling. This is only the beginning unless we get serious, and you cannot get serious on climate change unless you get serious on coal. But the major parties won't get serious. (Time expired)

Sitting suspended from 18:30 to 20:30