Monday, 18 October 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The countries going to the climate summit in Glasgow that have significantly increased their 2030 targets in this critical decade are the US, the UK, the EU, Canada, South Africa, Norway, South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and many others. Australia and Russia have not increased their ambition. Will you, as foreign minister, allow the National Party to throw this country's global reputation in the bin?
Thank you very much, Senator Waters, for your question. To be very clear—and you and I have discussed this before in this chamber and I've made it pretty clear what the government's commitment is—I absolutely reject the last part of your question, quite frankly. It really is important to note, Senator Waters, that Australia's emissions are at their lowest levels since records began in 1990, that emissions in 2020 were more than 20 per cent lower than in 2005, which, of course, is the baseline for the Paris Agreement, and that Australia, since 2005, has achieved reduction in our emissions faster than have Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. We're on track to beat our 2030 Paris target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent. On a per person basis, that's a reduction of 48 to 49 per cent on 2005 levels. That is more than France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand or Japan are expected to achieve.
In 2020 alone, Australia deployed more renewable energy than in the six years of the previous Labor government, but I don't hear that welcomed by those at the end of the chamber. I don't hear any commentary in relation to that. In fact, we are building wind and solar around three times faster than is Europe or the United States on a per person basis. We have the world's highest uptake of rooftop solar, with one in four homes having rooftop solar panels. Our government is building Snowy 2.0—one of the largest pumped hydro projects in the Southern Hemisphere—Tasmania's Battery of the Nation and an interconnector. I don't hear much about that from the end of the chamber either. There will be enough clean energy stored to power around a million homes. We're also investing in transmission projects to support our record levels of renewable and to continue to deliver affordable, reliable energy. That's the record that this country will take to Glasgow.
Will the government go to Glasgow and do what the science requires for a safe climate and triple our targets for 2030, or will you confirm reports of Minister Taylor's party room briefings that the government will not increase the 2030 targets?
I thank Senator Waters for her question. I'm not going to comment on party room deliberations, nor, I would have thought, would those at the end of the chamber. What we have said we will take to Glasgow and what we have said we will commit to is being worked through by the government, in terms of the discussions that many have commented on in recent days.
As I made clear in the answer to the previous question, many countries in the OECD can't claim Australia's achievements. I know you want to ignore achievements. I know they're an inconvenient truth for those of you at the end of the chamber, but, Mr President, through you to Senator Waters, what Australia will take will be to deliver a long-term emissions reduction strategy, one that we will release ahead of COP26. It's an economic strategy that will be underpinned by delivering affordable and reliable energy in a way that positions Australia to be successful in a lowered and ultimately net zero emissions global economy of the future. (Time expired)
The International Energy Agency has said that, to reach net zero, not one single coal, oil or gas infrastructure project can be built. How can you go to Glasgow, ignoring 2030 and pledging net zero by 2050, when Australia has 72 new major coal projects and 44 major gas projects planned in the coming years?
I know those at the end of the chamber want to ignore all of the achievements that I've spoken about, but let's be very clear about what we will be able to focus on, and what we can focus on as a nation, importantly. Notwithstanding the intransigent and small-minded approach of those at the end of the chamber, we can develop practical, scalable, technological solutions that will enable Australia to reach net zero while partnering with other countries to decarbonise and grow our economy. I know you don't care what the developing world can afford, but we do.
Honourable senators interjecting—
My question is to the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator McKenzie. Mr Morrison has previously claimed electric vehicles would end the weekend, and claimed emissions reduction targets would wreck the economy. Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree with those views?
Thank you very much for another hit out and another chance to respond on behalf of rural and regional Australia. People are berating the Nationals right now. You can't pick up a newspaper in this country without it saying, 'You know what? The Nats are the last man—man and woman—standing.'
Thank you, Mr President. Direct relevance. This is a question about whether or not the Deputy Prime Minister, whom the minister represents, agrees with a statement the Prime Minister has made. I would ask you to draw the minister to the question.
