Thursday, 8 September 2022
Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022; In Committee
My question for the minister is a simple one. I have three very simple questions, one that leads from the other. It has been reported through Climate Analytics and Climate Council and widely reported in the media that the ALP's 2030 target of a 43 per cent emissions reduction is consistent with two degrees of warming globally. Do you agree with that characterisation, Minister?
Thank you for the question, Senator Whish-Wilson. We've been very clear that the targets that we have adopted put us on a path to meet our Paris objective commitments. As you understand, the Paris Agreement asks the world to contain warming to less than two degrees and to leave open the possibility of containing it to 1½ degrees.
You were very cute with your language there, Minister: 'path to meeting the Paris Agreement'. My colleague Mehreen Faruqi said publicly that your target failed the Paris Agreement. That was fact checked by AAP, who found that she was indeed correct, that your 43 per cent target is consistent with two degrees of warming, which is above the 1½ to well below two degrees of warming that is the Paris target. I'm going to assume that the two degrees is uncontroversial.
Minister, my second question to you is: do you also agree with the IPCC forecasts first released in November 2018? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change differentiated between 1½ degrees and two degrees in their impact on the ocean. It said that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees would likely be the difference between the survival of the Great Barrier Reef coral and its complete decline, according to the United Nations assessment of the climate science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report basically said that if global warming reaches two degrees, which is consistent with your target, more than 99 per cent of coral reefs were projected to decline this century, and indeed an annual bleaching event was expected on the Great Barrier Reef and the world's coral reefs. Minister, do you agree with the science and that characterisation by the IPCC?
I think I have answered the question about our objectives. We are committed to the Paris Agreement. We are not only committed to reflecting those commitments in our own approach to policy here in Australia, but we are committed to participating in the global conversation to make sure that the world can reach those objectives because there is no disagreement between us on the questions you raise.
A warming world is dangerous for people and damaging to ecosystems. We have to do everything we can, as a country and as a globe, to contain warming. The Paris Agreement gives us the best chance of doing that. You will know better than I that the world has been through stops and starts in our ability to generate global momentum. It mattered a great deal to strike the agreement that was struck in Paris, and it matters, too, that at Glasgow the level of ambition globally was increased. It matters that businesses in Australia are being encouraged by investors globally to set their own targets. There is a momentum towards change and there is more that is going to need to be done.
But, Senator Whish-Wilson, I think where you are really going to is a question about our target. And I've answered that question already in response to questions from Senator Waters. We went to the election and sought a mandate, and we did it in a particular context. We did it in an environment where this country, under the government of those who now sit opposite, was unable to land an energy policy and unable to land a climate policy for nine years—a period in which almost nothing was done by the Commonwealth government on decarbonisation, where the heavy lifting was left to other people, to local communities, to businesses, to states and territories.
Going to an election and receiving a mandate, a wide mandate, to begin a process of change led by the Commonwealth is no small thing. You may think it's a small thing, and that's fine for the Greens. But for a party that seeks to be the party of government, taking a commitment to the election, having it scrutinised in the context of an election, having it debated with those opposite—who, as we've seen this morning, want to deny the science and want to dispute the objective of net zero emissions, as Senator Canavan did—means something. And it means something to walk into a room and to update your nationally determined contribution in the presence of AIG, the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Clean Energy Council.
Building consensus, and bringing people with you, matters. We have a mandate for the target that is embedded in this legislation. We are pursuing the policies that we took to the election. That is actually more important than you appear to be willing to acknowledge.
UNIAM (—) (): Earlier on, at the very beginning of the committee stage, I did ask a question to the mover of this amendment around what modelling had been done with regard to the impact on retail power prices of inserting a 75 per cent reduction target. In response, at the end of her last contribution, the leader of the Australian Greens said she was flattered by the question, but she declined to answer. All I asked was what modelling, if any, existed. None has been provided, so I can only assume there is absolutely no regard for what impact this would have on household budgets. I presume that is the standard that we are now setting. We will just focus on one side of the equation and not the other.
I made the point earlier on, and I think it's not an unreasonable one, that in every decision we make we should balance the economy and the environment, which are two very fragile things. We would never make a decision purely on economic grounds, and nor should we ever. The days of those decisions are long gone, thankfully, but we should balance those decisions. The Greens do need to be held to account for such propositions. They aren't the party of government—and I hope they never will be. But when you come in here and try to alter legislation which, I believe, will have a very negative impact on something as simple as household power bills, you should answer the questions being asked about the amendment being put forward. I know that no modelling has been done. They refuse the answer the question. Let that be known publicly. So, I will then ask the minister: what modelling has been done on the impact on household power prices of your 43 per cent target?
I also had a question before the minister, before Senator Duniam jumped up. There are a couple of things. Senator Duniam, the 75 per cent target is not controversial. It's been modelled by the IPCC. It's well recognised that that is what is necessary for us to meet the Paris targets. This goes directly to this debate that we're having here today and this amendment before the chair that was put by Senator Waters. Seventy-five per cent is not controversial. And I wonder whether you have modelled the impact on power prices of the climate emergency in the next 20 or 30 years, from extreme heatwaves and extreme cold and floods. I bet you haven't thought about the cost of inaction, have you? Anyway, I do digress.
I would like to get back to my question to the minister. Minister, we also have a mandate—the Australian Greens. We have the balance of power in the Senate because millions of Australians voted for real climate action. It's entirely legitimate for us to be in here fighting for our mandate, as it is for Senator Pocock, for the people who voted for us and for climate action and the one in three Australians who now vote outside the two major parties. It might seem like a small thing, 1½ to two degrees. But Minister, I'm confused about your response here today. Regarding your target of 43 per cent, regardless of whether you feel you have a mandate for that—that's not the issue before the chair—the question is: does 43 per cent equate to an ambition of limiting global warming to two degrees this century? It clearly does. Two degrees is different to 1½ degrees. In fact, all the things we've seen, especially in the past decade—the extreme weather events we've seen in Australia, the fires, the floods, back-to-back bleachings on the Great Barrier Reef, a bleaching during a La Nina year, record La Nina weather in the past nine months—are all happening on one degree of warming above preindustrial levels.
We are talking about trying to hold that to 1½ degrees. To put that in perspective, that is 50 per cent warmer than the planet is right now. Your bill here today will double the amount of warming captured in this atmosphere this century—a 100 per cent increase. An ambition of 43 per cent by 2030 means a 100 per cent increase in warming on this planet. So, the difference between 1½ and two degrees is so material.
My second question to you is, do you agree with the IPCC assessment that if we can't limit warming to 1½ degrees then we will see an annual bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef and the loss of 99 per cent of the world's corals probably in our lifetime? That's how serious this is. This is not climate ambition. This is not what I've been fighting for in this place for the past nine years, during the swamp and desert years of the LNP, as they sat back and watched the fire burn the house down. This is not the climate ambition that Australians voted for. So we need to be very clear here. Why, Minister, are you, for example, opening up 46,000 square kilometres of new ocean acreage to oil and gas companies to explore for the exact product that, when they burn it, is killing our oceans and warming our planet and condemning future generations on this planet? Can you please explain to me—and I'm asking this in relation to the second reading amendment that was moved last night in here by my colleague Senator Shoebridge—why you are opening up new areas of ocean to oil and gas exploration in a time of climate emergency while you are trying to limit emissions and Australia's emissions ambition?
Thanks for your question and for what I'm going to take as a long preamble, Senator Whish-Wilson. You asked a specific question about acreage release, and I will answer that, perhaps by saying that we're fully committed to delivering on our 2030 and 2050 climate targets. It's why we're here today and it's why we're debating it.
The release of offshore areas for greenhouse gas storage and petroleum exploration is an annual process. While we are quickly scaling up renewables, other forms of energy, such as gas and oil, continue to play a part in our energy mix. Our approach is to reduce emissions while growing the economy and supporting key industries, and we are working with industry as a partner on our journey. We understand that gas is not a low-emissions fuel, but it does play an important part in helping to power communities by firming and peaking electricity and as a feedstock and source of heat for industry.
Equally, we understand the changing and reduced role that fossil fuels, like gas, will play in a decarbonising global economy. But the truth is that the best way to drive down emissions is with policy certainty, and that is the purpose of the legislation that is before us today.
Firstly, Minister, I agree with you that there is evidence of confusion besetting the coalition. It has been doing so since John Howard's prime ministership in the early 2000s, when he changed his mind on climate and later admitted that he was agnostic on the climate science.
