Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Matters of Public Importance
I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 today, 27 proposals were received. In accordance with standing order 75, the question of which would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter was received from Senator Dodson:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:
The division and dysfunction within the Morrison Government, with the Prime Minister's preference for net-zero emissions by 2050 countered by the statement of Nationals leader Mr Barnaby Joyce that: " ... the Nationals have always been opposed to a net-zero target. ... If the Nationals supported net-zero emissions we would cease to be a party that could credibly represent farmers."
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 discussion. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.
What a week it has been! While this place has been focused internally, as it always is, and the National Party has been focused on itself, we've seen a couple of themes emerge from the self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-interested fracas inside the National Party. The only uniting theme that these characters can design that explains their behaviour is their opposition to the Prime Minister's crab-walking towards the most basic of commitments on climate change, emissions, energy and jobs. The capacity of those opposite to develop a policy framework is so weak, so poor, that they have had 19 different energy policy frameworks over the course of the last eight years.
According to the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the worst movie that ever got a sequel was the 1999 flop Baby Geniuses. It's a favourite of Senator McGrath's, I'm told. The critics' consensus reads:
Flat direction and actors who look embarrassed to be onscreen make Baby Geniuses worse than the premise suggests.
Not dissuaded from their Rotten Tomatoes score of two per cent, they released Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 in 2004, which received a zero per cent score. The critics' consensus reads:
A startling lack of taste pervades Superbabies, a sequel offering further proof that bad jokes still aren't funny when coming from the mouths of babes.
And so we turn to the modern National Party and 'Re-Joycing Barnaby mark 2'. This week has seen the return, unheralded and unwanted—
Mr Joyce, the member for New England, is who I was referring to. If that assists, I will absolutely do that. This week has seen Mr Joyce's return. The first—the original—was bad. What will the sequel bring? Today's MPI debate is about the new-and-old Deputy Prime Minister's position on the target of net zero by 2050.
The Prime Minister has been experimenting with his climate rhetoric this year. I say 'experimenting' because nobody knows quite what the Prime Minister means. The Prime Minister of Britain and the Liberal backbench certainly think that he means one thing; the National Party believes another. Surely ordinary Australian people, who overwhelmingly demand a sensible approach on climate, emissions, jobs and energy, have no chance at all of understanding what on earth it is that the Prime Minister is talking about. When the Prime Minister says it is his preference to get to net zero by 2050, what on earth does he mean? When he says 'new energy economy', what are the real-world policy consequences for people? The Prime Minister is so tied up in his own spin that nobody knows what he means, least of all himself. But the former and future leader of the National Party has had some interesting observations about a net zero emissions target. Last month he published an opinion piece in the Northern Daily Leader, outlining his thoughts—the thought leader of the National Party. Given that the Prime Minister will have to sit down and negotiate a fresh iteration of the secret coalition agreement, it's worth some close examination.
The title of this opinion piece? 'Climate socialism will trump private rights'. Unfortunately, it takes about half of the op-ed to get to climate change. Firstly we get what passes for amateur philosophy from the member for New England. He says:
The cornerstone of a modern franchise of freedom relies on the state to protect private ownership. Without private ownership you are merely an article of the state … The disenfranchisement of freedom relies on the state imposing on your ability to act independently.
It's got the kind of overheated quality of someone trying to prove that they'd done that week's reading. Then he goes on to say:
COVID itself has been brilliant at the disenfranchisement of personal freedoms. You can't travel from one place of no disease to another of no disease because of the dictates of the state.
What on earth does this bloke mean? What on earth does he mean? It's the kind of febrile stuff that's out there in those funny old chat rooms—the ultra Right chatrooms. Then he goes on to say:
The conservative side of politics has to be the champion of private ownership … The power of the state deadens the dynamics of the individual which paradoxically makes the nation weaker than it would be if it was freer.
What on earth is this rubbish from this bloke? This is what passes for ideology for the bloke who wants to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
Remember the Weatherboard and Iron podcast from Mr Joyce and Senator Canavan? You'd all be on it! We never know which one's weatherboard and which one's iron. We do know that this podcast, even for young right wingers, the kinds of characters who sit in their basements listening to this stuff—even for them it puts the bored into weatherboard. I was informed by my staff that Weatherboard and Iron is 40 minutes of this kind of rubbish.
Finally, he begins to ramp up on a point:
The discussions about the proposed 2050 zero emissions target will impose on the individual the next raft of caveats. Once again, it will stand next to the moralistic framed existential crisis of global warming … This impossible journey to zero emissions can only be embarked on with a whole new raft of impositions on private assets.
Really! Not even Senator Rennick understand what that is all about. It must be a surprise to the National Farmers Federation, who've endorsed a net-zero-by-2050 target. It would have to be a surprise to Meat & Livestock Australia, who have planned to achieve net zero by the end of the decade. It goes on:
Climate socialism will trump private rights long before it would or could have any effect on the mercury.