The minister has had 16 seconds to respond. The minister is responding, as the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Leader of the National Party, to a series of questions that are clearly related to National Party decisions and National Party deliberations and discussions. The minister was clearly on a trajectory of talking about those National Party decisions, those National Party discussions, and, in doing so, obviously addressing the broader issues that are raised. It is certainly very premature, and probably erroneous, for the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to suggest that the minister is at any point yet not being relevant.
I was going to make the point that the minister had only been addressing the question for around 16 seconds. You have had the opportunity, Senator Wong, to bring the minister's attention to the question. Senator McKenzie, you have the call.
Thank you very much. And within the first 20 seconds I shall address the sacrosanct nature of weekends to rural and regional Australians, and the fact that we like to—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Rural and regional Australia, and, indeed, the broader Australian public are very thankful for the National Party. There are no friends for the National Party at the moment—not a friend in the country. The peak bodies have deserted us; there's not a friend internationally. But do you know what? If it wasn't for the National Party, our country would have a carbon tax right now. It had the Labor Party's carbon tax. And do you know what our country, under a Liberal-National government, has been able to achieve without a carbon tax since it came to government? A 20 per cent decrease in emissions—
Opposition senators interjecting—
you don't want to hear that, do you?—while increasing our mineral exports, while increasing jobs in agriculture. So for you to argue that the only way, back then, to actually lower emissions in this country was to tax us was wrong. And you admit it now because it's your own policy! It is the Labor Party's policy not to instigate a carbon tax. So you need to be saying thank you—
We've given the minister a good go on relevance. It was a simple question about whether the Deputy Prime Minister agrees with opinions expressed by the Prime Minister. We haven't had an answer remotely close to that, and I'd ask you to bring the minister to order.
I think that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, as I alluded to in an earlier answer—the coalition between the Liberal and National parties has been the most successful political partnership this country has ever seen. It has delivered more and has kept us more secure for the 75 years it has been in place, and long may it continue.
Good question, Senator Abetz. Thank you very much for that supplementary question, Senator Green. It is rural and regional Australians and the MPs that represent them that actually see renewable projects in their backyard. We're the ones that have the wind farms. We're the ones that have the solar farms.
And the hydro power stations, obviously, in areas with a lot of water, Senator Colbeck, like Tasmania. So we know very well the benefits that renewable projects bring to our communities—
Mr President, a point of order on relevance: it's a very straightforward question about whether the Deputy Prime Minister agrees with the view of the Prime Minister. We don't need a long fairytale from the minister; we just need an answer to the question.
Senator Watt, at the conclusion of his point of order, seeks to try to define how the minister should answer the question. It is clearly not the role of the Senate to define how a minister answers the question. The minister, from what I heard in the first 10 seconds of her answer, turned to renewable projects and their impacts in regional Australia. The question, indeed, went to renewable energy.
Perhaps this just shows that the Labor Party thinks targets don't result in projects or action or change. That seems to be it, Senator Watt. I'm sorry, Mr President. I apologise.
I think it's pretty clear that, if you look at the international evidence and the evidence here at home, setting targets without plans to achieve them or, indeed, the will to achieve them is actually meaningless. So there are a lot of vacuous promises that are made, and the Greens are championing those promises in this place, where countries overseas make very bold, ambitious targets and then fail to deliver on them at all.
Last week this minister said, 'We've had all of these promises before, and I'll tell you what, the lived experience out there in the regions isn't what was promised prior.' If the government doesn't trust the government to deliver what it says it will, why should anyone else?
Thank you very much for giving me the chance to clarify a comment I made in an opinion piece last week. When we talk about the sale of Telstra, which both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party supported, who dealt with the poor telecommunications? Who couldn't call an ambo? Who couldn't homeschool their kids? It was no-one in Woolloomooloo, and it was no-one in any of your electorates. It was our electorates. On the Murray-Darling Basin plan—the water policy in this country—it was our seats that paid the price. Out of sight, out of mind.
I'm sorry, you don't like to hear it, but it's true. It is absolutely the same on this issue. We need to be assured, on behalf of the people who sent us here, of the impact on them, and that's all we're doing.