Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Regulations and Determinations

Industry Research and Development (Boosting Australia's Diesel Storage Program) Instrument 2021, Industry Research and Development (Temporary Refinery Production Payment Program) Instrument 2021; Disallowance

5:31 pm

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

I seek leave to move business of the Senate notices of motion (4) and (5), in the name of Senator Rice, together. I understand this has been agreed through the whips process.

Leave granted.

I move:

That the Industry Research and Development (Boosting Australia's Diesel Storage Program) Instrument 2021, made under the Industry Research and Development Act 1986, be disallowed [F2021L00610].

That the Industry Research and Development (Temporary Refinery Production Payment Program) Instrument 2021, made under the Industry Research and Development Act 1986, be disallowed [F2021L00202].

5:32 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I want to start by reiterating the urgency of what we are debating here tonight and reiterating the context—that we are facing a climate emergency. We are moving to disallow these two regulations because the last thing that we should be doing in a climate emergency is handing over over $300 million in subsidies to fossil fuel companies—to the oil industry. Handing over subsidies to fossil fuel companies is the exact opposite of what we should be doing in a climate emergency.

The Liberal government's refusal to act on climate is horrifying. When we are on a trajectory that is currently taking us above 1½ degrees of global heating, the science tells us we need to go further and we need to go faster, because even an increase of 1½ degrees could have devastating impacts and we are almost certainly likely to go past that threshold. The context is that 2020, as well as seeing the start of the global pandemic that we have, was the equal hottest year on record. The planet is now more than a degree hotter than it was in 1821, and, with over a degree's warming, we're likely to have passed crucial tipping points for our coral reefs. They are going to die, including the Great Barrier Reef. We're likely to have passed crucial thresholds for Arctic sea ice and the west Antarctic glaciers, and the Amazon rainforest.

The context of this disallowance is summed up by a quote from a piece in Nature in 2019 entitled 'Climate tipping points—too risky to bet against':

If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost-benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.

The authors of this paper said:

In our view, the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute.

So we are facing a climate emergency. We must act. We must act now. But, in the face of this emergency, what is our government, who should be keeping us safe, doing? It is the same thing they've tried doing with the pandemic: they are putting their heads in the sand, they are complaining about the economic cost and they are pretending that we can just live with it. That is why they are still doing the same thing they have always done, which is handing out taxpayer funds—the money from you and I—to their fossil fuel donors.

Let me remind those listening of a bill that the Senate debated in June 2021, the Fuel Security Bill 2021. That bill created a program that would pay up to $2 billion to fossil fuel refineries, subsidising the production of polluting petrol and diesel—that is, $2 billion, with no guarantees that a single cent would go to workers, and $2 billion without an actual plan for fuel security. In fact, the Liberal Party even opposed an inquiry into this bill, something as simple as hearing from witnesses and providing just a bit more detail about their massive cash splurge and why they thought that it was appropriate. But then again, this government is particularly averse to transparency.

Let's be clear. We want and need meaningful, genuine action on fuel security. Imagine our country so fuel secure that we could be powering new jobs in green manufacturing and exporting energy to other countries. But what we should not be doing is shovelling money out the door to fossil fuel companies, while the government refuses to take meaningful action. The government could have introduced an electric vehicle strategy that would have given us genuine fuel security by fast-tracking the shift from polluting and diesel vehicles to abundant renewable electricity powered vehicles. Instead, what we have over and over again is a blank cheque for oil refineries.

The governments' inaction is even more horrifying when you look at it in an international context. As the Australia Institute recently summarised, Australia has the highest—the highest—per capita pollution in the OECD. It emits more greenhouse gases than 40 countries with bigger populations, including the UK, Italy and France. It's the largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas and, according to Australia Institute research, it's the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels, only behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. But rather than plan a just transition from these industries, the Australian government continues to expand fossil fuel extraction and exports. In the most recent financial year, Australia's federal and state governments dished out a staggering $10.3 billion to subsidise fossil fuel use and production. It's therefore unsurprising that the Australia Institute continues, when Australia was ranked last for climate action out of 193 United Nations member countries in The Sustainable Development Report2021. It ranked second-last on climate policy in the most recent Climate Change Performance Index, beaten only by former President Trump's USA. That's the context in which we are considering these two regulations that we are moving to disallow today.

The actions of the Australian government are appalling and are even worse when seen in the international context. Rather than taking genuine action to address the climate emergency, the government are expanding subsidies to make the situation worse, which brings me to the disallowance motion before the Senate. We are voting on two regulations today. The first of these is the Boosting Australia’s Diesel Storage program. It will provide funding of up to $260 million over three years. The second one, the Temporary Refinement Production Payment Program, has already shovelled out $83.5 million in the run-up to the passage of the Fuel Security Bill 2021, so we are today retrospectively saying that this was okay. The Greens oppose both of these measures. This is over $300 million being handed to some of the biggest polluters in the Australian economy, just at a time when there is not money being spent. We do not have the equivalent money being spent on how we shift our transport systems, how we shift our fuels to renewable fuels, to clean, green fuels. That's what we should be spending money on. We, as Greens, are absolutely opposed to both of these measures. This is not what a government that is concerned about keeping the community safe, that is concerned about our future, should be proposing. It is yet more funding for polluting fossil fuels, yet more funding for fossil fuel producers being shovelled out the door.