This is like some sort of free-form hallucinogenic trip that Mr Joyce is unfolding here. He says:
The state will look to you for thanks that you can now go to Anzac Day or church.
Net zero emissions, according to Mr Joyce, are going to take Anzac Day away. How one earth can the Prime Minister come to agreement with a man who thinks that net zero emissions are the equivalent of the villain from Braveheart? How can the Prime Minister hammer out a deal with a man who thinks net zero emissions are going to steal Christmas?
Mr Joyce doesn't represent farmers. He doesn't fight for country communities. He only stands up for one person: Mr Joyce will only ever stand up for Mr Joyce. I find the Deputy Prime Minister's rhetoric particularly unusual, considering his track record as agriculture minister. He's very exercised about property rights when he's in the local paper, but he's much more flexible about property rights when it comes to the National Party's role in the Murray-Darling Basin. When Four Corners exposed that billions of litres of water had been stolen from the Bowen-Darling, the then Minister for Agriculture, who's responsible for this scheme, was entirely unconcerned. He said, 'It's an issue overwhelmingly for New South Wales'—an echo of the Prime Minister's approach to vaccine delivery or quarantine. But, to an audience of irrigators that night, he told the truth. He said:
We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don't have the greenies running the show.
Well, it wasn't put back into agriculture; it was put back into mates of the National Party. Some bits of agriculture got the benefit of that very loose approach to water allocations.
Is it any surprise that it barely took a week since his return for the National Party to start undermining the agreement that shares our nation's rivers?
Their surprise amendments in the Senate bring the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan to the brink of destruction, pitting farmer against farmer and state against state. It's a self-indulgent display from a self-indulgent party led by a self-indulgent man. His paranoid vision—a personal freedom—comes at great cost to country Australians, to Australian agriculture and, ultimately, to all of us.
Like something from Sesame Street, today's MPI seems to be brought to us by the No. 2050 and the letter D. The letter D is for division and dysfunction over there on the Labor benches. The Labor Party will do anything, it seems, to paint over their own internal divisions, whether it's on coal, on gas, on energy or on emissions reductions, and the investments that this government seeks to make and that they stand between. Labor talk a big game about a climate emergency but, in the same breath, they vote against solutions and the necessary steps that we seek to take.
Not 24 hours ago, in this chamber, the Labor Party sided with the Greens to vote against $192.5 million in additional funding for ARENA—and that's investment in Australian innovation. They voted against more EV and hydrogen charging stations. They voted against more energy efficiency and a competitive heavy industry in Australia. They voted against carbon capture and storage. And they voted against their own national policy platform, which they adopted not even 90 days ago at their federal conference.
Meanwhile, we are seeking to take real and practical action to deliver lower emissions whilst we protect our economy, our jobs and our investment in Australian businesses. We have strong targets. We have an enviable track record and a clear plan. Our approach is driven by technology, not taxes. So we are not divided. We are very unified that our plan will deliver lower emissions, protect Australian industry and protect Australian jobs, and the only thing that stands between that and realising it is the Labor Party.
Emissions are at their lowest level since 1990, when records began. But that hasn't been brought about by a massive increase in the power prices that Australians pay. Indeed, wholesale power prices are at their lowest level in nine years, following 19 straight months of falls from the introduction of the big-stick legislation that this government introduced. Household retail prices are 11.2 per cent lower than they were a year ago, and we are delivering the needed investment, through Snowy 2.0 and the Kurri Kurri gas-fired power station, to ensure that Australians pay affordable energy prices today and tomorrow.
This is a government that recognises that, whilst ambition is important, achievement and outcomes are actually what matter. We are one of a handful of countries in the world to have beaten our Kyoto-era commitments. We beat our 2020 target by some 459 million tonnes. Not only that, our emissions have fallen faster than the G20 average, faster than the OECD average and much faster than similar developed economies like Canada and New Zealand. So, again, this is a government that is unified with a strong track record and a plan that the Labor Party oppose. On a per-person basis, our 2030 target is more ambitious than the targets of France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand or Japan. We have an ambitious target. We have a proactive policy agenda. That is an ambition but not a cap. We want to meet and exceed those targets. The latest emissions projections published as recently as December 2020 show that we are on track to do exactly that.
As the Prime Minister has said, we are a nation that wants to get to net zero—and preferably by 2050—but we're committed to doing that through technology and not taxes. That's the approach that's yielded results so far, and it hasn't sacrificed jobs and industries on the altar of Labor vanity. Instead, this government is focused on the how, and that how is breakthroughs in technology that will be needed to make net zero emissions possible here and around the world.
Updated forecasts with respect to our 2030 Paris targets show that we are improving our baseline position by some 639 million tonnes, which, as I told the chamber yesterday, is equivalent to taking Australia's 14.7 million cars—that's every car in the nation—off the road for some 15 years. But not only that—focused on the present, we have an impressive plan. We've got momentum leading into Australia's Technology Investment Roadmap, and our commitment is clear. We're going to keep electricity prices low, we're going to keep the lights on and we're going to be doing our bit to reduce global emissions without wrecking the economy. These are the results we're seeing thus far, and this is the plan we have.
