Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 August 2023


Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022 [No. 2]; Second Reading

9:02 am

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

I rise today to speak to this very important bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022 [No. 2], put forward in my name on behalf of the Australian Greens. Our climate, as we know, is getting warmer. Our environment is facing collapse, our planet is choking and, as the United Nations described only last week, we have moved from the era of global warming to the era of global boiling. This, of course, is contributed to and made by the burning of fossil fuels, oil, gas and coal—the toxic gases that are released into our atmosphere, choking our planet and pushing our precious environment and humanity to the brink.

Just recently in the Northern Hemisphere we've seen temperatures across Europe, the US and China regularly in the 40s, even hitting 50 degrees. There are fires as we stand here today across Italy, Greece and Spain, while Canada has faced its worst wildfire season in history. While we might call these 'wildfires' or 'bushfires', let me be very clear: they are climate fires. Right now, we are breaking temperature records day after day. On 4 July, it was the hottest day on record across the globe. That record was broken just one day later, with the Northern Hemisphere's long, hot summer in full swing. Scientists expect it to be broken again. Of course, scientists and experts are warning that back here in Australia we will be facing a long, hot, dry summer. We will see bushfires and climate fires. We will see drought return, and we will see heatwaves that put not just our environment in danger but our communities—our sick, our elderly and our young—in danger. We know that El Nino events are already underway and, here in Australia, our own Bureau of Meteorology says El Nino is very likely coming here soon too.

Climate change, or global boiling, increases the frequency and severity of extreme heat days. It increases floods. It is, indeed, the biggest threat to humanity, our biggest national security threat and the biggest issue facing us as a society. At the election last year, more Australians than ever before voted for climate change candidates. Australians voted for climate change action, and yet, as I stand here today, as we debate this bill, we still have laws in this country that allow for the expansion of the exact thing that is making the climate crisis worse. That, of course, is new coal and new gas mining. We have environment laws in this country that can give the tick of approval to any project, regardless of its impact on the climate. We hear, day after day, month after month, year after year, successive governments and successive environment ministers say: 'I've done my job. It all stacks up—tick. That new coalmine, that new gas field and that new big development that will take out a chunk of biodiversity can be approved, regardless of whether it damages the climate or makes the crisis worse.' If we are serious—and we must be, we need to be and we have no choice but to be—about dealing with the onslaught of this global boiling era, we have to stop approving projects that make climate change worse.

That means we need environment laws in this country that are strong enough to stop them. That is what this bill before us today does. It would ensure that, when any project is being assessed for approval by the nation's environment minister and being considered for its environmental impact, the minister, the department and the proponent would have to look at what damage this project is actually going to create. Is it going to make climate change worse? The reason this bill is important and the reason this change is important is that we have a responsibility not just to reduce the amount of pollution that currently exists in the system but to not keep piling it on. We must give our ministers and the government the powers and the tools they need.

The current environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has only been in the job for just over 12 months but has already approved coalmines. Already, she's given the green light to projects that are going to drive the climate crisis, put more pollution into the atmosphere and put more fuel on the fire. And when challenged about these decisions, the environment minister has said she has just stuck by the law; she's followed the law. The law does not require the minister to consider the impact and damage that fossil fuel projects will have on the climate before giving them the stamp of approval. Well, that's because the laws are broken. That's because the laws are not fit for purpose. That's because, in 2023, we have laws that are so out of date they allow the minister to legally approve a new coalmine, a new gas field or a new project that is going to drive and pour fuel on the climate fires. We've got to fix that, and that's what this piece of legislation, this Greens senator's bill, does today.

We're going to hear from both sides of the chamber today. We'll hear from the government that they can't possibly accept these changes today. And we'll hear from the opposition that they don't want this type of change because they don't want to put any more barriers in front of the coal and gas industry. But it's not good enough to have laws that we know are broken and not fix them, especially while they are being used to supercharge the climate crisis. It doesn't make any sense in 2023, in the era of global boiling. We're facing more extreme weather, more drought, more fire, more floods and more heatwaves. It doesn't make any sense to have laws that are so deficient that they allow the environment minister to give the green light to a new coalmine.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has approved three new fossil fuel projects in the last two months: the Isaac River coalmine, the Star Coal project and the Ensham coalmine. All of these are adding hundreds of millions of tonnes of pollution to the climate, pouring fuel on the fire of what is already a catastrophe. Broken laws are not a free pass to give the green light to new coal and gas. And it's not good enough for anyone in this government to sit back and say, 'Oh, well, it's out of our hands.' This is the Parliament of Australia. This is the Senate chamber. We are here today to debate a bill that fixes this loophole; the government has the opportunity to do it.