Minister, I will be reading your papers yet again, but let me ask you—because you have still not answered—what is the specific quantified effect of carbon dioxide from human activity on any climate factor? I would like to know that number. That is fundamental to the basis of any policy or legislation. No-one has provided it anywhere in the world. This is your bill. You need to provide it.
Secondly, I only need that specific, quantified effect of carbon dioxide from human activity. If you provide it and it's accurate, then I'll be silent. This issue long ago became a matter not of science or of the environment; it became a matter of integrity. We've got hypocritical parasitic billionaires doing a reverse Robin Hood, stealing via a highly regressive tax from the poor and the vulnerable—and you endorse that. We've got a Paris Agreement that is not an agreement. In the Paris Agreement they agreed that each country would do whatever it wanted to do. China said, 'Up yours; we're not doing anything!' India said the same. But Australia said, 'We will gut our economy.' And now you're going to ramp it up even further.
I'd like your view on this, Minister. Senator Whish-Wilson said that his party has a mandate. Mandates do not supplant science. Mandates based on positions that are based on lies are not mandates. Until you provide this Senate and the people of Australia with the specific quantified effect of carbon dioxide from human activity on the climate, or any climate or weather factor, you will not have a mandate.
Thank you. The late Maurice Strong was the first Director-General of the United Nations Environment Program, a position that he created for himself after he formed the UN Environment Program. He became the first Secretary-General later on that year, in 1972. Maurice Strong is the concoctor of climate alarm. After forming the IPCC in 1988—at his instigation—he wanted to create an aura of scientific endorsement. Never has the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided any specific quantified effect of carbon dioxide from human activity on climate—never! He created an aura of scientific endorsement. He entrenched climate alarm through fermenting the staged illusion of grassroots movements and UN conferences, including Rio in 1992, which formed Agenda 21; Kyoto in 1997, which formed the UN Kyoto Protocol; and Paris in 2015, just after he died.
At the same time, Strong built systems to drive behaviour and enrich himself. Maurice Strong formed and part owned the Chicago Climate Exchange for global trading of carbon dioxide credits. Al Gore invested in that. In 2007 Kevin Rudd, as Labor leader and predecessor to the current Prime Minister, brought Gore to Australia to peddle climate alarm with the intention of starting Labor's emissions trading scheme, involving carbon dioxide credits that would ultimately be traded on Maurice Strong and Gore's Chicago Climate Exchange.
Separately, law enforcement agencies have reportedly sought Strong for alleged serious criminal charges and then reportedly he exiled himself in China. This is the man who created climate alarm. This is the man on who your policies are based. Strong had been Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and used that position to push unfounded climate alarm via the United Nations and later combined with the World Economic Forum. He was founding Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, responsible for the deaths of 40 to 50 million people from malaria when the United Nations Environment Program drove the ban on the insecticide DDT, and did so contrary to the science. That man had a track record of contradicting the science, vilifying the science, usurping the science and then claiming the science. He's basically been responsible for the deaths of millions of people and now wants to impoverish the world.
He's made two stated aims of his life. His first is to put in place an unelected socialist global governance, which we can see the evidence of almost daily around the world and particularly in this country. His second objective was to deindustrialise Western civilisation.
The senior level of many of the leaders of the United Nations have said that they want to put in place a new world order. That's what this is about. It is about control of energy, control of property, control of water, control of resources. It's control of society through the United Nations environmental program and then through the United Nations Agenda 21. Are you aware of these facts, Minister?
I want to return to the question before the chair just briefly, which is the Greens' amendment. I haven't made a contribution to this, but I asked a couple of questions of the Greens, of Senator Waters and the amendment she moved. Very briefly and quickly the questions were: is there any escape clause, if you like, for Australia if other countries don't act and reduce their emissions to the proposed 75 per cent? Can we not go through with it or are we locked in? The other question was: why are the Greens expecting a different outcome in Australia than in the UK, who have committed to a 78 per cent reduction by 2035—a very similar target—and are in a complete and utter mess right now, at least in part thanks to that target?
Not only have I not received answers to those questions, the leader of the Greens in the Senate, Senator Waters, had the temerity to stand up and dismiss it and say: 'We don't need to answer that, because this is about a government bill.' She's too good to answer questions.
I think it's very important to point out that the Australian Greens are very good at asking for transparency and information from other groups, from the government and from us when we were in government, but when the shoe's on the other foot and they are moving an amendment, they are seeking to change our nation's laws—it's their proposal not anyone else's—they refuse to answer basic questions about their own proposal. If nothing else, that is why we should vote this down, because they are not a responsible political party. This is clearly a stunt from Senator Waters, not a sensible and realistic attempt to change these laws, because she won't even answer basic questions about her proposals. I give respect: at least the government minister has answered a number of questions in this place through this committee process. But this is a committee of the whole; it's not a committee just to look after the government. It's not Senate estimates. It's a committee of the whole. If you are going to come into the committee of the whole and move amendments, you should be expected to answer questions about the amendments you are moving. If you can't answer those questions, we certainly should say no to this amendment. That's what we should do.
I briefly want to also take issue with the many interjections—the remarks might have been in contributions, but at least in interjections—saying, 'You're just in the pockets of the fossil fuel companies.' Apparently we're all funded by the fossil fuel companies. We all know, don't we, that there's no money in renewable energy! No-one makes any money out of renewable energy! It's all a charitable act! We know all the companies in the renewable energy space, and they're all doing it out of the goodness of their hearts! They don't make money, they don't have dividends, they don't have shareholders—it's all just charity! I just want to pay tribute and respect to all of those hardworking Australian investors out there who are building wind turbines and putting up solar farms and don't expect anything in return! They don't expect anything! All those people importing solar panels made from Uighur slave labour—they're good, charitable organisations! I will not stand here and have a word said against them!
Honourable senators interjecting—
Actually, I think the difference between us and them is that when senior people on that side said, 'We will try to resolve the debate,' my people did the right thing. Whereas, on your side, when your people say that you are going to try to move to the next amendment, you all jump. I understand there's a lot of division inside your party room. Can I make this point: this is debate where people have very different views. I accept that and I respect that. I disagree fundamentally with the position Senator Canavan puts. Nothing I say will change his mind, and nothing he says will change mine. We do have some new crossbenchers in here, including Senator Pocock, who do wish to have the opportunity to move their amendments and speak to them. So I would ask the opposition and the crossbench—
Honourable senators interjecting—
We have time. I'm asking for some courtesy. All I'm asking—
I'm simply asking that we vote on this amendment, allow Senator Pocock to move the amendments he has circulated, and then you can do all you want through the rest of the committee stage. But it would be good if we could get through at least the first amendment, so that other senators could have the opportunity to put their views. They also have views, Senator Canavan. As a matter of courtesy, I'm requesting that. If the chamber doesn't wish to do that, it's a matter for the chamber.
The TE MPORARY CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 1616 be agreed to.
CLIMATE CHANGE BILL 2022
(1) Clause 12, page 7 (line 24), at the end of subclause (1), add:
; and (f) risks to Australia from climate change impacts, such as those relating to Australia's environment, biodiversity, health, infrastructure, agriculture, investment, economy or national security.
(2) Clause 14, page 8 (line 24), after "subsection (1)", insert "in relation to the first annual climate change statement".
(3) Clause 14, page 8 (after line 25), after subclause (3), insert:
(3A) In considering advice to be given to the Minister under subsection (1) in relation to:
(a) the second annual climate change statement; or
(b) a subsequent annual climate change statement;
the Climate Change Authority must make provision for public consultation.
(4) Clause 14, page 9 (line 5), after "website", insert "no later than the day the annual climate change statement to which the advice relates is tabled in a House of the Parliament in accordance with subsection 12(3)".
(5) Clause 14, page 9 (lines 7 and 8), omit "Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after giving the advice to the Minister", substitute:
(i) within 15 sitting days of that House after giving the advice to the Minister; and
(ii) no later than the day the annual climate change statement to which the advice relates is tabled in that House in accordance with subsection 12(3).
CLIMATE CHANGE (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 2022
(1) Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 6), after item 2, insert:
2A At the end of section 8
Note: Paragraph (f) allows additional functions to be prescribed related to renewable energy technologies as well as electrification technologies or energy efficiency technologies.