Advancing that next generation of low-emissions technologies is crucial to fully realising our plan under the Paris Agreement. But that's exactly what was voted against by both Labor and the Greens yesterday. Not only did they vote against $192.5 million in investment in renewables and technology; they also voted against 1,400 green jobs here in Australia. Australia's experience has been that, where new technologies are economically competitive, Australians take them up at a great rate. That's why, here in Australia, we're seeing the adoption of renewable energy at 10 times the global average, and four times faster than China, Japan, the US and Europe as a whole. Australia now has the highest solar capacity of any country in the world.
That's where we can go with our technology road map—that comprehensive plan to ensure not only that we realise the benefits of the technologies today but also that we continue to realise those benefits tomorrow. Accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, carbon-soil measurement, low-carbon materials in steel and aluminium, and long-duration energy storage are the sorts of innovations that will unlock emissions reduction into the future. That's exactly what was opposed in this chamber last night by those who seem to have forgotten it, with this fallacious MPI today.
Australian electricity prices are coming down. Emissions are coming down. Jobs are secure. Industry is developing. Technology is developing. And we're futureproofing our energy markets with a gas fired recovery as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our competitive advantage as a nation has always been premised on cheap, reliable energy, and gas is fundamental to that as we move through a transition to a net neutral future, preferably by 2050. Our comprehensive plan of 13 measures in the gas market to establish an open and competitive hub model, based on the Henry hub, will unlock supply, ensure efficient transportation and, importantly, empower consumers. This is an industry that employs more 900,000 Australians, and we will not risk their jobs and their economic security with a big-taxing, big-government agenda like that of those opposite.
Labor are completely divided by this issue, and this motion is yet another attempt on their part to paper over the cracks over there, to distract from their complete lack of energy and climate policy action where it counts. They're all talk about targets and ambitions, but they have no plan to get there. The contrast with this government—with a strong track record, a world-beating story to tell and a plan to take us to a net neutral future—couldn't be starker. Labor can't tell you by how much their policies will reduce emissions. They can't tell you how many jobs it will cost. They can't tell you how many more electric vehicles we'll have on our roads or indeed whether we'll have carbon capture and storage at all. But yesterday, in this place, they all lined up over there to vote against $192.5 million of investment and 1,400 jobs in this important space. That is something that reflects the fact that the Labor Party are all at sea when it comes to energy policy and when it comes to being net neutral, preferably by 2050.
The Labor Party oppose our Kurri Kurri gas fired project. They voted against our ARENA investments. Yet they've got no plan and no story to tell. I think Australians can be very confident that it's the Morrison government that will protect their jobs, that will keep power prices low, that will keep their jobs safe and that will deliver the sort of future that our children would want to see.
Mr Acting Deputy President Brockman, you're from a very proud farming background. My father was a farmer. I was even a farmer myself for nearly 15 years. Farmers grow things; farmers understand that one of the most critical variables for their success is the climate, the weather. There's something going on with the climate. It's called climate change. Some people call it global warming. There are a lot of names for it. It's a scientific fact that the planet is warming, and, as the planet warms, we get more extremes in our weather, which presents more risk for farmers. If you ask a farmer what one of the biggest risks is to their enterprises, they'll probably say different things in different parts of the country. Certainly, in large parts of the country, it's drought, it's lack of rainfall. There are no disputes around that. In other parts of the country, some may say it's pests and diseases or biosecurity risks; some may say it's heatwaves; some may say it's flooding and so on and so forth. Even fire is a severe risk now to many agricultural enterprises. All these things are linked to our changing climate. Yes, they've been there throughout our history, but the science is indisputable and undeniable. The variability is changing. Our ecosystems and habitats are changing. So farmers have to adapt.
For a party, the National Party, in coalition with the Liberal Party, to claim that they represent farmers in this place and not have a clue on climate change—in fact, I take that back. They actually do have a clue on climate change. They don't believe it's real. They don't believe it's man-made. They don't believe that we need to act. That is a total betrayal of the Australian farming community. Farmers want climate action. It's been great to see, in recent days, the farming community calling out the Liberal-National government on this duplicity. I believe taking action on climate change is a significant opportunity for farmers. I found it very interesting this morning when I read—and, of course, this is all hearsay in the media—that Mr Barnaby Joyce is interested in doing a deal with Mr Morrison, provided farmers get paid for taking climate action. So I would like to talk about an initiative that the Greens and the Labor government brought in.