Later on in the year, the environment minister is going to bring forward a suite of amendments to the country's environment laws: tweaks here, tweaks there, some changes in this area, some deletions over there. A climate trigger—that is, the ability for the minister to stop climate catastrophe getting worse—must be included in that suite of amendments. In fact, we don't even have to wait for the minister to do her homework. We could get it done today because that is what this private senator's bill does.

No-one in this place can stand tall and say they are doing everything they can in the face of this era of global boiling, extreme weather, record-level heatwaves and high levels of anxiety of our young people about the state of the planet and what type of climate is going to be left for them if we are not going to do the hard work to stop making the situation worse. Why is it that, on the one hand, we have a government that say they are taking heed of climate concerns and they want to act and, on the other hand, the government have their own environment minister approving coalmines and expansions to the fossil fuel industry? Could it be that the Labor Party, just like the Liberal and National parties, continue to take donations from the fossil fuel industry? Could it be that the fossil fuel industry in this country still have their foot on the necks of the major parties?

Enough wringing of hands around the climate crisis—we need a bit more doing, a bit more real action, a bit more staring down the fossil fuel industry, ripping out the rug that they comfortably sit on, saying no to new coal, new gas and new fossil fuels and putting in place laws that give the minister the tools to protect not just the environment for now but the environment for future generations. It makes no sense that we have laws in this country that give the environment minister the right to approve new coalmines. That's what exists now. That's what this government is using, and it needs to stop. We need a climate trigger in our environment laws.

9:17 am

Photo of Fatima PaymanFatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have to say that I was surprised when I read this bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022 [No. 2], from the Greens. Is this bill from the same Greens that blocked the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009, the same Greens that voted with the 'no-alition' and instigated a decade of climate policy failure? Honestly, what a joke. I have been around this place for only a year, but I've seen enough to know that this bill is nothing more than the latest instalment of the not-so-Greens making it look like they care about environmental issues.

We all know they prefer chaos over compromise, and it's not just on climate policy. We have seen the same shameful political strategy on the Housing Australia Future Fund. It is so disheartening to see that, time and time again, the Greens are willing to politicise issues that have serious consequences for people's lives. And for what? More social media grabs on TikTok? If that's what it is, I can tell you right now that this bill is not a slay—far from it. In fact, the only thing more embarrassing for the Greens than voting with the 'no-alition' on climate policy is voting with the 'no-alition' and then introducing a bill on a climate trigger. Seriously? Given their track record, the Albanese government won't be lectured on climate policy by the Greens.

However, after a decade of inaction on climate under the previous Liberal-National government, we understand why there is significant community interest in reducing carbon pollution. And the government is doing just that. Nearly everywhere I go in my home state of Western Australia, from schools and universities to shopping centres and town halls, people of all ages are quite rightly expressing their concerns about climate change, and I'm always proud to explain the Albanese government's ambition to significantly reduce our emissions.

One of our first acts under the new Labor government was to legislate a climate target. In doing so, we enshrined in law a reduction in emissions of 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050, something those opposite clearly could never do. That's what happened when the Australian people voted for change. They voted in a government last year that changed the country and our climate policies for the better.

Australia has the potential to be a renewable energy superpower, but we need to end the climate wars that have been holding us back. Action on climate change is not a threat, it's an opportunity. The Albanese government recognises that opportunity and recognises that we must take strong action on climate change, and so do the millions of Australians who've installed solar panels on their roofs, who drive electric vehicles, who use public transport or who ride their bikes to work.

Australia's climate target covers all domestic emissions, including any additional emissions from new projects or activities. The government is on the right track to ensure we hit 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. In fact, the Albanese government has implemented numerous policies and put mechanisms in place to ensure we achieve our climate target, including the safeguard mechanism, which will apply to all large facilities that have more than 100,000 tonnes of emissions each year.

There are clear risks that rushing through a climate trigger, as the Greens would have us do, would be counterproductive. For starters, it would punish new projects that may be more emissions efficient than existing projects that produce high emissions, increasing uncertainty for businesses and making it more difficult to reach our targets. If we know anything, it's that the Greens love to make it more difficult. Although the Greens will never be satisfied, I want to assure the Australian people that the Albanese government has committed to reforming Australia's environmental laws, because it's clear that they're not effectively protecting our environment and that they're not giving certainty to business either.

You only have to look at the Australia state of the environment2021 report to get an idea of the situation the former government has left us in. Our environment is in a poor state and getting worse. I'm glad that the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, has taken bold action in response, particularly through the Nature Positive Plan and the introduction of new environmental laws, in order to better protect, restore and manage our unique environment. As the minister said:

… the equation facing Australia is simple. If our laws don't change, our trajectory of environmental decline will not change either.

Rather than rush through a bill, the minister will release the new environmental laws for public consultation. These new laws will be better for the environment and better for business. They are guided by three principles: delivering better environmental protections that are nature positive; speeding up decisions, making it easier for companies to do the right thing; and restoring integrity and trust to our environmental protection system.

