Second Reading – Climate Change Bill 2022

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Mr PITT: What we have seen today is, once again, the Labor Party being all about feelings. That’s fine. You can be about feelings. It’ll feel good for people to vote this way because they think that is a good outcome for them, but on this side we are more concerned about facts and the impacts that this will have, particularly in regional Australia. We’ve even seen the Treasurer say that the budget is about feelings. What’s next? The number nine will be upset with the number six because it is not closer to zero? If there was a snake oil salesman around—those opposite would be able to sell that too!

But, if we come back to reality, we’ve seen the Minister for Climate Change and Energy claim multiple times that there will be more than 600,000 jobs in this proposal. Yet he was called out by a former Labor member of this place who said that that was just not factual; it was nonsense. If we want to look at a comparison to see how difficult that is, let’s look at what the resources sector delivers for Australia. It puts over $400 billion into the economy and supplies around 270,000 direct jobs. Yet those opposite, including the climate minister, want to claim that they will develop 600,000 jobs in this country from their one policy. Think about the size of the resources sector—how big it is, how many decades it took to develop, how much infrastructure it needed in place to deliver those high-paying jobs in Australia. What it says very clearly is that that is just not the case.

Once again, we are talking about feelings. We warned the Australian people at the last election what a Labor-Greens government would look like. We warned them. Those opposite, including the now Prime Minister, said, ‘This will not be the case. We won’t impact coal; we won’t impact oil; we won’t impact gas’—those parts of our economy that drive enormous amounts of jobs into regional Australia in particular. Yet today we have seen the Leader of the Greens at the National Press Club declare that a deal’s been done. The minister for climate was asked about this in a question time and refused to make comment or to answer.

Here’s the deal. According to the Leader of the Greens, government agencies such as Export Finance Australia, which have in the past funded coal and gas projects, will be forced to take climate targets into account. That would see them curbed from supporting these types of projects—oil, coal and gas. And the new limits will include Infrastructure Australia and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. I say to the government: what are you going to do with the projects that are already approved and perhaps not yet started? Will you once again destroy our international reputation as a place for safe investment? Are you going to take that away as well? Those of us who live in regional Australia and every single Australian that is working in an export industry in regional Australia, whether it is resources or agriculture, know that this is where our jobs come from. If I recall the numbers correctly, over 80 per cent of all of our exported goods come from the regions. These are the reasons that the people we represent have employment. It’s how they pay their way. It’s how they pay for their home and their mortgage. It’s how they put their kids through school. Yet we have now seen a deal between Labor and the Greens that will ensure that those industries are strangled out of finance, even with support from the government. Look at how many jobs are being delivered as a part of these organisations, whether it’s EFA or the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. They are real. They are real projects that have started in the regions and that are underway because they had some support.

We’ve seen Australia’s banking sector turn away from Australia’s resources sector. What’s next? Will it be agriculture? We hear a lot about electricity, but electricity represents only just over 30 per cent of emissions in this country. We don’t hear anything from those opposite about what’s actually occurred over the last few years—that is, when we were in government and across that period of time since 2005, we reduced emissions by 20 per cent. They’ve gone down.

All I am saying is that we want to see our response be proportional to our contribution. We cannot continue to destroy the things that deliver jobs into our regions, and that is what is now being proposed. We have seen the climate minister say many times, ‘We don’t need to do this.’ Well then, don’t. You are out there saying to regional Australia, ‘Your jobs are not warranted; they are not deserved,’ and you are going to make sure they don’t continue. You have some kind of fantasy that there will be some 600,000 jobs delivered under this one policy. It is really difficult to get that many jobs. It genuinely is.

We continue to hear about feelings, about how wonderful you’ll all feel about it, but you have sold out the regions. You committed in the election not to impact them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s through finance or some other mechanism; those jobs could be gone tomorrow, because it takes finance to run these big businesses. You need to have cash flow. You need to have access to finance. You need to be able to continue to deliver. You only have to look at what has happened on occasions around guarantees.

If we look at the proposal and we take Mr Finkel’s suggestion of 20,000 square kilometres of solar—it doesn’t sound like that much—it’s two million hectares. Now, for those who don’t work in agriculture or who might not work in these big broadscale, broadacre areas, to give you some comparison, the entire Australian sugar industry has less than 400,000 hectares to deliver some 30-odd million tonne of sugarcane. Yet the suggestion is that you will put a blanket over two million hectares of our country. It has to be cleared. It has to be levelled. You have to get cultural approvals. What does this do to the environment?

What we are putting forward are facts, and these are the facts: quite simply, everyone opposite knows it will only work in the daylight hours; it will depreciate over time; it will need to be replaced; and where I come from there are these things called cyclones. If you have a category 5 cyclone tear across the coast, this equipment is gone. It is just not there anymore. So, whether you look at reliability or availability, quite simply, for utilisation of solar, once again we’re back to facts. It is low-20 per cent. For wind turbines, it is low-30 per cent. You cannot just wonderfully wave a magic wand and have electricity generation appear when something else doesn’t work. Under all the international engineering standards, once you have penetration of intermittent generation of more than 10 per cent you require one-to-one backup. You have to have one-to-one backup.

The proposal at the moment around batteries is ridiculously expensive. It is extortionately expensive. Quite simply, you are saying to the Australian people that they have to pay that cost. They can’t afford it. Right now, interest rates are up, the cost of food is up and the cost of fuel is up. They simply don’t have that disposable cash to pay more. That is just a statement of fact.

If we look at this, when we have two million hectares of solar, what are we going to do when one of those companies goes broke and leaves it there? There should be guarantees on these installations, the same as there have been in many resource projects across the country. What are you going to do with them? If you are going to replace them every 20 years, they’ll have to be rehabbed. Someone will have to pay for that. It can’t be local government. I’m sure the states won’t want to do it. It’s pretty straightforward: these are factual issues that need to be dealt with.

There is the idea that you can build transmission lines all over the country. Well, there’s this thing called physics. Physics says that it’s just not that easy. You’re suggesting you have to shift as much energy through a straw as you’d need to shift through six fire hoses.

Quite simply, all we are saying is that we want to see things that work. Of course you can implement intermittent wind and solar. But, once again, once that’s above 10 per cent you have to back it up one to one, and that is incredibly expensive. I know I’m coming to the end of my time, and clearly there’s something going on, but it is not members of the government who will be impacted by this. It is not members of the government who will have thousands of wind turbines in their backyards—and it is thousands. It is not the members of the government who will have two million hectares of solar.

Now, I look forward to seeing the environmental approvals and cultural approvals to clear two million hectares of land. In Queensland you can’t clear land to get productivity for cattle. The idea that you can clear this much is quite simply ludicrous. So you will get to the point where you have to make real decisions to keep the lights on, and right now the option is coal, because those assets are there. So use the technology, use CCS. Keep those things sweated. We need those generators to be in place.

Look across to Queensland. Do you want to know why your power prices are expensive in Queensland? It’s because the Premier and the state Labor government put $5 billion on top of their costs. They took a dividend in the last budget of $800 million, which is yet to be paid, and are booking over a billion dollars into their budget from electricity out of the government owned corporations. It is a significant amount of money. It is paid for by all Australians, and they simply cannot afford it. So I implore you once again to make decisions based on facts and physics, not on feelings. It really makes a difference.

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