When the carbon price was established in 2011, an offset market was simultaneously established called the Carbon Farming Initiative, which allowed land managers to secure carbon on their land and sell those permits to the polluting entities liable to pay the carbon price. It was a way to encourage and incentivise farmers to reduce Australia's emissions through financial rewards because agriculture wasn't covered by the carbon price. In 2012 the Labor-Green government agreed to amend the package to enable Australia's carbon market to link with the European Union's carbon market commencing from 1 July 2015. Had this proceeded, it would have enabled Australian farmers to turn their marginal land into more productive, income-generating assets for a change to agricultural practices and revegetation to earn carbon credits. During the two years of the scheme, Australian farmers and land managers produced 1.9 million tonnes of abatement worth as much as $43 million, assuming a $23 carbon price. However, once the Abbott LNP government pulled the package and cancelled climate action, as they did right across the board, the opportunity for export revenue was removed.
We did an analysis, and the actual total cost to farmers had this Carbon Farming Initiative proceeded would have been approximately $12.4 billion over the last five years. We know that the EU has put this back on the table in our negotiations, and the US administration is talking about potentially penalising Australia because of our lack of carbon initiatives. Of course, if ex-senator Joyce—Mr Barnaby Joyce in the other place—our Deputy Prime Minister, wants a good scheme and wants a good initiative, he has to look no further than this Carbon Farming Initiative, because we could easily bring it back. In fact, that's something we should do, and then maybe we can have this debate about how we can turn climate action into a significant opportunity for farmers.
I think it's also worth talking about the costs of political inaction. Every environmental problem we encounter is first and foremost a political problem. It might come from a business activity. It might come from a business decision. It can come from a whole range of things. But it is the role of government—
Senator Scarr interjecting—
It shows just how much you don't understand, Senator Scarr. If the natural events are linked to climate change and rising emissions, that has come from a business activity. A natural event such as an extreme weather event has come from rising emissions. It's called global warming, which comes from a business activity, just to reinforce that for your benefit. Governments have a role to price externalities. Governments have a role to regulate business decisions that cause environmental problems. I challenge you to find one that doesn't have its source in economic or business activity. And if it's a government's role to solve these problems, then that's what we need to do, but that's not what we're doing. This government has been in place now for nine years, and it has had no policy on climate change, no policy at all, and it shows. As we saw with UNESCO yesterday, it has been recognised by the world that Australia has a lot more to contribute in the global leadership arena of climate change, acting on emissions, acting on stopping fossil fuel projects, acting on having binding targets not only for 2050, weak 2050 targets, but for 2030. Coming up with unicorn technologies, delaying tactics and distracting tactics is not going to get the job done. It's what we've seen for the last decade. It's simply unacceptable to go down this road. The people who will suffer the most are farmers.
I rise to make a contribution on this MPI debate. I will go back a couple of steps to a couple of weeks ago when the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, was off to visit the Queen in London and he was on his world tour and he was doing some G7 stuff. Off he went, and he got to London. We saw that he had a large entourage of media, a huge media contingent, following him. There was one big blank space on the diary where no-one knew what he was doing. We found out because the local Cornwall Bugle news leaked the story. None of the Aussie media was supposed to know about it, but that is typical of our Prime Minister, who continually likes to keep things secret. We know that from when Australia was on fire and we as a nation were trying to find our leader, the Prime Minister—'Where is he?'—when he was holidaying in Hawaii. Holidaying in Hawaii isn't a problem, but whoever thought it was a great idea to holiday in Hawaii while the nation was on fire and then tell everyone to keep it quiet—I don't know where his political radar is.
His lack of political radar—I'm talking about the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison—popped up again in Cornwall, where he was off to visit some gravesites. A lot of families in Australia would love the opportunity to go overseas not only to visit gravesites, like Mr Morrison, who was finding his 37th removed great-grandfather or something—I don't quite know. I'm led to believe he didn't find anything, so he went looking for a long lost cousin who died at birth or something—I'm not quite sure. Lo and behold, the Cornwall Bugle news took a photo of the Prime Minister popping into the local Cornwall pub, having a watercress sandwich and a pint. There's nothing wrong with having a pint of beer—everyone's got to eat—but, once again, what sort of image does that send back to Australia? Even we humble senators, let alone the Prime Minister, would wonder how it was smart to think we could do this.
Our nation has been in lockdown. Our nation has closed off overseas—well, it's closed off most people going overseas and most people coming back, depending on who you are. Some people seem to get out alright and some people seem to get back in, and if you're playing sport—say, tennis or something like that—then you can run around. That doesn't matter. That's another story. What message did that send to the Australian public? There's our Prime Minister, with his watercress sandwich and his pint, wandering around a graveyard and making sure none of the Australian media knew about it. Who thought that was a good idea? We have thousands of stranded Australians desperate to get back home—Australian citizens. They can't get back here. There are many relatives who are desperate to come back and see family. We all know someone. All of us senators and the mob in the other place have been written to, on many occasions, about families being separated and not being able to get back. But there was our tactless, radar-less Prime Minister! God almighty! I don't know whether his advisers were pulling their hair out or whether they were kept in the dark too. I think they're probably good people, but he told them to shut up and not say a word.
