Matters of Urgency - Climate Change

In Senator Waters' contribution we really only heard Australia being compared to one country, the United Kingdom, and I'll come to that country in a second. But there was no comparison with any other country, so I for one at first thought maybe we'd gone back into some twilight zone where we were once again a colony of the United Kingdom and we were being told what to do by, according to Senator Waters, our colonial masters in London. Yes, our colonial masters in London would love us to cripple our own industry so they can continue to compete with us. They'd love us to impose huge costs on our own country in a way that many other nations are not doing. But I for one am proud of and cherish the independence that this nation has achieved since we threw off the colonial chains and became an independent country. So, no, I don't think we should slavishly follow what Mr Johnson in London wants us to do. Good luck to him. He's the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and he can decide what the policies are for the United Kingdom.

Here in Australia we should decide what we want to do. Australian elected officials, including the Australian Prime Minister, should decide. Senator Watt was asking if I was a republican. I'm not a republican; I'm a constitutional monarchist, and that does give us independence here in this parliament. I was surprised to hear Senator Waters be not just a monarchist but an absolute monarchist. I think Prince Charles and Prince Harry want us to do these things as well.

Well, Senator Waters, start acting like one. Don't just adopt the policies of another country. A proud republican would actually want to cherish our independence and chart our course through the world.

I want to come to the other countries as well. Senator Waters only mentioned the United Kingdom, but when you look around the world you see that New Zealand, our cousins and good friends, are not meeting their Kyoto targets. The Kyoto targets come due this year, 2020, so New Zealand has about three weeks to meet its Kyoto targets that it is failing to meet right now. It has only reduced emissions by just under three per cent when it promised to reduce them by five per cent. As much as Jacinda Ardern wants to go around the world spruiking that she is committed to net zero emissions by 2050, the fact remains that her country has not met the commitments it made just 10 or 15 years ago, so how can it be trusted to do something in 30 years time?

Likewise, Canada has barely changed its emissions. It is not meeting its Kyoto targets. Japan is not meeting its Kyoto targets. Almost every other country in the world is not meeting its targets. Then of course countries like China and India don't even have any real targets to meet under Kyoto, or Paris for that matter. But we are. Senator Waters thinks it's through dodgy accounting, which I'll come to. We are one of the few countries that are actually meeting their targets.

The other main problem I have with the implication in this motion that we should follow the United Kingdom and reduce our emissions in the order of 68 per cent by 2030 is that that will actually do nothing for the environment unless we consume less stuff. I didn't hear from the Greens—and we never hear this from the Greens—that we should not buy as many solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars from overseas. All of these things are made using coal and often in countries with much worse environmental records than we have.

Every time we put up a wind turbine it takes about 900 tonnes of steel. It takes around 800 tonnes of coking coal to make one tonne of steel. If you times 800 by 900, you see that there is a lot of coking coal embodied in those turbines. Every time you build a wind turbine there are 2,500 tonnes of concrete. Making concrete typically uses a lot of coal too in heating the lime in the kilns. That also has a huge carbon emissions impact. Again, we don't hear from the Greens in this chamber about the need for fewer wind turbines. Of course Bob Brown and Christine Milne are doing great work opposing wind turbines in Tasmania, and all power to them. This mob in here are cheering on the extra carbon emissions we would get from wind turbines.

Almost all of our solar panels are imported from China. Where does China get the energy to power its factories to produce these cheap solar panels? Coal—and a lot of it used to be our coal. They use coal to produce cheap solar panels that we then happily import. I say to the renewable energy industry, 'If we really want to save the planet, let's make the solar panels here.' I'd support that. I'm not against solar panels and renewable energy, but let's make them here rather than make them in dirty factories in China. Why don't we make the solar panels here? Why do we allow these companies to take government subsidies all the time and then import solar panels from other countries where the jobs are created? Let's make them here in this country in at least a cleaner fashion.

Of course, if we were to reduce our emissions by 60 or 70 per cent, even if we were to reduce them by 100 per cent—if we were to get rid of our carbon emissions tomorrow—in the words of Dr Alan Finkel, that would do 'virtually nothing' for the environment, because Australia only accounts for roughly 1.3 per cent of the world's emissions. So, even if Australia were to get rid of all of its carbon emissions tomorrow, it would not make a single difference to the world; it would not change the temperature. That was confirmed by our Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, when a good mate of mine, former Senator Ian Macdonald, asked Dr Alan Finkel at Senate estimates what the impact would be of reducing the world's emissions by 1.3 per cent. Dr Alan Finkel replied, 'Virtually nothing.' And he's absolutely right; it would do virtually nothing for the planet. But apparently we want to push on and continue down this path where we self-flagellate for no actual environmental outcome; we cost jobs in this country but don't help the environment at all. The latest absurdity here is this push to give up our Kyoto credits and give up the fact that we've overachieved on carbon emissions. We have to do that, yet there is never a call from the Greens to penalise those countries who have underachieved. Why is all the criticism of our country? Why isn't there any criticism of other countries? It's because the Greens don't really like Australia. They don't like our country; they don't stand up for it, and they certainly don't want to put Australia first. There's never any criticism of other countries for not meeting their Kyoto commitments.

I've certainly touched a nerve today. The Greens don't put Australia first, because they never criticise other countries. If we are going to have to give up our Kyoto credits, why shouldn't other countries be allocated Kyoto debits? Why shouldn't other countries get Kyoto debits for all the underachievement they have presided over during last 10 or 15 years? That seems pretty logical to me. So, if we are to give up these Kyoto credits, we should make other countries do more in the next period to catch up—New Zealand, Canada, Japan and many other countries around the world.

The final point I want to make is that I don't think we should give these things up. I agree with one part of what Senator Waters said. She rightly said that the reason that we have these Kyoto credits and that we have got around 400 million tonnes of credits—it's all a bit 'funny money'—and that we reduced our emissions by 400 million tonnes more on the carbon accounting than we budgeted for or we promised to under Kyoto is that we stopped farmers being able to develop their own land. Over the last 30 years—

Yes, the Greens certainly can give it, but they can't take it. Senator Waters was right; we've stopped farmers developing their own land. We've stripped them of their property rights and provided them no compensation. We've told them, 'That little part of your block over there that you bought, that you might have wanted to develop in the future and grow food on—you can't touch that anymore.' We've got this ridiculous situation where that is apparently a carbon credit and that lets us spruik to the world and say how good we are. If we have a surplus of these good intentions or good outcomes, why don't we give them back to farmers? Why are we giving them to the world? Why don't we give those 400 million tonnes back to our nation's farmers so that they can grow more food? That seems like a good idea. If we have locked up too much land—

As I was saying, we should put our country first and our farmers first. That's the simple proposition I have. If we have somehow got this surplus of credits, let's give our farmers a break. They've been doing it pretty tough over the last couple of decades with drought, in some cases suffering from floods and, on top of that, having their property rights stripped away from them. Let's give them some of those rights back so they can do something for our nation that we should all be proud of—that is, grow high-quality food that we all enjoy. Some of it will be exported, but we benefit from it too. Let's give our farmers a break, put our country first and reject this silly motion.

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