We've got a situation now with this global pandemic where people do not feel safe, and they want their government to be taking action to make them safe, to make us as safe as possible. Our safety is not being guaranteed in this pandemic, but the safety of the future is not being guaranteed either. We have got a Morrison government that is risking people's current situation and risking the future. I feel particularly for young people, people who are looking down the barrel of what the world's going to look like in their future, who are looking at such an uncertain future and who are looking at the most dire consequences of the level of global heating that we are currently facing. Look at the fires that are being experienced in the Northern Hemisphere, in their current summer. Look at the fires that we experienced in the summer of 2019-20. Look at the sea level rise that is being baked in. Look at the impact on Australian agriculture and the fact that in the areas where we now grow most of our wheat, under four degrees of global heating, which is what we're headed for, we won't be able to grow any food at all.

This is not fanciful, this is not extreme; this is what the science is telling us the situation is now with our climate crisis. What people of Australia and people of the world want is their governments to be taking action. They want their governments to be facing up to the problems that we are facing and to say, 'These are pretty disastrous circumstances that we're looking at, so what are we going to do about this situation? What action can we take so that we can all be working together to be slashing our carbon pollution as quickly as possible?' And the good news is there is so much that we can be doing. There is so much positive news about the actions that we can be taking to be reducing our carbon pollution. I only wish that our government could see the potential opportunities, could see that Australia could be a green industry powerhouse, that we could be exporting renewable electricity, that we could be supporting 100 per cent clean, green fuels to rest of the world, as well as fuelling our transport and our industry here in Australia. But instead of taking these opportunities, of acknowledging that climate emergency, that global heating, is a huge problem that needs us all to be working together to address, we have got these backward measures.

We have got this continuation of just shelling out money and the government supporting its billionaires, supporting its corporate mates, supporting the vested interests, supporting the oil, coal and gas companies. The government continues to spend our money not just allowing them to continue but actually subsidising their operations and, with the instruments whose disallowance we are debating tonight, subsidising the operations of the oil industry by over $300 million. It is wrong because, meanwhile, the seas are warming and rising, the ice caps are melting, the forests are burning. But this Liberal government are just keeping on shovelling money out the door to fossil fuel companies, like deckhands on the Titanic, because of sheer greed and their refusal to act in the national interests. I hope that the Senate will support this disallowance and take action to say, 'No, this is not an appropriate way to spend over $300 million.' Instead we should be taking this money, if it's on offer, and spending this money wisely, spending this money to help us shift as rapidly as possible to a clean, green future, spending this money as part of Australia facing up to its responsibilities and taking real action on our climate crisis.

5:44 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motions moved by Senator McKim in the name of Senator Rice, the disallowance of the Industry Research and Development (Boosting Australia's Diesel Storage Program) Instrument 2021 and the disallowance of the Industry Research and Development (Temporary Refinery Production Payment Program) Instrument 2021. It is the government's neglect of fuel security over the past eight years that has made these programs very necessary. That is what we're saying, on this side.

Labor has welcomed these recent necessary programs targeted at fuel security and domestic refineries and we will vote against this disallowance motion. While the Greens' decision to move this disallowance reflects their ideological position on fuel security, Labor understands how critical having a domestic refining capability and fuel storage is, both for local industry and jobs and for managing against security risks and fuel shocks. It is for this reason Labor will vote against these motions to disallow.

5:45 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

The government obviously will be voting against both of these disallowance motions moved by Senator McKim on behalf of Senator Rice. Through boosting Australia's diesel storage program, the government is backing 10 projects across regional Australia that will support around 1,000 new jobs and a 40 per cent increase in Australia's diesel stock holdings. Diesel is vital to Australia's energy securities. It keeps our economy running. These projects will help minimise shortages of diesel during peak usage periods and drive over $636 million of public and private sector investment into these areas, boosting our nation's long-term fuel security and bolstering our national sovereignty.

On the issue of disallowance of the industry R&D Temporary Refinery Production Payment Program, securing the ongoing operations of Australia's refineries is a key element of the government's long-term fuel security package. The government has very successfully secured the commitment of the refineries, due to this grants program, and support for the infrastructure upgrades needed to produce better quality fuels and through the passage of the Fuel Security Act 2021. The temporary payments cover the first half of 2021, before the Fuel Security Act 2021 payments scheme commences. Withdrawing payments would put the refineries' commitments at risk, along with the future of the current 1,250 refinery workers and the additional 1,750 construction jobs for the infrastructure upgrades. So, clearly, the government will be voting against both of the disallowance motions.

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that business of the Senate notices of motion nos 4 and 5, moved by Senator McKim on behalf of Senator Rice, be agreed to.