Clean Energy Amendment Bills 2012

It is a real pleasure to speak on this suite of clean energy amendment bills tonight, because I go way back in my interest and involvement with clean energy initiatives. I actually worked on the CPRS in the very early days of the climate change department, just before I came into this new world of being a politician. It was a great pleasure working on that initiative and engaging with industry and other sectors of the community in explaining what the CPRS would look like as well as engaging with the people in that wonderful department on the shape and form of the legislation and the regulations.

It was one of the highlights of my career in my former life with my microbusiness, so it is a great pleasure to use every opportunity to speak on this suite of clean energy initiatives that the Labor government has introduced. It is also a great pleasure to be speaking on these amendment bills tonight.

It was interesting listening to the member for Flinders discussing these amendment bills. I will just go back to a speech that he made in April 2008, in which he said: Perhaps the most important domestic policy was the decision of the Howard Government that Australia will implement a national carbon trading system.

Importantly, the Coalition pledged to establish a Climate Change Fund— and I will come back to that later— to re-invest a substantial proportion of emissions trading revenues in: clean energy technology, and support for households most affected by the impact of a price on carbon, in particular low income families and pensioners.

We hope that the new Government will take up this proposal. It is interesting in that there are remnants of all of that and more in what we have in these initiatives.

I want to recap briefly the main intent of these amendment bills before talking about how they will benefit my electorate of Canberra. My electorate of Canberra has actively engaged on the carbon price issue and also the clean energy future for Australia. Canberrans are acutely mindful of the need to protect the environment for future generations and also protect the economy for future generations. By embracing clean energy and clean energy futures and initiatives, we are doing exactly that.

We have heard from others that these amendment bills will facilitate the linking of Australia's emissions trading schemes with other countries' emissions trading schemes. These schemes include the European Union Emissions Trading System. The basic aim of these amendment bills is to remove the price floor that was to operate in the first three years of the flexible price period. Furthermore, these amendment bills will establish flexible registry arrangements that facilitate linking with other emissions trading schemes, even in circumstances where direct links between registries cannot be put in place. They will also increase the carbon unit auction limits that apply before a pollution cap is set. They apply a three-year limit on advanced auctioning of units. They also provide for an auction reserve price to be set, and they simplify the treatment of relinquished units.

We know that many in the coalition, many of those opposite, deny the science of climate change—I have had a number of emails from my colleague the member for Tangney on this issue—and that many oppose measures designed to reduce the impact of carbon pollution, but it is in the interests of every Australian that we link our emissions trading scheme to international markets. The ministers and others have outlined the myriad benefits that are accrued by linking with the international markets, but, aside from the technical components that will benefit liable Australian entities, the most critical outcome here is that Australia will be supporting global cooperation on climate change. No country can address climate change in isolation, and that is why the government is engaging internationally.

From 1 July 2015, Australia's carbon price will reflect the carbon price paid by at least 30 other countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany. This means that from 2015 Australia will transition into an internationally linked ETS where the global market sets the price on pollution. I have been asked by some in my electorate why this is needed, and the answer is that an internationally linked ETS can reduce carbon pollution at the lowest cost. There are emissions trading schemes being developed in many other countries, including China, Korea, Canada and South American nations, and the giant state of California, and this is likely to be the first of many international links that will form a global carbon market.

Before I go on to discuss what is happening in my electorate of Canberra—because not only is Labor acting nationally and internationally on this issue but also the ACT Labor government is acting locally, and I will come to some of the measures that it has introduced in a minute—I want to discuss what is happening internationally. Ninety countries covering more than 80 per cent of global emissions have made pledges in the United Nations to limit their carbon pollution by 2020. At Durban, for the first time, all of the world's major emitters, including Australia's biggest trading partners, the US and China, committed to taking on legal obligations from 2020 to reduce emissions. Countries agreed to negotiate a new legal treaty by 2015 to be implemented by 2020, and under the agreement all countries will be bound to cut emissions. As I have mentioned before, a price on carbon has operated for years in 33 countries and several North American states, and Australia's top five trading partners and another six of our top 20 trading partners have implemented or are piloting emissions trading schemes and carbon taxes at the national or regional level.

I now turn to what is happening in my electorate, because, as I said, Canberrans are acutely mindful of the need to act on climate change, the need to act for the environment and also, importantly, the need to act for the economy and to ensure that we are well positioned for a future clean energy world. Every time I have a community forum, people comment on it, and the majority of people in the audience are supportive of it. I would say that probably 90 per cent of the people who attend my community forums and who I meet in the streets of Canberra support a price on carbon.