Where in the hell does this all come from? He's the leader of our nation! We shouldn't be surprised, although it did raise an eyebrow for me. Acting Deputy President, you and I have been through a lot of shenanigans in this building. Not you and me personally—and, if we did, I wouldn't tell anyone anyway—but we have witnessed many shenanigans, disruptions, knives after dark, backstabbing, leaders falling, others rising up and careers being destroyed. We've seen many of these things, but I did raise my eyebrows when I saw the Prime Minister in London visiting the Queen and some rocks or something and, at the same time, tweeting out he was going to meet with the US president. I'd be pretty proud if I were the prime minister who got to have a one-on-one with the US president. Lo and behold, that didn't even happen. He ended up in a threesome—we know that—and that looked a little bit awkward. That's when it all started to unfold, when, all of a sudden, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Johnson, and Mr Biden were congratulating Mr Morrison on heading towards net zero emissions by 2050. Didn't the hand grenades go off back here! Goodness me, didn't they go off! I woke up to Phil Coorey's story in the Fin Review on Saturday, and it was on. Here we go again! Even I thought we were over this, at least for a couple of years, but, no, it was on again. We've got a couple of civil wars going on in this building. We've got a civil war going on between the Nats and the Libs. That's always been going on. We have a civil war going on between the Nats and the Nats.
Senator Canavan interjecting—
Senator Canavan, I really want to hear this. What? There's no civil war going on in the Nats at the moment? No? That's not why there are dead men walking? I think that was the story.
Then we see the rise to the top again of Mr Joyce. He's back. Mr Joyce is back—Mr Joyce, the champion of farmers. Where do I start? We know very clearly where the Nats are on Mr Morrison's view of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. They've made it quite clear. We've had all the lieutenants out there. There was Mr Pitt and Senator McKenzie, who was on the after-dark stuff on Sky, sending one hell of a kaboom to the Prime Minister when he was offshore. But I must ask this question. I have been on the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee for 16 years. My anniversary comes up next week. I've been the chair of that committee for 13 years, and I've talked to a few farmers. I don't pretend that I'm a farmer; I'm not. But, last Friday, I was doing a dairy inquiry, and the red meat industry were all there talking about how we've got to get to net zero. We know the National Farmers Federation's stance on net zero. This is the National Farmers Federation, who were joined at the hip with the Nats. Well, they were until I heard the latest. I just want to share something with the Senate if I can, please, Mr Acting Deputy President. You've forgotten more about farming than I'll ever know; I give you that. This is the NFF's media release of 20 August 2020, which is titled 'NFF calls for net carbon zero by 2050':
Australia's peak farm body has thrown its weight behind an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero by 2050 (NCZ2050).
Members of the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) have voted in favour of the landmark policy—which includes strict caveats regarding fair implementation and economic viability—at an online meeting this month.
NFF President Fiona Simson said the strengthening of the NFF's climate goals was a strong reminder of the role farmers already played in tackling emissions.
"Australia's farm sector continues to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions …
Ms Simson goes on to say:
"In the past decade, agriculture has consistently reduced its emissions intensity and net emissions within the Australian economy. The red meat sector, for example, has a target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and is already making great headway on research and new technologies that will enable that transformation."
The NFF media release went on to say:
However, despite progress in the farm sector, Ms Simson warned the goal of NCZ2050—
the call for net carbon zero—
would be just an aspiration without ongoing innovation and policy support.
"We need to equip farmers with far better tools for evaluating and reporting on individual business emissions," Ms Simson said.
"This will require new investment in research and development, so we have more robust baseline information, new pathways to reduce emissions, and fewer barriers to participation in carbon markets."
Action on climate change is a central part of the NFF's 2030 Roadmap which sets a vision for agriculture to reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.
Her last statement is this:
There is a huge potential for Australia to be a global leader in low-emissions agriculture.
I would love to hear the Nats explain this to the Senate and to the people of Australia: if you represent farmers and rural and regional Australia, you are joined at the hip—well, you're joined at the hip with a couple. You've got the National Farmers Federation glued to this side and you've got the Australian Trucking Association—which I'm not part of—glued to the other side of your hip, because that's been the dumping ground for failed Nats for years. How do you explain the absolute difference in opinions on net zero by 2020? I'm dying to see the Nats and the Libs go to the election with two completely different climate policies.
I thank Senator Sterle very much for that dorothy dixer! I will have about 10 minutes to explain why net zero emissions would be a very bad deal for our nation's farmers and especially for our rural communities. Those conclusions that I make are just from very simple calculations and estimates from bodies like the CSIRO and from other respected economic modelling.
