WEST Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says greenhouse gas emissions are “rising very steeply” in the agriculture sector and virtually cancelling out any gains made by the carbon tax.
Mr Ludlam made the comments during debate in the Federal Senate yesterday on the carbon tax repeal bills, with a potential vote looming.
“I kind of gag every time I hear (Environment Minister Greg Hunt) put the proposition that the carbon price is not working and that greenhouse gas emissions in Australia have basically remained flat during the period of time that the carbon price was in place,” he said.
“The fact is that it is trivially easy to explain exactly how deceptive Minister Hunt is being.
“The fact is that a large part of the Australian economy is not covered by the carbon price: partly agriculture, partly transport, partly other sectors.
“And emissions in those sectors are rising very steeply and have almost completely cancelled out the spectacular gains that have been made in the electricity sector, which is covered by the carbon price.
“Do you not understand that, or are you deliberately misrepresenting what is occurring?”
But Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie said PUP members had met and resolved to support repealing the legislation that has “imposed the job-killing Labor-Green carbon tax”.
She said strong legislative support for the repeal of the Labor-Greens carbon tax by PUP members also honours a commitment and promise made to the people of Australia.
The new Senator who was officially sworn in the day before said the PUP had also moved an amendment to ensure carbon tax repeal savings would flow-through to “all ordinary Australians and not stay with the power companies”.
“Australians have been deceived by the Labor-Greens members of this place, who allowed their unfair carbon tax to be imposed on our nation while the rest of the world remained carbon tax free,” she said.
“Tasmanian pensioners, families, workers and businesses were told the fib that if they paid more for their energy and power then they could stop world climate change.
“This proposition is obviously wrong, ridiculous and absolutely absurd.”
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back said cheap energy had contributed to the nation’s wealth but that edge had been lost due to the carbon tax.
“The climate is of course changing - the climate has always changed,” he said.
“Where are the challenges for the world? They are in the future provision of energy.
“Ask yourself the question: 'How is it that a country in the landmass of the United States, with a population of only 23 million people, is as wealthy as we are?'
“I have put this question to young people and they have said, 'Its iron-ore.' One even told me it was wool - well, it is a long time since Australia rode on the sheep's back.
“The answer has always been cheap energy. What have we lost as a result of this legislation coming in from the Labor and the Greens parties?
“What we have lost his cheap energy.”
Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir played a key role in voting to ensure debate continued on the legislation in the senate today.
Senator Muir voted with the ALP and Greens – against the three PUP Senators –to stop a gag motion that was designed to bring forward an inevitable vote on the bills.
Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon and Victorian Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan voted with Senator Muir to tie the vote 36-36, which negated the motion.
The Coalition’s move to stifle debate angered Labor Senator Penny Wong - but Coalition Senator Eric Abetz accused the opposition of hypocrisy having gagged 52 bills while in government.
In expressing her party’s non-support for the repeal legislation, Tasmanian ALP Senator Ann Urquhart said the Coalition was “desperate” for parliament to pass the associated bills.
But she said the government refused to bring the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014 into the Senate for a vote this week.
“In fact, looking at the schedule of work for the Senate, the bill is not due until late August,” she said.
“Those opposite would have this place repeal the carbon price mechanism and leave the country with nothing in its place potentially for months.”
Ms Urquhart said limited information had been provided about the Coalition’s direct action policy, since it was announced in 2010, and it had very little support from within the science and economic communities.
She said the direct action policy included a number of elements, all asserting to contribute to Australia's emissions reduction target of 5 per cent, on 2000 emissions levels, by 2020.
Those elements include extending the carbon farming initiative, planting 20 million trees, establishing the Green Army and the “so-called centrepiece, the Emissions Reduction Fund”.
“The Emissions Reduction Fund is based on a reverse auction to purchase carbon pollution abatement,” she said.
“The 2014-15 budget allocated $1.14 billion across the forward estimates for the ERF.
“The government insists up to $2.5 billion is available for purchasing abatement; however, it has been unclear how this money is appropriated, as it is not allocated in the budget papers.
“These repeal bills seek to set Australia up to do less to combat climate change.
“These bills seek to leave the burden, leave the heavy lifting of decarbonising our economy, to future generations.”
WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said her party would vote against the repeal bills, believing the country’s future depends on our addressing “the biggest emergency that we face: the climate change emergency”.
“Acting on climate change this decade is absolutely critical if we are to protect our oceans, our environment, our agriculture and our children's and grandchildren's futures,” she said.
“The most effective and most affordable way to reduce our emissions is to have a price on pollution and a market mechanism like the one contained in the Clean Energy Act and the package of bills that passed through this place not that long ago, which this government, ably assisted by the PUP, are now rushing to destroy - again, to be condemned by future generations.”
NSW ALP Senator Deborah O’Neill said the historic vote in the new Senate would determine the environment’s long-term future and the way economic and energy choices will “enhance or debase that environment”.
“It seems that, with less than 24 hours in the Senate, a key group of new Senators will be crucial in determining the policy that will take us on either of two very different paths,” she said.
“One path, careful, informed and mindful of the principal of non-malfeasance, will see us join with an international community moving forward decisively to reduce emissions in response to the reality of climate change.
“The other path, which reveals the depravity of this government, will take us away from that fact into the dangerous world of fear and nightmarish fantasy that they, assisted by vested interests, have constructed for the Australian population.”
Ms O’Neill said the ALP set up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide billions of dollars in low-interest loans to help companies open up new opportunities to invest in clean energy technology and infrastructure, “and it was effective”.
She said they also set up the Clean Technology Fund and the Carbon Farming Initiative to help manufacturers modernise for a low-carbon economy and support new low emissions farming practices, “and it was successful”.
They also established the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority to provide independent advice on the effects of climate change and Australia's reduction targets, “and we were successful”.
“Indeed, we garnered the applause of people all around the world for the efforts made under the 43rd Parliament of this country,” she said.
Speaking to media this week, Mr Hunt said the Australian people voted ten months ago to repeal the carbon tax and Labor Senators should “get out of the way and allow the Senate to vote on repealing the carbon tax”.
He said the Coalition wanted to move a vote this week repeal the carbon tax legislation and in time would move to implement its Direct Action policy and the Carbon Farming legislation.
“The money has gone through the budget - the Senate passed the supply bills a week and a half ago," he said.
“So, the question now is just to pass amendments to the Carbon Farming legislation which are generally supported by the vast majority of people in the political space.”
“I actually think in good faith we can achieve what we're wanting to do which is reduce emissions, pass the Carbon Farming legislation and I am willing to work constructively with all parties.”