Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 September 2022


Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022; Second Reading

9:32 am

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Climate Change Bill 2022 is an important step forward because it acknowledges that we need to cut carbon pollution in order to put our climate on a safe footing, but it goes nowhere near enough. We know that we can't keep opening up new coal and gas, putting more pollution into the atmosphere, if we are to stop dangerous, runaway climate change. And yet here today we see an example in the expansion of a coalmine in New South Wales on the table before the Minister for Environment and Water, waiting for her green light. I call on the minister today: if you are serious about reducing pollution, if you are serious about stopping climate change, if you are serious about protecting our environment, you will reject this coalmine application.

But, of course, the problem we have here is that our environment laws as they stand don't even require the minister to consider the climate damage of a big project like the expansion of the largest coalmine in several years. In fact, if this coalmine is approved, it will be the largest coalmine opened since Australia signed the Paris Agreement. It will be a huge step backwards. It will make it harder for us to cut pollution. It will make it harder for us to stop the droughts, the floods and the deathly bushfires. It will make it harder for our children to know and believe and trust that their future will be one with a safe climate.

We need to fix our environment laws. We need to ensure that all approvals for these big projects—coal, gas—are assessed for their climate damage, and we need a climate trigger in our environment laws to do that. So, while this bill is an important step forward in acknowledging that our task now is to cut pollution, we need the tools in the toolbox to do it. We need the action to follow. This bill won't deliver the action, but it does deliver the promise. The government must step up now, meet this promise and accept that coal and gas are not the way of the future. We need an investment in renewable energy, we need an investment in biodiversity and we need to start protecting the future of the next generation.

You can't be serious about tackling climate change if you keep green-lighting new coal and gas. Our global partners understand this. The International Energy Agency understands this. The UN and comparable countries understand this. Even the Pope gets it. You can't be serious about tackling climate change and cutting pollution if you keep making the situation worse by allowing the development of new coal and gas.

I know it is a struggle for the Labor government. I know they've got members within their own ranks who don't see it like this. But sometimes politics requires pragmatism. Often, politics requires leadership. Always, politics requires courage. And here, today, there is a challenge before the environment minister herself. If you're serious about tackling climate change and if you're serious about the impact of this bill making one iota of a difference, you will block the application before your for the expansion of the coalmine in New South Wales, at Mount Pleasant. Send a real signal to the market and people of Australia that you are serious about reducing pollution and stopping climate change.

9:37 am

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure to rise to speak on this bill today, an incredibly important bill. I want to contribute to the debate on this bill in my role as a senator based in regional Queensland because this bill is important for regional Australians. I rise to speak on this bill in my role as Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef because this bill is important for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. I also rise to speak on this bill as a senator who has a very special relationship with the traditional owners of the Torres Strait, because this bill is important for First Australians.

Today, during this debate, we will hear views from across this chamber. Some—those opposite—will say that this bill is unnecessary and they don't support it, and others will say that this bill doesn't do enough. Well, both sides of that debate want to continue the climate wars. As a member of this government, I am proud to speak on this bill, to support it and to call for an end to the climate wars today.

I am so proud to be part of a government that has listened and is acting. After almost a decade of denial and delay and infighting from the former Liberal-National government, finally we have a Labor government and finally we are seeing real action on climate change. I am proud to be part of a government advancing this bill and I'm proud to be a senator who lives in regional Australia who is supporting this bill—because the truth is, if you support regional Australia, then you would support this Climate Change Bill. Regional Australians have the most to gain from this bill being passed, and they have the most to lose if it fails. Regional Australians want to see an end to the climate wars. I concede they do not want convoys rolling into their towns, telling them how to think, but they also don't support a government that puts its head in the sand and tells them that nothing needs to change.

This bill will create jobs in regional Australia. This bill will save jobs in regional Australia. This bill will create new industries in regional Australia. This bill will reduce the cost of living because it will invest in cleaner and cheaper energy by signalling that that is what this government intends to do. This bill will ensure that regional Australians make the most of the opportunities that action on climate change creates. This bill provides certainty for regional Australians. And this bill is welcomed by business and industry because it sets the pathway forward, after 10 years of delays. This bill acknowledges that our farmers are on the front line of climate change and have been calling for a coherent climate policy for years. Regional Australians that live on and live off the land support this bill.

This bill acknowledges that our First Nations Australians will be the first Australians impacted by climate change. Those regional Australians living in the most remote parts of Australia and in the Torres Strait welcome this step forward. They welcome this bill because, as custodians of the land and the sea country, they are already witnessing the impact of climate change on their homelands. I know that that is uncomfortable for those opposite to understand, but the Torres Strait and those First Nations communities are part of regional Australia too.

Finally, this bill takes the necessary steps to protect one of the biggest economic assets in regional Australia, the Great Barrier Reef. As Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef and a Far North Queenslander, this is especially important to me and the communities that I serve. The reef is not only a beautiful natural wonder; it is an economic powerhouse. The reef contributes more than $6.4 billion each year to the Australian economy and supports around 64,000 full-time jobs. And, yes, the reef is resilient. We have seen from recent reports that the reef is being managed very well. It is a wonderful place to visit and attracts tourism from around the world, but the greatest threat remains. As those reports indicate, the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and the jobs that rely on it remains climate change. Climate change continues to be the greatest threat to the economic powerhouse that is the Great Barrier Reef. Let's be very clear on this. The former Liberal-National government dangerously threatened the Great Barrier Reef both in real terms and reputationally across the globe. They threatened the Great Barrier Reef by failing to take action on climate change, and in doing so they threatened the reputation of the reef by placing the reef at risk of an 'endangered' listing.

That type of recklessness stops today. The Albanese Labor government is getting on with the job. We've heard the message and we are delivering today. We know that this vital step is not just about how our nation stands on the world stage but about the jobs and the stability that come from this bill. Despite what others in this chamber might claim, it is time to end the climate wars and it's time to support this bill.

With regard to the bill more broadly, it is important to be clear about what it will achieve, because, after a decade of denial and delay on climate, and chaos on renewable energy and energy more broadly, Labor's climate change bill will give certainty so desperately needed for businesses, industry, energy investors and the wider community. With a 2030 target of 43 per cent this bill will put Australia on track for net zero by 2050. It's not just symbolic, and our targets are a floor, not a ceiling. This kind of certainty is important to ensuring Australia reaps the economic benefits of the energy transformation already underway in the rest of the world. We are legislating 2030 and 2050 net zero targets because it is best practice to do so. This bill also will restore transparency and accountability in government action on climate change and confirms the important role of independent expert advice. The minister will be required to report annually to parliament on Australia's progress towards meeting our targets set in the bill, and this will keep the government accountable for the actions it is taking to reduce emissions. No longer will the national government in this country be able to put their heads in the sand, or wish to do so, because we are including transparency and accountability measures in this bill, to be upfront with the Australian public about where we stand. This report to the Australian people will include progress being made towards international developments on climate and climate change policy and the effectiveness of the Commonwealth climate change policies in contributing to the achievement of targets.

Our government is showing the rest of this parliament the way forward. It's an opportunity for the parliament to come together and chart a new path—how we can lower emissions, hit targets and create good jobs in the process. We're doing this practically, to ensure stability and certainty for Australians and Australian businesses. By listening to the science, by acting on climate change, we can create new jobs, and we intend to. We can enter a new era of Australian manufacturing. We can make things right here. Our future energy needs, batteries, wind turbines, new technology—these are things that we should make right here in Australia. They should be made in regional Australia. Australians will do that work very proudly. They will be able to build their lives on those good, secure jobs.

I'm so proud of this government. I'm proud to be the Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef. I'm proud that one day, when my daughter is old enough to understand, I can tell her that I was part of a government that made this change. My daughter's backyard is the Great Barrier Reef. It's full of life and it is beautiful. We know that it is important to stand up today and say, 'Enough is enough.' This government has ensured that she and the Great Barrier Reef have a future. I really want to thank those in this place who have been part of this constructive process, because for our government this legislation is so important. There's a reason it was one of the first pieces of legislation we introduced. We want Australians and the rest of the world to know that we mean business. We will be the government that shapes the future for the better. We will be the government that delivers action on climate change. The former government continued to put their heads in the sand and tell regional Australians that nothing needed to change. Well, regional Australians want action on climate change. They want the climate wars to end. They want to see jobs, cleaner energy and cheaper energy and they want to protect the Great Barrier Reef. So I implore senators to support this bill today.

9:47 am

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

The Climate Change Bill 2022 is totally out of step with the rest of the world. It will do nothing to help the global environment. It will only increase living-cost pressures for Australians. It will cost us jobs in this country and it will continue the total scam that is carbon trading around the world.

I want to start today with a conversation that I had recently with a mayor in western Queensland, the Mayor of the Paroo Shire, which surrounds the great country town of Cunnamulla in western Queensland. At the moment, thanks to the scam that is carbon trading, 40 per cent of properties in the Paroo Shire have been destocked—cattle taken off the land—for the purposes of creating this ridiculous paper of carbon credits. It does nothing for the planet. The farmers are happy. They make money. The investment banks come up from Sydney and buy the properties. The farmers can go and retire on the coast if they like. They get paid. It's the tyre mechanics, the cafe owners and the hotel owners in towns like Cunnamulla that pay the bill, because, when you get rid of all the cattle around Cunnamulla—Cunnamulla is only a small town—there are no fencing contractors coming to town anymore, there are no stock camps coming in at the end of their muster to have a drink, and all of that business is lost from Cunnamulla.

What happens with this? What do we do? What do we get from destocking 40 per cent of the properties in Cunnamulla? The mayor was telling me that you go down a road there, and there are 12 pastoral properties on this road—big properties, big road—and nine of them are totally destocked. There are just three of the 12 now with cattle on them. This is the front line of the climate battle that doesn't get reported on down here. The victims of this are the small country businesses that are told, 'Your way of life, your lifestyle, is no more'—and it doesn't do anything for the environment. Do you know what happens to these properties when the cattle go? Weeds come in, pests come in, pigs come in. Come and have a look sometime. It's a total environmental disaster, because there's no-one left to manage it. These investment banks in Sydney don't come and manage the property. They don't come and take out the pigs. They don't come and manage the weeds. You know what they're doing? They're collecting their cheques on the carbon credits. They're clipping that bill and making a lot of money, a lot of bonuses, off this scam that is carbon credits.

You've always got to look at any of this sort of legislation. When things go through this place and we debate these things, you've got to ask the question—the Latin phrase is 'cui bono': who benefits? Who benefits from this legislation? It's not going to be the environment. It's not going to be the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is doing fine; coral is at a record level. It is going to be the bankers who run these scams of carbon credits and carbon-trading schemes. That's why the banks all support it. That's why the banks love this. They're all in favour of all this because it's another line of business to get them more bonuses, to buy that other house, to extend the butler's pantry in the kitchen. That's why they want this legislation. It doesn't do anything for the environment.

We're totally out of step with the world now. I hear these conversations here in this building about how the world is waiting with bated breath for our parliament to put in this 43 per cent target ahead of the European winter. Is anyone watching the news? Has anyone in this place turned on a TV? The Greens party in Germany has reopened 21 coal-fired power stations this year—21. The Greens party in Germany are in government with the Socialist party and, I think, with a libertarian-type party. And the energy minister there, Mr Habeck—he's a Greens party politician—has been responsible for reopening 21 coal-fired power stations. We've only got 19 in Australia, but they're opening more coal-fired power stations in Germany than we have.

Photo of Alex AnticAlex Antic (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

He's my hero!

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

That's right! I'll take that, Senator Antic: he's a hero! He's a hero, this Greens minister. He's trying to provide energy to his people; that's what he's prioritising—just as the new Prime Minister in the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, is doing when she says she's looking to overturn the ban on fracking in the UK. That's happening in the UK. If you turn on the news at the moment, that's what's happening in the world.