Under the Liberals and Nationals, our environment was deliberately and wilfully trashed. Their approach had absolutely no regard for Australia's unique environment and biodiversity.

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

That is not true.

Photo of Fatima PaymanFatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The former minister, now the deputy opposition leader, received the Samuel review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act before Christmas, and what did she do? She sat on it for three months before releasing it. We know why. It's a catalogue of horrors, showing just how much damage a decade of Liberal Party and National Party neglect did to our environment. The report says that the Australian environment is in very bad shape and getting worse. How do you explain that? Let's look at the track record of those opposite in the last decade.

They axed climate laws and failed to legislate a target for net zero emissions by 2050. They failed to fix Australia's broken environmental laws, despite having a widely supported blueprint to do so. They sabotaged the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They promised $40 million for Indigenous water but never delivered a single drop. They set recycling targets, but with no actual plan for how to deliver them. They cut highly protected areas of marine parks in half. They cut funding to the environment department by 40 per cent. It's astonishing—a decade of environmental neglect, and they showed no signs of turning around. It's truly and utterly disgraceful.

Thankfully, we now have a Labor government that won't hide from the truth or delay work that needs to be done to improve Australia's environment. We know just how important our natural environment is, and we will do what it takes to protect it. I'm also pleased that we're getting on with the job of achieving our goal of a nature-positive Australia, leaving nature and our environment better off for our kids and grandkids. This means that we are protecting more of what's precious, repairing more of what's damaged and managing nature better for the future—not only because we want to do so but because we have to. What a contrast that must be to the decade of nature neglect we saw from those opposite. And I'm so proud that the government has made a terrific start in turning this all around. It stands in stark contrast to the decade of absolute contempt for the environment from those opposite.

Now, shall we talk about some of the incredible work the Albanese government is doing? It includes stronger laws to better protect nature and give faster, clearer development decisions. It's a win-win for nature and for business, and it's been welcomed by nature groups and business groups alike. We're setting up an environmental protection agency to ensure there is a tough cop on the beat to enforce stronger laws, and we're working towards zero new extinctions, backed up by a $225 million investment to protect koalas and other threatened species. We're also tripling the size of Macquarie Island Marine Park, which is home to penguins, seals and whales.

We're also repairing more of what's damaged by establishing a nature repair market to reward farmers and other landholders for restoring nature. We're repairing our urban rivers and waterways, and we're investing in blue carbon projects to restore mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses along our coast, including in Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia. We're eradicating cats on Christmas Island and funding actions against gamba grass in the Northern Territory. And, finally, we're managing nature better for the future by cracking down on plastic pollution, by signing up to an ambitious global target, by giving plastic recycling a $60 million boost, by doubling the number of Indigenous rangers to help look after country and by doubling funding for national parks in the budget—after a decade of neglect—to make sure precious places like Kakadu are safe and accessible for future generations. We're also delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, ending a decade of sabotage by the Liberals and Nationals. That's just a taste of the Albanese Labor government's plan for a nature-positive Australia. It's a very welcome relief, I must say, after the decade of nature neglect by the 'no-alition'.

9:28 am

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I've got to tell you I was so delighted to hear what the Labor Party is doing to fix the environment in this country, after what we've just had described—quite erroneously, I think—by the last speaker. It's like people don't actually go and do their research before they get up and say what they say. If there was ever a debate in this place that was more tone-deaf or more demonstrative of being out of touch, then I'd love to know about it. Here we are talking about a climate crisis—I concede that there are issues we should always be taking seriously in our environment, but not one of the last two speakers mentioned something affecting every Australian, and that is the cost of living. Not one of them. They are totally out of touch with this issue that actually affects every single Australian.

It does say something about this government, who rely on the support of the Australian Greens to get its legislation through this place. You have this faux fallout between Labor and the Greens, as evidenced by Senator Payman's well-constructed yet perhaps a little flimsy contribution to this debate. Here we are talking about how the Greens don't really have any environmental policies and it's all about TikTok grabs and things like that. But I have to remind Senator Payman that they were born out of this stuff, and they are destructive for the economy. Let me remind you: these are the people you rely on for your place in this parliament, to be the government. They are all about the environment, not about the economy, and this bill is all about exactly that. It is all about making it harder to earn a buck, making it harder to pay the bills, making it harder to generate electricity, making it harder to cut down trees for beautiful pieces of furniture like the ones that adorn this chamber. I always make reference to that, and I will come back to the Labor Party's record on forestry, particularly in Western Australia.

Photo of Fatima PaymanFatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's so much better than yours!

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Payman says by interjection their record is much better than ours. Let's see what happens after the Australian Labor Party's national conference, where the Labor Environment Action Network take over the joint and force a shutdown of that industry.

