Standing up for Canberra

Clean Energy Bill 2011

Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker.

It is with the greatest pleasure that I rise tonight to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and associated bills and the need to take strong, positive, and effective action to tackle climate change and drive a clean energy future – a future the next generation of Australians deserve.

I have been waiting for three years for this opportunity, and I am delighted that I am able to stand in this house today and add my support and the support of the many Canberrans who have phoned me, emailed me, written to me, or spoken to me personally, calling for strong leadership and strong action on this issue.

The science is in. It is clear. It is beyond reasonable doubt. The world is warming, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and the bio-diversity of our planet is at risk. This is the clear message of the research. I believe what the scientists say.

I believe the Australian Academy of Science when it says that there has been wide spread melting of glaciers and ice caps.

When it says that the Greenland ice sheet is losing more than it gains through snow fall. When it says that the arctic sea ice has decreased significantly. I believe the scientists when they say that the average surface temperature in Australia has increased by about 0.7 degrees since 1960.

This warming has caused an Australia-wide average increase in the frequency of extremely hot days and a decrease in the frequency of cold days. It is also clear that the leading cause of this rapid degradation of our climate and the broader environment, is from the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.

I say this, because I have read the science, and I have spoken to the scientists. The ice core samples I saw during a visit to the University of Tasmania with the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories clearly showed that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased since the rise of the industrial revolution and the increase in the burning of fossil fuels that started at that time. To support this I offer again the words of the Australian Academy of Science, which says quite clearly:

“Human activities are increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere”

Anyone who has worked with a scientist or an academic will know that such clear, unambiguous declarations are rare from people who are very considered in their statements. The academy also says:

“It is very likely that most of the recent observed global warming is caused by increasing greenhouse gas levels.”

These statements and statements by others have convinced me completely we must act to address the emissions of carbon. I agree that there are a number of ways that we can do this. I agree that there is no one size fits all approach. But the experts are pretty clear and pretty consistent in their agreement on the best way to reduce carbon emissions.

The experts agree that the most efficient, the most effective way is to place a price on carbon and to move towards a carbon trading mechanism. Once again I don’t make this statement unsupported or uninformed.

I am informed and swayed by the people who know best – the experts in their areas.

According to Macquarie Bank chief economist, Richard Gibbs, consumers need a price on carbon to shift economic behaviour towards lower carbon and more energy efficient options. And these experts have convinced The Economist Once again the government has listened to the experts and has acted on their advice.

The package of legislation introduced yesterday will do precisely what the economists, academics and climate scientists – even The Australian – have been urging us to do for years.

Our package will put a price on carbon. It will reduce carbon pollution and drive investment in a new, cleaner, economy. Our package will grab the opportunities of a clean energy future. Our package will create new jobs and ensure that Australia remains the envy of the world for decades to come. Our package will transform and modernise the Australian economy, at the same time supporting the people Labor has always supported – workers, pensioners, and low and middle income Australians.

Our package will see Australia’s annual emissions reduce by at least 160 million tonnes in 2020 – which will be the equivalent of taking around 45 million cars off the road. Our package will drive investment in cleaner industries through the $10 billion dollar Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program, a program that will improve energy efficiency in manufacturing industries and support research and development in low pollution technologies.

Our package will ensure builders and tradies and engineers and apprentices get the specialised green skills that will increasingly be in demand in Australia through the $32 million Clean Energy Skills Program. Our package will support small business and action at the local government and community level.

Our package will encourage farmers to explore carbon credit options. Our package is good for every Australian, every arm of the Australian economy, and the economy as a whole. The modelling done by Treasury – and I know that those opposite don’t like the opinions of experts who disagree with them -shows that this package will see:

  • 1.6 million new jobs by 2020, and
  • That Gross National Income per person will increase from today’s levels, which is about $56,000, by around $9,000 per person to 2019-20. By 2050, the increase is expected to be more than $30,000 per person in today’s dollars.

This package will also support Australians as we transition to this new cleaner economy – although CPI is only expected to rise by 0.7 percent – less than the impact of the GST – and the assistance to the average household will outweigh the costs.

  • 9 in 10 households will receive a combination of tax cuts and increased payments to help them with the cost of living.
  • Almost 6 million households will be assisted through tax cuts or increased payments, to cover the average expected price impact.
  • Over 4 million households will get assistance that is at least 20 per cent more than the average expected price impact.
  • Over 1 million Australians will no longer need to lodge a tax return.