The first amendment on sheet 1621 requires that the annual climate change statement consider the risks presented by climate change. Climate change presents unparalleled risks to the systems that support life on this planet and all the people and places we love, including the future of the young people observing us today.
Climate change is already affecting Australian farmers. ABARES data shows that the average broadacre farmer in Australia has lost 22 per cent of their profits since the year 2000 due to the impacts of climate change. Proper consideration of these risks leaves us with no option but bold action to reduce emissions. This amendment will allow the Australian people to hold the government to account if it fails to mitigate against the risks of climate change.
Amendments (2) and (3) on sheet 1621 require that there is public consultation before the annual statement on climate change. These amendments will allow the scientific community and the broader Australian community to make clear the risks of inaction and the benefits of action.
Amendments (4) and (5) on sheet 1621 require advice from the Climate Change Authority be made public before or at the same time as the annual statement on climate change. The explanatory memorandum to this bill uses the words 'accountability' and 'transparency' 18 times. This amendment means that if advice is not accepted, the government can be called out. This is fundamental to transparency and accountability.
The amendment on sheet 1620 relates to ARENA. During the inquiry into the bill, concerns were raised in relation to the scope for ARENA to fund non-renewable energy sources and other problematic technologies. This amendment closes potential loopholes that could allow ARENA to fund such technologies.
Thank you, Senator Pocock. We support these amendments, which improve the Climate Change Bill and are consistent with our intention to both legislate the targets and make the government accountable for meeting them. We consider that the risks to Australia from the impacts of climate change are real. We have to reduce emissions to avoid the worse of these impacts. But we're already living with the impacts of climate change, and making progress on climate adaptation is one of the key issues that I will be progressing for the government. The amendments also ensure that the authority must consult on climate change statements, while recognising that consultation for this year is difficult in the time available. They also ensure that the authority's advice on the annual statement is not hidden when the statement is delivered to the parliament.
Finally, we also support the amendment that you have circulated on sheet 1620 in relation to the prescribed functions of ARENA. We established ARENA when last in government to support renewable energy, and we have opposed numerous attempts by the previous government, first, to abolish ARENA and then to make regulations to force ARENA to invest in the then government's pet projects such as fossil fuel-based hydrogen and carbon capture and storage. Your amendments are important in clarifying the functions of that organisation. More broadly, we thank you for your engagement—or I should say, through the Chair, we thank Senator Pocock for his engagement with us and his work to improve the bills.
I just have a few questions for the minister around the issues that Senator Pocock's amendments go to, which is increasing the transparency and accountability for not just this government but future Australian governments in ensuring that our ambition on climate change and lowering emissions is reflected in measurement and accountability pieces throughout the government's systems so that Australians can be very clear on where the benefits of action on climate change occur and where there are clearly 'disbenefits', to quote some of the mayors from the mining communities' submission to the inquiry on this bill.
Minister, when I look at the nationally determined contribution, which was changed rightfully on your government winning the election and having a mandate to change our ambition as a nation on climate change, one of the first things you did was remove from that document a five-yearly review of the impacts of our climate ambition on rural and regional Australia. We have heard time and time again, in the inquiry and in this place and out in our communities, that, yes, on a pathway to net zero by 2050 there will be opportunities for our communities and our industries. But you're kidding yourselves if you don't think there are going to be challenges for these industries and these communities. It is not just the National Party that is saying it; it's the union movement as well.
Part of our role as legislators is to think about, when we implement these policies, making sure we mitigate some of the negative impacts on those communities. We all know who they are, and we all know where they are. It is why our government, in securing a pathway to net zero, combined that with over $20 billion of new money to support these communities, to seize the opportunities that a pathway to net zero by 2050 would bring, but to help them overcome the challenges. You are choosing to legislate your target, which you didn't have to do. You yourselves have admitted that it is unnecessary and largely symbolic. It'll cause a whole heap of unintended consequences, and I outlined some of those in my second reading speech last night.
But in setting that ambitious target without putting in place significant support and programs and projects to support rural and regional communities, you're setting them up to fail and you are causing an incredible amount of stress and concern in our mining communities, our agriculture communities, our manufacturing communities. So, my question to you—and I have a range of them—is: why did you remove the five-yearly clause that we got written in so that future governments, before they update our nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, have actual data, not just on the benefits but on the impact? Even if you look at Europe and what they're going through at the moment, it's not all going to be plain sailing, so we need to be cognisant and aware of that so we can assist our communities on this journey.
Thank you for your question, Senator McKenzie. I find myself unable to agree with your characterisation of the regime that is being legislated. The Paris Agreement in fact requires signatories to update their contributions every five years; it is baked into the Paris Agreement. The regime that we are implementing requires government to seek independent advice on every occasion, in each of those five-year intervals, when we seek to update our agreement. So it meets the objective that you establish, which is that the benefits and impacts of the targets that are adopted by the Australian government be independently considered and advice be provided, both to the minister and publicly. That is the nature of the regime that is being proposed in the bill before you today.
What is most curious, though, about this is that when a specific proposition was put in the other place, your colleagues in the Liberal and National Party not only voted against it, but called for a division so they would be on the record voting against the amendments put in the other place to ensure that the interests of rural and regional communities were considered in that advice. I find that very strange, actually almost incomprehensible. So, yes, we do think that regional economic development is important, and our policies are expected to result in an additional 604,000 jobs to 2030, with five out of six of those jobs in the regions.
What is harder to understand is why the National Party and the Liberal Party teamed up in the other place to prevent an examination of those issues in the reports provided by the Climate Change Authority to the parliament.
Minister, that wasn't my question. Somebody had to come in and help the Albenese government appreciate that their ambition was going to impact the regions. You needed to just check with the AWU; they would have been very, very happy to tell you what that impact would have been. You raced off to update our nationally determined contribution, and I'm happy to table your 2022 change to our NDC where you explicitly remove what we had put in, which was the five-yearly updated review.
You stand up here today and you make an argument like it was all Albo's and Bowen's kind of plan the whole time to make sure that rural and regional Australia impact would be part of your plan, but it wasn't. Getting the Climate Authority to do this and only look at the benefits is the concern of mining communities, Labor towns, around the country have with your bill. A much more rigorous, authentic and genuine way to address that concern would be to have a five-yearly review by the Productivity Commission. So if you were serious about actually genuinely understanding the impact, and therefore ponying up on levels of support for those communities, then you would be supporting our amendment around the Productivity Commission. I think it's the height of cheek to come here into this chamber and make out like it was always the Labor Party's plan, because it wasn't, because if you read what you put forward in our nationally determined contribution, there is no mention of a review, there is no mention of analysis specific to rural and regional communities, and that's just a fact.
My second question to you is: given that the impact is unquestionable, the desire to move on a pathway to net zero by 2050 is occurring, what guarantee will rural and regional Australians have in your October budget around the programs that our government put in place to support those communities around the country—over $21 billion of new money? What guarantee do those communities have that your government recognises that there will be benefits and challenges for different places in our country?
Rural and regional communities can be absolutely assured that this government is committed to the jobs and industries that will come from clean energy transition, and will in fact secure the futures of regional communities.
We know that there may be changes in some communities. No-one denies that. And had Liberal members of your government decided to attend the Jobs and Skills Summit, they would have observed a very extended discussion between a range of stakeholders about the way that we will support communities to transition. At least part of that response lies in the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, which will provide various forms of support for new jobs and industries with a focus, in part, on clean technology and with a strong focus on regional communities.
Unfortunately, the actual consequence of the policy settings that have been in place for the last nine years, under the previous government—your government—have meant that regional communities have not been able to benefit from the scale of investment that would otherwise have occurred had there been certainty for investors about the energy transition underway. We know that because during the period of your government, those investors, those businesses, came before parliamentary committees over and over again and said to us that this was the case. They said to us that the consequence of having 22 different energy policies, none of which was ever landed, was that a whole series of investments didn't take place. That has direct costs, but it also has downstream costs.
During that same period, four gigawatts of capacity left the energy system, and only one gigawatt was invested to replace it. That makes a real difference to manufacturing operations; it makes a real difference to power prices; it makes a real difference to the capacity of the National Electricity Market to perform its functions, and all of those challenges are on your head.
So Australians find themselves in a very difficult situation, and we are working methodically and carefully with industry to resolve it. Providing business certainty about our approach to climate and to energy is part of the repair job that is currently underway.
