NATIONAL GREENHOUSE AND ENERGY REPORTING AMENDMENT BILL 2008

I rise to speak in favour of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2008, which demonstrates the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to tackling climate change. Greenhouse emissions are clearly changing the world’s climate and we must ensure that scientists and planners have the accurate data and information they need to find efficient and effective solutions. The information that this bill deals with will be critical in facilitating policymaking on greenhouse and energy issues.

I rise to speak in favour of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2008, which demonstrates the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to tackling climate change. Greenhouse emissions are clearly changing the world’s climate and we must ensure that scientists and planners have the accurate data and information they need to find efficient and effective solutions. The information that this bill deals with will be critical in facilitating policymaking on greenhouse and energy issues.

The bill seeks to make changes to the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 by amending the public disclosure provisions that relate to a corporation’s greenhouse emissions. That includes separating direct and indirect emissions and disclosing how these emissions were calculated. The bill will improve the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act to provide transparent, accountable processes and data reporting to the greenhouse energy data officer. This will strengthen the greenhouse and energy reporting system and provide invaluable data to meet Australia’s international reporting requirements as we approach the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The Rudd Labor government will also seek to streamline the reporting requirements by reducing the total number of reports that business is required to submit by 2009-10. This government understands that duplicated reporting of these standards is inefficient and highly troublesome, potentially at least, to Australian businesses. The government is actively working with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments to ensure a streamlining of reporting processes. This legislation also reflects a commitment to flexibility in the reporting processes. Members on this side of the House understand that Australian businesses value a clear and consistent policy on tackling climate change. I think it is fair to say that despite concerns raised recently by a number of corporations those same corporations and others are working with the government on the development of policy in this area, and there certainly is an understanding of the need for the reporting system that this bill addresses.

The usable and relevant data, the collection of which this bill addresses, will be released publicly to allow Australia’s best thinkers and scientists to find new and innovative solutions to tackling climate change. That data will underpin the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is to be introduced in 2010.

This bill is one of the many initiatives that the Rudd Labor government has introduced to tackle climate change. Even prior to the election last year, the Prime Minister—then Leader of the Opposition—showed how serious we are about tackling climate change. From opposition last year the Prime Minister initiated the National Climate Change Summit to explore the critical challenges of climate change in the 21st century. The summit explored environmental and economic impacts that are likely to result from climate change.

In April last year this government, in opposition, and every state Labor government commissioned Professor Ross Garnaut’s climate change review. The review sought to examine the impacts, challenges and opportunities of climate change for Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The draft report released by Professor Garnaut in July 2008 is correctly described as the first comprehensive national climate change review in this country.

The member for Flinders has reminded us of the first executive act by this government, which was to ratify the Kyoto protocol. It is worth remembering that the Prime Minister’s first foreign trip was to attend the International Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia. It is striking that the member for Flinders chose, a few moments ago, to describe that very significant act of signing the Kyoto protocol as ‘a lot of noise’. That demonstrates just how much members opposite have failed to understand the significance of signing the protocol, the significance of being seen to take action and, indeed, the significance of bringing Australia back to the table of the councils of the world that are concerned that there should be international global action to deal with the damaging effects of climate change.

Perhaps the member for Flinders was not looking at the television coverage of the attendance of the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues at the conference in Bali in December last year. Had he been looking he would have seen the warmth of the welcome the Australian delegation received because its attendance represented Australia’s return to the table. Australia is seen as having a significant voice and as a country that can make a very significant contribution to world efforts to combat climate change. Even now, in his role as shadow spokesman on the environment, the member for Flinders is demonstrating his failure to understand the significance of the signing of the Kyoto protocol and Australia’s return to a real role in working with other countries. It is a role we can take up only by signing the Kyoto protocol.

The government released a green paper on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in July 2008. Again, the opposition have failed to understand the significance of this green paper. The member for Flinders, the opposition spokesman on the environment, chooses to describe it as something ‘casually thrown on the table’. The government is engaged here in carefully using a green paper process followed by very extensive, wide-ranging, national consultation and nothing could be a less accurate description of that process than the words chosen by the member for Flinders, that this was something ‘casually thrown on the table’.

The Rudd Labor government is serious about tackling climate change. We understand that it is one of the greatest economic and environmental challenges facing our country and indeed the globe. Again we heard from the member for Flinders the usual confused and carping kinds of complaints that we have become accustomed to hearing from the opposition. An example of this is the complaint from the member for Flinders about the timing of submissions in response to the green paper on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. There were complaints from the member for Flinders not merely about the alleged shortness of time for submissions on the green paper but also suggesting that the whole scheme for emissions trading should be delayed until 2012. Perhaps next week we will get a suggestion that it should be delayed until 2013.

These sorts of comments about insufficient time for submissions or perhaps that it is better to delay the emissions trading scheme for a few more years are reflective of the lack of understanding by those opposite of the pressing urgency of doing something about climate change to both lessen the damaging effects and adapt our nation to the effects that are already inevitable. The urgency is that much more pressing because of the inaction by those opposite for nearly 12 years while they were in government. Had they attended to the importance of grappling with climate change, perhaps the country would not have needed to move with the speed we now need to move with—the speed with which the Rudd Labor government are moving. The Rudd government are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We are committed to adapting effectively to the unavoidable consequences of climate change and committed to being an active partner in the international process to find a global solution.

