June 15, 2021

My question is to the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Why did it take a recession for this minister to finally achieve a reduction in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions? When he released the latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in May the minister boasted about reducing emissions by 26 million tonnes in 2020, compared to 2019. This was the first significant reduction in annual emissions since this government came to office, but the reduction was entirely due to the fact that the economy went backwards last year.

Under this government's watch Australia fell into its first recession in nearly 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, thousands of businesses lost their livelihoods and whole industry sectors were closed down. Australia's economy shrank by 6.4 per cent in real terms in the March quarter of 2020, so it's not surprising to anyone but the minister that emissions were also down five per cent in 2020. They were down for all the wrong reasons—not because of government policies to support investment in renewable energy, not because of government policies to drive the take-up of electric vehicles, not because of government policies to boost energy efficiency in businesses and households and not because of government policy to drive the innovation and new technologies that will reduce emissions, create new jobs and grow our economy. Emissions were down for the first time since this Liberal government came to office not for any of those reasons but because of the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The economic contraction cut emissions by 26 million tonnes in 2020.

A counterfactual analysis using the government's own figures suggested that, if GDP had grown last year in line with pre-COVID forecasts, emissions would have increased by several million tonnes—because this Liberal government has economic policy and emissions policies around the wrong way. Labor knows that we need to grow the economy at the same time as we reduce emissions. Under the former Labor government Australia's real GDP increased by 17 per cent, employment increased by 8.7 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions fell by 14 per cent. Let me repeat that: Labor grew the economy by 17 per cent and grew jobs by nine per cent while at the same time reducing emissions by 14 per cent.

By contrast, this Liberal government has reduced emissions only by shrinking the economy and shrinking the number of jobs. It's a failure of environmental policy and it's a failure of economic policy because as the economy recovers the new jobs that will come under the government leading the way on renewable energy and low-pollution technologies will not be there and the government's lack of effective climate and energy policies means that, as the economy recovers, the reduction in emissions will stall at best and go into reverse at worst.

The government has no policies for sustaining and reducing Australia's emissions and it has no policies for growing a low-carbon economy and creating the low-pollution jobs for the future. Instead, from this government we have 23 energy policies. We have a government crab walking towards net zero emissions by 2050 but not committing to it as a target. We have a technology road map with no actual policies to deliver the technologies that are supposedly going to provide the abatement that they're counting on to reach their 2030 target.

All we have got from this government is shambolic announcement after shambolic announcement. They're more interested in wedge politics and politics of coal cultural wars than delivering concrete policies that will effectively reduce our emissions, grow jobs and grow new industries while protecting existing industries.

I'll hazard a guess that those on the opposite side will talk a bit about coal and gas in their contributions. That's fine, but when it comes to standing with coalminers on the issues that impact them, they are nowhere to be seen.

What coalminers care about is security at work. What coalminers care about is making sure that, if someone is on a labour hire contract next to them, they get paid the same amount as the permanent worker. When it comes to things like that, this government goes missing. When it comes to standing up for coalminers, they're missing. They stand up for coal companies but they don't give a fig about coalminers. That is the truth of it. When they're given the chance to support coalminers and to stand up against the casualisation of the coalmining industry, they are nowhere to be seen. In fact, they stand up for coalmining companies and labour hire shonks rather than for coalminers.

Can the minister confirm that his department's latest projections are for Australia's greenhouse gas emissions to be 478 million tonnes in 2030? Can he further confirm that this means the government will exceed its 2030 emissions reduction target by 35 million tonnes? Is the minister aware that 129 countries have now committed to net zero emissions by 2050? Can the minister explain why under this government Australia is one of only six industrialised countries refusing to commit to net zero by 2050? We're standing shoulder to shoulder—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Llew O'Brien):  The member's time has expired.