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Before I give you the call, Senator McKenzie, I just want to check something with Senator Pocock. When you moved your amendment, you said sheet 1621, amendments (1) to (5). On the sheet it says (1) to (6). Are you still including (6)?
Minister, I know it's part of your talking points to talk about a decade of delay in this policy area et cetera, et cetera, but you're in government now. We heard, through the Senate inquiry, the real impacts—positive and negative—that this change will have on rural and regional communities, on working-class people across this country. So for you to stand up and look backwards when you're about to bring down a budget—it was a very simple question: will you guarantee the projects and programs that were the first tranche of investment that our government put on the table while on a pathway to net zero by 2050? Things like $1.5 billion to diversify the Pilbara. Things like $2 billion for our Regional Accelerator Program for the regions, where communities that had the ambition to grow and diversify were going to be supported through developing and harnessing manufacturing capability and the like. Things like $750 million to diversify the Hunter. Things like over $2 billion for the Northern Territory. Actual money on the table for things to assist these communities and their working families to deal with what is legitimately coming. We've all got on the same page. Everybody had been talking a big game that there was not going to be anybody seriously impacted by this, but you were kidding yourselves. You are finally able to admit that, and I thank the union movement for assisting with that. The reality is when you look at the EU on this question, they put hundreds of billions of euros on the table to help regions overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities. It is a pretty simple proposition: The money was budgeted for, over $20 billion specifically to this end, in the last budget. Will you guarantee that money will continue to flow? We care about these communities; we thought very long and hard about the types of projects and programs that would help them over the next four or five years with this transition.
Minister, 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 and in fact very clear evidence that burning native forest wood for energy actually emits more emissions than coal. So I'm pleased that in your speech last night you committed to the Senate committee recommendation to review the renewable energy status of wood from native forests, noting that Labor rejected classifying the burning of wood from native forests as renewable in both 2011 and 2015, and I urge you and the government—and scientists and forest protectors are urging you—to make this change as a critical part of protecting our forests. I also want to go more broadly to the importance of protecting our forests and the link with acting on climate and bring to your attention the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessment. They found in their Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year 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.
So I've got two questions that I want to ask you, and I'm going to ask them both at once in the interests of time. Firstly on that latter point, in light of those findings from the IPCC I want to know what work the government is doing or is intending to do on the bigger picture to assess protecting Australian forests for their value in carbon sequestration and storage. My second one, then, is asking whether you could give us some more details, please, on the process that you outlined last night, where you said that you were going to:
… release a consultation paper … consider next steps in light of the results of that consultation and look to make any necessary changes to the regulations by the end of the year.
But then you committed to:
… exploring further amendments to primary and subordinate legislation to embed the targets and the Paris Agreement into a wider set of relevant legislations and schemes.
So I want to know the potential of embedding protection of forests and not considering wood from native forests as a renewable in further work down the track.
I want to return to the amendments before you, Chair. Senator Pocock has suggested some amendments to provide for a review mechanism of certain particular impacts. An amendment that dealt with similar issues from Dr Haines went through the House, and it was very general. I note Senator Pocock has been a little bit more specific with his proposal. The Haines amendment was quite general. So I wanted to ask the government: to what extent would the Haines amendment, if you like, and the reviews now contained in this bill before us allow and provide for a benchmark of electricity prices over the next decade against what was promised in the Labor Party's Powering Australia plan?
The bill before this place is one element of the Powering Australia plan that the Labor Party took to the election, and in that plan they made very specific promises about what Australians could expect from the implementation of their climate policies. In particular, I read from—I'm just finding the page number, but there are no page numbers! Sorry, it is page 4; it's just landscape. Thanks for clarifying that. On page 4 of the Powering Australia plan it says, 'It'—with 'it' being their Powering Australia policy—'will bring down household power bills by $275 in 2025'—just three Christmases away—'and $378 in 2030.' We've heard about the $275, but we don't hear as much about the $378. The Prime Minister mentioned the $275 20-odd times during the campaign.
Ninety-seven times, thank you, Senator Duniam. Nearly 100 times, the Prime Minister promised the Australian people before they voted that he would lower their power bills, by implementing these policies, by $275 a year. Their policy said it would be by $378 by 2030. We all know that since the election, since people have been hoodwinked into voting for this plan, the Labor Party hasn't mentioned the $275. It won't come from their mouths. Hopefully Senator McAllister will inform us about this $275 promise where the Prime Minister has refused to provide clarity.
We do now have this review mechanism. Because of the Haines amendment there is a review mechanism, and Senator Pocock is suggesting it go a little bit further and be more specific. So my question is: will the Haines amendment and/or the Pocock amendment allow for the benchmarking of the promise made to the Australian people? Will we see through these reviews what has happened to power prices and how it compares to what Labor promised their climate policy would achieve?
I note that there already has been substantial criticism of the Labor Party's modelling of that figure. They released a related report on their Powering Australia policy, a modelling report by RepuTex, but by modelling report standards it was fairly skinny on detail. It didn't provide much detail on the assumptions that were made going into this report, nor did it include any related spreadsheets or tabulation of these figures. It would seem that the Labor Party has made a schoolboy error here, for want of a better term, on their calculations. Perhaps it explains why they are so shy about repeating a promise that they made very prominent in their campaign, and which presumably did influence a number of Australians about how they voted. I know that, at the election, living costs were a major issue for people, and the Labor Party were out there, saying: 'Hey, we're going to save you nearly 300 bucks. Vote for us!' But now they won't speak that number.
The modelling from the Labor Party showed, or purported to show—like all modelling, it's not gospel—that if you implemented the 43 per cent target and a range of other policy measures that Labor had promised, wholesale power prices would fall by 30 per cent. What the Labor Party seems to have done, from the skinny amount of detail we have, is that they've taken the 30 per cent drop in wholesale prices and said that retail prices will also drop by 30 per cent, giving you the $275 figure.
Now, business is not the Labor Party's strength. We all know that. But even if you didn't know a lot about the electricity market, you'd probably know that the wholesale cost of something typically is only a proportion of the retail cost of something. In the old days, if you had a Campbells cash carry card, you could go down and buy a bunch of red frogs at a cheaper price because the wholesale price was cheaper than the price in the retail store. That's how the electricity market works. The wholesale costs of power, which are traded on a 30-minute interval every day, are paid for by the large retail companies, large customers who are buying a lot of power, who then on-sell that power to others. So the wholesale costs generally, to simplify matters, are the price of power as it leaves the power plant, as it leaves the solar farm. That's the cost up to that point.
But of course we don't hook our electrical appliances into a coal-fired power plant. We don't hook them straight into a solar farm. Power then has to be transported over large transmission lines. The voltage has to change, it has to go to distribution networks, and the retail companies themselves have costs and overheads associated with billing and customer management et cetera. The wholesale prices typically are only about a third of the total cost that you pay or a household pays in your electricity bill every quarter.
So the Labor Party are only out by a factor of three. They have estimated that the wholesale power costs will come down by 30 per cent. Then they promised the Australian people: your power bills will come down by effectively 30 per cent—the $275 figure. But they forgot to do the calculations in between—it should actually be a 10 per cent reduction, roughly, in power prices, not a 30 per cent reduction.
They've never really come to answer the question about these criticisms. As I said, these criticisms have been public and well known in the economic modelling community, which I used to sometimes be involved in. RepuTex, Labor's modellers, have been very scant in replying to these criticisms. But it is the modelling that the Labor Party stood behind and that they promised to the Australian people, so I think it is absolutely relevant for the minister here to tell the parliament and the Australian people: were there mistakes in the Australian Labor Party's modelling? Do they stand behind that modelling? Do they accept the criticisms that have been made about the mistake that seemingly was made between wholesale and retail power costs? Do they accept that? Do they stand behind everything that RepuTex says? We deserve to know that before we vote on this plan. It may have been a mistake to defraud the Australian people; it would be a catastrophic error to defraud the Australian parliament as well. That's what is before us here right now.
We already know the Australian people have been hoodwinked on this issue, but it's our job here in the Senate to scrutinise and evaluate the detail of the government's plan. Because of these unexplained errors that have been identified, I think it is very important, before we vote on this legislation and/or Senator Pocock's amendment about reviews, that the minister and the government come clean on their modelling and these issues that have been raised in a way they have refused to in the public domain. They have refused to answer these questions properly out in the public. But it is our job here—we should sit here as long as we need to. I'm on the clock for the Australian people. I'm happy to stay here as long as we need to, to get answers for the Australian people. As I said, this was not a little issue. This was not a non-core promise. This was a key part of the Labor Party's election platform, which they have walked away, ducked and weaved from being held to account for. Well, now is the time, before we vote for this.