If you turn on the news at the moment, China has announced plans to expand its coalmining by 300 million tonnes a year. India are looking at boosting their coalmining by 400 million tons a year. We only produce about 450 million tonnes of coal a year in this country. Together, those two countries alone are looking at increasing their coalmining by more than we produce in any one year. Why are they doing that? Because they're worried about where the energy of the world is coming from. They're worried about the cost of living. People are on the streets, all around the world, protesting the fact that they can't afford their energy bills anymore because of this insane net-zero agenda driven by a Swedish teenager. We are taking advice on our energy system from schoolchildren who strike because they want a day off school. I wanted days off school when I was a kid, but I don't think I should ever have been put in charge of the energy policy settings of the world. But that's what we're doing! And the consequences are there for all to see.

I have been very much against this agenda. I think it's a little bit strange that we should seek to fundamentally transform the way we make energy and food, in a generation, without thinking a bit about it. And I'm the radical, I'm the extremist, in this debate. So let's just take a temperature check of where we are. The mainstream position in Australia, in polite society in Western countries, is that we should fundamentally transform how food and energy is made within 30 years, within a generation—without the technologies around. We don't have a lot of the technologies that people want, this green steel and fertilisers not made from natural gas—look how that worked out for Sri Lanka. That stuff doesn't exist, and we are playing with fire here, because, as you can already see, in Sri Lanka and Europe they are struggling to feed and warm their own people because they are not taking proper advice about how things are. They do not understand how the world works, really. They don't understand how food is grown, how steel is made and how we manufacture things in the world. They just flick a switch and things happen. So the flick-a-switch generation—who think you just push a button and things turn up; you go on an app and your food arrives in an Uber; you set your thermostat and everything is fine—have no idea how coal is mined or how a blast furnace works in a steel mill. They've never been to these places, and that's why we've ended up in the situation we are in.

The funny thing about this particular bit of legislation—and it continues this agenda which is enormously damaging for the world and is causing enormous pain right around in the world—is that it doesn't do all that much, at least in the primary bill we're debating. All this legislation does—for all the high rhetoric we've heard from the Labor Party about how they're saving the planet and the oceans are breathing again and all this rubbish—is say, 'Okay, our nationally determined commitment to Paris is this'—in this bill; it's a very short bill—'43 per cent is now our target, as is net zero by 2050.' We don't need legislation for that. They don't need this bill. And the government has admitted this; the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, has admitted that they don't need legislation to enshrine our Paris Agreement targets.

So, what are we doing? People are struggling to pay their bills in this country. Interest rates are going up. And we're wasting all this time on a piece of legislation that is unnecessary. We do not need to do this. We could be doing other things for the Australian people with our time here and the Labor government could still enshrine those Paris targets, without this legislation. Some may argue that this locks in the Paris targets for any future government—if the Australian people dare vote in the future for a government that wants to change our Paris commitments!—that they're trying to lock us in; they're trying to deny future Australians that agency. But even then, who cares? The Paris Agreement doesn't have any penalties. None of this actually binds. If a future Australian government does not meet 43 per cent emissions by 2030, guess what happens? Nothing happens. There are no penalties. You do not get kicked out of any kind of club.

We can see that because the rest of the world is ignoring these things. As I said, Germany is opening up coal plants. Asia is opening up coalmines. Everyone has and is ignoring these climate agreements—except ourselves. We met the Kyoto target, and I think New Zealand did, too—I think one other country. No other country did. And we are imposing these costs on our people, denying our country our job opportunities, and the rest of the world is having a big laugh. I mean, Xi Jinping didn't even bother turning up at the Glasgow conference. Neither did Vladimir Putin. I think both of them were just too busy laughing! They wouldn't have been able to hold a straight face at Glasgow if they'd turned up, because the other countries of the world were happy to commit economic suicide to make it harder to, as I said, feed, clothe and warm their people, while China and Russia could go on their merry way. Does anybody in this place believe it? Actually, some people do; some people seem to think that because China is committed to net zero emissions by 2060 they're going to somehow meet that. How stupid can we be, to believe a Chinese communist dictator, to take what he says at face value? I mean, they might say something and do something different. That might happen—and it is happening. That's all the evidence we see.

There are some parts of this legislation that I do want to highlight that are risky. Most of it is completely innocuous and doesn't really make a difference to the world. However, in this legislation the government is also enshrining the climate objectives and net zero emissions objectives into a bunch of Commonwealth agencies, like the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and Export Finance Australia. This could have a big consequence, because it will deny job and other opportunities associated with investments in those spaces. More importantly, I worry that it's going to weaponise our courts, that it's going to weaponise our judicial system. We've seen this in the past, with the EPBC Act and other issues, where stuff that we thought was rather innocuous going through this place became a huge weapon in the hands of an activist judge seeking to expand what was actually enshrined in place.

We've seen it with climate legislation overseas. Heathrow Airport has not been able to expand because of climate legislation in the United Kingdom—something that I don't think any, or many, of the members of the House of Commons realised at the time: that the legislation they proposed is now putting caps on the number of people arriving in London. It is hard to get into the place now because of that climate legislation. We've seen it in the Netherlands, where European Union nitrogen targets have led to this absurd rule where farmers have to reduce their production by 30 per cent. They've been asked to cull their cattle in the Netherlands. Those of us who do flick on the news—and as I said, not many people in this place seem to watch the news—can see that in the Netherlands right now there is a revolt of farmers, of a new farmers party that has been formed against this unilateral shutting down of the world's second largest exporter of agricultural goods in the Netherlands. It's an amazing thing, but that's sometimes the consequence of these kinds of targets that we don't understand.

That brings me back to where I started: the victims of this type of legislation. They're the people who shower after work rather than before work. They're the ones who are going to cop it with this legislation. Look at most of us who come into this building. I usually have a shower before work, and my colleagues thank me for that. But, if you're a farmer or you're working in a steel mill or, definitely, if you're working in a coalmine, you'll have to shower after work because you'll be smelly and dirty because you've been working outside. Maybe you'll shower before work, but you'll have to shower after work. Those are the people that we see on the tractors in the Netherlands that are going to cop it from our naive changes that we have not thought through to the way food and energy is made in Western countries. Then those people will typically be the ones we ask to go and fight wars and other conflicts that will arise from this, as we see in Ukraine.

There is a straight line between the naive environmental net-zero targets that Europe has adopted and the extra strength and leverage that that has given to Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. Putin has got a lot more ability to pressure Europe and to take a risky decision to invade another country because he's not scared of Europe. He is not scared of those countries because they rely on him for their gas. They have totally removed their own independence and sovereignty and have become vulnerable to aggression and to the bullies that do exist the world. It's news to the Greens and their naive followers in the Australian Labor Party: there are people who wish to do us harm in this world. There are countries that don't necessarily want to see Western, free and democratic nations prosper and grow, and we are playing into their hands by unilaterally reducing our economic strength, our industry and our capability to grow and manufacture the things that an industrial economy needs.

The primary reason I'm against these radical changes is that I do not trust the Chinese Communist Party. I do not trust them. I do not trust what they say. I do not trust their relations with other countries. We cannot afford to continue to export our jobs and our manufacturing industries—our commanding heights of our economy—to a country that we cannot trust. China is not a place that you can do business in at the moment. You can't; people can't even travel there from this country. But they are the world's largest emitter of carbon by far, and that is growing because the Western world continues to rely on them for cheap goods and subsidised materials, and we're doing nothing about it.

The legislation only entrenches that trend. It only makes it harder for us to walk away from that dependent state we are sleepwalking into. We should oppose it because we should be putting this country first. We should be making our own energy again and we should be ensuring that those people who work hard for us have a great job and a good future.

10:02 am

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to start by thanking Senator Canavan. I really appreciate how much he stands up for communities who have relied on fossil fuels for generations in terms of workforce. It is going to be a really important part of this transition to actually look after those communities. It's actually a huge opportunity for regional areas if we get this right. That starts with actually having some certainty after a decade of uncertainty, inaction and delay. To actually have the big picture settings that say, 'We're heading in this direction,' will allow that transition to happen. It will allow us to actually look after regional areas.

I would like to touch on a few of the things that Senator Canavan mentioned, most of which I disagree with, and that's the beauty of this place. He, rightly, talked about the cost of living. We are in a cost-of-living crisis around the country. The economics of climate action have changed so fast that I understand that some people in this place may still be relying on old figures. This continues to change. We're now in a position where electrification offers households savings of thousands of dollars a year if we get this right. We've seen it done with rooftop solar, started by the Howard government. We now have some of the cheapest rooftop solar in the world. Many people across the country are benefiting from this. We can do the same thing with batteries, heat pumps and electric vehicles, and unlock real savings—not just a one-off discount or fuel excise cut, but thousands of dollars every year going forward for everyday Australians.

Another comparison Senator Canavan made which I disagree with was comparing us to Europe. Europe buy a lot of gas from Russia. We don't buy any gas from Russia. Yet we're subjected to international prices for gas because members of both major parties have allowed gas companies to charge us export prices for our own gas. That's a real failure of legislation, and I think it really speaks to just how much influence the gas companies have. At a time when they are making up to 500 per cent more profit, just the thought of actually recouping some of that to invest into our regions doesn't seem to be on the table.

The last thing I'd like to respond to is Senator Canavan's concerns about the judicial system and litigation. This is already happening. Tiwi Islanders are currently in court against Santos about a gas project that is trying to access some of Australia's dirtiest gas from their homelands. The Gamilaraay people in Narrabri are also taking Santos to court about their proposed Pilliga project, and the former government was taken to court by young people in Australia who said that the government has a duty of care to actually protect young people and their futures. This is really what climate action is about, and this bill is a start to get us on the right track.

It's clear that human influence on the climate system is now an established fact. Our greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, and the results are disastrous. Just turn on the news: more intense floods, fires, cyclones and heatwaves, and warming and rising oceans. Climate change is the greatest challenge we face. It will affect all the people and places we know and love.

Our communities around the country are demanding action—action from each other, action from corporate Australia and action from government. Jurisdictions from the UK to New Zealand have adopted climate laws that give a framework for climate action. Some Australian states and territories have done the same. The ACT, who I proudly represent, passed a climate act in 2010. Victoria passed a similar act with broader functions and powers in 2017.

As with so many aspects of climate change policy, after a decade of inaction the Commonwealth lags woefully behind. There are more than 80 pieces of legislation relating to energy and various elements of climate policy. The sum of these parts is not an effective framework. A more complete and ambitious climate law would provide this framework. It would include guiding principles, adaptation action plans and an emissions budgeting framework. This bill, the Climate Change Bill 2022, has none of those.

What it does is perform two key functions. First, it sets two targets: 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Second, it provides an accountability framework for climate policy. The science on the target is clear: 43 per cent by 2030 is not enough. Scientists like former Chief Scientist Professor Penny Sackett and eminent climate professor David Karoly are unequivocal. According to Professor Karoly, the emissions reduction target is too weak to represent Australia's fair share of global emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. I'd like to thank the many eminent Canberrans who have been pushing for action: Professor Frank Jotzo, Professor Mark Howden, Professor Will Steffen, Professor Nerilie Abram, Professor Colin Butler, Dr Arnagretta Hunter and many others.

We clearly have a moral obligation to act on climate change. As a wealthy country, doing the bare minimum does not cut it. We can and should be going harder and leading the world. We stand to lose so much from inaction: the incredible Great Barrier Reef, many of our beaches, heat-sensitive species like the greater glider, and an uninterrupted summer of cricket, to name just a few. Yet we stand to gain so much from bold climate action. We can build a better future—a livable future—and an economy for the future. We can protect and conserve so much of what makes this nation great.