But back to the bill at hand, this climate trigger bill, where it's all about the environment at the expense of the economy, at the expense of Australian households, at the expense of families sleeping well at night knowing, as Senator McKenzie said, they will have a job tomorrow, that they can continue to pay their bills. While we are on bills, there was one promise that was made, and I refer to Senator Payman's contributions in the last debate where she talked about the Nature Positive Plan. I haven't seen anything of substance come out of government on the Nature Positive Plan because—you know what?—it's falling apart. They can't work with anyone in the sector—business, environment, primary producers. No-one is supportive of what this government is doing to our environmental laws in this country.

That's the promise Senator Payman wanted to talk about but not the promise on power prices, which was made 97 times before the last election, but has been referenced only once by any minister in this government since the election. Senator Ayres kindly repeated that figure, $275. He's the only Labor member of parliament to have referenced that promise since the election—one they've abandoned, one they don't care about, again demonstrating how out of touch this government is with the people of Australia. I look forward to hearing whether whoever the Labor speakers are on this debate will touch on this issue, which affects every single Australian household and their ability to pay their bills and have a secure job.

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

There's that fairy dust, Jonno!

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I agree with the comment made by Senator Hughes; it is akin to fairy dust. But the point is this bill is damaging. It is destructive, and it will not have the environmental outcome that the Greens would lead us to believe.

I listened carefully to what Senator the Hanson-Young had to say because Senator the Hanson-Young has strong views on this and has put a lot of work in on it. I'm looking forward to the committee inquiry into this bill and indeed the committee stage on this bill too. I have a lot of questions for the mover of this bill, and I'm looking forward to getting answers to them. There's this fundamental problem I have with carbon legislation in this country, and that is what it does for us in an international setting. When we make it more expensive to do business here by applying punitive regimes to businesses that are emissions intensive, rather than working with them to reduce their emissions, it drives up the cost of doing business here.

These so-called nasty businesses that get those dirty profits, of course, while generating all this economic activity and creating thousands—tens of thousands—of jobs for Australians, make decisions around what is economically and financially sensible for them. Many of these organisations—again, nasty though they are—are international, so owned by overseas companies, but they're providing economic activity for Australian households, subcontractors, other parts of the community, many of them in regional Australia. They will make decisions about business in this country based on how expensive and easy it is to do business here. This is why we opposed Labor's safeguard mechanism. You get glib comments from government senators about being the 'no-alition'. I'll tell you what: we proudly oppose that legislation because I guarantee you it will do what we said it would over time, and that is make this country uncompetitive when it comes to doing business here. It will make it harder for those businesses that provide so much economic input into this country to continue to operate. The net result will be, as their profits decline, as the return on investment evaporates, that those businesses will decrease their footprint here, and perhaps, sadly, eventually, shut up shop.

Of course, they won't stop doing business here. They won't completely disappear from the planet because global demand for the products that these businesses create, like aluminium, steel, cement, all of these inputs into our growing economy and growing population centres—and let's not forget about Labor's plan to borrow a stack of cash at the taxpayers expense to build 30,000 homes, and many of the inputs are going to come from these emissions intensive industries—will mean those business will still be catering to that demand, but they just won't be doing it here. They'll be doing it in countries where they do not care about the environment—where there are no safeguards, where there are no protections for the environment or plans to reduce emissions—because it's cheaper to do it there and the laws are weak.

And so here we are offshoring jobs, Australian jobs, at a time when we're in a cost-of-living crisis, again something the Australian Labor Party and their bedfellows the Greens refuse to acknowledge, but we're also offshoring this environmental issue. It's not like for like either. It's making it much, much worse. Again, our environmental standards, while there's always room for improvement, are better than most of the rest of the world. Our decision-making process, our regulatory frameworks around businesses, primary industries, extractive industries is better than most of the rest of the world. And we should be proud of that. We shouldn't be buying into the spin that we are somehow pillaging our nation and leaving behind us a trail of destruction. That is not fact, not in any of our extractive or primary industries.

The reality is, with legislation like this, with legislation like the Australian Labor Party's safeguard mechanism, there will be more environmental destruction globally, more emissions globally, than there would be if we allowed these businesses to continue to operate here and worked with them and incentivised an arrangement whereby they were able to minimise their emissions and environmental impact. That's what the coalition was doing. You only have to look at the numbers between 2013 and 2021, emissions were reduced by just over 560 million tonnes, down to 488 million tonnes by the time we left government. And we did all of that without legislating a target, this magic wand that Labor have waved to reduce emissions, or taxing the life out of businesses and making it an uncompetitive environment.

