Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

5:27 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 am today, six 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 Siewert:

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

'The Government has no costing for its current climate policies which have us on track for a catastrophic 3.4 degrees of warming'

Is the proposal supported?

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

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

I rise to speak on the matter of public importance, which is the government's climate policies, which have us on track for catastrophic global warming.

It's interesting that, in December last year when the Prime Minister was in the US at the time of the Conference of Parties for the climate change convention, he wasn't actually at that convention; he was at a box factory with President Trump and a major Liberal Party donor, Mr Pratt. At that same time, in New York, at the Conference of Parties on the climate convention, a crucial report was being handed down. What's called the United In Science report said that all countries' global pledges to date under the Paris Agreement have us on track for 3.4 degrees of global warming. Do you know who was the lead author of that report? It is none other than the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. This government's target, which they say they're going to meet and beat—but nobody else does, certainly no-one with any qualifications—actually needs to be lifted threefold to keep us to even two degrees, and it would need to be lifted fivefold to keep the damage to 1½ degrees of global heating.

We have this government's climate policy, or lack thereof, which has us on track for 3.4 degrees of warming. What does that really mean? Think about the summer that we've just had: the fires, which burnt more than 20 per cent of our forests, which is the largest amount that's ever been burnt in our history and, in fact, is the largest amount that has ever been burnt in fires anywhere globally; the floods that followed; the dust storms that permeated, the heat waves; the hailstorms; the cyclones that are forming; and the drought over the summer. All of that happened with just over one degree of global warming. This government has us on track for 3.4 degrees of global warming. I asked them the other day: 'Do you actually understand what that means? Are you across the science of what that means? Moreover, have you actually costed what that will do to our economy?' I didn't actually get an answer to that question. It's not called 'question time' for nothing. It's certainly not called 'answer time'.

This government, which loves to criticise everybody else for their pledges to take climate action—some of which are all right and others of which are science based—hasn't even costed its own climate policy, and it hasn't costed the impacts on the economy of 3.4 degrees of warming. So it's a bit rich for this government to try to say that everybody else is economically reckless, because if it actually did the costings it would realise that the true recklessness is in having the climate stance that it has, which has us on that trajectory, and in failing to do the costings of what that actually means for our economy, for our community and for our planet.

The climate scientists and meteorologists have looked at this, and they say that, if we're on track for 3.4 degrees, that will mean human beings will have to migrate away from equatorial zones. High humidity will cause intolerable heat stress and flooding across most of northern Australia, rendering it uninhabitable for much of the year. The hectares of irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin—which I thought the government was meant to care about, but their policies might indicate otherwise—will drop from 1.8 million hectares to just 100,000 hectares, a $4.4 billion drop in Australian agriculture. One in six Australian species will be extinct or face extinction, we would have vast dead zones in our oceans, and 200 million people would sit permanently below the high tide line, affecting countries in our geographic region.

But this government doesn't want to know about those impacts, it certainly doesn't want to do anything about them, and it doesn't want to cost the economic impacts of that. Whenever we ask about this, the government simply says, 'We've got an economic plan; we're not going to damage the economy.' Well, you are. Your plan stinks. It has us on track for those devastating outcomes that I've just outlined. You won't even cost your own policy, but you're happy to criticise other people for not having costed theirs. I note that the Greens have costed ours, and I note that the commentators say that taking climate action will actually be good for prosperity and will help our economy, as well as making our planet continue to be habitable.

5:32 pm

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to speak on this MPI brought before the chamber by the Greens, and I thank them very much for the opportunity to do so. I genuinely do, because it not only gives me the opportunity to spruik the government's achievements in this space, which are delivering responsible and achievable climate policy, but also gives all of us the opportunity to reflect on the Greens' hypocrisy. They're so focused on chasing radical policies on the off chance that they can grab a headline and keep their base feeling warm and fuzzy that they end up achieving nothing. They're not actually here for serious discussion. They're not here for a rational debate. They're not here to represent the interests of each Australian in their own home states. We are here. We've seen the policies even of those opposite. They have a policy, which they've announced in recent days, of a net-zero target by 2050 and a complete abrogation of interest in and support for our 2030 targets. They don't have a 2030 target. We don't know what it is. But this government has a clear plan.

Let's be clear. At the last election those opposite, Labor, took to the election their uncosted policies, which were unachievable. But, to their credit, there is something that they've done: they have tested their extreme economy-destroying policies with the Australian people. But the Australian people comprehensively rejected them, because Australians could see the impact they would have on their jobs, on the economy and on the cost of living. So, in what should have been a period of reflection after the election, when all those opposite could go away and look at what happened and develop some new and quire reasonable policies, they managed to make them even more extreme.