Unfortunately, the new Labor government have been explicit that 43 per cent is as high as they are willing to go. While I would like to see more ambition, climate scientists would like to see my mission and I think millions of Australians would like to see more ambition, 43 per cent is certainly an improvement on where we were 12 months ago. Legislating a target is a significant step forward. This target will provide certainty to encourage the large-scale investment that will be needed in the transition to renewable energy. This is a development the community supports. After more than a decade of climate wars, we need to get some gains and move from the 'what' to the 'how'. Perfect should not be the enemy of the good. So, if the government is unwilling to be more ambitious, I support the legislated targets.

Outside of the targets, I call on the government to support my amendments to improve the accountability and transparency mechanisms within this bill. The bill has three primary accountability and transparency mechanisms: first, the annual statement on climate change from the minister; second, publicly available advice from the Climate Change Authority on that statement; and, third, publicly available advice from the Climate Change Authority on updated emissions reduction targets. Each of those mechanisms should be strengthened, and I will move amendments to do just that.

Accountability and transparency on climate action is so important, particularly in the context of Australian climate policy. We don't have a carbon price. We don't have a cap-and-trade system. We have a set of overlapping and complex policies that provide a mesh of incentives and penalties. All of this complexity makes inaction and damage easy to hide, or to dress up as action, as we have seen in the past. Without accountability and transparency, it will be hard to identify and measure the impact and effectiveness of policies. Without transparency, we are putting our climate and our future behind an opaque window.

Beside that window, while we debate this 43 per cent in both the lower house and Senate, another government minister is spruiking the opening of 46,000 square kilometres of new offshore oil and gas exploration; fossil fuel subsidies remain, at the same time we are seeing fossil fuel companies making extraordinary profits; and, at the same time, we are hearing that the cost of actually helping everyday Australians is too much for the government to consider. We have seen climate wrecking projects like Beetaloo and Scarborough stay in the pipeline. Thousands of carbon credits with questionable integrity continue to be issued. This attitude of 'just trust us; we'll get there' is not good enough and Australians are demanding better.

I believe we should know what impact federal budget measures will have on our emissions reduction targets. We should know how much of the targets are to be achieved by different sectors of the economy. We should know how developments in climate science are influencing climate policies and targets. If science is not being followed, we should be told why not. Science is referred to just once in this bill. By contrast, it appears seven times in the UK equivalent. We should know whether Australia's emissions reduction targets represent our fair share of the reductions needed and, if they don't, why they don't.

We don't have to look far to see our Pacific Islands neighbours crying out for climate action. For many of them this is an existential threat. They risk losing their homes and they are crying out for more action but also leadership from their neighbours. Australia has a moral obligation to act on climate change. We are, relatively speaking, an extraordinarily wealthy country. With that comes responsibility to lead—not just do the bare minimum, as we are seeing in this bill, but actually step it up. So, while this is an important symbolic move, getting back to the table, let's not pat ourselves on the back too much about this bill. It's a first step. There's so much more to be done.

With climate policy, everything has to be looked at through the lens of integrity, because a target without integrity is just a number. It's not going to matter, and future generations will judge us harshly for our inaction and for some of the ridiculous arguments that we've used to avoid acting on what is the biggest challenge humans have ever faced. We have to act. We have to act decisively. I support this bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues here in the Senate to ensure that this is just the first step not only in ending the climate wars but in winning them and going from being, when it comes to climate action, an embarrassing laggard who turns up to international summits to talk about climate action, spruiks gas companies and tries to water down agreements.

Countries that have hardly contributed at all to climate change are paying a massive price. When you turn on the television, you can watch what's happening in Pakistan. You see some of the famines happening in Africa. We know the awful consequences, not only to human life but to ecosystems around the world, with unchecked climate change. We're starting to get a glimpse.

What happens next is up to us. We can act decisively. We can be part of actually building a better future together. We can lead in the global community. We've heard concerns raised by Senator Canavan about what countries like China are doing. We should be out there demanding more action from the international community. It's clear that developed countries need to lead this. It's a huge opportunity for us here in Australia, in terms not only of our economy—building an economy for the future and unlocking energy savings for households—and having a cleaner environment in our cities but also of then being part of exporting that intellectual property and those ideas around the world as everyone has this transition. It's happening. It's going to happen whether we like it or not. The speed at which it happens is up to us. What an incredible opportunity to be part of! We stand here as one of the first generations to know the scope of this issue, this problem, and one of the last to actually be able to act.

10:17 am

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's been a long nine years in energy policy in this country, with many policies from the former coalition government failing to stabilise our energy market, lower energy prices, address climate change or invest in renewable energy jobs. What Australia really needed was an energy target. The National Party wouldn't let the Liberal Party set one. What Australia needed was courage and leadership, but we were left bereft of both. 'Let chaos reign in energy policy,' was the former government's mantra. There was no substantive policy or mechanism to get our country on track in this space.

At the May election, Australians were rightly tired of sideshows and slogans from the former government. They were tired of delay. They were tired of lack of action. The people of Australia were heard loud and clear. They threw the former government out of this place and the other place because it did not represent their communities when it came to energy and climate change policy. They threw out the sceptics, the deniers and the enablers of delay on climate policy. Our country's mission has always been to lead, not to follow in the wake of other countries. Investing in a renewable future is a move away from the old adage of the Liberals and Nationals, who are the great believers in denial. It is a move away from almost total reliance on fossil fuels.

We've seen over the last decade the power of our climate—fires, floods, cyclones and droughts. These are deadly acts of nature which have the power to break families and cripple them into uncertainty. Climate change may be the world's most significant hurdle to leap over, but it is in fact Australia's biggest economic opportunity. We must grasp that opportunity with both hands. We are one of the most successful social democratic countries in the world because we have risen to the occasion time and time again to overcome adversity. When regional Australia is struggling with drought or flood, our cities respond. We are one country regardless of where you live, and climate change at its worst will affect us all. When climate events strike, they not only damage our natural environment; they can displace individuals and families. They can have catastrophic effects on the price of goods. Food shortages push prices up, and we have witnessed this in supermarkets across the country as the cost of living increases.

We invest, we innovate, and we collaborate for positive change, and that is how the Albanese Government has been approaching energy policy in this country during the 47th Parliament. We know Australians are amongst some of the best innovators in the world. Professor Martin Green and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales invented the modern efficient solar panel as we know it. That is the Australian way. It is innovation and collaboration, not delay and division. That is what we must celebrate, and when we celebrate innovation and invest in it we move our country forward. Investing in innovation means supporting ARENA, the CEFC, the CSIRO and our universities to do what they do best.

An Albanese Labor government is committed to progress on all fronts where our energy policy priorities are concerned. We must embrace technology and learn from global initiatives in the private and public sectors. We must understand the opportunities that science and renewable energy provide for our country and provide for rural Australia in particular. Our country has the space for renewable energy. Solar farms are possible on a large scale. We have the space and skills to make energy cleaner and cheaper. With the correct framework of investment, with a government that takes full advantage of the opportunities, we can make and export energy well into the future. We must back the private sector—companies like LINE Hydrogen and Firmus Tasmania, who are leaders in the energy and storage space.

In my own state of Tasmania, during the federal election campaign Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen and the Labor team announced $70 million in funding to start the production of hydrogen at Bell Bay in northern Tasmania, supporting local jobs and renewable energy. Labor also announced $5 million to ensure LINE Hydrogen will invest in green hydrogen production and co-locate with solar farms to replace diesel Tasmanian trucks and buses. The first stage of the project is set to include hydrogen production and up to 30 trucks and buses will be leased to industry partners. Over time, LINE could also build at least five hydrogen refuelling stations across Tasmania. The project will create 215 direct and downstream jobs: 135 direct jobs and 80 downstream jobs.

I am so proud of these commitments and will be working hard with Minister Bowen and Prime Minister Albanese to secure a renewable future in Tasmania and right across the country. Only today, it was reported in the Examiner that Countrywide Hydrogen has signed an agreement with a German company Wirsol to pursue solar to hydrogen opportunities together in Australia. We once again see Tasmania leading in renewables and leading in the energy market.

The Australian people deserve so much more than a government that has tried to abolish the Renewable Energy Target at every opportunity. We heard the contribution this morning from Senator Canavan. This is why, in the first weeks of the Albanese Labor government, we committed to reduce emissions in this country by 43 per cent by 2030. This is what courage and leadership looks like: ending the climate wars and looking to a more hopeful and promising future. The Australian government has been left behind for too long while the private sector in this country has been leading the way on a renewable energy future. The Business Council of Australia knows that the Australian government must build a framework that the private sector can follow. This will allow business to invest in new technology, and they can do that without an emission target.

The global momentum for renewables due to decarbonisation is now unstoppable. Governments, markets and communities must work together to this end. This is what this bill will achieve. This bill will put Australia on track for net zero by 2050. No ifs and buts; it will happen. Our Powering Australia plan, which we took to the election, will deliver 604,000 jobs across the country and bring on 82 per cent renewables by 2030. While legislation is not essential to deliver Powering Australia, the Albanese government regards enshrining our national, determined contribution in law as best practice. This bill will proudly bring Australia into line with countries, such as France, Denmark and Spain, which have legislated net zero targets by 2050. Countries such as Canada have also legislated their 2030 targets.

Importantly, the bill will restore transparency and accountability on government action on climate change and confirm the important role of independent expert advice. I note that periodic, independent reviews of the operations of the bill will ensure legislation remains fit for purpose, as the international response to climate change evolves and Australia proceeds towards net zero. The bill will also ensure our commitments under the Paris Agreement of holding the increase in global temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius above preindustrial levels are reflected in the objects of this bill.

Australia cannot lead the world in a clean energy future. The opportunities of renewable energy and renewable jobs are boundless. We live in one of the most extraordinary natural environments that can harshness the energy production of the sun, water and wind. I know too well, from my lived experience in Tasmania, that 100 per cent renewables is possible. Our energy mix in Australia must change, and the time for delay is well and truly over.

We took to the election a 43 per cent target. That is what the Australian people voted for. This place needs to support Labor in government getting on with our better future plan. We will deliver for the Australian people. I commend this bill, and I encourage my Senate colleagues to vote in support of the future.

10:27 am

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Without a doubt, the transition to net zero is inevitable; however, this legislation, the Climate Change Bill 2022 and related bill, is unnecessary and unachievable. The world is moving towards producing carbon neutral energy, and this is a good thing. The globe will at some point in time reach net zero, and I would say ideally sooner rather than later. However, given at the Paris accords rules, Australia already cannot walk back our NDC for 2030, even if anyone actually wanted to, and the government knows this. So the bill before us today is a redundant piece of legislation.

On top of that, with the solutions we have today, according to some of the best scientific minds, the target of 43 per cent today is not achievable. The mechanisms to achieve this will cost the taxpayers billions, and the government have not shown us how this will be achieved. Australians understand that the sooner you want something built the more it costs. Lowering emissions is not just a slogan but also a massive, integrated effort encompassing the entire economy that needs to be built. The Labor government would like to say that they are ambitions with their emissions reduction target of 43 per cent. This bill before us today reflects their decision to lock Australia into this commitment.

Personally, I am more ambitious than those opposite as to what I would like to see our emissions reduction target be. However, I am not blind to reality, unlike those opposite. I believe we need to be as pragmatic as we are ambitious. The Paris accord allows us to update our targets when we know we can meet them, and I believe that this is the approach Australia must take. Yes, I too believe that renewables are part of the future, but while planning for the future we must also concern ourselves with the present. It does no good to small-business owners, Australian manufacturers, the elderly and those struggling to keep the lights on if all we have is a plan to increase renewable energy in the future but no plan for how we're going to keep the lights on today at an affordable price.

Let us not forget that, when Labor first announced, in December 2021, their plan to legislate a 2030 target, the now Prime Minister stated, 'Labor's plan is to create jobs, cut power bills and reduce emissions.' He pitched to the Australian people not one but two targets backed by:

… the most comprehensive modelling ever done for any policy by any opposition in Australia's history since Federation.

