Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Gas Industry

3:26 pm

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

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to the gas industry.

I asked about why there is an obsession with gas when the greenhouse gas figures actually show that gas is driving an increase in our emissions—in fact, emissions from the gas sector have gone up 600-plus per cent since 2005. I put to the minister: why are they proposing that gas is somehow some solution to the climate crisis—gas being yet another fossil fuel, not to mention the impacts that fracking for unconventional gas has on land and on water. Farmers are up in arms about that and the National Party seems to have forgotten to be on the side of farmers. I asked why there is this fascination with gas. Is it just because they're trying to throw former Minister Canavan under the bus because he is now spruiking even more for coal? We've seen the new resources minister, Senator Canavan's replacement, on the nuclear bandwagon. These guys are a complete rabble.

We all know the answer is renewables, but this government keeps saying gas is the way to go. Where is their evidence when the proof shows that gas is increasing our emissions? The minister representing went to that tired old argument: 'Well, you know, countries might substitute coal for gas, and it's all going to be okay.' I asked him which are these countries? How much coal is being replaced by gas? Where is your actual evidence for this contention? The minister did his level best but he couldn't answer the question, because it's not happening. In fact, countries are now using gas and coal. There is no substitution effect happening. That's just fossil fuel talking points that are being parroted by this government. Is it any wonder? I'm looking at the donations figures that were just disclosed, and boy is big gas a big contributor to this government. Maybe that's why they're supporting gas as, somehow, the new solution along with coal and, it seems, nuclear.

They're squabbling amongst themselves yet again ever energy policy. Meanwhile, the country has first cooked and is now flooded. When is this government going to get its act together and develop a climate policy based on science that can create jobs, look after workers and fix the climate crisis? They've got a renewable energy target that runs out this year. It's flat for the next 10 years. They've got ARENA, the renewable energy agency, a fantastic body, which they frequently commend but is due to run out of money. This government has never met anything other than hypocrisy.

Of course, I asked them about the 2050 target. They've made some positive noises. Even the Business Council now wants a zero-emissions target for 2050. The government are kind of putting their toe in the water. They haven't committed to it yet, but maybe they're thinking about it. What's really clear, and what the scientists have said, is that if we don't make swift reductions in this next decade on the pathway to a 2050 date—if we don't do the heavy lifting in the next 10 years—we will reach those catastrophic climate tipping points. We're already seeing the impact of a one-degree rise, and this government's pathetic policies, if you can even call them that, have us on track for a rise of more than three degrees in global temperatures. That means more than three times the severity of the impacts that we're seeing. Instead, the government are wedded to the coal industry and the gas industry, and they're continuing to dance to the tune of their donors.

They will, of course, say that they're going to meet and beat their targets. We've all heard those phrases—'meet and beat the targets' and 'don't accept the premise of the question'. It's all on autopilot these days. We can, sadly, predict what they're going to say. But the carryover credits that they're claiming from the Kyoto Agreement period are most of that so-called reduction. It was so beautifully put on Q+A the other night: it's like telling your second wife that you did all your dishes in your first marriage, so you don't have to do any dishes in this marriage. It was a fantastic analogy about relying on something that the rest of the world have said they're going to forgo: using those carryover credits. So no-one buys the lies, the spin or the dodgy accounting. People can see that Australia is at the back of the pack.

I want to just challenge one further contention that we frequently hear. The government say we've got the biggest per capita cut under their pathetic targets. That's actually true, but you know what the sad bit is? Even if we did do that cut, we would still be the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters in the world. That's how far behind the pack this nation is. It's about time fossil fuels got their hands off this government and we got a decent climate policy that can look after workers and protect us all going forward.

Question agreed to.