Whilst those over there dabble in the art of the unachievable, our record on the environment and emissions reduction is strong. Our Paris commitment is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and we are well on track. On a per-person basis, this is a greater reduction than the commitments of the EU, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and even Japan. And we are on track to beat our 2020 Kyoto target by 411 million tonnes. In fact, the most recent update from Australia's national greenhouse gas imagery shows that emissions are lower than in 2013, when the coalition came into government. Also, emissions are 12 per cent lower than in 2005, as opposed to a two per cent reduction for Canada and a four per cent increase for New Zealand. Emissions per person are also at their lowest levels in 29 years, falling by 40 per cent since 1990. We are achieving all this without putting the economy at risk or jobs at risk, all while lowering the cost of living.

So, whilst on this side of the chamber we believe in having a stronger economy, which creates jobs and provides more opportunities for all Australians, sadly those opposite do not. And while on this side of the chamber we believe in lowering the cost of and raising our national standard of living, those opposite do not. They don't believe in lower energy prices, and they don't believe in tax relief, which allows businesses of all sizes to employ more people and create an attractive environment for investment, particularly in renewables. In fact, they believe in quite the opposite. They believe in putting policies in place that will see the Australian economy weaken, job creation evaporate, the cost of living increase exponentially and investment dry up.

The government, however, is committed to ensuring a strong and robust economy that is able to withstand the headwinds that our economy is facing. This will ensure that we remain an attractive destination for investment and are able to deliver effective emissions reduction policies. Our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package is a great example of this. As part of this, the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund is supporting farmers, landholders and Indigenous communities with savanna management, energy efficiency, capture of methane from landfills and storage of carbon in soils. We also have Snowy 2.0, which will increase the reliability of renewable energy. It will provide up to 175 hours of storage and meet a peak demand of up to 500,000 homes. In Tasmania there's the Battery of the Nation and the Marinus Link. This will unlock 400 megawatts of Tasmanian hydropower to the mainland.

We also have a national strategy on electric vehicles, one genuinely designed to ensure that any transition is appropriately planned and managed. It's designed for a realistic transition, not just a photo opportunity at the front of a charging station, an excuse for a ride in a Tesla that those opposite are all too familiar with—although, to their credit, Mr Shorten's announcement in front of a Melbourne building, just down the road, during the election period, with power lead in hand, was probably one of my favourite moments of the campaign! One could say it was a defining moment. It was at that moment that the Australian people could see very, very clearly the lack of detail, the lack of costing and the lack of a plan. Mr Shorten was in the contest for an emperor, but he had no clothes.

But I digress. We also have the Environment Restoration Fund, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and a range of other strategic investments that are having a practical impact on reducing our emissions. All of our policies are fully costed, have been endorsed by the Australian people and are creating jobs, rather than slashing them. Rather than deriding our industries, we see this as a real opportunity. Right across the nation Australian investors, entrepreneurs and captains of industry are leading the way, ensuring that Australian technology is at the global forefront on these matters.

If we lived the Greens version of a perfect world, their utopia, where all their nation-weakening policies were put into place, any chance of Australians out of work finding meaningful, well-paid and long-term employment would be gone. As if this wasn't enough, under their vision regional communities, those that are doing it the toughest, would all but cease to exist. They don't support any industry that drives our economy. We want to see the agricultural sector grow to 100 billion by 2030. They want to see much of this shut down, largely because of what the cattle emit in the privacy of their own paddocks.

The policy that they have is just outrageous. We want to encourage new investment in resource projects across the country, which drives jobs in regional centres, and lifts millions out of poverty right across the world. Sadly, they don't. We want to see a futureproof regional Australia through new investment in water infrastructure and resilience. I guess you can come to your own conclusions where they sit on that. The type of country they want to see Australians living in has no investment in industry, no jobs, no regional economies and no future. This is all for the sake of putting in place their socialist fantasies, as if what we do in this place is some type of left-wing board game. We know, as we know they do too, that their vision will see economic activity shift elsewhere. Let's use mining as an example. If we were to shut down exploration and development investment in new projects, major mineral-importing nations around the world are going to think: 'Wow, Australia has stopped exporting. What an important piece of symbolism. That's it. Let's shut down our own operations—our smelting facilities and power plants—and stop importing it.' Of course they won't. The market would still be there. The exporters would be champing at the bit to swoop in on the opportunity.

What the Greens would see happen is not going to see economic growth and activity in Australia. We're going to see those jobs move to another country with a much lower standard of minerals, particularly coal, lower environmental standards and quite likely much less consideration for remediation after the life of the project. So what should they do? They should take a few steps back and actually have a look at what the global environment impact will be. They've got to do this. Now, that would be progress.