Prime Minister Albanese said that their policies:

… will see electricity prices fall from the current level by $275 for households by 2025, at the end of our first term if we are successful.

We've now seen the government already walk back on that promise, not at the end of their first term but after 110 days or thereabouts. In fact, those opposite have been so fearful about the promise to reduce power bills by $275 that they won't even utter those numbers anymore, because while those opposite sat in opposition they had the ability to grandstand and talk about emissions reduction without giving a single thought to energy supply.

However, those with any sense know that you cannot talk about emissions reduction without also talking about supply of reliable energy. These two factors are intrinsically linked. It's called physics. As stated by the International Energy Agency, 'The world is experiencing the first truly global energy crisis in history.' Yes, in large part this is because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I'll have more to say on that later today. However, it highlights what should be a bleedingly obvious point: there are and always will be unexpected outcomes and events. If the last three years have taught us anything, it is that we really do not know what the future holds and that we can only be prepared for the future by ensuring we are protected against a whole range of scenarios. This means ensuring we have a secure, reliable supply of energy. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has highlighted how running into this transition with your eyes closed will only end in tragedy.

The country of Germany stands as a stark reminder of this. It has spent more than US$743 billion transitioning its electricity system, boosting wind and solar to more than 45 per cent of generation since 2000. And, as we have heard during Environment and Communications Legislation Committee hearings since this bill was introduced, even after spending all this money on renewable energy, they are struggling to get to the target of producing energy below 300 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. In fact, Germany now has Europe's most expensive retail power and cannot function without imported Russian gas.

In June, Germany announced it would be restarting some of its coal plants due to the shortages of gas due to the Ukrainian war. What is more surprising is that this announcement came from the German Green Party's finance minister. However, it should not be a surprise that, when faced with complete and utter economic failure due to the inability to create power, even the greens in Germany seem to make some sense. Mind you, the German greens have a far better hold on reality when it comes to national security than those opposite.

JP Morgan's 2022annual energy paper explicitly states:

… countries that reduce production of fossil fuels under the assumption that renewables can quickly replace them face substantial economic and geopolitical risks—

as Europe currently shows us. If the energy transition is to succeed, we cannot disconnect the generation methods we currently have before we have a replacement for them. Europe severely miscalculated, and they are now paying the price for it, with a likely recession, a lower rate of growth, a decline in competitiveness of exported energy-intensive goods, higher food prices and domestic political tensions.

I'd like to remind everyone that anyone who starts talking about renewables without first talking about firming does not know what they are talking about. And if they start talking about batteries as the answer to firming, then they doubly do not know what they are talking about. We've heard those in Labor and the Greens say that the solution to firming is batteries. Currently, batteries are not actually fit for grid-scale storage to address our emissions reduction and are unlikely to be before 2030. The outlook on when or if these will ever be available is uncertain. However, Australia is a key producer of critical minerals for batteries, and I do believe we can play an important role in processing those minerals, the manufacturing of batteries and the exportation of those batteries.

The Labor Party are correct when they state that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, but they're only correct in very small part. Again, as JP Morgan's energy paper stated, putting more renewable energy on the grid will not guarantee lower prices, because energy prices rest on an average cost of generation, not just the actual cost of a power source that can deliver energy on a continuous basis unsupported. As AEMO's 2022 Integrated System Plan states, we need to treble the firming capacity from dispatchable storage, including pumped hydro and gas fired generation, to firm renewables that are coming onto the grid. As I've said before, we do not have batteries on the grid to firm the power supply as it is.

Labor's policy to fund 400 community batteries of about the size of 500 kilowatt hours is simply inadequate and does not constitute a virtual power plant, or VPP. CSIRO data found that Victorian households use an average of 22 kilowatt hours between sunset and sunrise each night in winter. In this situation, a 500-kilowatt-hour battery could provide sufficient overnight power for only 23 households. This is the equivalent of needing one on every street, not in each suburb, as Labor plans. Assuming a nightly load of 22 kilowatt hours, it would take over 80,000 batteries to meet the power consumption needs of Melbourne's 1.8 million households. Even if the 400 proposed batteries were all built in Victoria, they would only meet 0.5 per cent of the city's winter night-time demand.

On the other hand, Snowy 2.0 has a capacity of 350 million kilowatt hours, with a capacity to meet Melbourne's nightly demand for over a week. Labor suggest that they can source batteries at $500,000 each, which equates to $1,000 per kilowatt hour. The Snowy 2.0, costing $4.5 billion for the 350 megawatt hours, comes out to only 12.9c per kilowatt hour. It's far more sensible, I would suggest.

There are currently viable firming technologies, such as hydro and gas—which we invested in when we were in government—as well as viable future technologies, such as green hydrogen and CCS. Furthermore, a clean and reliable source of firming our grid is through nuclear technology, which is established in over 30 countries and produces electricity with very, very low carbon emissions.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy's calling nuclear energy the 'slowest' and 'most expensive' form of alternate energy is simply wrong. As we heard in the Senate hearings into this bill, the CSIRO is quoting costs for large third-generation nuclear power plants—which have a high variability in cost in the first place—not the small modular reactors that are currently being built in other countries. So we could look to them as the alternative, not the old, big, third-generation plants. While it is true that the costs of technologies such as wind and solar are lower when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, when you add in the cost of transmission lines and storage, backup or other firming methods, the levelised cost is actually much higher, and evidence of that was given to the committee and shows that the cost of the renewable system is about 80 per cent higher than if we use nuclear. We only have to look at France, with about 65 to 70 per cent of its electricity generated from nuclear. Their carbon footprint is less than 50 grams per kilowatt hour, compared to Germany, who are struggling to produce energy below 300 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

If energy transition is to succeed, we have to build firming sources like the Snowy Corporation is with 2.0 and Kurri Kurri or we have to keep coal-fired generation and other gas generation until the end of its natural life or fix the ones that are broken. It also means that we have to release more of our natural gas resources and invest in things such as blue and green hydrogen. The ACCC gas inquiry report specifically states that, to address the projected shortfall of gas in 2023 as per the AEMO GSOO, significant additional volumes of gas will need to be produced. I don't see how the government can stick to their promise of reducing power bills if they do not specifically support the additional production of gas, particularly in my home state of Victoria. This lack of support is hurting Australians already, with the report highlighting that users are now receiving offers at higher prices with less flexibility.

As I said at the start of my speech, I want to see the world transition and move to net zero as quickly as possible. However, as nations such as Germany are finding out, rushing in with your arms wide open and your eyes closed shut will only lead to pain, insecurity, instability and higher power prices. The government must start talking about how they are going to address these issues before they hurt Australians even more, as this bill will.

10:42 am

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

It was during my second week here as a senator, in July 2014, that the Abbott government scrapped the price on carbon and began the long years of federal government inaction on climate that Australia suffered through until the election in May this year. It has been such a long eight years. My actual first speech in this place, the 'This is not my first speech' first speech, was to speak to the bill that scrapped the price on carbon, and I talked about the science of the impacts of climate change:

… overall increasing global temperatures, increasing climate variability, increasing rainfall variability, increasing extreme weather events, increasing sea surface temperatures, sea level rise, increasing acidification of our oceans, and the melting of glaciers and the ice caps.

Eight years on this is our reality. I talked about the costs of climate change, particularly the cost of bushfires:

… their increased frequency and severity, and their increased spread across the country and across the year, beginning earlier and continuing later. Think of the likely loss of life that will occur, and the personal losses, the personal costs, and the public costs of dealing with increased bushfires. Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009 cost the community more than $4 billion … and this does not include the health and social costs and the flow-on costs to business.

Yes, think about that in the context of our Black Summer fires that we experienced over the summer of 2019-20, where the cost to agriculture alone was $5 billion and the estimate of the cost to restore the bushland which was lost is a staggering $73 billion a year for 30 years. I talked in that speech about the impact on people:

I spoke this week to a young woman whose family has a vineyard in South Australia. Her father is despairing. He does not have any superannuation. His whole wealth is based on his vineyard. He can see the value of his vineyard evaporating before his eyes, every year, when the quality of his grape crop crashes because of extreme summer heat or when it is affected by smoke taint from bushfires occurring where bushfires just have not occurred before. She is advising him to sell up now, before it is worth absolutely nothing. He is reluctant, but he is depressed and despairing. This is the cost of climate change.

Eight years on, I wonder how this young woman and her father are getting on, so you can imagine, after eight long years, how relieved I am to be speaking to a bill to set a target to reduce our carbon pollution and to have hope that this will be the government that begins to take the climate crisis seriously.

You will note, however, I am still talking in the future tense and I am only talking of hope, not optimism, because this bill is just a beginning. It is just a first step. Let me quote a scientific analysis of what a 43 per cent emissions reduction target means, written by IPCC lead author Bill Hare from Climate Analytics:

The ALP's 2030 target of a 43% emissions reduction is consistent with 2˚C of warming globally. Under this level of warming, if sustained, the Great Barrier Reef would very likely be destroyed, along with all other tropical reefs in Australia and elsewhere. At the global level the most extreme heat events could be about three times more frequent than in recent decades, and in Australia the highest maximum temperatures about 1.7˚C hotter. In other words, an intense heat event that might have occurred once in a decade in recent decades could occur about every three years and would be significantly hotter.

We need more ambition than that. This is not a safe climate. Surely we can do better than to count the death of the Great Barrier Reef on our watch.

We are seeing, we are feeling, we are being devastated by the impacts of 1.1 degrees of warming now. We see more than 1,300 people dead in Pakistan in recent weeks, with over a third of their country underwater by an intense monsoon and melting glaciers—millions of people without food and homes. We had our own floods in Brisbane and northern New South Wales, where the reality of needing to rehome people away from high-flood-risk areas is only now hitting home, and massive wildfires across Europe and North America, following record heat in recent months. Of course, we had our own Black Summer, when two billion animals were killed. We have First Nations lands and people suffering from increased temperatures, degradation and destruction of cultural heritage and natural resources such as plants, grasses, timber and clean running water, which provide a basis for First Nations people to practise culture.

Before 2002 there was just one megafire year in Australian records, in 1939. Since 2001 there have been three megafire years, when more than one million hectares of land has been burnt, including ancient Gondwana rainforests in Tasmania and Queensland which are just not adapted for fire. This is with 1.1 degrees of heating. Labor policy—what is in this bill, a 43 per cent target and continuing and expanding the mining, the burning and the export of coal and gas—has us headed for two degrees or more. As I said in my actual first speech:

We have a duty of care to people and nature suffering and under threat from global warming. We do not have the right to turn a blind eye to the consequences of our dirty economy.

I said:

My agenda for my time here is clear. I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them that it was during my time in the Senate that Australia turned the corner and legislated to begin the shift to a zero-carbon safe climate economy.

And I had a few suggestions for what needed to happen to get us on our way: to set pollution reduction targets based on science; to stop subsidising fossil fuels; to create more jobs by boosting clean energy production and energy conservation; to start closing coal-fired power stations; to say no to new coal and gas; and to make the big polluters pay for the damage they are doing.