There will be terrible outcomes from their legislation, and that is why we opposed it. It is why we oppose this bill, because this bill will take what is a bad situation and make it a thousand times worse—not just for us here today and for our future generations, but for the planet. As I said before, it will be generating worse environmental outcomes across the globe, in countries where there are huge vulnerable populations, endangered species. We are going to be sending businesses that do have an impact on the environment to those places because no-one wants to see it happen here. We'll just send it to those developing countries that need the economic activity.

This is the madness of the Labor narrative at the moment. They've been in government for 15 months and they reckon by being able to—

Photo of Fatima PaymanFatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Doing so much more than you!

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take that interjection from Senator Payman, who's been with us a year now. Senator Payman reflects on our time in government. I want to talk about the Great Barrier Reef, which is susceptible to the impacts of climate change which, as the point's been made by the Australian Greens, is generated by carbon emissions. Yesterday we had this galling claim from the minister for the environment and the Prime Minister that after 15 months in government they saved the reef. But I want us to look at the history. In 2012, under the Labor government—and I can't remember which Prime Minister was in power at that point—the UNESCO World Heritage Committee had the reef going onto the 'in danger' list. It was a coalition government that invested $2 billion to get us on the right path. If we want to talk about a decade—however you characterise it—let's get some proof into this and look at some evidence of our decade. It was just last year, in August 2022, that the Australian Institute of Marine Science demonstrated for their 36 years of record keeping the reef had record coral cover. That was last year. It was at its lowest under Labor in 2012. Guess what? They say: 'Forget the last decade.' They characterise it as 'waste' and 'neglect' and whatever other adjectives they've picked up from their night-time viewing of Utopia to apply to the coalition's last nine years. They say: 'Let's forget the science. Let's forget the empirical data.' They talk about legislating a target and say they've suddenly fixed the reef. They haven't. This is the bunkum in Labor's narrative. Their policies are falling apart. They will probably be forced over time to adopt a climate trigger. They'll probably be forced to by the Australian Greens in negotiations over their much delayed and seriously shaky environmental reforms, their Nature Positive Plan, which has no basis whatsoever.

Let's not forget that in the year 2005 the shadow environment and heritage minister, the Hon. Anthony Albanese, currently the Prime Minister, proposed exactly the same thing we're debating here today. So this is coming from a government that says one thing at a point in time, normally before an election, and then goes and does something very different after the election. You had the former shadow environment minister, now Prime Minister, saying that there was a 'glaring gap in matters of national environmental significance' on climate change and that the bill he introduced contemplating a climate trigger would 'enable major new projects to be assessed for their climate change impact as part of any environmental assessment process' and would ensure that new developments reflected best practice.

So the now Labor Prime Minister had a very similar bill to the one that Senator Hanson-Young has put before us. He now has the keys to the Lodge. He sits at the head of the table in cabinet. What's changed? I'm not sure anything has changed. I say to the people of Australia: don't trust them, because I reckon there is a chance that Senator Hanson-Young will get her way and will convince this crew here in a moment of weakness to adopt a climate trigger and bring about the economic Armageddon that we inevitably see under Labor-Green governments in this country. You've got it from the now Prime Minister and then shadow environment minister. You didn't get it from any Labor speaker in this debate, but that's the truth. The damage and the destruction, economically and environmentally, that will come from this arrangement—by 'this arrangement' I mean the Labor-Greens coalition and their bills to lock down development in this country only to send emissions and jobs offshore—will destroy this country. I look forward to further Labor contributions that might reference the cost-of-living crisis they are making worse.

9:43 am

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of the bill, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022 [No. 2], my wonderful colleague Senator Hanson-Young has brought to this chamber this morning. I want to echo some of the comments she made about the importance of this bill and add my voice to this debate.

It has been set out that there are nine matters of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act. Emissions-intensive activities are not one of those. There isn't a climate trigger currently, so we are here having this debate. There's a clear gap in the legislation that allows for the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry against very clear scientific evidence. The advice says no new coal and gas projects and no new fossil fuel projects can be expanded or opened if we have absolutely any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees and, in particular, upholding our commitments to the Paris Agreement. This advice also says we need to reduce emissions by 75 per cent. Seventy-five is the magic number, yet here we are, having this debate with over 100 fossil fuel projects in the approval pipeline and with only a weak 43 per cent emissions reduction target. We thought we had a change of government a year ago, but this government still sees no issue. In fact, it seriously lacks ambition and has a blatant disregard for the science. There is no current legislative requirement for the climate impacts of these projects to actually be taken into consideration. That is the legislative gap.

The government may want to ignore the very clear scientific evidence. They may want to ignore the traditional owners, who don't want this project on this country, but we, on this side of the chamber, in this block, the Australian Greens, will keep standing up and will keep saying the same thing: we will keep demanding people listen on behalf of the science and behalf of those traditional owners. We will absolutely make sure and keep pursuing justice, as this government should be doing in the first place. They came into this place talking about how they were going to change things, how they were different from the opposition. This bill that exactly that. This bill that Senator Hanson-Young has brought to this place today does exactly that.