5:43 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

The contributions that we've had on this MPI today show that the coalition is still, frankly, in chaos and denial when it comes to the reality of climate change and the ineffectiveness of their policies and their lack of commitment. There is no plan for jobs, no plan for wages growth and no plan from them to address climate change. The reality is, if you unpick the previous contribution by Senator O'Sullivan, this government has pocketed in their climate change emissions reductions the policy initiatives of the Rudd-Gillard governments and the action that they put in place.

In addition, when you talk about emissions falling in our nation, why have they fallen? In part, emissions have fallen in the agricultural sector because of the drought—that is, because of the effects of climate change. I don't think our carbon accounting, frankly, has yet caught up with the emissions catastrophe that took place in the context of Australia's summer with the bushfires that have been experienced and the amount of carbon that has been emitted in that process.

We know that one of the triggers we need to look to in the acceleration of climate change globally—with increasing weather, with increasing drought, with increasing temperatures, with decreasing rainfall—is a likelihood of more fires. What is the irony of that? With more fires comes more carbon emissions. So the government needs to be very careful when it talks about very easily being able to claim that it's going to get to its 2030 target without putting in a real structural policy effort to work out where our nation is headed.

In the Labor Party we're recommitted to real action on climate change: net zero emissions by 2050.We are not alone in this aspiration. This principle is supported by business and industry: Qantas, Santos, Telstra, BP, Shell, Chevron, Woodside, BHP, the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation, the ACTU, the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. They've all committed to net zero emissions by 2050. We have some pretty large fossil fuel companies in there, making that commitment to that target. If these companies can come out in favour of net zero by 2050, surely this government can. Around the world, many places have a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Seventy-three countries, 14 states or regions and 398 cities have made that commitment.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is continuing to try to drive Liberal policy in lieu of any government leadership in this space. Good on him for doing so. Someone's got to take moral responsibility for this issue within the Liberal Party. He said: 'Now we can see a feasible, affordable route to net zero. The alternative is catastrophic.' What does this government try to portray as 'catastrophic'? It tries to portray the very notion of having this target as catastrophic, in complete denial of the need for a global commitment to address emissions and bring them down. Australia can and must play its role in driving down emissions, in order that we achieve a climate change target that does not see our nation in catastrophic climate change danger. If there's a more damning assessment of this government than what Malcolm Turnbull has said, I'd like to see it. As I said, and I quote from him: 'The alternative is catastrophic.'

Niall Blair, former Deputy Leader of the Nationals in New South Wales, has also had this to say:

The recent announcement by federal Labor to target net zero emissions by 2050 provides a great opportunity for the agricultural sector in Australia to diversify and thrive. I’ve watched with interest as some suggest this policy will wipe out Australian agriculture, just as they hypothesised the same for the fossil fuel industry.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I see there is a huge opportunity for both farmers and brand Australia. However, we need to compare apples with apples – not apples to coal, as some are trying to do.

Yesterday, in this place, I spoke about the red meat industry, and they have an even more ambitious target. Theirs is, as this place should well know by now, is net zero by 2030.

I find it quite ironic that this government has, in fact, used our target of net zero by 2050. They have used the livestock industry as an example of why they don't like Labor's target. So here you have the agricultural industry showing more leadership than those who purport to represent agriculture in this place. It is appalling. There is a business in Victoria and they've already got to net zero carbon from their red meat business. So it's infinitely doable. I note that Infrastructure Australia has released their top infrastructure priorities today. It is no surprise, frankly, that the list is topped by projects that mitigate the challenges that our nation faces from the results of a changing climate.

We have a government here that exists in a policy vacuum on climate change. It has no plan and no leadership in this space. We know that we should be looking for infrastructure changes that can see our electricity networks strengthen so that we can diversify the grid and bring in more renewable energy. But instead we see this government missing in action from those kinds of commitments. We have a Prime Minister and a divided government of climate deniers. They have never taken action on climate change seriously, but it is amazing how quickly the Prime Minister started to change his rhetoric just as a political crisis starts to engulf him and force him to do so. There can be little real belief or policy drive behind the Prime Minister when you can see quite transparently his language change in response, not to listening to the science, not to listening to the evidence, but in response to an environmental emergency crisis that very nearly resulted in him experiencing a political crisis.

Instead of getting behind the business community, behind industry and committing to action on climate change, we have a government that runs out a scare campaign—a scare campaign that has directly contradicted the very industries who said they want to meet this target and who are committed to doing so. Maybe the minister should try talking up business instead of running these scare tactics. What is the real concern for business? The real concern for business is the impact of doing nothing, the impact of catastrophic climate change and the impact of being left with policy settings from a government that doesn't allow them to adapt and change for the inevitable future that they will face.