The government set a mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020. The government is establishing the expanded national renewable energy target scheme, and that scheme will increase the existing mandatory renewable energy target by more than four times to 45,000 gigawatt hours in 2020. The scheme will contribute to meeting Australia’s targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It will provide a market incentive to accelerate the uptake of Australia’s abundant renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind. The government is also looking to reduce red tape by bringing existing state based targets into a unitary national scheme.

The Rudd Labor government is committed also to research and development of low-emission technologies. It understands that researching these technologies will bring about greater energy efficiency and lower emissions. In the budget, the government invested $500 million in a Renewable Energy Fund, another $500 million for a National Clean Coal Fund and another $500 million for the Green Car Innovation Fund. These initiatives, particularly the green car fund, will put Australia at the forefront of technology in this area. The government has also committed $240 million to the Clean Business Australia initiative to work with businesses to deliver energy and water efficient projects focused on productivity and innovation.

Meanwhile, those opposite seem stuck in what you could fairly describe as a petty partisan struggle about climate change. We heard some more of it today from the member for Flinders with his suggestion that went something like this: ‘Don’t put all the burden on Australia’s mums and dads; work on global deforestation,’ alleging at one point in his speech that the new government had dropped the ball on global deforestation. Again, the member for Flinders, the opposition spokesman on environmental matters, has demonstrated his failure to understand just how the Rudd Labor government is engaging with the world, why it is that having signed the Kyoto protocol it is now sitting at the table with those other countries that are committed to doing something about climate change and how on all subjects connected with climate change, in particular global deforestation, Australia is now in a position to do something about these matters, now in a position to engage with other countries in the world. Even on the juxtaposition that the member for Flinders chose to make by allegedly putting all the burden on Australia’s mums and dads against some effort being made on global deforestation, I would again ask: what was the former government doing for its nearly 12 years in office in respect of global deforestation?

We have had extraordinary statements from the Leader of the Opposition on an emissions trading scheme. I will quote one, though it is a little bit hard to read through because it is a little muddled. It went like this:

The fact of it is that if we go—as we will, as we must, as we will and we will pay a price as a nation as we should for a genuinely global response—one of the consequences of that will be an increase in the price of energy, electricity bills for households and petrol and fuels that we use.

That statement, so far as it can be understood, sums up the opposition’s attitude towards climate change. Those opposite failed to realise that the issue is serious enough to require a sustained, coherent policy, and that is what those opposite failed to come up with. The Leader of the Opposition’s statement is typical of a government that sat on its hands and did virtually nothing about climate change for 11½ years—whatever the propositions advanced here today by the member for Flinders. The proposition of the member for Flinders that Australia is on track to meet its international obligations under the Kyoto protocol simply begs the question as to why the former government did not wish to ratify the Kyoto protocol. It was the government in office in this country before 1996—a Labor government—that negotiated the primary provisions of the Kyoto protocol and, in particular, included in the Kyoto protocol some important provisions that recognised Australia’s potential for reductions in carbon emissions through reductions of large-scale deforestation or land-clearing operations, particularly in South-East Queensland.

Why was it that the Howard government did not feel able to ratify the Kyoto protocol? Those opposite have failed to deliver any substantial policy on climate change, either while they were in government or, for the last nine months, while they have been in opposition. In truth, those opposite failed this nation on climate change. It might be thought that it is about time those opposite came to their senses in relation to climate change, that despite the full-throated denials that we were still getting from those opposite up to the election last year, we might hear from those opposite that it is now time to work together to deal with the effects of climate change. But it would appear that the Leader of the Opposition has proven once again that he does not have the leadership to stare down those in his party room who wish to continue to deny that climate change is happening, who wish to continue to deny that it is urgent and that something should be done. Instead, we have the Leader of the Opposition and, indeed, the opposition spokesman on the environment playing politics with climate change.

The opposition supports an emissions trading scheme, we are told repeatedly—the member for Flinders said it again here this morning—but not before 2011 and perhaps in 2012. I would expect if this continues that we are going to be hearing dates from those opposite like 2013 or 2014 or perhaps some years hence—anything rather than engage as they should with the urgency of doing something about climate change. It would seem that those opposite are simply not interested in doing what is required. The Leader of the Opposition particularly does not seem interested in doing what is required. Perhaps one should not be surprised about this because there remain, it would appear, serious climate change deniers within the Liberal party room. That is the same party room where the Leader of the Opposition is staving off either the return of the member for Higgins or the elevation of the member for Wentworth.

The member for Tangney in July of this year wrote the following in the Australian:

Any real climate change in the past century has been at a glacial pace (that is, the speed of a glacier that is not melting because of the globe’s supposedly soaring temperatures). Far greater periods of environmental change have been recorded in history without any human intervention. The Ice Ages, anybody?

Glib comments like this simply confirm that many in the coalition are simply not serious about climate change. It is the case that only a Rudd Labor government can deliver a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change. This bill is part of that comprehensive plan. I commend the bill to the House.