As other speakers have already noted, in 2005 the Prime Minister introduced a very similar bill to this. So the government knows there is a gap. The Prime Minister knows there is a gap to be filled. Now they actually have the power to do something, but what do we hear? 'Forty-three per cent is all we have to offer. The climate wars are over. We need gas for the economy. There's a domestic gas shortage.' That is a lie. We finally hear the government is committed to taking climate action and—

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

The reef's fixed, apparently! It's all done!

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Hughes. I know you'll get your turn to make your interjections and your contribution.

And the words that spring to mind are 'minimal' and 'insufficient'. Today's news is clear. The young activist Prime Minister—sometimes our past comes to haunt us, like this bill that he presented in 2005. We want to know and we are asking today: Where's the action? Where's the strong vision that this Prime Minister had in 2005 and brought to this place? What happened to the Labor Party who were once committed to taking stronger action on climate change? What happened to them? They've disappeared.

The reality is that we're not doing enough. Not only are we not doing enough; this government is pouring petrol on the fire. The impacts of climate change are not fixed in the future, are not something that are going to happen to our kids and our grand kids; it's right here and now. There's not a week that goes by when there's not an article about oceans boiling, record temperatures, flowers blooming unseasonably early, ice melting, coral bleaches, floods, fires, heatwaves—the list goes on. Frankly, I'm terrified. I'm terrified for my children's future on a planet where we have already disrupted the delicate balance of how this earth thrived for thousands of years. I'm not going to stand here and sugar coat that. I think the Greens have been particularly clear about our position on that.

As the Greens spokesperson for resources, in my day job I meet with a lot of climate groups who know the situation that we face. They know the action that is required, and they continue to run absolutely wonderful campaigns to do that. They know that we cannot open up another single one of the projects that are currently in that approval pipeline. And they know there are serious flaws with the current legislation that allow for these projects to continually be approved, despite all the evidence saying that we should not proceed with them.

In my other hat, as a First Nations spokesperson, I also meet with traditional owners from across the country. Traditional owners tell me that they don't want these projects on their country because they face some of the impacts of climate change—specifically in regional Australia. The Nationals sit over there and tell you how we should be worrying about what's happening in the regions. Get out in the regions and talk to traditional owners.

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

I do!

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McDonald is nodding her head over there. You can fund resources companies and advocate for them, but they get on their planes and they fly out of those locations. That don't stay there and they do not endure some of the impacts of what's happening for those communities.

Traditional owners tell me about some of the instances where there are sacred burial sites that are being uncovered. We had the debate in this place yesterday about the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws. They're not only being uncovered by some of the cultural heritage surveys conducted in this country but also by the rising sea levels. Our island nations in the Torres Strait have also taken court action against the government in relation to these. There is also smog and emissions that come from these facilities that are eroding sacred rock art in my state of Western Australia. There are songlines that are being placed at risk because of the gas pipelines and wells that are disrupting these sacred places. Most importantly, they tell me that no-one talks to them. No-one comes out and asks them about what is happening in their land and in their sea country. They are not providing consent to these projects, in order to receive compensation for that—reparation.

I'm glad Senator Duniam raised the issue of money, because that is not happening for some of these groups. Whilst this bill pertains to the emission of the project and seeks to address this legislative gap, this opposition from traditional owners shows another legislative gap that the government and the fossil fuel companies are, in fact, taking advantage of. This bill seeks to fix the part that's unbalanced. Really, it's the least the government could do.

Beetaloo Basin has been given the green light by the Northern Territory government. They walked back promises to fully implement all the recommendations from the Pepper inquiry. That's before fracking even occurred in the Beetaloo Basin. We talk about the emissions. They have estimated this could increase the Northern Territory's emissions by 117 million tonnes of CO2 per annum—not overall, per annum. This is 22 per cent of Australia's annual emissions—with a 43 per cent target. Wow. It gets better. Let's talk about Woodside's Scarborough project in Western Australia. It is estimated that their emissions over the life of the project—until 2055, and, in fact, they are looking to stretch that out to 2070—is now 1.37 billion tonnes of CO2. It's going to bust that emissions target on its own by continuing to expand Pluto 3 and 4 at Scarborough. Narrabri in New South Wales could add almost 130 million tonnes of emissions due to its operations. On top of all these, it's also been reported recently there are methane leaks from gas facilities. These are not even being measured. The irony of this is that we don't actually know how much of it is leaking out, because people haven't been monitoring or measuring it. But what we do know is that methane is more potent than CO2. These things are completely unacceptable and that is why we are here as elected members, to make sure that we have legislation that is fit for purpose. We are in the middle of a climate crisis. It is here. Not one of these projects should continue to go ahead, let alone all of the ones that I have just listed. These are the climate bombs that we can't afford to let off.