Net zero emissions by 2050 is all about cleaner and cheaper energy. This will mean stronger growth for our nation, more jobs and higher wages. But in the Prime Minister's inaction on climate change we have a recipe for high power prices, fewer jobs, lower wages and slower economic growth.

5:52 pm

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

As a servant of the people of Queensland and Australia, I compliment Senator Siewert for asking the government for a full costing of its climate action policies. And we ask that the Labor Party and the Greens cost their own climate policies, which call for Australia to be net zero carbon dioxide by 2050 and banning hydrocarbon energy generation accordingly. The real question that we need answered is what will be the change in the global temperature if these policies are fully implemented? Where is the cost-benefit analysis? The role of this parliament and this government, opposition and other parties is not to have a bidding war on who can outspend the other for votes or to virtue signal to the elites and the media. Our role in this place is to ensure good governance for our citizens economically, socially and environmentally.

So what will occur from the government's 26 to 28 per cent Renewable Energy Target, spending billions subsidising renewable energy? What about Labor's net zero carbon dioxide in 2050, or the Greens' plans to stop—wait for this—all hydrocarbon power generation? I know what they won't do: they won't change the global temperature. It won't affect bushfires, sea level rises, cyclones, droughts, floods, ocean temperature or any other natural weather event. Australia only accounts for 1.7 per cent of human global CO2 output. Cutting our output to zero cannot change the global temperature. Even our Chief Scientist was courageous enough to admit this inconvenient fact in Senate estimates on 1 June 2017. Climate policies are already killing our competitiveness and driving our manufacturing and heavy industries into the arms of China, who have no intention of limiting their carbon dioxide output.

We have been suckered into giving away our strong economy because you lot here are too gutless to stick up for Australia and protect our way of life. You have given in to globalist rent seekers and the socialist United Nations, who you glibly obey without a second thought on how you are hurting your own country. Shame; shame on you all!

To Australians listening to this speech let me explain to you what reducing our carbon dioxide output to zero will really mean to you: no livestock industry, no heavy transport, no manufacturing, no rail services, no private transport, no flying, no air conditioning or heating and the list goes on. Who would wish for such a horrible future for our country? The Liberals, Nationals, Labor and the Greens are all following the same path. Climate policies are not about controlling climate; they are about controlling us. A nation that cannot support itself turns to government for help. Once the people are dependent on the government they control us. One Nation wants less government—not more. One Nation wants to liberate Australians from government control and unleash our potential. One Nation will set us free.

5:55 pm

Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure to rise in the chamber this evening to speak on this motion from the Greens because this government, the Morrison coalition government, is continuing to invest in practical climate action. We have mapped out to the last tonne how we are going to meet and beat our 2030 Paris target. Our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package, announced in February 2019, will deliver over 20 million tonnes of additional abatement towards our 2030 target, and technological improvements and other abatement sources will account for the remaining reductions.

Every time I hear the Greens get up on their high horse, lecturing the Australian people about climate, an important question springs to mind immediately: why are the Greens actively campaigning against huge renewable energy projects in Tasmania if they say they take this climate change issue so seriously? A $1.6 billion renewable energy project in north-west Tasmania, the Robbins Island wind farm, is the target of the Greens and the Bob Brown Foundation, who want to stop it in its tracks. On the one hand, they want to lecture the government and the Australian people about acting on climate change but, on the other hand, they are campaigning against an actual plan to add more clean energy to the grid to supplement Tasmania's reliable and emissions-free hydro energy and to create jobs and massive investment in a regional area that needs it.

Why do the Greens oppose this development? It is because Bob Brown said so. You would think they would have learnt a lesson from the last election. Bob Brown thought the way to help Labor win the election and adopt green policies was to drive up to Queensland and lecture Queenslanders on how to manage their resources. And how did that pan out? But, when Bob Brown says his campaign against the Robbins Island wind farm will be the next Franklin Dam, the Greens swing right in behind their former leader. Personally, I suspect Tasmanian Greens would be a bit embarrassed that they have to oppose a major renewable energy development in their own state just because Bob said so. They certainly should be embarrassed, especially when you look at Mr Brown's own words about why he is campaigning against it. Mr Brown said the Robbins Island plan was, visually, a step too far:

Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50 kms out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from great distances on land. Its eye-catchiness will divert from every coastal scene on the western Bass Strait coastline.

