Michael Danby
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports

Carbon Pricing

MR DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (11:43): I rise to speak on the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills. We have a responsibility to ensure that generations after us do not inherit the problems of today. A carbon price, in my view, is an effective method to transit our economy from a high-emitting economy to a low-emitting one.

We would like to be remembered as having left to our children a better Australia and a better economy than we inherited. We can say when we leave this place that when we were asked to act we did not falter but instead rose above the bitter, vitriolic-indeed, I would argue, conspiracy-raising-point-scoring that has been part of this debate.

St Kilda beach in the heart of Melbourne Ports – it is for areas like this that we are trying to save our precious environment

Many people in this debate act in good faith. As on most issues, they vote on the future of the country in that spirit. That is why the introduction of the clean energy bills and the implementation of a carbon price is essential. The clean energy bills will ensure that the 500 largest polluters in Australia pay for emitting carbon, not ourselves. Costs that are passed on to consumers will be offset by compensation. In my own electorate of Melbourne Ports, surrounded by Port Phillip Bay, 14,500 pensioners will receive an extra $338 per year if they are single, and there will be up to $510 per year for couples combined. Two thousand, three hundred self-funded retirees will receive an extra $338 per year if they are single, and there will be up to $510 per year for couples combined. Three thousand job seekers in Melbourne Ports will get up to $218 extra per year, for singles, and $390 per year, for couples. Seven hundred single parents in Melbourne Ports will get an extra $289 per year, and 2,100 students will get up to $117 extra per year.

The government will also be providing tax cuts that will increase the tax-free threshold-this is most significant-from $6,000 to $18,000 on 1 July 2012 and to $19,400 on 1 July 2015. The tax cuts from the increase in the threshold gradually will be offset so that those with taxable incomes under $80,000 a year get a cut that counters their higher energy prices, while those earning about $80,000 will have no change in their tax bills. Overall, the carbon price will see prices rise by less than one per cent. The modelling says that there will be an increase in the number of jobs by 2013 and a further increase in 2020. Of course, with international economic circumstances we cannot necessarily predict exactly where the Australian economy will be going, but certainly the economic evidence that I have seen suggests that with the new arrangements under the clean energy legislation there will be as many jobs newly created as may be jeopardised.

Our $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program will shield heavy industry sectors like steelmaking, aluminium production and glass and paper manufacturing from the carbon price to support jobs in Australia. The $300 million Steel Transformation Plan will provide extra assistance for steelmakers. I note it was even supported on Lateline last night by Mr Warburton, who said that, despite his opposition to this legislation, the industry associations do support the Steel Transformation Plan. On top of that, there is an $800 million Clean Technology Investment Program, which will provide grants for manufacturers to invest in energy-saving equipment and low-pollution technologies-and there is also a special $150 million program for the food-processing sector.

Those opposite would have us believe that in Australia we are increasing the cost of living by hundreds of dollars for each Australian. We are not. As I said, any costs will be offset by compensation-compensation which those opposite claim they will take away, after the legislation has passed, from pensioners, students and low-income earning Australians who will benefit from the new higher tax-free threshold. A carbon price will not apply to emissions from agriculture and from cars and light commercial vehicles or to off-road agriculture, forestry and fishery uses.

When Malcolm Turnbull rose in support of the ETS last year he said the reason he backed the ETS, and the Liberals had proposed it under John Howard, was:

… because we as Liberals believed in the superior efficiency of the free market to set a price on carbon.

It is ironic that the opposition are opposed to the free market. For all their raging about us being socialists et cetera, we are the ones who are supporting it.

We still have a bipartisan medium-term target of reducing our emissions by between five and 16 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020. So I ask: if there is bipartisan support for the level of reduction then surely those opposite ought to be willing to support initiatives to reduce our emissions? But the opposition are now opposed to being part of the process to tackle climate change. This was not always the case, and I believe many within the opposition still believe that the best course to take is a price on carbon and then a carbon emissions trading scheme.

The shadow Treasurer, the member for North Sydney, admitted in May last year in the Sydney Morning Herald that it was ‘inevitable’ that Australia would have a price on carbon. He said:

Inevitably we’ll have a price on carbon … we’ll have to.

The member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, once supported a tax on carbon. We have all seen the footage of the interview the Leader of the Opposition gave to Sky News in 2009, but his words are worth remembering. In the interview, the member for Warringah said:

… if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax? … Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more? And then at the end of the year, you can take your invoices to the tax office and get a rebate. It would be burdensome-all taxes are burdensome-but it would certainly raise the price of carbon without increasing in any way the overall tax burden.

It is clear that Mr Abbott will say or do anything-will change his position on climate change over and over again, just like he has on the issue of offshore detention, or whatever it takes-to get himself into the Lodge.

The coalition, under their plan, will tax people, not polluters. The member for Warringah’s ‘direct action’ plan would hit every Australian household with a $720-a-year charge. Business costs would rise. Living costs would rise. The Liberal plan costs families $720 a year, does not protect or create jobs and, most importantly, does not work. There is no evidence that the Liberal plan will achieve its carbon reduction goals. I am in favour of tree planting, but some people have said that an area the size of Tasmania would have to be planted to put into effect the opposition’s plan. Clearly, it is beyond the realms of possibility.

The vitriol that this debate has engendered and the conspiracy theories about scientists that have been flying around have added to a climate of fear in Australia. In particular I disassociate myself from the incredible acrimony the people from the Academy of Science, our great scientists, have faced. The member for Wentworth’s words are poignant, and I would appeal to those opposite to heed them. He said:

But first, let me say straight up that the question of whether or to what extent human activity is causing global warming is not a matter of ideology let alone of belief. The matter is simply one of risk management. It is, moreover, not a question of left versus right. Indeed, it was Margaret Thatcher who more than 20 years ago called for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions …

If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously-

the member for Wentworth argued-

and believed we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of insipient Bolshevism.

I have been very influenced by the presentations of a range of scientists who have come to this House to explain to us the impacts of global warming. The CSIRO, our scientists and indeed those of us who argue for this legislation are not part of some green conspiracy to con the Australian people into taking action on climate change. After all, carbon emissions trading was the policy of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. The Conservative government in the United Kingdom, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, has announced that the UK will be implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Britain. The conservative Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is committed to continuing New Zealand’s carbon emissions trading scheme. These are not Green political parties. They are responsible economic conservatives who believe that a carbon emissions trading scheme and a price on carbon are the best way to move from a high-emitting economy to a low-emitting economy. Essentially, it is the same policy that the Australian Labor Party supports.

Even China, whose economy is so rapidly expanding-and where there are many dubious pollution effects that you can quite clearly see if you visit there or that you could observe during the Beijing Olympics-has announced it will introduce carbon emissions trading schemes in six of its provinces.

This is one of the greatest economic reforms this country has seen since the Hawke-Keating years. This policy is not about short-term political point scoring or an election; it is about acting for future generations. This reform will ensure job security in steel, mining, manufacturing, farming and small business, and new jobs in renewable industries.

The Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills give us the capacity to unlock the full potential of the Australian people’s brainpower. For entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors and new technology these bills offer Australia a way forward into the future. After all, the effect of a market mechanism is designed to ensure that people will use all their economic creativity, which the opposition goes on about so much, as part of the natural order of capitalism to lower their carbon emissions and therefore face a lesser impact of the carbon price. In a speech in 1967, Robert Kennedy said:

If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we did not want-a world we did not choose-but a world we could have made better …