I have not even yet mentioned the billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies that the government provides and the millions of dollars that fossil fuel companies donate to the major parties. We know that. Every year that is reported, and Senator Waters does an amazing job exposing that for our team, so thank you, Senator Waters, for your amazing work. This means this whole system is completely broken. It's not just one thing. The climate trigger will enable us to look at these projects better, to look at the impact for the environment. Currently, in some dark, smoky room, as my colleague Senator Shoebridge would say, the industry has set up this system that's in favour of the fossil fuel companies, working with the government against the environment, against the climate and against traditional owners in this country, as I have already said. This system continues to cook the planet. It's destroying cultural heritage in this country. It pays big for a select few, while the rest of us are left to suffer the consequences.

There is, in fact, a long, long fight ahead of us, friends. For those people out there watching today, the climate wars are far from over unless we do something about it today, unless we have the courage and show the leadership that we have brought to this place by putting a climate trigger in the EPBC Act.

9:57 am

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

This bill is purportedly but not practically aimed at reducing emissions-intensive activities through Australia. It's irresponsible. It's hysterical, but we should be used to that, and I will get to this later. Its contents reflect the Greens' ongoing ambitions to encourage increased Green lawfare and impose tougher, more stringent environmental conditions and standards than already apply to economic projects and activities across this country.

Adam Bandt and Sarah Hanson-Young have each openly stated in their second reading speeches that the purpose of the bill is as much about trying to stop new coal, oil and gas projects as anything else. But it is the Australian resources industry that is creating jobs, business opportunities, investment, especially in regional Australia, and I really resent being implied as a FIFO politician living in North Queensland, as I do—a little bit more research would be appreciated from the Greens.

The Australian resources industry is the one paying the bills in this country. We do an incredible job to extraordinarily high international standards, which means that, as a country that mines, whether it be coal, oil, gas, critical minerals, rare earths, we provide agricultural security to Australia and to a good part of our neighbours. We export those standards as well as those products. That is something that we should be proud of.

The resources and energy sector accounts for over 14.5 per cent of Australia's GDP, which was $354 billion in 2022. I am not sure what the plan is when those royalty regimes, those corporate taxes, those well paid PAYG jobs dry up. Who is going to pay the bills in this country? Who will allow us to have the First World health and education system that we have? Who will allow us to live the quality of life that we enjoy in this country? The sector's exports will peak at $464 billion in 2022-23, the highest ever export earnings. The Greens continue to make up numbers about the sector while ignoring the fact that it is ensuring our energy security. The lessons of the past few months are that energy security equals national security for all Australians. So now we've got energy security, we have financial security and, would you believe, environmental security, because it is those well-resourced, profitable businesses who are able to afford to be good environmental managers. In fact, it is mining companies who employ the vast majority of environmental scientists and researchers and who invest in land management projects in this country. If we look at the work that Ranger Mine has done in Kakadu, their engagement with managing invasive species and in other activities there, that is never spoken about. That is never spoken about—who is actually doing the heavy lifting in environmental management on country.

This bill incorporates provisions that would add a new category to the list. We've heard details of this, of the already nine matters of national environmental significance that are defined in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the EPBC Act. More specifically, passages of this bill would require the federal environment minister to intervene to halt activities causing at least 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent scope-1 emissions annually if they were to adversely affect Australia's national carbon budget and the fulfilment of the nation's emissions reduction targets. But the key effect of this bill, if it was to be passed, would therefore be to, disastrously, force the federal government to limit or curtail many forms of industrial activity in Australia.

Unfortunately, most Australians won't hear this debate. Most Australians are at work today. Some are listening to this on the radio, but the vast majority are at work, and they're very pleased to know that they are taking home a salary or a wage to support their family. For those employed in these industrial projects, particularly well-paid mining resource industry projects, they are able to try and deal with the cost-of-living rises that, in many cases, are the result of these rushed, poorly thought through environmental legislative changes that Labor has introduced and that the Greens would take so much further.

It is Australians who suffer most from this kind of legislation, and it is the Greens who only want to talk about legislation. A friend of mine used to say, 'To a man with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.' That is exactly how the Greens look at this place. It's legislation, legislation, legislation. There is no understanding of the modern society that we live in. There is no understanding of the work that these businesses are doing to introduce new technologies, new environmental programs, because they live in these communities. They live in these communities, not in Canberra, not in inner-city Melbourne or Sydney, but actually in the regions where these activities are happening, and they care.