Well, we'd better not create jobs and we'd better not reduce emissions in case it spoils the view, according to Bob Brown and the Greens—won't somebody think of the mariners and the landlubbers! Clearly with the Greens, it is still a case of what Bob says goes. So here with this motion today—and always in this chamber—they lecture us about climate change while the Bob Brown Foundation is out seeking donations to campaign against a renewable energy project in Tasmania.

What this motion today is actually about is running a defence for the Labor Party's ridiculous non-policy announcement last week, where they chased a few headlines about a 2050 emissions reduction target and then they immediately started complaining about how unfair it was that Australians want some detail on what that plan is and what the cost of it is. They can't even tell us what their emissions target is for 10 years time, as the government has done, yet they want Australians to pat them on the back for making a claim that they would achieve something in 30 years time—with not the faintest detail on what they would do, how they would do it and what it would cost.

I suppose it's not surprising that that is the level of policy development in the Labor Party when you consider that the extent of their efforts currently to stand up for energy and resources jobs in Queensland and New South Wales is to just go out and have a nice dinner in Canberra and talk about it. We've heard a lot about the Otis group, but I think they're getting a bit too much credit. What have they actually done to stand up for jobs, other than just have a steak and a nice bottle of red? It looks very convenient in hindsight that a supposedly pro-jobs minority in the Labor Party was stumbled across by the media just before Labor announced their big, uncosted, unplanned attempt to win over Green voters. From where I'm standing, that looks an awful lot like the Labor Party once again trying to have a bob each way.

6:00 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to Senator Siewert for raising this critical issue. This government's climate policies are a mess, they are an embarrassment and they are irresponsible. This government, while it preaches budget responsibility, cannot tell us what its current climate policies will cost. However, the man that was leading the government not too long ago, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has been happy to tell us what the cost is: a less habitable planet, lower economic growth, lower growth in new jobs and more emissions. That is the cost of this government's plan.

This has been backed up by a CSIRO report, the Australian national outlook 2019, which stated that if we stay on our current course, we risk a situation where 'Australia drifts into the future', and we risk a slow economic decline. That same report mapped out a second possible future for Australia, which it called the 'outlook' scenario. In this second possible future, Australia takes action on the major challenges facing it over the next few decades, such as emissions and climate. In this scenario, it predicts an Australia with significantly stronger GDP growth, over double the growth in wages, and household electricity bills down 64 per cent as a proportion of household income. All of this happens with an Australia that reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2050 with international cooperation. I know which of these two futures I want to see, live in and be part of, and I know the majority of Australians will agree with me, because the cost of inaction is not just the environmental impact that a changing climate would bring but also an Australia that gives up the opportunities of becoming a clean energy superpower with a new generation of jobs and cheaper bills. I wonder which future the government would like to see, because, due to the policy decisions this government has put in place, we're currently on track for the former scenario, the one which the CSIRO report named 'slow decline'.

All of the latest data confirms that this government's climate policies are hopelessly inadequate. Their own data shows that there was no reduction in emissions pollution in the quarter to September 2019, and the most recent data on annual emissions pollution shows a decline that is pathetic: just 0.3 per cent to date. So not only is Scott Morrison failing to protect Australians from the future of a changing climate but he is also failing to take advantage of the better future that we can have, which the CSIRO, the government's own pre-eminent science agency, described in their report.

Scott Morrison and his government are the only ones who don't seem to think that we should cut emissions pollution and invest significantly in renewables to get to zero net emissions in 2050. This argument is happening only inside the Liberal and National parties, because everyone else agrees, and they have done for a long time. So what we need to be able to move forward to a better future is for this government and the two parties that make it up to resolve their internal conflicts. That is what we need. We need them to resolve their internal disputes and to make a plan now, because we can't wait any longer—though I have to say that it's becoming increasingly clear that plans aren't really the style of this government.

We, on the other hand see a positive future where Australia is a clean energy superpower with a new generation of jobs and cheaper energy bills, a future which sees a positive and forward-looking Australia which moves forward with the rest of the world. There is now a real consensus on what needs to happen, with 73 countries around the world, every Australian state and territory, and major business groups supporting zero net emissions. There are major countries, the Business Council, the AIG, the Property Council, and some of our biggest employers all seeing the same positive future that Labor sees.

What we really need to do is deliver certainty about the future, and that is what a zero net emissions target does. It delivers certainty, and certainty is what this government refuses to provide. Business needs it to invest, and young people need it to know that our generation will deliver them a healthy planet. We owe that to them.

6:05 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It's absolutely beyond doubt that climate change is costing us big time—the catastrophic fires we've seen this summer, the devastation to communities, to local businesses, to the ecosystems, and the disruption to our gross national product. It's all there for anyone who has eyes wide open.

