Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Leader of the Government, representing the Prime Minister. This morning the Bureau of Meteorology informed the country that the first quarter of the year was the hottest ever on record—an entire degree above the previous record and 2.2 degrees above the long-term average. Climate change is happening right now, and it is devastating. Last week the International Energy Agency reported that global emissions increased by two per cent, driven largely by the increased burning of coal. Minister, I have a simple question: do you acknowledge the link between the burning of coal and climate change?
The government absolutely acknowledges the science of climate change. The government has worked to ensure that Australia will meet our 2020 emissions reduction targets. We've done that through our investment in the Emissions Reduction Fund, we've done that through a range of other investments and we're showing clear leadership in terms of the Climate Solutions Package that the Prime Minister released recently, part of which includes our investment in relation to Snowy Hydro. Snowy Hydro will provide a huge pillar in terms of Australia's ability to transform our energy markets in particular and to meet our 2030 emissions reduction targets.
What is always overlooked by the Australian Greens in their commentary is that, as a nation, Australia met our first Kyoto targets, is on track to meet our second Kyoto targets and, indeed, has been able to do so without the type of carbon tax policies that the Greens advocate for or that the Labor Party adopt. These are policies that we've delivered without those things that drive up electricity prices for Australian households but, instead, seek the transformation in our emissions reduction at the lowest possible cost. And we saw the Labor Party release a policy yesterday that was scant on many details in terms of the impacts of the policy—the economic impacts of the policy—
On relevance, Mr President. I gave a preamble and have given the minister the opportunity to address some of the issues raised in the preamble but my question was very specific—whether the minister acknowledged the link between the burning of coal and climate change. He said he accepts the science of climate change—
Thanks, Mr President. Indeed, the science of climate change acknowledges, of course, those emissions that contribute to climate change. They come from the burning of coal and a range of other activities; that is accurate, Senator Di Natale. Of course, there are efficiencies in some activities in burning coal relative to others. Australian coal produces fewer emissions relative to coal from many other parts of the world. That's why our nation's exports actually provide for lower emissions than may be the case if countries were to use their own coal or other coal sources with higher levels of emissions.
I appreciate you being very directly relevant to the question; it makes a good change. Australia's the world's biggest coal exporter, and burning coal is the biggest global contributor to our climate breakdown. Eighty per cent of the thermal coal we dig up is exported overseas, so it should be a statement of the bleeding obvious that if you don't have a plan to phase out coal, you've got no climate plan. Minister, what is your plan to phase out the single biggest contributor to climate change, coal?
Senator Di Natale wasn't very nimble in terms of hearing the concluding part of the answer I gave to the earlier question as to the role Australian coal plays in energy production elsewhere in the world. If it weren't Australian coal, it would quite likely be coal from other nations that involve higher levels of emissions output. Senator Di Natale, you have to recognise that so long as countries are burning coal, Australia's coal with lower levels of emissions is a better option for those countries. That's why it's important that our industry continues to play a clear role.
What matters in reducing emissions worldwide are the commitments countries make and whether or not they're met. Australia has a proud record of making commitments and of meeting those commitments. That's what we've done and that's what we'll continue to do. In terms of transformation of the energy market in Australia, I referenced Snowy Hydro before as one of our government's forward-leaning plans, which stands in contrast to the often-cited opinions of former Senator Bob Brown. (Time expired)
Given that both the government and the opposition's climate policies are largely silent on coal, which is the largest contributor to climate change—indeed, the Prime Minister took a lump of coal into the parliament and he cuddled it—what is your plan to pay for the economic destruction wrought from frequent droughts, floods, bushfires, heatwaves and, indeed, the loss of the Great Barrier Reef and the collapse of the Murray-Darling Basin? What is your plan to deal with those? Because you refuse to act on coal.
Our plan is to ensure that, just as we did for 2020, we will meet our 2030 targets. We'll meet the commitments we make internationally and we'll encourage other countries to meet their commitments as well. Australia acting alone won't make any difference to climate change. Australia acting as part of united action globally will be what makes a difference. That's why we've made our Paris commitments and that's why we'll deliver on those Paris commitments.
But the Greens sit there in their holier-than-thou state and, as I said before, many have reflected on Senator Bob Brown writing a piece for The Mercury headed, 'Coal-fired power the best option'. What was he railing against at the time? He was railing against hydro. Our government is proud to have been consistent in our support for using hydro in Tasmania for the generation of energy and for being consistent in our support now for the transformative role that pumped hydro will play in supporting the transformation of Australia's energy sources. (Time expired)