Obviously, the climate denialism of the Abbot-Turnbull-Morrison government over the last eight years means there has not been a lot of progress made on this agenda. The big progress—obviously, despite the government—has been how much of an increase in clean energy production there has actually been over the last eight years. The potential of renewable energy production in Australia is only just kicking off. It is massive. So, yes, we actually have been able to start closing coal-fired power stations, and more closures are on the cards. We need a plan, though, and a commitment for a just transition, managed by a transition authority so that workers and communities don't get shafted in the process. But the rest of the agenda that I set out? Fail. And is Labor planning to address it in this term of government? No—fail again. We have not yet turned the corner. I cannot yet look any grandchildren-to-be in the eye. Do we have pollution reduction targets based on science? No. The science says we need a 75 per cent reduction in our carbon pollution by 2030 if we're going to keep below 1.5 degrees of warming and even more to reach zero carbon that would actually achieve a safe climate. We haven't got a safe climate now. There is no carbon budget left. We need to be reducing our carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

Fossil fuel subsidies are still continuing—billions and billions of dollars that could be spent on encouraging clean energy production instead subsidising the mining and use of coal, gas and oil. And making the big polluters pay? Nope. That could be done through a price on carbon, such as was scrapped by Tony Abbott. And of course the big, lumbering, polluting elephant in the room is the new coal and gas: the Mount Pleasant coalmine expansion that's currently before the minister; the Beetaloo Basin fracking, which will be a carbon bomb, bigger than the Adani coalmine; Scarborough gas; the 114 new proposed coal and gas projects. Any government that was serious about addressing the climate crisis would have said an immediate no to these new projects upon taking office. At the very least, they need to commit to a climate trigger in our environment laws so that the damage these projects are going to do to our global climate is at least assessed.

There's a final really incredibly important issue that I talked about in my first speech eight years ago and that I have championed ever since in this place and that is crucially relevant to the bill before us today, and that is protecting our forests—getting timber and woodchips from plantations, not native forests, and not burning forests in furnaces for energy. Now is the time to do this. The Senate committee that inquired into this bill heard stark evidence of how the burning of wood from native forests for energy can in no way be considered renewable. In fact, burning native forest wood for energy actually emits more carbon than burning coal. So I'm pleased that the Senate committee recommended reviewing the renewable energy status of wood from native forests and that the government has agreed to this recommendation.

Labor rejected classifying the burning of wood from native forests as renewable energy in 2011 and 2015, so I recommend that they dust off their thinking from then and make this change as a critical part of protecting our forests. If they need any further prompting as to the importance of protecting our forests and the link with acting on climate, they should have a read of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in their sixth assessment report, released earlier this year, in which they said that the protection, improved management and restoration of forests and other ecosystems have the largest potential to reduce emissions and/or sequester carbon and that safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilience development.

Our forests need to be protected for their own sake. They need to be protected because of the role they play in soaking and storing up carbon. They need to be protected as the traditional lands of our First Nations people, for their totems and songlines and for water for wildlife, and for their beauty—rather than burnt in forest furnaces for fake renewable energy under scam systems that undermine the integrity of real renewables.

In summary, this legislation is a start; it's a beginning. But so much more needs to be done. I urge the government to work with us Greens to do the real work that's required for Australia to be playing our part in tackling the climate crisis.

10:54 am

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am delighted to be in the chamber rising to speak in support of this climate change legislation. Finally, after a decade of inaction on climate change and energy policy, this chamber has an opportunity to start the work required to end the climate wars, to take serious and urgent action to address the crisis of climate change.

At the May election, the Australian people voted resoundingly in favour of action on climate change, and our government promised we would take it. We would do the work required to lower emissions while continuing to invest in communities, create jobs, improve energy security and make Australia a global leader on climate action instead of an embarrassment. Before us today is the bill that gets this work under way. After a decade of denials, delays and chaos on renewables and energy, our bill, this bill before us, this Labor bill, finally gives business, industry, energy investors and our wider community the certainty it so desperately needs.

Through its 2030 target of 43 per cent, this bill puts Australia on track to meet net zero by 2050. But let's be clear: this is a minimum aspiration, not a cap on our aspiration. Together we can deliver better across our economy. Without this certainty we will continue to miss the opportunities and economic benefits of the energy transformation before us. This bill is simple yet powerful, and I am proud of it. After serving for three years in this place, watching those on the other side squib and squander the opportunities of renewable energies before us and duck their heads as the climate catastrophe unfolding around us, we have this opportunity to act now.

It has been clear and indisputable that climate change poses an existential threat to Australia and the world. We have been in a climate crisis. With each passing year we see its dramatic impacts unfolding before our eyes. The CSIRO reports that consistent increases of temperatures in Australia, exacerbated by climate change, will lead to regular extreme heat events and increasingly severe drought conditions. We know climate change also exacerbates extreme weather events in Australia, causing more frequent and severe natural disasters, with the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements finding that the bushfires and flooding which have decimated our country over recent years will increase in frequency and intensity as conditions worsen.

The people in my home state of South Australia know the dangers of these worsening disasters all too well. In the summer bushfires of 2019 and 2020, we watched parts of our state burn. We saw the loss of lives, the loss of livelihoods, the loss of wildlife—lives lost in those fires, not just in our state but right across the country. We saw the unprecedented loss of wildlife at a scale which was just heartbreaking for everyone in our country. We know for our river, the lifeblood of my state, climate change places conditions under further stress and threatens the water supply which is so vital to our future. We are living through a climate emergency and we must act. This bill is an opportunity to do so.

In my first speech to the Senate I spoke about the importance of placing intergenerational fairness at the heart of the decisions we take in this place to leave our children a better world than the one we inherited. I spoke about how, for the first time in modern history, we weren't set to deliver that. This is one of the ways we do. Our parliament's failure to act consistently and effectively on climate change is a key way in which we are failing out younger Australians, because although Australians are already feeling the impact of climate change, we know it is young Australians who are set to feel it disproportionately and to pay higher costs for longer. If we don't act, we leave them with a disaster. We leave our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren with a catastrophe environmentally, socially and economically.

If we do not seize the opportunities which come from acting on climate change—the economic opportunities which will lead to better and greater jobs—we will betray these young South Australians, these young Australians, these generations to come. How can we in good conscience stand in this place and decide to ignore their future? We know this future is competing at a global scale; other countries are acting, other countries are skilling their workforces and preparing their economies to deal with this challenge, to reap the rewards of the opportunities presented in these new industries. If we don't do that, that is a huge betrayal of our young people.

Of course, we cannot ignore the vulnerable populations across our globe who also feel this pain, this hardship, gravely and disproportionately to other places in the world. It's about being globally responsible. It's about being good global citizens in a world which is ever connected.

This is good environmental policy. It's good social policy. It's brilliant economic policy. And thank God it is a policy, after a decade of nothing. It has been a decade of wasted time, of wasted opportunities, of failing to provide that leadership and that indicator to the market of where to invest, of failing to do the things—the bare minimum things—we know we need to do to address this crisis and this catastrophe. These bills, the Climate Change Bill 2022 and Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022, give us, this parliament, an opportunity to end these stupid climate wars, to come out and be part of a global community that is taking action and to take the action which our business community expects of us, which our community expects of us and which our young people expect of us.

We are committed to ending these wars, and the other side of this chamber has an opportunity today to do so too. It has an opportunity to accept the mandate, to put that rubbish of the past decade behind us, to come together as a chamber, to act like grown-ups, to be responsible to the young people in our community and to be responsible to our environment and to our economy. It has that opportunity in this moment to give industry, businesses and our communities the security and the policy certainty that they are crying out for. That's what this legislation does. It provides some leadership from the federal government, which has been so lacking over the last decade and the lack of which is costing us environmentally, economically and socially.

After a decade of failing our nation on climate, supporting this legislation is the least that they could do. So I urge everyone in this chamber to take this moment, put the embarrassment of the years that came before behind us and show the Australian community that we're grown-ups, that we get the catastrophe that's before us, that we will take action together and that we heard the mandate that they gave us at the election. It is what they have been calling for, because they're smart. They see what's before us. They see the risks of inaction.

This is our opportunity as a chamber to do better by them, and it's our opportunity to correct one of the fundamental ways in which we are denying the next generation of Australians a better and fairer future. I absolutely commend these bills to the chamber.

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Smith. I'm going to come to you, Senator McDonald, because there are no others. The others are missing in action.

11:02 am

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm delighted to rise to speak on these bills, the Climate Change Bill 2022 and Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022, which truly must be one of the most poorly considered legislative positions taken in recent times, not because of its intention to reduce emissions—I think we all understand that we were on a pathway to emissions reductions under the previous government, and that will continue—but it is the speed of this legislation and the impact it will have on the very most vulnerable in our communities: families and regional people. Right across Australia, there will be an impact on investment and others.

I rise to fly the flag for people facing the terrible prospect of cutting their food budgets and power use thanks to this rushed and ill-considered push for legally enforceable emissions reductions. The energy minister, Minister Bowen, has already made the point that legislation was not required. Immediately upon forming government, the new government went to the UN and made the new emissions target. Yet we have charged ahead with legislation that is going to open the door to greater activist situations and lawfare, which will pull up projects that are critical to investment in and the development of this nation.

Legislating emissions reduction targets is the hallmark of a government that doesn't trust its people. It reeks of a way of going about governance which sees high targets being set and people then being penalised, instead of innovation and technical change being incentivised, which was the pathway we were on before. I am nervous, particularly for the resources sector, a sector that we rely on for the great royalties and tax income. The money pays for us to have high environmental standards that allow us to see more women and Indigenous people going into mining companies in well-paid, purposeful medical jobs. These are all things that are now threatened by this headlong rush into emissions reductions within too short a time frame.

I have been speaking to resources companies right across Australia, who are telling me that, particularly following AEMO's report last week, South Australia will be looking at further blackouts, that Victoria and New South Wales will suffer under the same going forward over the next two years. But we already know we do not have suitable energy generation in this country. We know the investment in transmission lines that is required to bring online more renewable power but we also know that we don't have the capacity to mine the critical minerals and rare earths that are required to build solar panels and wind farms within the time frame that this legislation is outlining. We actually can't do it. So mining and resources companies who have to make the decision about investments, multibillion-dollar investments over the longer term, are now looking at Queensland in particular but Australia more broadly and saying, 'Is this the place that we can trust to invest our dollars?' And there is a big question mark over that.

We compete in the world. The Fraser Institute confidence survey that is done every year has seen Queensland specifically slip from 12th down to 18th for investor confidence, and has seen the understanding of regulation and confidence in the state slip from third to 19th. These are appalling statistics. Western Australia, I am pleased to say, still sits at first. But already these companies are looking at the slowness of approvals, the subjective nature of approvals, and now they have had to add one more element: whether or not there is going to be adequate supply of power to run their projects. We know that they are now having to run the ruler over Australia as a destination and compare it to places like Canada, which has invested in pumped hydro and doesn't have the emissions reductions that are in line with some of the power generation in this country, so they will be considering investing in Canada, in South America, in the US, in South Africa. These are all places that are competing with Australia for investment dollars.

Investment dollars in Australia do a range of things. It isn't just the introduction of royalties. It isn't just the introduction of company taxes. It is also the personal PAYG taxes that are paid by those people employed by mining companies. It is not just miners and engineers; it is the chefs in the camps, the people right across the industry, who are receiving at least double the average salary in that sector than the average wage in this country, and they won't be replaced. They won't be replaced by any other industry that we are considering. These companies train our young people. They give them careers, well-paid careers but in innovation and technology that we can then export around the world. Whether it is mine rehabilitation, environmental scientists or engineers, Australia leads the way in a range of sectors that are associated with our resources industry. We should be proud of that. We should be proud of that and encouraging that, and doing everything we can to ensure those investment dollars come to this nation, rather than go to another jurisdiction.

When we consider the tax income, we think about big companies. We think about the big industry leaders who invest in this nation but we also have to remember the juniors, the explorers, the drillers. When you consider every project that talks about hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in investments, those dollars are spent on Australian based businesses who carry out the infrastructure. Whether it is building a new rail line or whether it is building roads, camps, supplying the food, the tyres, these are all spent all spent on Australian businesses who then in turn pay their own tax, employ their own employees. The depth of the impact that this ill-thought-through and rushed out legislation will have on such a critically important part of our economy and our nation, I think, is terrifying. We should do well to consider what it is that we are proposing.