While I acknowledge that these are environmental problems—climate change is an environmental problem—it does surprise people when I tell them, yes, of course climate change is an environmental problem, but first and foremost it's an economic problem. Anyone who has a basic understanding of economics and business and finance knows about externalities that are created from business activities. Climate change, CO2 pollution and other forms of greenhouse gas emissions are an externality—an economic cost. It never ceases to amaze me that those on the other side, who claim to be champions of markets, don't understand that if they applied basic economic principles they would understand that you need to use those tools to tackle climate change and, therefore, price the cost, price the externality to our economy and efficiently deal with it.

Because it's an economic problem, Acting Deputy President Griff, I'd put to you that nearly every environmental problem I could name, and many social problems, are first and foremost economic problems. And because these all come from business activities, they are also ultimately a political problem. You can't fix a broken system without doing that through parliament and through politics. This is where it gets really interesting with this mob on the other side. They are in the pockets of special interests—they always have been, especially the fossil fuel industry—and they refuse to act. They tore up the world's best package on tackling greenhouse gases and CO2, purely for cynical political reasons and to support their big backers in the fossil fuel and mining industries. Now we have absolutely nothing—zero policy to cost.

Australians are waking up to the fact that there are costs of inaction. We heard ad nauseum from Mr Tony Abbott about 'axe the tax' and the costs of climate change. But we've never had an acknowledgement at all from the other side—from so called conservatives who understand economics and finance—that there are costs of inaction. Go and speak to the insurance companies if you want to understand what the costs of inaction are. Go and speak to local governments, go and speak to the fireys, and go and speak to the communities who are facing increased extreme weather events—droughts, floods, cyclones and bushfires, and it is only going to get worse. The best available science tells us if we don't act on climate now it is going to get worse, and it is going to cost us billions of dollars more. The estimates I've heard so far from these bushfires—and we'll get into this next week at Senate estimates with Treasury—are at least $100 billion in cost to our economy. That is one event. So, if you want to have an honest debate, yes, there will be costs of transitioning our economy to a clean energy future, but those costs are by far outweighed by the costs of inaction. There are opportunities for transitioning out of coal and out of other fossil fuels towards 100 per cent renewable energy.

I'm proud that my party has been the party of renewable energy. We are the party that negotiated $10 billion for wind farms and $10 billion to invest in ARENA and in the CEFC to supercharge and drive this transition. We will be the party that will be introducing a Green New Deal that Australians will vote for and that will be jobs rich and actually solve the problem, solve the externality, tackle the economic problem and tackle the political problem, because we are the only party with a— (Time expired)

6:10 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the introduction of this motion from the Australian Greens is a classic example of hoisting yourself on your own petard, because it's the Australian Greens coming into this chamber criticising other political parties for not doing adequate costings. This is a party that regularly proposes policies which are uncosted—which have no basis in what they would cost—and it is now claiming that we are doing the same and criticising us for doing the same.

Some might not remember, but it wasn't that long ago that former Treasury secretary Mr Ken Henry made the very apt claim that there wasn't a computer large enough to cost the Greens' policies. They were that radical and that out there that there was not the processing power available in the world, according to Mr Ken Henry, to cost the Australian Greens' policies. There have been advancements in microchips and processes since then. Perhaps we've got to the level where we can run an economic model to cost the Greens' policies, but I'm a bit sceptical. No evidence has been presented by the Australian Greens in this debate that that is possible just yet.

The costs of our climate change policies were modelled. We did produce economic modelling last year about the cost of meeting a 26 to 28 per cent target. In fact, we actually produced modelling back before the Paris Agreement was signed. I think I remember Mr Greg Hunt commissioning modelling from Warwick McKibbin's economic modelling outfit, which outlined the costs of the commitments we were taking to the Paris negotiations at that time. We updated those last year ahead of the election. We were upfront with the Australian people that there would be a cost associated with reducing our carbon emissions to our commitment of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction by 2030. We've been upfront about that. There is a cost.

The people that are not being upfront in this debate are those that are trying to claim that there would be no cost to the Australian economy by reducing carbon emissions. That is a fairytale that the Australian people understand well. The Australian people have a very good radar for when they're being sold a pup—especially a pup by politicians who have a tendency to gild the lily on their own policies.

The idea that's been presented by the Australian Labor Party over the last week, that somehow we could get to net zero emissions in just 30 years time—and that there won't be a coalminer lose their job, there won't be increased costs on the Australian people and there won't be a hit to our productivity, our economic growth and our wealth—is an absolute fantasy, and the Australian people know it. There's the absurdity of the leader of the Labor Party in this place, Senator Wong, saying the other week that it doesn't matter what the costs are, because the costs of inaction are 20 times higher. There was no basis for it being 20 times higher, there were no calculations and there was no proper analysis. It was a figure literally pulled out of her backside.

