Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] - Third Reading

On this day, as Australians face yet another interest rate rise courtesy of Labor’s reckless spending, we as a coalition will oppose this reckless, complex and confusing package of 11 Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills, which impose nothing but a giant tax on everything. Make no mistake—these bills will cost Australian jobs, will cost Australian wealth and will make no difference to the world’s environment.

With 1.5 per cent of the world’s emissions, Australia taking unilateral action will have no beneficial impact on the world. Indeed, there is every likelihood that Australia going it alone would hurt the environment through carbon leakage, whereby Australia’s relatively clean industries would be made uncompetitive and that would see production move to countries that do not have as robust an environmental regime as Australia.

This package of bills would increase the cost of living, on top of yesterday’s interest rate rise, by $1,100 per annum per household—and for no environmental dividend. The Victorian state government and the New South Wales state government, both Labor, have leaked independent reports indicating the huge increase in power bills to be faced by all Australians.

With this legislation, anyone into acronyms would get dizzy with delight. From the ETS you get the CPRS and from the CPRS you get the EITES and an ESAS with an ESAM and a GFC buffer. For SMEs you get a TECAP and smaller businesses get a CCAF. The Australian people get—well, I can think of one acronym. The CPRS is dead and no amount of CPR will revive it. CPR, on this occasion, stands for ‘Combet propaganda routine’. It is little wonder that the Australian people are confused. Labor have never tried to explain the fine print and it is little wonder. Sure, they spent millions of dollars in a glitzy advertising campaign, but they did not seek to explain the detail; nor have they explained the need for this legislation to be rushed.

The Obama Democrats—you know, those extremists that Senator Wong has referred to—have deferred their proposal, as have the Canadians, until after Copenhagen. This unseemly rush is reminiscent of Mr Rudd’s Fuelwatch debacle but with consequences a lot more devastating. Do you remember Mr Rudd working bureaucrats 37 hours straight so he could wave the flawed Fuelwatch bill at the end of a parliamentary sitting, simply because he needed a prop for a stunt? It is the same with this package. It is scheduled to start in 19 months time, so why does it need to be passed this week? So Kevin 747 can pack the legislation into his knapsack and use it as a prop for a stunt, not in Canberra this time but in Copenhagen. Sacrificing the national interest on the altar of Kevin Rudd’s ego was never going to be good policy.

Indeed, as we speak, Labor is still drafting amendments, preparing definitions of various ‘activities’ and producing a library of regulations. The midnight oil burned to rush this legislation through, and the carbon footprint from that will not be offset by the carbon sink properties of the yet to be drafted regulations.

Let me debunk the nonsense that rejecting this confusing mess means that you are, of necessity, somehow unwilling to act on the challenges facing the world. The hyperbole of the minister yesterday was both unedifying and wrong. The allegation of the coalition being hijacked by extremists was as predictable as it is laughable—laughable because, at the last election, Senator Wong and the Labor Party went to the Australian people saying that the coalition had no policy on climate change. We were the ‘do nothing’ party. Now she says we did have a policy and, as proof, she actually waved the policy document in this chamber last night. So, in her desperation, she unwittingly exposed Labor’s lie at the last election and that is why people do not believe Labor now.

Some gratuitous advice to the minister: shrillness is usually indicative of a paucity of coherent argument. Mere repetition of falsehoods and slogans does not obviate the need for facts. We want action on CO2 emissions, but we want real and effective action. We want action that does not mug jobs and does not mug our economy. We want action that the people understand. So we say no to this ETS, because it is a huge tax on everything and will deliver no benefits.

The party and coalition of which I am a member have long acknowledged a diversity of opinion in the community on the issue of climate change, including how to best address it. The diversity of opinion is, indeed, reflected in our own party room, a party room of conviction parliamentarians unafraid to express their strongly held views, which stands in stark contrast to Labor. The Liberal Party recognised a level of intensity, passion and, in some cases, anger in the community over recent weeks, particularly among those who either remain opposed to the passage of this legislation or believe it should be put to a vote only after the imminent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Many in the community who support action on climate change are also firmly and passionately of the view that this legislation should not be passed in advance of deliberations in Copenhagen. We have heard those voices, the voices Labor ignores, and we have given those voices parliamentary expression.

Recognising the divisiveness of this legislation in the Australian community at this time and also given the gaping holes in this legislation exposed through the committee stages of this debate, even with amendments seeking to address many of its flaws, the coalition believes that this legislation is still fatally flawed and remains extremely divisive within the Australian community. Action on climate change should be unifying within the Australian community, not divisive. We will present an alternative plan of action on climate change for the Australian community that is far less complicated, far more effective, far less costly and far more unifying than this ETS.

Consistent with the Liberal Party’s traditions, and reflecting the diversity of opinions in the community on this issue and on this legislation, we respect the right of any Liberal senator to cross the floor and vote other than in accordance with the party’s position. The accommodation of such decisions is, in fact, a strength of our party and contrasts significantly with the Labor Party, where the expression on the floor of the parliament of a strongly held view contrary to that of Labor means immediate expulsion.

We reject these bills as being too complex, too confusing and too costly. We reject these bills because there is no conservation dividend. We do support effective global action. We remain supportive of the five per cent target. Mr Rudd can go to Copenhagen with bipartisan support. Yvo de Boer of the UN has confirmed that legislation is not needed but that a target would be helpful. We have given Mr Rudd bipartisan support for that.

In short, we support action, but we do not support slashing jobs, we do not support slashing exports and we do not support slashing wealth; we do not support jeopardising power supplies; we do not support wrecking small businesses; we do not support increasing the cost of living for every household by $1,100 per annum; we do not support fatally flawed and rushed legislation; and we do not support Mr Rudd’s insatiable ego. In short, the coalition says, ‘Action, yes, but no to this ETS.’

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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