House of Representatives Speech- Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011

The government cannot support the amendments that have been moved by the opposition. What needs to be understood is that this is the culmination of a debate that has been running for almost two decades. We have seen 35 parliamentary inquiries into climate change since 1994 and we have had a lot of discussion on these topics in this House already. This year alone, around 250 questions have been asked on carbon pricing and there have been over 15 separate debates on matters of public importance. The clean energy debate itself has taken 33 hours. It has featured 120 speakers, of course not including the member for Wentworth. He is the only frontbencher on the other side who has not contributed to this debate. Significantly, this has been a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for the GST, a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for Work Choices and a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for the legislation dealing with the sale of Telstra.

The government cannot support the amendments that have been moved by the opposition. What needs to be understood is that this is the culmination of a debate that has been running for almost two decades. We have seen 35 parliamentary inquiries into climate change since 1994 and we have had a lot of discussion on these topics in this House already. This year alone, around 250 questions have been asked on carbon pricing and there have been over 15 separate debates on matters of public importance. The clean energy debate itself has taken 33 hours. It has featured 120 speakers, of course not including the member for Wentworth. He is the only frontbencher on the other side who has not contributed to this debate. Significantly, this has been a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for the GST, a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for Work Choices and a longer debate than the former, Howard government allowed for the legislation dealing with the sale of Telstra.

The time to act is now. That is absolutely clear to those of us on this side of the House and those on the crossbenches who have already indicated their support for these bills. We must begin the transformation to a clean energy economy and a low-carbon economy. This transformation will begin with the passage of the clean energy bills. We must put in place incentives for business to invest in the clean energy technologies that will allow Australia to maintain its economic growth while cutting pollution. The countries that pioneer the clean technologies that will allow the decoupling of economic growth and growth of carbon pollution to occur will be the countries that see strong and consistent economic growth through the next century. These will be the countries that will be the most competitive, and the alternative is the Leader of the Opposition's prescription of doing nothing.

It is a prescription that pretends that climate change is not happening, and we heard that in many of the speeches that were given by those opposite. It is a prescription that, in effect, attacks the scientists who say that climate change is occurring. It attacks the economists who say that the carbon price is the most efficient way of tackling the problem. This, of course, is from the weathervane Leader of the Opposition, who once supported a price on carbon, and not so long ago. This weathervane Leader of the Opposition leads an opposition, about half of whom actually do support a price on carbon, but they are being prevented from expressing that view.

By refusing to grapple with the challenges and opportunities of a carbon constrained world, the Leader of the Opposition would rather see our economy stagnate and fall behind the economies of our competitors as long as his political interests are served. Indeed, he would rather anything as long as his political interests are served. He does not care about the inconsistency with former positions. He does not care about the views expressed by economists. He does not care for the views expressed by scientists. He cares only for his own political interest, and now that the Leader of the Opposition has seen, now that it has been made clear to the Leader of the Opposition and to those opposite, that this important reform is not going to be able to be stopped, he seeks to delay it. Again, it portrays that the position of this Leader of the Opposition is to put his own political interests ahead of those of the nation.

The fact is we know that any delay to this important reform, any delay to pricing carbon, will not somehow magically make it less costly. It will not reduce the effort that Australia will need to put in to reduce our carbon emissions. It will not reduce the effort that the world needs to put in to reduce world carbon emissions. It will only increase the costs when we get around to taking on the task. Various studies have looked at the implications of delaying the introduction of a carbon price. All conclude that delay will be costly not only in terms of delaying the contribution that we can make to improving the world's environment but also in terms of how much it will cost additionally to take on the task of reducing Australia's emissions. Federal Treasury have consistently stated that delaying this crucial reform will only increase the costs of decoupling carbon pollution from economic growth. These amendments are an attempt to sacrifice the national interest by delaying this crucial economic reform for purely partisan political motives.