Other senators, particularly new senators, like Senator Pocock: don't let the government get away with this. You have the power here to hold the government to account to provide a detailed and sufficient explanation to the Australian people about their election promises, about the work and analysis that was done to make those promises, before we vote on anything. As I said, we can stay here as long as we need to, to get these answers. Let's do that. Let's actually do our jobs as senators. Let's not be a rubber stamp; let's actually be a magnifying glass that gets to the fine print in the Powering Australia plan and identifies a number of deficiencies in this Powering Australia plan that the Labor Party released. We deserve to know the extent of those deficiencies before we vote on the plan here.
I'm pleased to continue this discussion. Senator Canavan made some very excellent points about modelling. But I'm not here to talk about modelling. I actually want to talk about measuring—about measuring data. Senator Canavan is an economist; I'm an accountant. The difference between economists and accountants is that we accountants actually have to count the real numbers.
It's interesting that in my first ever Senate inquiry—it was a Senate inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef—my first ever question, to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was: 'Do you have a database of all the health KPIs relating to the reef that demonstrates a change or a trend from 1980?' That's when they first started recording data, or pretended to record data. The lady who was the head of the Australian Institute of Marine Science at the time spent the next seven minutes avoiding answering the question. All I wanted to know was: are these so-called scientists actually recording and measuring things like coral cover, things like coral growth rates, things like dissolved nitrogen, things like seagrass? And the answer is no. This is the problem. They make these extreme statements, like Senator Whish-Wilson did before, about how the Great Barrier Reef is dying. That's completely wrong, because the recent data has shown that coral cover is now at record highs.
It's very important to look into the detail of how this stuff is measured. Take coral bleaching, for example. They do these runs over the coral where they've got about a 50-metre boom on the back of each side of the boat, and that runs for about a kilometre. If they happen to find one little bit of bleaching on any coral, that entire area is then deemed to be bleached. That is so, so misleading.
Later that afternoon, the Queensland department of natural resources turned up. One of the great things I love about our federation is there's always a wrangle between the two levels of government. The Queensland department of natural resources is responsible for measuring run-off from the waterways on our big rivers, especially our big rivers in North Queensland. I asked them what the margin of error was and what their confidence interval was in terms of their measurements of dissolved nitrogen as it ran out of the river. Their response was—and I have to say I was quite shocked—between 60 and 90 per cent. In other words, their accuracy isn't even much better than a coin toss. This is something we see quite a lot of.
Now we jump to our old good friends at the Bureau of Meteorology. I'm not sure if the people upstairs understand that we actually have three databases of temperature in this country. We have the raw data set, we have the ACORN-SAT 1 and we have the ACORN-SAT 2 dataset. Most people don't realise that when the media now report the change in temperature over the last hundred years they're actually reporting using the ACORN-SAT 2 dataset. The Bureau of Meteorology themselves admit that they fudge their numbers.
I will give you one example, which is Marble Bar. There've been 13 adjustments. Don't laugh, Senator McAllister; this is serious, and you need to take note of this, because this will be a question. There've been 13 adjustments to Marble Bar. Seven of them are statistical. In the little sub-footnote they say, 'We don't have to provide any documentary evidence for this.' So, out of the 13 amendments—and some of them are valid, like you move a weather station, so you may have to adjust for different things. I get that. Sometimes you have to homogenise data, or at least try to work out what it would have been had you not moved. One thing they didn't do I'll touch on in a minute. But of course, they won't do that. They just go: 'We don't have to provide data.'
The problem with that is they have a supercomputer that homogenises the data. The Bureau of Meteorology have admitted to me in estimates that this supercomputer has made 450 million iterations to the maximum temperature at Marble Bar and 250 million iterations to the minimum temperature at Marble Bar. What sort of a clown show are we running in this country when we're spending billions of dollars to try and control the temperature or limit the rise in temperature, and the way the actual temperature is being measured is being manipulated by a supercomputer that makes 450 million iterations? And when you actually want to then go and dive down into the detail, they say, 'We don't have to provide any documentary evidence.' If I did that as an accountant, if I went back and amended prior year records of a set of financial statements, I'd be thrown in jail.
I'll just have another shot at Senator Canavan here: economists can change their models all the time. That's the thing with models, you can change models all the time, but when it comes to real data, when you take that temperature measurement—
That's true. With models you just fudge numbers, you change your assumptions, blah, blah, blah. But you don't get to do that. If I say I've got a million dollars in the bank or I've got shares in a company and it says you've got a million dollars in the bank, you'd better have a million dollars in the bank. You can't just go around fudging real data. I've asked the ABC about this in estimates, as well, because they report what the bureau calls homogenised data, what I call fudged numbers. If any other organisation did it they'd be thrown in gaol.
I'm not saying the way the temperature was measured a hundred years ago was always accurate, either, but the way you report it is with a margin of error. You can't just go and change the number, because you don't know how much it's changed in the last hundred years, so you're guessing.
Anyway, I want to talk about one other thing, this whole idea of job creation in the regions. Let me tell you that that is not the case. I happen to come from south-western Queensland, and the devastation to four great rural communities—Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Charleville and Thargomindah—because of the laws around mulga clearing has absolutely gutted that part of the world. The mulga blocks are being brought by foreign corporations, and they're being locked up for carbon storage. When the farmers sell out, they move out of the shires, so those regions are suffering because their populations are declining. You've now got unmanaged mulga, and, let me tell you, you have to manage your mulga. You have to constantly push it. It used to be a lot of Mitchell grass—it wasn't always all Mitchell grass—but you need to keep it relatively open. What we've now got means we're going to have an overrun of feral pigs and feral goats. Dingos are getting out there again, and that's not good. Then it will eventually be a fire hazard—heaven forbid. Luckily it's acacia and not eucalypts, but it can burn and, if it gets going, it will burn.
I'd also like to talk about my home town of Chinchilla and how you're going to create jobs. I note Senator Pocock said, because he listens to ABARES, that farmers' incomes are off 20 per cent. Well, I tell you that's not due to climate change. That' due to all the red tape and green tape around climate change. I know one farmer who brought a property at Chinchilla recently, and he had to find out what he can do in cultivation A little part of it was zoned a blue zone, so he went to confirm this with the department of natural resources. He also had to confirm it with another department in Queensland, the environment department. Guess what? They came back with a different definition of what the blue zone was. Then this farmer had to employ a consultant to go back to the bureaucrats to get them to work together to define what the blue zone was, because of these stupid arbitrary laws that the government makes up.
This sort of constant red tape and green tape out there is absolutely killing our farmers. These guys are the backbone of the country. I note that we've got 40 different models to determine net zero and all these arbitrary crazy models on different regulations—they discount coal, for example, at 14 per cent but they discount renewables at seven per cent; that's a great way to fudge a set of numbers. That's what we see. My question is: what dataset will the Labor Party be using? Will they use the dataset that's recorded at the time the temperature is measured, or will the Bureau of Meteorology continue to go back and change prior years' data in order to push their narrative and the Labor Party's narrative?
I have a question for the minister, and then I'll have a series of other questions. Firstly, Minister, could you please clarify or define what you mean by 'net zero'. Senator Wong failed yesterday, but we'd like you to have a shot. Secondly, how exactly will net zero be achieved in Australia—exactly? Thirdly, how much will this plan—well, it's not a plan because we've seen no plan—how much will this goose chase cost to achieve net zero in Australia?
There are a number of questions asked by senators, and I thought it best perhaps to let people get their questions out before taking up any more of the Senate's time. I'll start with the questions that Senator Rice asked me. Her primary interest was in understanding more about the government's response to the recommendation made by the Senate committee when they were reviewing the bill, and in particular the recommendation that goes to the eligibility requirements for native forest wood waste in the Renewable Energy Target. We accept this recommendation, and I made a few remarks about this last night, but I will put it on the record again. The concerns raised—and I understand the committee heard a good deal about this—relate to a decision by the Abbott government in 2015 to change regulations and put native forest wood waste back into the scheme. That was a decision that we opposed at the time. As the minister said in the House of Representatives, and recently in the media, we are happy to consider the concerns raised. The government will consult on changes to the relevant regulations. The issue raised is a technical issue with eligibility requirements under the Renewable Energy Target. Our response to that recommendation shouldn't be understood as a reflection on the government's general support for sustainable native forest industries and the workers that depend on those industries.