I want to start with the fact that often with these motions, when there is a quote from somebody, you could almost guarantee that it's a misleading quote, or at least a quote with a lot of detail left off. I know that in this case because, while the motion identifies the culprit as Barnaby Joyce with this quote, in fact the words were jointly authored by me and Barnaby in an opinion piece in February this year in the Australian. We did say that the Nationals have always been against a net zero emissions target—I stress: a target is what we've always been against—and that we could not credibly represent farmers if we were to adopt such a target. The paragraph in our opinion piece just preceding that quote, which wasn't included in the motion for reasons that will become obvious, said:
The problem is that cows and sheep have a tendency to burp and fart large amounts of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Every cow emits about 2,300kg of carbon dioxide equivalent gases a year. The CSIRO estimated last year that to reach net zero we would need to start with a carbon price of $30 a tonne now. Even a relatively small cattle producer runs about 1,000 head. So they would be up for a $70,000 a year cost under a net-zero policy.
Those that do advocate net zero emissions often do so quite glibly. There is a lot of hand-waving. 'It's got great benefits; there are going to be lots of jobs.' There is not a lot of detail about exactly what net zero emissions means or how we're going to get there, but 'It's all going to be fantastic, just believe me!' The pitch from those pushing net zero emissions is the policy equivalent of the steak-knife salesman on late-night TV. There's always more; it's always fantastic. It's so good it can hardly be true, because it's not true.
Those figures I quoted are just the facts. How will farmers pay the 2.3 tonnes per head per year that their cows emit right now? How will they pay for that? What we didn't quote in that op-ed is that in the CSIRO's modelling it starts at $30 a tonne and grows to $250 a tonne by the end of 2050. Senator Sterle over there spent 10 minutes saying, 'We'll get to net zero emissions by 2050. The NFF says it's fine.' I don't think he knows these things. He said he wasn't a farmer. He doesn't know how much a cow emits. He doesn't know that if you charge someone over $200 a tonne, for the methane that comes out the front and end of a cow, you are then going to be up for $1,000 a head. That cattle farmer will be up for $400,000 a year. What are they going to do, Senator Sterle? How's that going to work? Who's going to pay for that?
It will be paid for at the self-service check-out at Woolies when you swipe your rump steak. When it comes up, you'll have to put your PIN in because it's going to be over 100 bucks. Every shop you do will be over $100. You won't be getting any free transaction approved. That's what will happen to Australian consumers, if this comes off. That's on the CSIRO's own figures. Worse than this, that's the impact on farming. Of course, such a policy to get rid of emissions from our economy, from our coal industries, from our gas industries, from our factories—we want to get more back; we want to get manufacturing back, don't we?—means they're all going to be paying for it.
There's been absolutely no detailed economic modelling put before the Australian people about those costs. The CSIRO did some costs on what the carbon prices would be but it did no proper modelling on what the impact on jobs and wages would be to the Australian economy. In fairness, the New Zealand government did do such modelling. They did computable general equilibrium modelling, which has flaws but gives you a broad estimate. They did some modelling on what it would mean to the New Zealand economy if they were to reach net zero emissions by 2050. They made some pretty outlandish assumptions about some technology being able to halve methane emissions from sheep and, I think, half the freight fleet was going to be electric. Anyway, they made some pretty generous assumptions. But even with those assumptions, the modelling showed that by 2050 the New Zealand economy would be 10 to 20 per cent smaller—a fifth, potentially, smaller—than today. There would be a two to four per cent loss of jobs in New Zealand as a result of net zero emissions.
If you translate that to Australia, that four per cent loss in employment, that would be 400,000 people. So before we glibly roll off the talking points—that all of you get in your morning inbox—that net zero emissions will create jobs and it's going to be great, just remember that the respectable detailed modelling that's been done would show that half-a-million-odd Australians would lose their jobs. Guess what? After that modelling was conducted, the New Zealand government exempted agriculture from their target—and in New Zealand half their emissions come from agriculture, so their net zero emissions target is literally half pregnant! Half of it doesn't exist, because they're not even going to try to reduce emissions in half their economy.
That's why this is all a marketing pitch. It's not real. It's not pragmatic. If there's one thing I know about people in the bush and the country it's that they hate people with spin. They can see through this from a million miles away.
Senator Sterle interjecting—
You're much better than this, Senator Sterle. This is all slick marketing spin from corporate offices in Sydney, because the people who will really make money out of net zero emissions are those bankers in Sydney. They're loving it! The AustralianFinancial Review had five stories on Tuesday morning bemoaning the fact that Barnaby Joyce was back, bemoaning the fact that net zero emissions might not come in. Why would the Financial Review be upset about that? Because our financial executives stand to make a lot of money out of net zero emissions, because you have to define 'net zero'. You have to create certificates. You have to trade them. That's where the bankers make a lot of money. Good luck to them. It's a career. But that's not what I want for our country. What I want for our country is that we bring back manufacturing jobs, that we stop getting ripped off by China and signing up to deals that they don't comply with, but we do.
The thing speakers that contribute to this debate need to answer is, if we do sign up to this—the whole intent of this is to lower emissions across the world. It doesn't matter what we do, except if the rest of the world is doing things we have to be a good contributor. The whole point is for the rest of the world to act as well. It won't mean anything if they don't.