Fortunately for us, there has been some attempt to cost these types of policies around the world. New Zealand have adopted a net zero emissions target, and, while I don't support this policy, I at least give the New Zealand government credit for actually commissioning economic modelling into that target. That economic modelling makes pretty sobering reading. Their own modelling, commissioned by the New Zealand government, showed that a net zero emissions target in New Zealand would have halved the dairy sector, would have reduced their GDP by 21 per cent and would have put wages down by up to 28 per cent. This is hundreds of billions of dollars of cost applied to the Australian economy, and our economy, of course, is more carbon intense than that in New Zealand. Because of those costs in New Zealand, the New Zealand government ultimately exempted agriculture from their net zero target. Agriculture produces 48 per cent of New Zealand's emissions and they have just completely exempted it, because of those costs.

Meanwhile, the Australian Labor Party, with no costings and no analysis, has left open the question that agriculture would be included, that our nation's farmers would be in the gun from a policy that even the New Zealand government has not adopted. The Australian Labor Party, without any analysis or any numbers, is seeking to put a massive new tax and constraint on agricultural development in this country.

I'll finish on this point: the Australian Labor Party is running around quoting the recent CSIRO report that says we can achieve zero emissions. They obviously haven't read the 400-plus page technical report to that, because it says that agricultural production would be in substantial decline under a net zero emissions policy. That is the policy the Australian Labor Party has signed up to—to a decline in agricultural production, to hit our farmers and to make sure our economy is weaker in the future.

6:15 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If any ordinary Australian had the misfortune of tuning into Senate radio over the course of the last 10 minutes, they will have heard the worst of Australian politics. It's contemptible really what the Australian public has been served up by the Greens political party and by the National Party, in terms of the future of the country's approach. If we are serious about dealing with emissions, you wouldn't go anywhere near this lot and this bloke. They are as bad as each other. Both are completely internally focused. Both are unable to deal with the theory of change and a policy or political pathway to reduce emissions, to increase jobs and to lower costs. They are incapable of doing it—they always have been. They won't get any better. Over the course of the next couple of years, Australians will see through the internally focused rabid politics of the National Party and the Greens political party.

Senator Canavan is capable of only negative slogans and weird claims. He deliberately and dishonestly conflates costs to the budget and costs to the economy. Even his friends, his former friends, in the National Farmers' Federation, disavow his rabid and weird approach to this set of issues.

If we are honest about this debate, we must be serious about the costs of inaction on climate change. What are the costs going to be if global temperatures rise by one degree, by two degrees, by three degrees, or by more than three degrees? We would take that lot seriously if they had a pathway to fix it. But what is the cost going to be to the economy? We know that the cost to the economy of the drought was 0.2 per cent of GDP in one quarter, thousands of homes gone and lives lost. On the economy, which Senator Canavan pretends to care about, let's look at what has happened in the drought to employment in just one sector: people employed in sheep, beef and grain, rural labourers—the kind of people that he drivels on about in the Weatherboard and Iron podcasts, which I urge you to ignore.

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've been listening!

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Look, I'm the sole listener! Nobody else listens; it's just me! I'll start posting about it soon! ABARES, that organisation that is well-known for being a radical outfit, says that employment in that sector has halved over the course of the period between 2000 and now. These are the people he pretends to care about. The Commonwealth Bank says that half to three-quarters of a per cent of GDP is gone. Those costs were felt disproportionately in rural communities. It's absolutely incumbent upon this government to take account of and be public about measures of rising costs, in terms of global emissions.

In all this shiftiness, conflating the cost to the budget and the cost to the economy—the shiftiness, the dishonesty—what is clear is that both in terms of cost to the budget and cost to the economy, the costs of action are dwarfed by the costs of inaction. There is no debate that those opposite won't debauch and debase or use to diminish our democracy. There is no pathway to stopping global warming by supporting the Greens political party. There is no pathway to stopping global warming by supporting the National Party or the Liberal Party. We have to reduce Australia's emissions, to manage new opportunities for the regions, for clean energy and for industrial diversification, and to take a credible position to global climate change negotiations. If you were interested in this, you'd read what Niall Blair, the former National's deputy leader in New South Wales, had to say. He said:

A net zero emissions future in Australia provides nothing but opportunities for our farmers. And, with 30 years to get there, they are ready, willing and able. It's also the right thing to do.

If you're interested in energy prices going down, if you're interested in increasing good jobs, if you're interested in more jobs and more investment in the aluminium and steel sectors and if you're interested in reducing emissions, you'll be voting Labor and supporting the Labor approach.