I understand that the industry is generally looking for higher-value uses for native forest products and electricity generation, and we note the evidence from the Clean Energy Regulator to the Senate inquiry that the use of this particular fuel source is not economic, with only one small project currently registered. Nonetheless, we do agree that consultation on this issue is important, we want to make sure that any changes are understood by stakeholders, and we want to make sure that issues for the existing project could be considered. We would aim for any necessary changes to the regulations as a consequence of that consultative process to be made before the end of the year.
Senator Rice also, I think, noted the recommendation from the committee report which asked the government to undertake further consultation on possible legislative amendments and appropriate policy responses. The government has already committed to this. We intend to look at additional amendments to legislation or subordinate instruments over the next year to further embed the targets and the Paris Agreement into relevant schemes. We're happy to do so, and we look forward to consulting with interested stakeholders during this process.
Finally, I note Senator Rice's advocacy for the significance of native forests as an opportunity for sequestration. The government is of course interested in opportunities to maximise sequestration. The land use sector is a core part of our response to climate change. It offers very significant opportunities, and I note that there are many in the agriculture sector who are looking to take advantage of those opportunities under schemes that have been in place for quite some time now.
The questions from the opposition are a little different in character, because, again, we have had contributions that essentially dispute the value of perusing a net zero objective, despite the fact that this appears to be an opposition policy, but that is of no concern to Senator Canavan. And then there was a series of objections from Senator Rennick, which are a little harder to get one's head around, shall we say, in this environment. The curious thing is that on these questions the coalition seem to be increasingly isolated from the stakeholders that they claim to represent.
What did the National Farmers' Federation say to the Senate inquiry about the matter before us? The National Farmers' Federation said that they recognise that this is framework legislation that embeds a national 2030 and 2050 target in legislation and makes consequential amendments to related acts and this provides a level of business certainty that is otherwise absent.
It is relevant to the debate we're having now, because Senator Rennick has offered a range of anecdotal observations about what all this means for regional communities, but the National Farmers' Federation say, 'We support the passage of these bills, noting that they are framework legislation that can provide business certainty.' They talked a lot, actually, about how industry was ahead of the government that you all participated in. They said:
of the things—
we've already articulated in the submission and which is the most longstanding is the red meat sector CN 2030, so carbon neutral 2030, which they are all advanced on in an implementation context. I think the number as at yesterday was a 59 per cent reduction from 2005 levels … The second one is grain growers have an aspiration of a 15 per cent reduction in emissions intensity. That's specifically focused on the nitrous oxide issue … The pork sector have a 2025 ambition for carbon neutrality.
There's the Farmers Federation talking about the industries in their sector, all of which are on a journey to net zero. But we have the National Party questioning whether making that transition is something that should be happening. It's already happening. It's already happening in the industries that you claim to represent, and it speaks to the isolation and the strange position that you have all got yourself into. So determined were the coalition through your last decade in utilising this issue in a base way for narrow political purposes that you actually lost track of the people that you suppose to represent. It was all on show. It's all been on show in the Senate inquiry and in the discussion around this bill and this process.
Senator Canavan put a series of questions about power prices and his views. Of course, the entire country is still coping with the mess left by Mr Taylor. Mr Taylor as energy minister presided over an utterly chaotic energy policy that left investors and businesses totally confused about their obligations. I can't tell you how many private conversations, how many people, have offered up the insight that they are relieved to be in a position where they can actually talk about the climate transition, the challenge facing their business and the way that business and government will partner to meet that great challenge.
So I'm reluctant really to contemplate in any serious way the contributions from a group of people who appear unclear about who they represent and who appear to be unwilling to concede the mess that they left for the sector. However, I will go to the specific issues that were raised by Senator Canavan. He speaks, of course, about our proposals for the power sector. The modelling suggests that, if we pursue 43 per cent and we implement the arrangements around transmission, we will see a significant increase in the penetration of renewables. The facts are that that will put downward pressure on power prices, because any assessment that examines the levelised cost of energy will show that firmed renewables offer the cheapest possibility to put new-generation capacity into the system, cheaper than any of the proposals pursued by you and certainly cheaper than the propositions that you never implemented for new generation—billions of dollars promised for new generation; none of it ever actually delivered under the programs championed by the National Party—downward pressure on prices as a consequence of the program that we are implementing. I know they don't want to hear it, because the mess that they left behind is embarrassing.
Opposition senators interjecting—
But this government will get on with tidying up the great big mess that you left behind and delivering to Australians the energy system that they require.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I hope so. Minister, there was a lot of rhetoric around that last answer, particularly invoking the entire nation of farmers and primary producers as somehow only supporting the Labor Party. We in the National Party and rural and regional Liberal members have been very, very public about supporting industries' goals for zero emissions. The cattle industry made a decision, without a government mandate, to move towards a net zero position for the beef industry by 2030—knock themselves out. What we're discussing here in this chamber today is the government legislating it. For you to stand up and make out that we don't accept that the Australian people voted for you to have the right to change our nationally determined contributions to 43 per cent by 2030, on a pathway to net zero by 2050—they did. You have that right. You changed the document. What we're discussing here is not climate change action or no climate change action. What we're actually talking about is legislating a target and what implications that has for our communities and our people—above symbolism.
One of the questions that the farming community does raise is—they are very concerned, particularly the cattle industry and the livestock industry more generally—by legislating this target, are we going to see the Albanese government sign up to the global methane pledge? That is a significant issue. You make out like they're all singing kumbaya with the Labor Party. They're not. They are great stewards of their land. They tread lightly. They were conservationists before you all thought it was a thing, because they are intergenerationally linked with their environment and they care for it. They take is seriously. But they did not sign up to the UN methane pledge. I am very, very interested in whether this government is going to make our nation head down that path. I want you to rule that out. On behalf of Australia's livestock industry, I want you to guarantee that you won't.
I'm also the shadow minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development. One of my roles is to look after Infrastructure Australia, one of the14 agencies that legislating a target will actually be captured into. They will now have to assess infrastructure projects in this country according to this target. I had severe concerns when I was legitimately asking these questions—so I could understand it—of the agencies before the Senate inquiry: 'What's going to be the impact of legislating this target?' Was it going to be negative? Was it going to be positive? What is it going to mean for the list that you give to the infrastructure minister? Does it mean that rail, road and bridge projects in rural and regional Australia are going to fall down the list, because public transport projects in Sydney and Melbourne are going to suddenly go up the list, because of legislating this target?' I have severe concerns about that. You know what? They couldn't answer the question. They had no idea how they were going to do it. They couldn't actually tell the Senate what the impact of this legislation would be on their decisions and, therefore, on the infrastructure projects that are going to be delivered across our nation—$120 billion worth of spend. They didn't have a clue. Minister, I hope you've got a clue. I hope you can enlighten me on that.
The third issue and question I have is around the concerns about increased vexatious green lawfare as a result of legislating, not as a result of your right to go and change our nationally determined contribution. Forty-three per cent by 2030—knock yourselves out with a suite of policies to get there. We will hold you to account on the way. What we've seen in Germany and what we've seen in the UK is that there has then been a slew of organisations—environmental defenders office, friends of the Earth—taking federal governments to court about much needed projects, like the third runway at Heathrow. They're holding that project up. It's defeated. It can go. It can stop. It can start. It can stop.
I note the finance minister is in the chamber and she is very concerned about how we actually maintain our productivity as a nation going forward if we aren't going to be investing in these types of infrastructure projects, which is how we're actually going to drive our productivity across our economy. Yet today we are looking at legislating a target which is going to increase lawfare.
In the Senate inquiry we asked every single one of those NGOs: 'In legislating this target will you guarantee you won't be taking the Albanese government to court? Do you guarantee you won't be taking any future federal government to court as a result of legislating the target?' You know what, Senator Duniam, Senator Canavan? No, they wouldn't rule it out. They can't wait to take you to court on every single infrastructure project that will come under this bill. Recognising that you have a mandate for a 43 per cent target is not the same as baking it in to the way we run this joint and planning projects for the future so that they are not held up in court, so they are not blowing out the time lines for critical nation-building infrastructure—Inland Rail, airport runways in Melbourne, which will be critical to driving our critical infrastructure going forward—and we should all be bipartisan about that. They refused to rule it out.