The Greens have failed to specify the financial and regulatory impacts of this legislation. However, it is patently clear that, if this bill was to be passed, these impacts would be substantial. It would give rise to even more environmental assessments and approval processes that already exist. Many businesses are already forced to spend months and years navigating and meeting exacting green tape and compliance requirements associated with these processes, not to improve environmental outcomes but just to pay bureaucratic fees. This new legislation would only exacerbate these problems. As the final report of the recent Samuel review noted, the creation of a climate trigger would also result 'in muddled responsibilities, further duplication and inefficiency' across the various tiers of government in Australia. In short, a climate trigger would be economically destructive.

Senator Payman previously spoke about Australians putting solar panels on their roofs and buying EVs, but there was no acknowledgement that this is Australians' only way of trying to offset the gross and fast-rising cost of living, particularly electricity costs. In Queensland, under the Labor government there, the introduction of the renewables rebate drove up electricity prices by a billion dollars. Guess what? That's paid by the Australian consumer and Queensland consumers—the people who can least afford it. It's harder to build a house. In Darwin, they can't expand to build more houses because of the existing environmental regulations, and it will be harder to have a job.

Australia's high-quality coal and gas play an important role not only domestically but in other countries around the world. The Liberal-National coalition is committed to supporting these industries. Yes—we're happy to say it out loud. It's no secret, because these industries supply Australia's high-quality resources not just for this country but to export markets, to help lift millions out of poverty. Coal provides affordable, reliable electricity to both industry and families. Australian coal is of the highest quality in the world. We produce it more efficiently than most, meaning more energy with less emissions. That puts our coal and gas sectors and the thousands of Australians who work in them in prime positions to benefit from the increased global demand for energy resources.

As China and India increase their demand for coal, both for steel creation and energy generation, and as Japan and Korea demand more gas to fuel their transition, it is in everyone's interest that our high-quality resources are the first choice for our partners around the world. Japan has publicly called on the Prime Minister to guarantee gas supplies over the coming years. It would be both embarrassing and inexcusable if we were to let down our international trade partners who rely on our natural resources. Were we to shut down our coal and gas production and refuse to step up to our responsibilities to meet demand around the world, those countries who need our resources would—as we saw during the recent crisis—turn to lower-quality, higher-emitting resources from other countries. We saw this in Africa, where countries were forced to turn back to burning wood and dung, because they couldn't afford other energy generation.

Moral grandstanding about Australia's coal and gas industries may make the Greens feel better, but shutting down our industries will have the opposite effect that they have hoped for. If Australia withdraws from exporting our high-quality coal and gas, global emissions will rise. Our energy exports provide a benefit beyond Australia. They support new technologies and new infrastructure across our regions. They bring hundreds of millions of people out of energy poverty and into the growing global middle class. Nearly everything that allows us to enjoy a first-world lifestyle would not exist without mining. From high-tech manufacturing to the food on our plates, from energy generation to the steel frames that hold up our homes, the Greens cannot tell us where they would source these vital imports that support our way of life. Coal and gas are not just used for energy; they're critical in a number of vital products in modern society, like steel, like concrete and like fertiliser. Gas plays a pivotal role in the production of fertiliser. It's critical to supporting the billions of lives on this earth. Ammonia, urea—these sustain the food security of billions of people around the world. Petroleum is a vital component in the creation of plastics and pharmaceuticals. Coal is vital in many non-energy industries. I've mentioned steel and cement. There are also coal-to-chemical processes, rare earth extractions and carbon fibre production, to name just a few. According to the World Steel Association, 780 kilograms of metallurgical coal are required to make a single tonne of steel. Over 200 kilograms of coal are required to produce a tonne of cement. It would appear that the Greens have forgotten that wind turbines require hundreds of tonnes of steel in the production of every turbine, as well as cement for the base. It has been said: if it is not made of steel, it's made in a factory made of steel. Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products as components—soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, including rayon and nylon. It's just another example of how disconnected from reality the Greens truly are.

This legislation would just offshore our responsibilities and send them off to countries that are less regulated, less capable and less able to deliver than ours. We have countries in other parts of the world, like in Africa, who are now starting to raise the flag and say in global forums: 'Do not deny us the opportunity to enjoy a quality of life and a lifestyle that you already have. Do not deny us the opportunity to live in homes that aren't smoky and to have a higher quality of living.' Affordable energy is the pathway to that. Labor can claim they support jobs in the coal and gas industries, but their actions show that they are more committed to securing Greens preferences than supporting the workers of Australia. Labor have a chance now to reject the extreme position of the Greens, put their money where their mouth is, and actually start approving new coal and gas projects in Australia. It's frustrating that the Greens are so divorced and so detached from reality that they continue to talk down a vital Australian industry that provides jobs and funds services across this country. Labor's reliance on the Greens continues to threaten Australia's coal and gas industries, which are key pillars of our economy that continue to provide cheap and secure electricity, jobs and funding for vital services.

Debate adjourned.