In the dissenting report that was tabled by the coalition about this legislation we looked sincerely at the idea of how we can review the impact of the legislation. We would like the Productivity Commission, as the most logical, well-resourced and most focused group, to review the impact of this legislation as it would play out in Australia. It needs to be regular—at least five-yearly—and it needs particularly to understand the impact on regional Australia, which of course, is where most of these resource activities happen. It needs to understand the impact on energy generation. We have not talked at all about the requirement for new transmission lines to allow renewable projects to be hooked up to the grid. That requires new transmission lines. It requires more copper than we are currently mining, yet we are not seeing new copper projects being brought online in a speedy and fast manner. In fact, we heard from the Japanese ambassador several weeks ago and, more recently, last night at a Minerals Week function where he gave a speech which clearly outlined the undermining of confidence that Japanese companies, amongst others, now have and their uncertainty about continuing to invest in Australia, not just in coal but also in copper, hydrogen and rare earths. These are all critical investment decisions.

Australia is a relatively small country, with its 24 million people. We do not have the investment dollars to build some of these projects ourselves. We rely on being a destination for investment dollars. I am worried about what this means for Australia not next year and not even in three years time but for the Australia of 2030, the Australia of 2040 and the Australia that my grandchildren will live in. We hear a lot about emissions reduction being the most critical thing we can do. We had a plan. We had an effective plan to be able to use technology and not taxes, to use innovation and the very smart people that we have working in this country to slowly, methodically and in an organised manner reduce emissions in this country. Instead, we are driving out investment dollars. We are driving out our resources sector. We are smashing the regional parts of our country.

I am worried that we will slip back to being a very basic economy, one like that we used to have in years gone by when we didn't enjoy the high salaries and the high quality of life. We in this country are blessed that we have a quality of life and a standard of education and of healthcare services—even with our limited skills and workforce at the moment we still have childcare systems—that are all something that we can be incredibly proud of. We do it in a way that is to the world's highest standards environmentally, and also to make money. It is not a dirty word for companies to be able to make money and to be able to make investment decisions this country. Where are our trucks going to come from? How are our drivers going to be able to get a return on their investment if they're not driving materials around Western Australia and Queensland and into northern Australia. Where are we going to get the resources and the companies that are paying for these services?

Young people want to engage. They want a future. They want it to be safe. They want to work in an industry where workplace safety is important. They want to work in an industry where environmental outcomes are important. They want to be paid for it. They want to be able to pay off their home. They want to be able to buy a new car. They want to be able to afford to train themselves, their family and their kids to have a better lifestyle than the one we have today.

I sincerely worry that this rush to legislation, this rush to these emissions reductions targets is not going to end up in the best outcome for Australia, much less for the world as a whole. We have some of the highest standards of coal, both metallurgical and thermal, in the world. But if you believe the rhetoric we would stop mining our highest quality resources and push those offshore to companies and countries that don't have the same standards we have, that don't have the high grade of minerals and coal that we have. So whilst Australia might have reduced its emissions, the rest of the world won't have. Surely that is not the outcome that we seek to pursue as a nation. We have a responsibility, both in this Senate and in the other place, to be making decisions that are good for this country, that are good for our young people, that enable everybody to be secure and confident, and, as I stated, that are not forcing people to make the decision about whether or not to buy food or to turn on the electricity.

These are very, very serious discussions we are having, and I'm concerned that the practical nature of our nation and of the industries that we rely on are being lost. They're being lost in a really lovely statement: we've got to do more for the environment; we've got to do more for the world. Nobody disagrees with living in a cleaner, well-managed planet and nation. But what we do have to seriously understand is that we live in a very competitive world. We compete every day, as a nation, for investment dollars, for our young people to stay in this country and work, and for the high quality of life that we have come to enjoy on the basis of the development of resources and agriculture in this land. This legislation is looking at this and it will see this come to an end, and there is no replacement. There is no alternative to mining, to agricultural production for food security for Australia and for our near neighbours.

I cannot support this legislation. I would hope that the government would, at the bare minimum, consider passing an amendment that would see the Productivity Commission review the legislation and its impact on our nation, that it would do it regularly and that it allows for a pause to be set—as we're seeing is happening in the UK, in Germany, in Europe. They are discovering that the impact of emissions reduction legislation is it's too fast; it just leads to the loss of jobs, to increased electricity prices that will most impact the people in our society who are least able to get around it. The leafy green inner-city seats are not going to be impacted by this. They will be able to pay their way out of the impact of increased cost of food, of electricity—and they may even be able to go without the well-paid jobs that the resources, mining and agricultural sectors provide. This is our responsibility, to look after those people and ensure we don't legislate against them.

11:17 am

Photo of Barbara PocockBarbara Pocock (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak in favour of the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022. I was elected with a crystal clear mandate from South Australians to get action on climate change, and it's the reason that I'm here. South Australians are already feeling the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. In the summer of 2019-20 we experienced the Black Summer bushfires. They destroyed 196 homes. They injured our frontline responders, including firefighters, and tragically they took the lives of three people. These are our families, our friends and our loved ones. The fires also impacted our environment. They burned about 280,000 hectares, they damaged 17 national parks. Close to 70,000 livestock were killed and 40,000 to 50,000 of our beloved koalas.

Every year we're experiencing worsening heatwaves and droughts, which are forecast to increase in intensity as the planet heats up. This affects the health of South Australians, particularly those who are most vulnerable, including our older people. It threatens our livelihoods and all the things we love most about our state and our country. It impacts our farmers, food production, the Murray River and our world-class wine industry. Many South Australians live on or enjoy our beautiful coast, but rising sea levels are forecast to put thousands of homes at risk of flooding towards the end of the century. And, of course, we're witnessing an international crisis around climate change that affects not only our beautiful state and country, but is imposing terrible costs on the people of Pakistan—and many other countries.

These impacts are felt by everyone but they are not felt equally by everyone. We know that climate change is having the worst impacts on those who are most vulnerable. We see this with the recent economic shocks caused in part by climate change: inflation from supply-side shocks. This has affected South Australians already struggling to make ends meet. It's affected the most vulnerable first and worst.

Above all, we need to think about our young people: South Australian young people, our kids and their children to come who don't yet have a vote or a voice. They'll be most impacted by the action or lack of action that we choose to take here in Canberra. Any decisions we make need to first and foremost consider them. I'm constantly inspired by the activism and the active hope of young people, of schoolkids, in our state. I joined the school strike for climate action not so long ago, and the young people there were calling for three things: an end to coal and gas; a move to 100 per cent renewable energy generation as quickly as possible, and certainly by 2030; and funding of a just transition for all those who work and live in our communities where fossil fuel is a major area of economic activity.

I'm also inspired by the farmers, the agronomists, the scientists and the engineers, who are working hard to adapt to the impact of rising temperatures, changing patterns of rainfall and diminished rainfall. They are working so hard to adapt our food production and our transport systems and to make the changes that we know we must make.

As I said in my first speech, I ran for the Senate because I made the mistake of reading the 2018 IPCC report and listening to the scientists studying climate change just as I was asked to think about coming here. I'm here so that I can look future generations in the eye and say that I, with my colleagues, did everything I could.

South Australians have made this clear too. In polling conducted just before the federal election, a clear majority of South Australians indicated that change on climate action was a most important factor in deciding their vote. A clear majority indicated that the federal government needed to do more to address climate action, and we saw these results across our state, in the city and throughout our regions. In the polls and on the street, people were calling for urgent action to reach net zero emissions and to make sure we don't allow any more new coal or gas mines or coal-fired power stations, which only add to the crisis we face.

South Australians know that a cleaner, greener future lies ahead and is possible. Our state has led the way with a renewable energy transformation. We switched off the last coal-fired power station in 2016, and at least 60 per cent of our electricity is now generated by renewables, making us second only to Tasmania. Last year, renewable energy generation exceeded demand in South Australia for 180 days.

We know the solutions on climate change and we've got the tools we need to implement them. South Australians are clear. Our Pacific neighbours are clear. The science is clear. We must stop opening new coal and gas fields. We must put the future of our kids before the interests of a small group of fossil fuel profiteers—mostly foreign owned and paying too little tax—who are determined to wring their last fortunes out of fossil fuel extraction while putting our future at risk. We must restore confidence in our democracy by excluding fossil fuel money from politics and rooting out corruption.

This bill represents a first step. It's not enough. We need to move faster and further than this bill allows. The ratchet mechanism secured by the Greens means the target can be increased over time and won't go backwards, but we need more. We've already reached one degree of warming. South Australians and people across our country and the world are already experiencing the effects of this, including loss of livelihoods and lives.

If we want to make a tangible difference, this bill must be followed by strong action. We need to end all new coal and gas projects. We need to legislate a climate trigger to ensure that new emissions-intensive projects do not blow Australia's remaining and rapidly diminishing carbon budget. We need to increase our national targets to align with 1.5 degrees of warming and, most importantly, we need to make sure no-one is left behind in our transition.

This is why the Greens are calling for the implementation of a transition authority to support coal and gas communities, as well as advocating for women and First Nations people to get a fair share of the jobs that are emerging in this new and growing economy. Labor cannot claim to take climate action seriously while backing new coal and gas. It just does not stack up. We know the transition to a low-carbon economy has to happen. The question is when. South Australians elected me because they want to see real action now. They know a cleaner, greener future is possible, because we're already leading the way. It's time for Labor to catch up. It's time to get it done.

11:25 am

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

OWN (—) (): I rise today to speak on the Climate Change Bill 2022. Droughts, fires, pandemic and floods: four words which sum up the past decade. I want to highlight the story of a former bus driver from Ballarat, the late Peter Gaylor. Although being a local and loved bus driver took up a fair chunk of Peter's day, he still managed to find time to be a volunteer firefighter. In fact, he was a driver of fire trucks. Peter was also a proud and loyal member of mighty Transport Workers Union. I know his colleagues miss him dearly. Under the conditions of his enterprise agreement, Peter was able to take four weeks of paid leave to volunteer during the Black Summer Bushfires in north-eastern Victoria. Peter spent four weeks day in, day out protecting lives and residences as well as bushland and native habitat. His skills as a qualified heavy vehicle driver saved lives, and his knack for driving protected the team of firefighters who were with him.

The fires that Peter faced head on were what many referred to as unprecedented. Lives were lost, species were put on the verge of extinction, 24 million hectares were burnt and more carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere that Australia emits in a year. It is indisputable that that sheer magnitude of what Peter and so many others faced during the bushfires was exacerbated due to climate change. The consequences of climate change are complex and interrelated. Acting on climate change will lead to safer workplaces and safer roads for all road users, and we need to act now.

We have seen climate change intensify with numerous challenging and devastating weather events in recent years. The science is clear and advancements are unanimous. Human activity has caused changes in our atmosphere. The changes have led to significant ongoing disruption in the world's climate. The IPCC Sixth assessment report paints a stark picture of Australia's vulnerability, from declining agricultural production due to hotter, dryer conditions through to the destruction of low-lying coastal areas due to rising sea levels.

Importantly, addressing climate change brings with it a wealth of opportunities to support a transition which benefits working people and our communities. In Tasmania, the building of hydro has led to countless Tasmanian jobs, both directly and indirectly. The announcement made by the Prime Minister of an accelerated delivery of fee-free TAFE places will provide us with the skilled workforce that we will need to tackle a warming planet and a changing planet. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shift to a net zero economy. A report by the Business Council of Australia suggested addressing climate change could add as much as $890 billion to our GDP by 2070. The immediate opportunities for Australians is grasping the renewables revolution. Under Labor's Powering Australia plan, the government will invest $20 billion to update our electricity grid to support more renewables coming into the system.

The impact climate change is having on vulnerable communities is indisputable. Vulnerable communities already experience financial and social disadvantage with fewer resources to cope with, adapt to and recover from the effects of climate change.