Senator Sterle put a question to the Senate. Answer this question: if we can't trust China to comply and cooperate with the health inspectors investigating coronavirus, how do you think we can trust them to cooperate with the climate cops that will have to enforce any net zero emissions deal? Is that real? Are people really thinking that the Chinese Communist Party can be trusted when they say they are going to achieve net zero emissions by 2060? Is that a real position that people are putting? Do you really believe the Chinese Communist Party when they say that? Do you really believe them, when last year they installed 38 gigawatts of new coal-fired power stations in China—38 gigawatts, double our coal fleet in one year.
When Xi Jinping goes to Davos, he will say, 'I have subscribed to net zero emissions,' and all these bankers who want to make money out of it will lap it up. How great is it that China has come and seen the light? What a load of rot. We have to make sure we are not naive as a country right now; we cannot afford it. Maybe in previous eras we could, but, unfortunately, the next generation of Australians may face a tougher time of it than what we have all grown accustomed to in our relatively prosperous and peaceful era. We can see the threats in our region, the aggression in our region and we need to make sure we adopt policies as a country that are made here in Australia, not made in international agreements overseas for a class of people who want to make money off trading.
We need to make policies here in Australia that will bring back manufacturing jobs to this country, that will make sure we are a country that defend ourselves, support ourselves and not be beholden to agreements that are worked out in overseas capitals that betray the interests of the average working men and women of this country. That is what we need as a nation. And that is what, I know, Barnaby Joyce is focused on, the Nationals are focused on, because we will always put Australia first. In this chamber, there are flags that represent this country, Australia. In this chamber here, we should pass laws that represent that flag and this country, not the interests of those around the rest of the world.
If we are going to talk about division and dysfunction, let's talk about the real cause—climate change ideology. It is an appalling, unaccountable ideology. It's an ideology which insists on reducing emissions at any cost up to and including the demise of Australia's manufacturing, resource and agricultural sectors. It's the ideology which is based on little more than computer models which have, time and time again, never panned out in reality. It's an ideology which has empowered other countries to demonise Australia, threaten its economy and threaten its very sovereignty. And it's the ideology which has stalked the coalition and Labor, who have allowed themselves to be led by the nose to abandon the farmers, the miners and the businesses of our nation. The Nationals have once again been hopelessly compromised by this ideology.
Memories appear to be very short in this place. In 2019 Queensland voters were decisive in delivering the coalition another term and they sent a clear message the Nationals, in particular, will ignore at their peril. Queensland voters rejected climate change ideology. Queensland voters rejected the instability and dysfunction it has caused in Australian governments. They're sick of the major parties playing politics with this ideology, so they're not going to look kindly on this wishy-washy, will-they-or-won't-they approach by the Nationals to net zero by 2050. 'Never say never,' says the minister for agriculture about net zero. Different eyes?—the returning of Barnaby Joyce.
Farmers need a commitment. They need the Nationals to come clean, not after a new coalition agreement but right now. The Nationals in support of paying farmers to not farm? What's the point of the Nationals if farmers aren't farming? They are abandoning their traditional base for a few cushy ministerial jobs. Farmers aren't going to tolerate this much longer. It's not just their livelihoods but the life they and their families choose which are at risk. The Nationals have failed them on water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Nationals failed to support the dairy industry in its crisis and this is supposedly the party of farmers. Farmers' livelihoods and our food security must not be risked.
The world's population is growing. Australia can and should play a leading role in feeding it. Our farmers are among the world's best. Yet here are the Nationals looking to tie the farmers' hands behind their backs by paying lip-service to net zero. We need to let farmers do what they do best—growing quality food, looking after their land and injecting hard-earned export dollars into our economy and our rural communities. It so pleased me to hear Senator Canavan say, 'We need to get manufacturing going.' That's been my saying for the last 25 years.
Well, there you have it. We've just heard from two senators who are both climate deniers. One of them is a senator from a party in government; the other is from a party that clings to the Liberal-Nationals coalition like a barnacle on a ship. What we've seen since the return of Mr Barnaby Joyce is chaos and dysfunction, and nothing but looking internally. We saw a disgraceful debate in this place this morning on water. We saw the Nationals cross the floor about water yesterday. They've all been out regurgitating how they don't believe in the science of climate change. I'm not interested in talking about the Nationals, but I do want to highlight the damage that the Morrison government is doing to this country by refusing to commit to targets and by refusing to put a date on when we will have a proper carbon policy.