This is a comprehensive package that is supported by evidence, supported by experts, and has been extensively modelled. Contrary to what some in this place may be saying, both here and in their communities, it is a package that has been in the public domain for discussion and comment for several months now. It is also a plan that has received strong support from my electorate.

I quote now from some of those supporters. Tara from Isabella Plains e-mailed me to say: “I am writing as a constituent and a strong supporter of action on climate change. The scare campaign has confused people, but I wanted you to know that I want a price on pollution and I'm talking to others in your electorate about it. I urge you to vote in support of the price on pollution and the Clean Energy Future legislation and speak out in support of taking action on climate change.”

Jeanette from Conder said: “I would like to support the government's initiative on the carbon tax, in strong opposition to the campaign being waged against it. I do not want to see my grandchildren’s' future held hostage by ignorance.”

Gerard from Gowrie said to me: “I want you to know that, as a member of your constituency, I say yes to a price on carbon pollution, and Yes to new money for clean energy.” Please support this important step forward for Australia - by voting Yes”

Rona from Yarralumla wrote: “I believe history will applaud you, and that those who come after us will feel respect and gratitude for your stand.”

I believe the majority of Canberrans want this package, particularly the women – the grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters. I was deeply moved by the audience in the public gallery yesterday who had come to witness the historic introduction of this package by the Prime Minister. And what moved me most was the number of women who had taken the time out of their busy lives to be part of that significant moment. Women, young and old. Women with toddlers and babies in slings. In fact, I understand one woman travelled from Adelaide to be part of history. Most of the people in Canberra want this package, and they want it for their children’s future. Now is the time for leadership.

Now is the time for considered action to protect our future prosperity. Now is the time to put aside the gross partisan politics that has gripped this current parliament and act in the national interest. Now is the time to think big and long term, to be bold and innovative – to walk in the footsteps of Labor legends such as Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and John Button and Peter Cook and John Dawkins – and transform and modernise this economy so we can flourish in the future.

As with the transformation and modernisation of the Australian economy in the 80s, we know reform is tough. But reform is part of the Labor DNA, and we know that this reform is right for this country today and tomorrow.

Because imagine what Australia would look like today if we hadn’t undergone the reforms of the 80s? We’d still have four banks – and be paying a premium for money if we could get it. We’d still have protected industries, clinging to the past with outmoded and inefficient work practices. We would probably just be entering the open and liberalised world now, having wasted decades of opportunities, decades of prosperity, decades of a possible future. The future we have today.

A failure to act. A failure to put in place the best policy for the future, risks not only environmental catastrophe but economic ruin, as Australia will find itself unprepared to compete in the industries and the world of the future. This country has always been a leader in adapting to the changing times. We have always been able to absorb the changes to the economy and we are more prosperous as a result. Now is not the time to allow our economy to atrophy. I would like to remind those opposite that now is not the time to look backwards. Now is not the time to say no. Now is the time for the Leader of the Opposition to be more of a leader and less of an opposition.

Sadly all we have from him is apocalyptic and conspiratorial statements about how the package we debate today will lead to the destruction of life as we know it. Statements we know to be contrary to the evidence, which are simply not true. At the moment what we have opposite is an opposition that has a ‘plan’ and I use the word lightly because it will cost Australia and Australians an extraordinary amount of money, some $1300 per person, to pay polluters to they kindly agree to stop polluting. It is a plan that will not work. It is a plan that the Leader of the Opposition by his own admission says is not supported by experts.

Those opposite are not committed to tackling this problem. I agree with Warrick McKibbin, former member of the Reserve Bank Board when he said: "The Opposition would argue that their policy is better because it can go from where they are to no policy much more easily, The Opposition policy doesn't lead you anywhere, actually, except to the exit." If those opposite were genuine, if they believed climate change was a risk to the environment and the economy they would have joined with others in this chamber on the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change.

They would have joined the MPCCC in shaping of this package. They did not. What they did was travel the country selling fear and falsehood. Well enough is enough. The Prime Minister was correct. History will judge us on how we vote on this bill and I intend to be able to look my nieces and nephews in the eye in 20 years time and say I showed leadership today. I intend to look my great nieces and nephews in the eye in 40 years time and say I played my part to make sure they had a job, they had a cleaner environment and they had the same prosperity and opportunity I had in my childhood. I intend to look them in the eye and say I was bold and innovative and that I did it for your future. For Australia’s future.

I call on all members of the house to show leadership, show courage, and vote for these bills.

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