6:20 pm

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

I am sure some Australians are listening to this MPI. If they heard the last two contributions—from Senator Canavan and Senator Ayres, who's now fleeing the chamber rather than listening to my speech—I don't know if they would be tearing their hair out or vomiting on the passenger floor of the car they are driving. Seriously! We have just seen some of the biggest straw men ever erected.

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Brockman, on a point of order?

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a convention of this place that we do not reflect on whether our colleagues are in the chamber or not and on when they are leaving the chamber. I ask you to bring that to the attention of Senator McKim.

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKim.

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

As I was saying, this evening we had Senator Canavan and Senator Ayres erect some of the biggest straw men I have seen in my time in politics. I'm not going to waste the very short time I have to make this speech in demolishing every single straw man that they put up, but I will say to Senator Ayres: the Greens have a fully costed set of policies that clearly lay out a pathway to drive Australia's emissions down in line with what the climate science is telling us, which is that we need to start reducing our emissions now, not at some indeterminate time in the future, as proposed by the Labor Party.

Senator Canavan said that we didn't cost our policies. Every single policy that we took to the last election was costed in the independent rigorous process of the Parliamentary Budget Office. He shouldn't mislead Australians about what we put before them at the last election. We will again have a rigorously costed policy framework as we approach the next election. Our policies will be in line with what the climate science is telling us.

With a 2050 target, Labor are walking away from Australia's Paris commitment. Labor's policy has us on a pathway for three degrees of global warming. The reason they're doing that is that they're run by the coal huggers in the Labor Party. Senator Ayres is a classic example of a coal hugger who is standing in the way of strong climate action within the Labor Party. You wouldn't think it was possible to have an even worse set of climate policies than the Labor Party's, but the Liberal Party have been bought out by their corporate mates in the fossil fuel sector.

One thing we can categorically state in regard to the cost of reducing emissions is that the longer we leave it the more expensive it will get. The other thing we can categorically state about the costs of reducing emissions is that the cost of not acting to reduce our emissions will be far greater than the costs of acting. The science is abundantly clear. We need to take strong action to reduce our emissions now.

The whole framing of this debate, which has been driven by many in the media—News Corp and many other media outlets, including, disappointingly, some in the ABC—is most unhelpful. The framing is not honest, because there are significant opportunities available for this country to become a global leader in responding to climate change. They including renewable energy generation. They include the hydrogen economy, which, by the way, will only stack up in emissions terms if the hydrogen is created using renewable energy rather than fossil fuel energy. There are major job opportunities available. The Greens have laid out those opportunities, and we will lay them out in our Green New Deal, a historic program for significant public investment in the transition so we can look after people in affected communities. I'm not talking about turning coalminers into baristas here. We are talking about genuine opportunities in manufacturing, in energy generation and in rewilding and reforesting, which is what the science is telling us we need to do to take action to meet Paris targets and to drive global emissions down.

This whole debate is a furphy regardless, because history will show you that even the Treasury department can't get their budget forecasts right, even for six months into the future. And yet this government comes up and expects people to cost things over the coming decades. It's a crock, this debate. What we should be focusing on is taking advantage of the opportunities and making sure we support our people through the inevitable transition, because it's going to come whether we like it or not. The sooner we get with the program, the more opportunities there will be for the transition and the fewer costs there will be to our community.

6:26 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

We are in a climate emergency, and those in the government are sitting on their hands, hands which are stained with the dirty donations from the fossil fuel lobby. The Liberals' lack of action has us fully on track for 3.4 degrees of warming, which will have catastrophic consequences. History will remember you as the cowards who did nothing in a climate emergency. History will remember you as villains who blocked international action on climate. And history will remember you as the dishonest government who knew the signs and chose not to act to save the planet.

School kids have shown incredible courage by marching in the tens of thousands to demand action. It's because they want a fighting chance for a future where not every summer is marked by severe bushfires, where they can breathe without masks, where they can enjoy nature. There are no two ways about this: scientists have this week warned that both Liberal and Labor Party policies fall dangerously short of the action that we actually need. Labor's target of zero net emissions by 2050 puts us on track to blow the Paris budget.

We need to front-end our emissions reductions. Labor haven't outlined any plans to cut pollution. We need action now. Scientists tell us that, if we are to keep our planet habitable, there should be no new fossil fuel developments for domestic use or for export. Quitting coal, oil and gas is the real test on which Labor and Liberals have failed time and again, and they have failed miserably. Our actions in the next few years will define what the world looks like in the next 50 years. The absolute lack of any leadership from the Liberals and Labor will not save us in this climate emergency.

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

We shall now proceed to the consideration of documents.