One of the things that I as a senator do for Western Australia is actually talk to farmers. I talk to farmers; I go out and listen to what they tell me. I want to talk about a group of farmers and primary producers in Western Australia and professional and other organisations associated with primary production who are on the land and who have a view about what's happening. They came together to form a group they've called AgZero2030. These are real farmers, not pretend farmers like senators that we see in here who somehow claim to speak for farmers. These are real farmers, real primary producers, and professionals associated with primary production: AgZero2030. Look it up. They came together because of what they want to see, and these are their aims:
This is what farmers in Western Australia are saying, not the rubbish you hear from those opposite—not the rubbish you hear, sadly, from the government. Let me just repeat those last two: retain market access and retain access to capital investment. I just heard a government senator talk about 400,000 jobs that were going to be lost. Here are farmers saying, 'Actually, what we want to do, through having a target for zero carbon emissions, is retain our markets, protect our land and retain access to capital investment.' So I'm not quite sure who the Morrison government and, in particular, the Nationals claim to represent, but it's certainly not these farmers or primary producers in Western Australia. The National Farmers Federation want to see action on carbon. They want zero carbon, and they've put a date on it.
But I don't know why the Morrison government is allowing a handful of Nationals senators, who are clearly out of touch with what farmers and primary producers want, to control the agenda. We've heard the awful sorts of comments that they've made. Just recently, Mr Keith Pitt—and I heard this myself—said he didn't think the Nationals would support a net zero plan. He said he thought they'd be very 'unsupportive'. That was on Monday. I'm sure that the farmers whom I've visited in Western Australia—in the central Wheatbelt, in the Great Southern and in the Esperance area—are appalled. I know they're appalled when they hear that. They are out there working hard, as farmers do, day in, day out, looking for support from the federal government. They're looking for some hope that their land and the work they do is valued and that there will be real action on climate change. They tell me over and over again how disappointed they are. I learned from them that WA lost its barley market because of the shenanigans of the Morrison government. That's what farmers have told me. We have got farmers in Western Australia saying, 'Please, do something on climate change.' Well, it will not come from the Morrison government.
Senator Lines must be speaking to different farmers than the ones I'm speaking to. I must say my good friend Mr Keith Pitt is himself a farmer, so there you go—a real-life farmer with a view on what is responsible climate change policy.
Senator Ayres made the first contribution to this debate by talking about movies, and, can I tell you, listening to this debate, I can see a sequel coming. I can see a sequel of the 2019 federal election coming. That's the movie I see coming down the road—a sequel. Let me tell you what happened in the 2019 election in my good state of Queensland. This is how the workers voted in my good state of Queensland. In the seat of Flynn, which includes Gladstone, home of the Boyne Island smelter and a lot of other hardcore manufacturing industries that are emissions intensive, Labor got 21.5 per cent of the Senate vote. That's how well the policies of the Labor Party resonated with the workers in what used to be a traditional Labor Party seat, based around Gladstone, in the electorate of Flynn—21.5 per cent.
Let's go north to the seat of Dawson. Again, that used to be a traditional Labor Party seat. The Labor Party got 19.5 per cent of the Senate vote in what was a blue-collar heartland, in Mackay et cetera. It was 19.5 per cent of the primary vote. That's what your workers think of the modern day Labor Party, which has walked away from their interests.
Then we go to another traditional Labor heartland—or it used to be—the electorate of Capricornia, based around Rockhampton. Their Labor Party Senate vote was 22.4 per cent. That's what the workers in North Queensland and Central Queensland think of the Labor Party's policies with respect to climate change. They're more interested in their jobs, in the welfare and future of their towns and in their families. When Senator Ayres talks about movies, I can see a sequel coming. I've been listening to the remarks from those opposite, the guffawing et cetera about Barnaby Joyce, and I can tell you his message resonates. It resonates with the workers in North Queensland, in Central Queensland and in areas like where my Senate office is based, in the federal seat of Blair, which is home to many ex-coalmine workers and ex-railway-workshops workers. They're proud people, blue-collar workers. A lot of those workers don't identify with the modern day Labor Party, and they're right not to identify with the modern day Labor Party.
I'd love to hear what Acting Deputy President Sterle says behind closed doors in Labor Party meetings. There was a lot of discussion about what happened in my party's party room earlier today. I would love to be a fly on the wall when Senator Sterle no doubt speaks a lot of common sense behind closed doors about how important it is that the Labor Party stay true to its worker heritage, but it has started to move away from that heritage. The person who is prepared to come out and speak publicly, of course, is Joel Fitzgibbon, in the Hunter electorate. What did he say yesterday in relation to the Labor Party last night voting against a number of sensible reforms which would allow money to be spent on clean technology, including capture and storage et cetera? This is what Joel Fitzgibbon said. I quote from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 June by David Crowe:
"We shouldn't be picky. It's not just about windmills and solar panels," he told radio station 2GB. "It's about all sorts of other innovation, including electric vehicle charging station roll outs, and improving the efficiency of heavy vehicles and capturing the carbon so that we can use gas and coal to generate energy without polluting the atmosphere."
"All these things will make a contribution. And we shouldn't be fighting about which innovations we choose, we should be using as many of them as we can."
I want to give the last word in this debate to Mr Joel Fitzgibbon of the Labor Party, of the great Hunter region of this country. He said:
… it was "ideological craziness" for Labor to oppose the changes.