The member for Flinders mentioned those constituents who come in and talk about electricity bills. There are some people who have come into my electorate office to discuss electricity bills and gas bills, and I had a number of them last week. We sit down and go through the bill and talk through the process, and the price increase is in keeping with the modelling. We just need to sit down. For those who are a bit concerned or confused about the issue, it is just a case of sitting down and talking them through the issue. In one instance, there was a woman who was particularly concerned about a range of cost-of-living expenses and initiated action on a particular issue that I will be pursuing with the ACT government.

So you sit down with people and go through the bill, and, once you have had a chat about it and explained what is going on, any concerns are alleviated.

There is in my electorate a high level of interest in and support for Australia's being part of an internationally linked ETS, because Canberrans are usually eager and early adopters and supporters of energy efficiencies. The ACT Labor government has one of the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in the country. Federal Labor is acting nationally and internationally, and the ACT Labor government is acting locally. The ACT government has formalised targets of zero net emissions, or carbon neutrality, by 2060 and a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. The ACT government has developed a sustainable energy policy, which was released last year and which is described as: … an integrated policy framework for managing the social, economic and environment challenges faced by the Territory in relation to energy production and use.

It would probably surprise many people listening to know that Canberrans have a very high carbon footprint. As a result of the way that Canberra—a planned city—has been designed on the basis of the satellite city concept and the Y-Plan, we are heavily dependent on cars. In a way, Canberra grew and matured around the car and around roads, so we have quite a high carbon footprint. From the work I was doing with the property council in my former life has a microbusiness owner, I know that many developers and academics around town are very keen to ensure that we improve the carbon footprint of the building and transport industries, and I know that the ACT government is keen to do this as well.

The ACT Labor government has initiated a long-term and visionary plan that sees an ongoing commitment to maintaining an affordable and reliable electricity and gas supply to the people of Canberra. Those members of parliament who spend half the year in my wonderful home turn should feel proud that they are residing in a jurisdiction which has the objectives of achieving both a more sustainable energy supply and carbon neutrality by 2060. The ACT is approaching these objectives in a number of ways: through reliable and affordable energy, through smarter use of energy, through cleaner energy and through the growth of the clean economy. In support of its objectives, the ACT government is conducting further studies of the rollout of smart meter technology to help households better manage their energy use. In addition, the ACT Labor government is looking to develop an energy savings initiative in order to support households to save energy and reduce their energy costs and usage and to seek renewable energy power. The aim is that two per cent of Canberra's electricity needs be met through the use of renewable energy power. This would mean a saving of nearly a million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the course of the initiative.

The ACT government is also supporting the use of green vehicles. A number of Canberrans are already using electric cars. I went to an expo that was held out the front of Old Parliament House last year, and there I had the chance to test-drive some of these electric cars. It was great to see so much interest from the community. There were not only electric cars but also electric tractors and motorbikes and a range of other electric vehicles for work and general transport. A hundred per cent green power is used to power these vehicles, and that means that there is no carbon footprint when people use them. Also, the ACT Labor government shares our commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere because we know that it is a shared responsibility and that all countries and communities must incorporate measures like the ones contained in the bills before us.

In my electorate, more and more people are saying to me that carbon pricing has had little or no effect on them or their lives. They see an Australian economy that is the envy of the world and understand that Australia must be part of the global solution arresting the growth of carbon pollution. They understand that modest price increases are being offset with assistance and can be explained and that where they are not explained we encourage people to go to the ACCC.

There are many inconvenient truths about these bills and the government's responsible and long-term vision to address climate change. One myth that my local Liberal counterparts like to sprout in their pursuit of fear campaigning is that we are somehow going it alone on climate change; the Liberals' also fear that Australia will become a world leader in fighting climate change. The truth is that many other countries in jurisdictions have or will have carbon taxes and carbon prices and emissions trading schemes. There are other facts that my Liberal counterparts bury their heads in the sand about. There is the fact that, by linking with the EU, Australia will have the same carbon price as 30 other countries with a combined population of 530 million people. There is the fact that by 2013 more than 150 million people will be living in a jurisdiction with a carbon price. Then there is the fact that the Australian economy did not collapse on 1 July this year.

I conclude with some remarks which were made by former Prime Minister Howard in 2007 on the coalition's climate change policy. He said: The Government recognises that the most efficient and effective way to manage emissions reductions is through market mechanisms. Emissions trading will ensure that the market rather than governments decide which abatement opportunities should be adopted to reduce emissions at least cost including those accessed through the application of existing and new technologies.

I hope that the coalition put their ideology aside and recognise the importance of Australia's linking its ETS with those of other countries in line with their thinking.

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