Minister, three questions: The methane pledge, the methodology which the 14 agencies you are going to be make their assessment subjected to this legislated requirement, how are they going to do it? What impacts will that have for rural and regional Australians and for infrastructure in our communities? What are you going to do when the Friends of the Earth come for you, just like they have in other jurisdictions that have chosen this path, that have chosen to seek grandstanding symbolism over actual action on climate change? You don't need a legislated target; you can just get on with the job. Stop talking about it; get on with the job. As this will probably be my final contribution to this debate—
Thank you, Senator Gallagher. I would really encourage the government, as they head into their ERC process for budget, to be serious about supporting the regions, keeping the programs and projects that we handed down in the March budget—the additional $20 billion—that were specifically to support these communities on their journey to net zero, to not only seize the opportunities but importantly to overcome the challenges that are coming their way, and you are naive if you think that's not happening.
I have three quick answers. I'm very conscious that Senator Pocock is seeking the call and Senator Roberts was seeking the call at some earlier point. On methane, we have spoken about this publicly but I will reiterate it. The government is in the process of careful consultation with Australian farmers and the resources sector regarding the global methane pledge. We are working with key industry stakeholders and peak bodies, and that process is led by my colleagues Minister Watt and Minister King.
The government is fundamentally committed to working in a collaborative and genuinely consultative way. I reiterate again that there has been an enormous sense of relief in many of the stakeholders that I have spoken to that that is the case with this government because it wasn't their experience with the last.
n relation to Infrastructure Australia, the consequential amendments bill amends the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 to allow Infrastructure Australia to take account of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets when conducting audits of nationally significant infrastructure, developing plans and providing advice. This does not preclude other relevant issues being considered, including in relation to climate risk and adaptation. It is merely an additional feature of the things that that body may consider when they are undertaking their work.
Finally, Senator McKenzie asked about lawfare. This was the subject of some discussion in the inquiry process. There was a number of quite interesting submissions. The Wilderness Society gave evidence that the nature of the bills do not give rise to actions that can be taken against the government. The Australian Forest Products Association explained that lawfare is already prevalent in forestry operations; therefore, they do not expect that this legislation will have any additional material effect. BP said, 'Our hope is that by legislating the target and by providing a transparent and accountable framework for its delivery, the legislation might even reduce the uncertainty that can sometimes be a driver for litigation.'
The clear message coming through from business in that process and more broadly is that certainty helps. Comparisons between this bill and legislation in other countries doesn't assist us in this case, because the legislation before us is quite different to the form of the legislation that is in place in other countries. The evidence that was provided to the committee was that this was an unlikely outcome of the legislation that the committee was examining. I hope that that provides assistance to Senator McKenzie.
I would like to note Senator McKenzie's concern for rural and regional Australia and commend her for it, along with her concern about lawfare. But I would like to point out to the Senate that this is already happening. We've seen young people take the former government to court, saying that they have a duty of care to future generations. We are seeing at the moment Tiwi Islanders and Gamilaraay people taking Santos to court over fossil fuel projects. Lawfare is happening. Litigation is happening.
It's my sense that that happens when the government's not actually doing what the Australian people want and not actually making decisions that are in the best interests of all of us. It seems to me that this bill before us is a way to begin to do that, to turn another page in terms of climate change, and to say that we're actually going to get serious about this and we're going to deal with the challenge at hand. The battle should be about how we act, rather than if we should act.
With that in mind, I would urge the Senate to bring a vote on the amendments that I have put forward. I note that there are other amendments that we are yet to get to, and I'm sure that will provide Senator Canavan with opportunity to ask more questions of the minister and others. In the interests of time, if it's okay with you, Chair, I thought I might speak to the amendment that I hope to move in the next section.
I'm talking about the amendments on sheet 1619. The first amendment requires that the annual climate change statement address Australia's progress in reducing scope 3 emissions, which we know dwarf our domestic emissions. Fossil fuel exports account for more than double our direct emissions. If we are to take climate change seriously and commit to climate action we have to reduce the source of the majority of our emissions, which is exports. I'm not saying we shut it down overnight; I'm simply saying we don't open up new projects.
The second amendment requires that the Climate Change Authority consider the best available scientific knowledge in advice on emission reduction targets. We have ignored scientists for far too long. Science has to guide our policies on climate, and it makes sense to me that any advice given to the minister would be based on the best available scientific evidence that we have, given the wealth of knowledge in the scientific community, including a number of pre-eminent climate scientists across Australia and in the ACT.
I want to reflect on a couple of the answers given by the minister in the debate so far. I think Senator Canavan asked some very important questions, not dissimilar to the questions I asked, around what modelling has been undertaken on the impact that a 75 per cent reduction in emissions would have on power prices. I did not get an answer to this question, because apparently it's not worth answering, and we don't need to be accountable on those sorts of suggestions.
Not from you, Senator McAllister, but from the leader of the Australian Greens. I don't think it is right that an answer was not given to Senator Canavan around the $275 promise made by the Australian government nearly 100 times in the lead-up to the election. In the answer you gave, you made no reference to that promise at all; you just talked about downward pressure. I don't think it is unfair for us to ask—on behalf of the Australian people, some of whom are in the gallery today—whether that promise is going to be delivered. Is the $275 figure, which was specified nearly 100 times in the lead-up to 21 May, going to be delivered as a result of all of this? I think a direct answer on that would be good.
If I can go to the matter of lawfare and the issues Senator McKenzie raised that have also been touched on by Senator Pocock—you have provided some response to that, as well. I note in your answer you gave to Senator McKenzie you talked about how the legislation here takes on a different form to that of legislation passed in other countries; I presume the United Kingdom, Germany and France. I am interested that, regardless of the form of legislation, the end result is a target enshrined in legislation, which is what we will have here. At the end of the passage of this bill, 43 per cent will exist in legislation. What analysis or advice was considered in the development of the government's view on this issue that it will not pave the way to greater lawfare? We heard only earlier this week—it might have been Monday—the Greens environment spokesperson say:
The climate wars will not end this week with the passage of Labor's climate bill …
That was a direct quote from Senator Hanson-Young. They're upfront, they're open and they're honest about it, and that is the position they are going to take. This bill will pass, but there's a guarantee that, should new coal and gas projects be opened up, the wars are still on. What advice or analysis, based on the legislation that has been drafted, was considered—are you able to take us through that?—in order to back the guarantee you put in place before, given the legislation here in Australia we are currently debating in this Senate is in a different form to that of legislation passed through other jurisdictions and put in place? If you can't provide that guarantee, I think it will just end up as a matter before the courts and we will see perhaps a torrent of legal action.
The Wilderness Society, along with other organisations who are defenders of the environment, as they say, suggest there's not going to be an issue, 'Don't worry; this will not pave the way to greater lawfare.' The point has been made that these things already happen. AFPA, the Australian Forest Products Association, a great organisation, weren't waving away concerns that this might pave the way to greater lawfare. The fact that it already happens is not a good reason to give those who seek to cause these issues a bigger platform to stand on. To that end I think we need to take seriously these concerns and provide a guarantee, so we have some sort of intent expressed on behalf of the government, around what it is that this law should and should not enable to happen.
In terms of overseas examples I turn to the United Kingdom and specifically the case of the Transport Action Network, who took action against the UK Secretary of State for Transport and the Highways England company. In referring to this case, in the statements of facts and the grounds for the case the Transport Action Network stated that the UK Secretary of State for Transport failed to take account of the impact of the UK government's Road Investment Strategy 2 on achieving specific climate change objectives, in particular the carbon budgets that were set by the government pursuant to section 4 of the Climate Change Act 2008 and the targets set by section 1 of the Climate Change Act for the net UK carbon account to be zero by 2050.
At least the second of those elements sounds pretty similar where we're going to end up, bar the detail of the specific number, after the passage of this legislation. According to the Transport Action Network in their case, new road infrastructure projects result in the loss of vegetation and of soils. There's embodied carbon in concrete, asphalt and raw materials which lead to higher vehicle speeds over time. It also allows for more traffic. So given that sort of case that has been presented in the United Kingdom, on the basis of the facts I've just read out to you, what guarantee can you give us? Again, you made a statement earlier suggesting that, because the legislation here takes a different form, we won't have the same issues they have had in the United Kingdom, putting to one side the cases we've seen in France and Germany, where we have the judiciary directing the legislature and the executive on how to deal with carbon emissions and laws around that place.