The purpose of the bill I rise to speak on today is simply to ensure that Australia's emissions reduction targets are recorded not only in international agreements but also in Commonwealth legislation. Providing certainty and demonstrating commitment: that is what this bill will achieve. Further, the bill will place obligations on the Commonwealth. The consequential amendment bill will insert the consideration of emissions reduction targets into 14 pieces of federal legislation. The legislation will cover Commonwealth departments, entities and schemes that are or could be contributing to national emissions reduction. Embedding emissions reduction targets in legislation will ensure that Commonwealth departments, entities and schemes not only can contribute to emissions reduction targets but can be a springboard for any future targets.

Policy on the run is not the prerogative of this government. We will be informed by experts every step of the way. This legislation will bring experts back to the table by requiring independent review and independent advice from the Climate Change Authority when it comes to future emissions reduction targets and the actions we take to reach them. This advice will be public, and the minister will be obliged to both formally respond to it and take the advice into account in decision making. By requiring the minister to make an annual statement to parliament on the progress the government is making on climate change, governments can no longer avoid scrutiny. They will be directly accountable to the parliament and the Australian people and will have to explain the results of their actions with reference to independent expert advice. This has been sorely missed over the last decade. We saw our public service hollowed out under successive coalition governments. Our government is committed to revitalising our Public Service and encouraging frank advice.

The legislation that we have before us is good. It's good for the country, good for the economy and good for young people. We know young people are taking action in their everyday lives to address climate change. Now they finally have a government that will take action alongside them. Today, being part of a government legislating the Climate Change Bill feels momentous, years in the making and fought for by so many. It is important that we talk about young people because they have been on the front line of the chorus call for change. I know myself, with two young children, 21 and 17, the work they have been advocating for to ensure that we get to this day, that this day has finally come.

It's time to get on the right side of history, and I say that to those who are seeking to vote against this legislation. The reports, advice and scientific research from business and all sectors of our society say, and the plea from young people is, to get this done and start this necessary work before it is too late. All of those people are saying to those who are still on the wrong side of history—who still insist that taking action on climate change is not good for our country, is not good for our economy and is not good for our young people—that they are wrong. It's not just the government who are saying that they're wrong; it's near every sector of the Australian community: the business community, unions and the scientific community. Young people are pleading with you. And I ask again that you give up this fight that you have conducted over the last nearly 10 years, and before that, and put this country first, put the economy first, put our young people first and join with the government to support what is going to be a momentous day. We will come back and look at this day, with this piece of legislation going through, as being a momentous day—a day when there's going to be proper transparency and proper accountability. That's what this bill seeks to do, to put into legislation—to ensure that the minister responsible is accountable not only to the Australian community but to the Australian parliament. That's what's been sorely missed over this past decade.

As I've said, it's important that we take time to consider the young people of Australia, because they have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting, raising the debate and the discussion and engaging with politicians through their schools, talking to one another, talking to their parents and talking to their coworkers. They have been at the forefront of the campaign for this day. They are the front line of change to climate change. They are also going to be on the front line of innovation and action that we will need in order to take on climate change. We know that young people are already taking action in their everyday lives to address climate change, and now they finally have a government who will take action alongside them.

So I say to the opposition, do not ignore them. Come, put aside these failed debates, these failed ideas that you continue to cling to, because you're not doing this country any good. As I said, I am so pleased to be part of a government who is finally taking climate change seriously, and I hear a collective sigh of relief everywhere I go that the Labor Party were elected as government. The Labor Party has taken up the challenge of climate change. I commend this bill to the Senate.

11:38 am

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It has been almost a decade since we have had meaningful federal climate policy in this country. In that time we have lived through fires, we have lived through floods and we have endured heatwaves of intensifying frequency and on unimaginable scales—all of our own making. And by our own making we must now urgently take action on climate change—the action that the public has demanded that we take, after the 10 thirsty years we have endured, all of us withered in the parched wasteland of climate policy, desperately calling for the government to act. Thrust into this very position of action, we find that the best that the Albanese government can offer the community, the student strikers, the doctors, the industry experts, the activists, those championing renewable energy that are demanding, that are so desperately hoping for, urgent action to address the climate crisis is a flimsy 43 per cent emissions reduction target that would be delivered too late to matter. This bill as has been passed through the House does not by any imagination, by any attempt to stretch the truth or the science, go far enough to address the unravelling climate crisis that our community faces. This bill is the policy equivalent of pushing the food around the plate to make the illusion that you have eaten.

We know precisely why the Albanese government has stopped so far short of the targets that we know are needed within this bill to address the climate crisis. It is not because there is any doubt around the veracity of these targets or their urgently needed nature. It is not because they would destroy the economy or pause the power industry or any other of the litany of feculent excuses that the government uses to muddy the rising waters—the reality around us. It is plainly because their fossil fuel paymasters, their corporate overlords, have said so. This is why the Albanese government last month opened up 50,000 new square kilometres of ocean and land to gas and oil exploration—50,000 kilometres! And yet in making the case for this piece of legislation, the Albanese government looks the community in the eye, looks the climate strikers in the eye, looks at the members of extinction rebellion and of so many other organisations coming together to campaign for climate action in the eye and says that this is action, while in the next breath is opening up new coal and gas projects. It would be funny if it wasn't so cruel.

The persistence of the fiction of Australian clean coal, this great technological delusion, has captured Australian politics for so long because it is so convenient to the donors, particularly the political parties that accept donations from the fossil fuel industry. It is why this government sits here in support of the Scarborough gas project, of the opening up of the development of the Beetaloo basin. They have refused to rule out supporting new fossil fuel projects, as long as they stack up environmentally. I mean, give us a break. It is like endorsing asbestos, as long as it doesn't cause mesothelioma. It is like endorsing great plagues of mosquitoes, as long as they don't spread malaria. It is an absolute insult to the intelligence of the Australian public to suggest that the government could be taken seriously when suggesting it is acting on climate change while at the same time proposing to open up the Scarborough gas fields, to open the Beetaloo basin.

Last week the Senate committee inquiry report into this bill revealed to the public what the community have well long known: new coal and gas developments are fundamentally inconsistent with Australia's climate obligations. The world's two leading authorities on the issue, the International Energy Agency and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphatically agree that not a single one of these projects stacks up if the object is to act on climate change. What that means is that the bill, as passed by the House and delivered to us in the Senate, categorically and objectively is not good enough. It does not stack up. However convenient it might be for members of this place to delude themselves that this bill goes far enough, it does not.

The Greens amendments that we will bring into this chamber are in line with the very bare minimum that we need to meaningfully mitigate catastrophic climate change. The bare minimum means—and say it with me, folks—a moratorium on new coal and gas. That is why the Greens are proposing amendments to the emissions reduction target of at least 75 per cent—not 43 per cent—by 2030. It means that net zero needs to be achieved by 2035, not by 2050. And they will mean working towards reaching negative emissions thereafter. These sets of amendments which we shall bring, as I say—this is not the ceiling. This is not the astronomical height of human ambition. This is not the legislative equivalent of the Apollo program. This is the bare minimum. This is, for the young people of this country, a fighting chance, the opportunity to have, for their generation, the ability to live in a community that is not constantly battling climate crisis after climate crisis.

I was meeting with the Australian Red Cross just yesterday, and they were talking to me about the structural challenges that their organisation faces. They're a primary auxiliary component to Australia's disaster relief program, and do you know what is one of the main things they're facing, one of the main realities they're facing now? They were designed for a period of time when the Red Cross's disaster relief lasted for months. They have been in constant disaster support mode for nearly four years now, as constant natural disaster has followed continual natural disaster.

There may be some of the coal-powered ghouls in this place that mock the amendments, dismiss the amendments brought by the Greens to this legislation as a half-baked lefty fantasy. I can see it now—the tweets are writing themselves in the offices of the National Party, the Liberal Party and, I am sure, in some right-wing sections of the Labor Party as well. But let us make no mistake: a 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2055 is backed by unequivocal, unanimous, global scientific consensus—global scientific consensus. There is no confusion. There is no debate. This is what is needed for our species to survive, and, if we cannot get this right, we have no business taking seats in this place.

The Greens have long been the lone voice in this place calling for climate action—actual climate action. It is the Greens who agitated for what became the Clean Energy Act of 2011, which successfully reduced carbon emissions before the coalition government repealed them in 2014. And now once again it is the Greens who will seek to legislate strong climate policy in this country. By supporting this bill as put to us in the house, particularly in the absence of the critical amendments that we have tabled in this chamber, the Greens have shown our willingness to work with the parliament on this issue in the interests of just bloody getting on with it, of clearing a path for all of us to engage in the real work that must follow. The Australian public sent us a clear message at the May election: take action on climate change, and take it now. This is our mandate. This is our solemn sworn duty. This is our opportunity. This is our survival.

11:50 am

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

I rise to speak to the Climate Change Bill 2022. A more accurate name for this legislation would be 'Australia's surrender note'. If you are about to be sacrificed to a false god, you should go kicking and screaming to the altar. In this case, the Labor government would have us go meekly to slaughter and thank the witchdoctor holding the knife. This legislation is not in Australia's best interest. This Labor government is not acting in Australia's best interest. It is legislating drastic emissions reductions with virtually no indication of how this will be achieved or how much it will cost Australian taxpayers.

In selling this stupidity, Labor promises a jobs bonanza in industries that do not exist and emissions reductions from technologies which do not exist. With this legislation, Labor promises to make even larger cuts to emissions. This isn't going to stop at 43 per cent. The only guarantees from Labor's climate change folly and this legislation will be the death of Australian manufacturing and innovation, chronic high unemployment, reduced living conditions and standards, and even greater rises in the cost of living and doing business in Australia. It will make our current cost-of-living crisis seem like a walk in the park. If you don't believe me, just ask the Europeans. It will make absolutely no meaningful difference to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia's total annual emissions are just shy of a 500 million tonnes. The CSIRO stated that our emissions are just over one per cent of global emissions. China's total annual emissions are approaching 12 billion tonnes. In the past 20 years, China's share of global emissions has doubled from 15 to 30 per cent. China's emissions are projected to continue to increase for another decade, adding another two billion tonnes to their annual total. It will completely negate any reductions Australia might achieve. What are you going to do when China reneges on its commitments? Impose trade sanctions? Tell them how they're destroying the globe? I'd really like to know: what are you going to say or do? Labor wants Australians to live in a tremendous pain for absolutely no gain.

For decades now, Australian governments have spent many billions of taxpayers' dollars building wind farms and putting solar panels on household roofs. The result has been massive increases in the cost of energy for most households and businesses, in the order of 300 per cent or more. At the same time, coal-fired power stations have been shut down prematurely, and much of Australia has faced a shortage of energy, with worse to come in the future. How has this been in Australia's best interest, especially given that global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, not fall?

Just how friendly to the natural environment are all these wind farms and solar panels? You need 800 tons of concrete for the foundation of a single wind turbine, which in turn requires the burning of up to 45 tonnes of coal to produce. Even more coal is used to make the steel and other metals in these turbines. Actually, it's about another 220 to 260 tonnes of coal to make one wind turbine. In North Queensland they are clearing thousands of hectares of rainforest for wind farms, killing our native flora and fauna—great for the environment! Where is the screaming about that one? Are these your environmental credentials? Give me a break.

This is not long-lived technology. The turbines last about 20 years before they need replacing, and solar panels don't even last half as long. Look at the prime farming land being forever ruined to install solar panels. When they're broken up by a hailstorm or something they leach toxic metals and chemicals into the soil. Where are all the useless old solar panels and wind turbines going to be disposed of—landfill? They do that in America. Tell me what your plan is. Labor has plans everywhere; you're telling me you've got plans. What's your plan for this? Where are the solar panels and wind turbines going to go?