So I'd be keen to understand that, on behalf of those people we are enacting these laws on behalf of. Again: power prices, the $275—a direct answer on that—and 'lawfare', what guarantees exist from the government around what is going to happen once these laws are passed.
Finally: sadly, this is what happens when we guillotine debate. The coalition would happily sit here tonight until this debate is exhausted. Instead, we are dealing with one of their signature pieces of legislation in a couple of hours. All these amendments—on which many of the crossbenchers aren't going to be able to speak, because of the fact that time is running out—this is what happens in this brave new world of Labor-Greens politics: we've guillotined the debate.
I will proceed. I am just conscious that Senator Roberts has sought the call a couple of times. It may be that he seeks to remind me that he asked me a question about net zero, and I thought one of the things I could do in this contribution would be to respond to that question.
But first I will step through the amendments that Senator Pocock foreshadowed in his earlier contribution and indicate that the government will not be supporting these amendments. Amendment (1) on sheet 1619 is the amendment that goes to scope 3 emissions. We do not support this amendment, because our plan is focused on the framework set out by the Paris Agreement, and that agreement sets out obligations to reduce Australia's emissions.
The second amendment on sheet 1619 asks the Climate Change Authority to explain how it has taken into account best available scientific knowledge in preparing advice. We essentially do not support this change, because we consider it redundant. I should clarify, though, that—unlike the previous government—we are in no way afraid of science or scientists or independent advice. We've already amended the bill in the other places to reference the best available science. It's in the objects clause. The objects clause also makes explicit reference to article 2 of the Paris Agreement. That includes the global temperature goals, which are science based. For that reason, we do not support further amendments to duplicate the existing provisions of this bill. However, as I indicated earlier, we support some of the other amendments moved by Senator Pocock that are before the chair.
I think they're both of the matters that are dealt with on sheet 1619. Senator Duniam asks that I step through the legal advice. I think Senator Duniam will appreciate that it is not common practice for governments to make explicit or public the legal advice that they rely upon. But I can perhaps provide some information. The purpose of the legislation is to create a framework for private sector investment and to provide policy certainty. We have canvassed this already, and that is what business tell us that they need. The bill's development was informed by legal advice, including regarding potential litigation risks. Neither bill limits, constrains or directs how the government's policies are set or how the government would consider approving new resource or infrastructure projects, and the bills impose no legal obligation on any minister to make decisions on such projects in a certain way. It's on that basis that the department's advice was that there is no reason to expect that this bill will result in increased successful litigation.
Jurisdictions like Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and Victoria, where similar legislation—but not the same legislation—already exists have not seen an increase in successful litigation against the government. But they have seen increased investment and reduced emissions. That is part of the reason the government supports the bill as international best practice.
Finally, Senator Roberts asked about what net zero emissions means. Perhaps the best thing to do, Senator Roberts, is refer you to article 4 of the Paris Agreement, which talks about that. It says 'to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases'. What that really means is a balance between sources and sinks.
Balance between sources and sinks—wonderful!—and no impact of costs on the economy. So let's have a look at another aspect of this. You're not aware of net zero—it took you a long while to come up with that—and the best you can do is go to the United Nations, a fraudulent organisation—the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Senator Wong couldn't do it yesterday, so let's consider another agency that you rely on, the CSIRO. From September 2016 to March 2022 I've cross-examined the CSIRO and the previous Chief Scientist on climate science. CSIRO's climate science team made three presentations to me and my Senate office team, each about 2½ hours in length, and the first one was attended by the Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall. During the CSIRO's presentations, Minister, they made these facts, they stated these statements or they failed to confirm. Are you aware of these?
First of all, I must say that the CSIRO has been the primary reference for the Greens, the Labor Party, the National Party and the Liberal Party in government for their positions on climate change. The CSIRO admitted in its first presentation to me, under my cross-examination and my team's cross-examination, that it has never stated that carbon dioxide from human activity poses a danger. So we asked them, 'Where did the politicians come up with this pronouncement that you have stated that?' They said, 'Well, you'd better check with the politicians.' This is a political issue. Statements of danger came from politicians.
The second point: the CSIRO never quantified, in any of their three presentations or in Senate estimates since, any specific impact of carbon dioxide from human activity on any climate or weather variable such as temperature, rainfall, droughts, storms, ocean alkalinity, ocean salinity—nothing. Yet these are the fundamental basis that the National Party, the Liberal Party, the Labor Party and the Greens and Senator Pocock rely upon as a basis for climate and energy policy.
Thirdly, the CSIRO admitted—admitted—today's temperatures are not unprecedented. Today's temperatures are not unprecedented, CSIRO admission. CSIRO has failed to provide any logical scientific point showing that carbon dioxide from human activity causes climate change and needs to be cut. CSIRO relied instead upon unvalidated, erroneous and discredited computer models, which is what you're relying on now to squeeze the Australian people. The CSIRO has failed to provide any statistically significant evidence of any change in any climate or weather factor. They've never provided the empirical data or the logical scientific points on that. CSIRO initially relied upon one discredited paper on temperatures, Marcott 2013—one paper, after 48 years of so-called climate science. We demolished that—in fact, it had been demolished when it was first released. CSIRO has failed to actually counter what we've said about Marcott. They ran away from that discussion and stopped talking about it. Then they presented Harries 2001, a sole paper on carbon dioxide. They could not refute our criticism of those papers. Then they presented Lecavalier on temperatures. They have failed to produce any response to that—any response at all. That Lecavalier paper on temperature was in 2017 and, on carbon dioxide, they came out with Feldman 2015. Again, that was shown to be completely irrelevant, and the CSIRO has failed to come back to us again.
These are fundamental things. The CSIRO admitted that it has not done due diligence on data that it's brought in and relied upon from external agencies. CSIRO admits to not doing due diligence on reports from external agencies or on supposedly scientific papers it has provided. This is what this bill is based on. CSIRO revealed little understanding of papers it cited as evidence. CSIRO allows politicians and journalists to misrepresent CSIRO without correction, and the CSIRO has misled parliament. Minister, are you aware of these fundamental facts?
Senator Roberts, it sounds like many of the pieces of information you seek to put into the public domain in this debate are drawn from your personal interactions with the CSIRO. I wasn't present for those, and I'm not really in a position to assess whether your account of their information or their behaviour is accurate or to respond meaningfully to what you've put in public domain. I am sorry about that. I'm just not in a position to answer that question.
The time allotted for debate on the bills has now expired. After I put the question before the chair, I will put the question on the remaining stages of the bill. The question is that the amendment on sheet 1620 and amendments (1) to (5) on sheet 1621, moved by Senator David Pocock, be agreed to.
The question is that the amendments on sheet 1619, circulated by Senator Pocock, be agreed to.
Senat or Pocock's circulated amendments—
(1) Clause 12, page 7 (line 24), at the end of subclause (1), add:
; and (g) the progress made during the year towards reducing Australia's scope 3 emissions of greenhouse gas.
(2) Clause 15, page 11 (after line 2), after subclause (3A), insert:
(3B) The advice given under subsection (1) must include an explanation of how the Climate Change Authority has taken into account the best available scientific knowledge for the purposes of giving the advice.
The question now is that Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party's amendment (1) on sheet 1629, circulated earlier, be agreed to.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party 's circulated amendment—
(1) Clause 12, page 7 (after line 24), after subclause (1), insert:
(1A) A statement under subsection (1) must include:
(a) the total amount of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions for the financial year to which the statement relates; and
(b) a cost benefit analysis of each of the Commonwealth's policies mentioned in the statement, including:
(i) the amount by which the policy reduces anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; and
(ii) a regulatory impact statement for the policy which includes an outline of each of the matters mentioned in subsection (1B).
(1B) For the purposes of subparagraph (1A)(b)(ii), the matters are the following:
(a) the impact, if any, on the Commonwealth budget of that policy in the year to which the statement relates;
(b) the estimated impact, if any, on the Commonwealth budget of that policy in the following 3 financial years;
(c) the impact, if any, on Australia's gross domestic product that can be specifically attributed to that policy;
(d) the policy's compatibility with human rights (within the meaning of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011).