Maybe the Greens can tell me. They're pushing for this. I'm not against renewables, but this unnecessary rush is crippling us. If these technologies are so great, let them compete on a level playing field instead of subsidising them at an enormous cost to taxpayers. We must manage the transition much better, with a mixture of low-emission coal, gas, hydro, wind, solar and nuclear, with the main priority being not to add to Australia's cost of living and to ensure reliable supply.

Consider the plans to increase the cost to consumers of purchasing and using vehicles with internal combustion engines to promote more uptake of electric vehicles. How will this do anything other than, once again, raise costs for consumers? Where is all the energy needed to power this EV fleet, when we are already facing energy shortages that are only forecast to become worse? Will the government subsidise the enormous cost of replacing the batteries in these fire-prone vehicles? How will it pay for it? In the end, all these additional and increased costs must be borne by taxpayers and everyday consumers who are already struggling with sharp rises in the cost of living and rising interest rates.

All of this will be imposed by elected people in this building who are not struggling with the cost of living and who have job and wage security that most Australians can only dream of. It will be imposed by people who have little scientific acumen, if any. Who cares what clueless politicians think about climate change? We should be listening to the credible scientists—those who don't peer review themselves, anyway—and make policy accordingly. This will hand uncounted billions of dollars to foreign owned multinationals that are already well versed and exploiting weak Labor and coalition governments and feasting on Australian taxpayers.

This is the bright future from Labor and its Greens and teals cohorts—and, I've got to say, a few of the Libs thrown in there as well, like Senator Birmingham and Senator Bragg, and I can name a couple more—and the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, reducing our standard of living and making us a Third World country. It's all based on the ridiculous idea that unless Australia does this the entire world is doomed. That is completely untrue. It's all based on climate change modelling which has been proven completely inaccurate. I wouldn't even trust or believe a word the IPCC say. Remember how we were told that Australia's coast would be inundated by the sea while our dams went empty? We even heard the Labor Party get up and say that the seas are rising. Well, they're not. Actually, some of the islands have grown in size. Where are all the people who are wanting to sell their homes on the shoreline? They're not wanting to. I'm sure there are some prominent people in this place as well as business people who own prime land by the seaside. Why aren't they leaving? Why aren't they selling their properties?

We've had these predictions that the world's coming to an end, by countless people. Really? Has it happened? It hasn't happened. Remember how we were told that we'd experience more-frequent storms and bushfires? Well, we've heard that today. It hasn't happened. The fact is that natural weather related disasters were more frequent before 1960 than they are today. We don't relate to anything in this country before 1910, by the records, because there were higher temperatures then, in the late 1890s, but we don't go back that far.

Stop scaremongering in this chamber and in our schools. Our decisions must be based on the true proven science and not be for political or individual financial gain. But it isn't. We don't control the weather and we don't control the climate. It's been completely proven beyond any doubt that changes to the earth's axial tilt and orbit, solar cycles, volcanic activity and ocean temperature oscillations have a far greater influence on our climate. No matter what we do, it will never change our planet's natural occurrences that have occurred for millions of years.

It's abundantly clear Labor and the Greens are deliberately ignoring the valuable lessons being delivered right now by Europe's failed experiment with renewable energy. European nations are now scrambling to fire up coal-fired power stations to make up for the shortfall of energy caused by an overreliance on wind power. They've learned they can't rely on these intermittent technologies and that they must have reliable energy to keep homes heated and the lights on.

In Germany, householders are now turning to firewood for energy to heat their homes. There is, in fact, such a high demand for wood that they're importing it from neighbouring Poland. In Britain people are dying due to lack of energy to heat their homes, because it isn't available or it simply costs far too much. Labor is legislating the same disaster for Australia. Those Australians seeking to impose this disaster on our country have been hoodwinked by false prophets such as Tim Flannery, Al Gore and Greta Thunberg. Our children are being brainwashed into believing the world is coming to an end. If you accept this unproven rubbish, then maybe the deprivation and pain to come from this legislative disaster is a harsh but necessary lesson to follow the facts and the science, rather than worshipping false prophets of doom.

Senator Malcolm Roberts has on many occasions actually stated he would debate Larissa Waters with regard to this, and yet no-one will take him up on it. Where have we really had the true debate? I'm not talking about—we're politicians in this place and we have to make our decisions based on what we research and what we understand. I think this is beyond us and we really need to hear from the true scientists, not those that do their own peer reviews or those that are pushing their own agenda because they've been given jobs in organisations and they're getting very well paid for the positions that they hold.

The decisions we are going to make about pushing this 43 per cent—and this is only the floor of emissions targets in the country—are going to have an impact on the cost of living for Australians. The cost of living for Australians now is killing them. They can't manage. People can't put food on the table. They're struggling to put a roof over their heads. Families are living in their cars. This is only going to add to the cost.

As I have said in my speech, I'm not against renewables, but you actually have to look at what's happened in Europe and other countries around the world who have pushed this for a far longer period of time than what we have, and yet we're heading down this path. Can't we see the impact it's going to have on our people here? To say you're going to create 600,000 jobs is a load of bloody BS as far as I'm concerned. Actually, I've been told that some of the science shows we're going to lose that many jobs in Australia. How can you go to renewables when you're going to actually increase jobs? Where are the jobs coming from? Solar panels? You're clearing prime agricultural land, you're sticking the solar panels on it and that's it; you walk away from it. Where are the jobs being created?

I know industries and manufacturing are shutting down because they can't afford the electricity to run it in this country, so they're going overseas. That is what you're going to do to this country. And the things that we have relied on—you talk about the coal. How is digging up coal, which we should be using for our own energy in this country—we're exporting it. No problem; let's export it. We're getting the dollars for it. So you've got a problem with exporting to China or India or any other country like that, and they're burning it. This is global. So what are you worried about? Do you think we have a blanket over our country, that cutting back our emissions is going to save us? It doesn't work that way. This is global.

So if you want to make the tough decisions then cut down all the coal mines. I'm against it because it doesn't make sense to me. We have new coal-fired power stations that are 90 per cent emissions free. We have the coal, we have the resources, we have everything here, and you just want to shut it down. I warn you: we will end up a Third World country. In Africa there are countries where 70 per cent of people don't have electricity. They're cooking in their homes by fires, which gives them health issues. There are children who can't do their homework, because they don't have electricity. They don't have fridges to keep food or medications in. They are in poverty.

This is where you've got us headed. This is where you've got the Australian people headed. This is a stupid bloody policy that I and One Nation will never support. Put a plan on the table whereby we will move forward with renewables and other energy resources that will build our country, not destroy it and future generations.

12:05 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Climate Change Bill 2022. This is a bill that delivers on the government's commitment to restore national leadership on climate change. It provides the certainty and confidence needed to drive the transition to net zero by 2050. A decade has been squandered in ignoring the urgency of the task before us. But now, more than ever before, there is no time to be lost in facing the reality of climate change and how it can devastate our lives.

As Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery, I've been meeting communities who have been directly affected by climate change. I have listened to what they've had to say. We know that because of climate change natural hazards—floods, bushfires, violent storms and cyclones— will become more frequent and more severe. All too often, the outcome of these natural hazards is a humanitarian disaster. If we apply real leadership to the disaster recovery task and listen to the communities affected, this doesn't always have to be the case. There is an alternative.

Disaster recovery not only involves cleaning up for days, weeks and months afterwards; it also means working alongside communities to reduce their future disaster risk through preparedness and mitigation. In the six weeks since being appointed to the special envoy role I've visited communities in the Bega Valley in southern New South Wales, the Lockyer Valley in Queensland, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Western Sydney and the Northern Rivers region of northern New South Wales. In Cobargo, in the Bega Valley, last week I met locals including Zena Armstrong. Zena and others in her community have worked tirelessly since Cobargo was knocked sideways by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. Roads, bridges and other infrastructure were destroyed. Six people, unfortunately, lost their lives, and 300,000 hectares were wiped out. All this happened in a community of just 2,200 people. Yet Cobargo is slowly pulling itself back together.

Zena told me that it helps to have a good stock of social capital before disaster hits. By 'social capital' she means a community's capacity to face immense hazards and overcome disaster, however adverse the circumstances are. This is a capacity derived from community cohesion and an ability to adapt to quickly changing circumstances. Zena went on to say that there is also the challenge of legitimatising unexpected leadership at times of crisis and balancing the wide range of community needs that arise.

Last week I was in Ballina, Lismore, Huonbrook and Mullumbimby in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. I visited Cabbage Tree Island and an Aboriginal community in Ballina that was devastated by this year's floods. Chris Binge, CEO of the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council, gave me a tour of the island, which, until the events of March, was a thriving community of 27 homes. Now it's like a ghost town. Its residents have been relocated for safety reasons to nearby Wardell while plans for the community's future are developed. Mr Binge said: 'We are the biggest landholders in the Ballina Shire area, but we have struggled until now to get real attention. If we were a white corporation, people would be knocking down our doors to deal with us.' I hear your plea, Chris.

Climate change and therefore disaster recovery is an area where the national interests, not political pointscoring, must take the lead. Last week in Lismore I announced a $30 million return to business recovery grant. It was a perfect example of the bipartisan way in which we must go about disaster recovery. To announce the program I was joined not only by the state member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin—a good friend of mine—but also by the Nationals member for Page, Kevin Hogan, and the Lismore mayor, Steve Krieg. Steve is both an Independent councillor and a business owner in the CBD. Steve spoke for his fellow business owners when he welcomed the commercial landlords grant, saying it would take a great deal of pressure off businesses, like his, that are struggling to get on their feet.

Even as disaster recovery must be a bipartisan affair, that does not mean that improvements on previous approaches can't be made. Previous funding arrangements have seen the vast majority of disaster funding going to immediate recovery rather than to mitigation. That is even though the evidence from the US National Institute of Building Sciences shows that for every one dollar spent on mitigation six dollars are saved in recovery. Disaster costs $38 billion annually, according to a 2021 Deloitte report. The same report calculates that by 2060, without any changes to our approach, disasters will cost the economy $94 billion a year.

We need to strengthen significantly our capacity to cope with disaster. That means we need to do more than just respond when disasters hit. The Albanese government's Disaster Ready Fund will enable us to spend $200 million each year to change how individuals, communities and industry think about and act on disaster risk—in other words, increasing strength. The Disaster Ready Fund will replace the former government's $4.8 billion Emergency Response Fund, which failed to complete any mitigation projects in the lead up to the February and March floods. In the ERF's three years, it did not complete a single mitigation project or release a cent in recovery funding. Instead, it earned the government more than $800 million in interest, taking the total of the fund to nearly $5 billion, with nothing to show for it.

During my recent visit to Cobargo and Quaama in the Bega Valley, I heard from local women Danielle Murphy and Christina Walters about how the previous Emergency Response Fund did not focus adequately on community needs for rebuilding after the Black Summer bushfires. Danielle said 'withdrawal of supports which never realised their full potential and the herd mentality of recovery' were her concerns. While in Bega last week, I met with Arthur Rorris, the secretary of the South Coast Labour Council. Arthur has this week pulled together the very successful Union Towns Australia Conference in Wollongong, which directly addresses the important role of community in withstanding disaster. I also had an extensive briefing from Leanne Atkinson, the acting CEO of the Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council. Leanne told me the of importance of having a local recovery agency on the ground and, 'where they can, remain nimble, which enables them to respond to the everchanging needs of the community. The arms-length Sydney- or Canberra-centric approach simply does not work'.

Our focus on investment in mitigation projects will help reduce some of the burdens on taxpayers' funds that would otherwise have been incurred. Addressing vulnerability and the root causes of disasters is key to managing systematic risk, risk that will increase as the effects of climate change mount. Repairing damaged and destroyed infrastructure is helpful, and may protect some in the short term, but alone it will never be enough to protect everyone or to ensure Australia's prosperity. Rather, inclusive and collective disaster-risk-reduction plans, efforts and actions are key to building communities and our response.