August 10, 2021

It has been a pretty hard day for people today. If you think about it, people who watched the press conference at 11 am this morning got the shocking news about the New South Wales cases, and that followed on from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's working group report, which was very depressing. It was a sober wake-up call for a nation and a world that didn't need one, to be quite honest.

But we can't ignore the truth. The truth is that scientists are observing climate changes in every region and across the whole climate system. Many of the changes already observed are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years. Modelling of all five trajectories that they looked at has average temperatures at more than 1.5 degrees Celsius higher by the 2030s, a figure we were hoping to avoid until much later in this century. The report finds that, with 1.5 degrees of global warming, the impacts will include changes to rainfall patterns, with impacts on agriculture; continuous sea level rises, contributing to more flooding; increased permafrost thawing, melting of glaciers and ice sheets and loss of summer Arctic ice; and changes to the ocean, dramatically effecting the ocean ecosystems.

The good news is that the report finds that human actions still have the potential to limit climate change. We should never lose sight of that fact. It is not too late to change this and avoid the worst of climate change. But it will require strong, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including getting to net zero emissions.

That's why Labor have been consistent in our support for strong action on climate change. We are the only party of government that has ever taken real action on climate change. We are the only party of government that has legislated a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions. We've taken strong climate change policies to every election since 1993. Since 1993 we've had strong policies on climate change. We do this not just because it's the right thing for the environment but because it's the right thing for the economy. It's the right thing for the economy because the economic impact of unconstrained climate change will be disastrous for Australia. Conversely, if we seize the economic opportunities that come with the move to decarbonise the world, Australia can benefit more than most, if not every other nation on the earth.

This is a story people are familiar with. They understand in their guts that we have the privilege of being on the continent with the greatest solar radiation in the world. If anyone can seize the opportunities of solar power, it's Australia. We've also got great wind resources both onshore and offshore. That means that we can have a burgeoning supply of solar and wind power not just to power Australia but to power South-East Asia. That's something that's really exciting. It's something that the private sector is seizing right now.

We have all the key inputs into renewable energy manufacturing and battery manufacturing. We can also manufacture batteries. We've seen great proposals both at Townsville and in the Hunter, in the member for Paterson's own electorate, that can have a huge impact on local communities. There's also no reason why we can't manufacturer electric vehicles in this country. The one I'm most passionate about is hydrogen and energy intensive manufacturing. If we can just grab 6½ per cent of the global green steel market, we could have 25,000 manufacturing jobs in places like Newcastle and Gladstone making green steel. I'm passionate about the steel city becoming the steel city again.

These are the opportunities, and these are the opportunities that Labor has supported throughout its period. That's why under Anthony Albanese we've announced the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund. That's why we've announced a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. That's why we've announced $200 million for community batteries and $200 million for electric vehicles. We are the party that's committed to taking strong action on climate change to help the environment and to seize the economic opportunities that come with it, because, unlike those opposite, we won't bury our heads in the sand.

In the time remaining, I'm going to give people a little foretaste, a taste, of what they're going to get from the minister for emissions reduction. He will give us 10 minutes of mendacity—10 minutes of a numbers soup where his entire strategy is just to throw numbers at you until you're entirely confused about what has gone on. The first number I predict he'll use—and I'm doing a bit of fortune-telling, but, based on what the Prime Minister said yesterday and today, I've got a good chance—is in bragging about the fact that Australia has reduced its emissions by 20 per cent since 2005. And that's true. But how did we get that 20 per cent reduction since 2005? Well, in the first two years, between 2005 and 2007, under John Howard, emissions actually increased by 2.4 per cent. They didn't go down; they went up. Under the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments, between 2007 and 2013, emissions fell by a massive 14 per cent—14 per cent. And what's happened since then? Between 2013 and 2019, under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, annual emissions fell by four per cent and then, last year, emissions fell by another four per cent.

Mr Perrett: I wonder what happened last year!

Mr CONROY: Exactly, and I'll come to that, Member for Moreton. So there's been a 20 per cent reduction since 2005—14 per cent by Labor; six per cent by the Liberal-National party, and yet they brag about that. But, when you break down their six per cent, how do they get to the six per cent? Guess how much of the six per cent came from Labor's Renewable Energy Target that they've tried to abolish time after time? In fact, the member for Hume, the minister, got preselected and then elected to his seat on an anti-wind-farm, anti-RET agenda. So, of their six per cent, guess how much came from Labor's Renewable Energy Target? It's five point seven percentage points—5.7 percentage points. And guess where the rest came from? The rest came from the first recession in 30 years, last year—the one that the minister was bragging about because it took cars off the road. He was actually using it as a bragging point! So, of their six per cent, 5.7 percentage points were from Labor's RET and the rest were from dropping us into a recession. I can't believe this minister can look at himself in the mirror, quite frankly, let alone come into this chamber and make the claims that he's about to make.

Their second claim will be that, in 2020, emissions under them were 100 million tonnes lower than they were under Labor. The truth is that, in 2013, emissions in 2020 were projected to be 656 million tonnes. The actual outcome was 499 million tonnes. So, on the face of it, the minister can make that claim. But those projections were revised down every year, basically, of the last decade—in 2016, 559 million; in 2017, 551 million; in 2018, 540 million; in 2019, 534 million. What caused these reductions in the projections of how much our economy would emit? Was it their strong action on climate change? Was it their stable and consistent energy policy? No. The government's own documents say these downward emissions projections were caused by the impact of the drought on the farming sector, by the decline of manufacturing emissions—because they closed the automotive industry—and by Labor's RET. So the three reasons emissions were 100 million tonnes lower are that there was a drought; they killed the car industry, destroying 50,000 jobs; and Labor's RET. That's the truth about all the numbers that the minister for emissions will throw at us in this debate.

The third claim—and the most offensive one, quite frankly, because the rest is history—and this is the worst one, is that they will meet and beat their 28 per cent reduction target by 2030. Well, their own documents contradict that. Their own documents predict that, by 2030, emissions will only be 23 per cent lower than in 2005—only 23 per cent. So their own documents are surrender documents. Their own documents surrender and say they will not meet the target. The worst will be the 'technology, not taxes' line from the minister. Minister, unless you've got a money tree, the only way you promote technology is by creating incentives and subsidies. To pay for it, the government has to do what? It has to use taxes.

This is a government that is totally bereft on climate change. This is a government that is betraying not only future generations but the current generation by denying us the economic opportunities that are associated with taking strong action on climate change. Those on this side of the parliament, the Labor side, are committed to net zero emissions by 2050. We'll have strong medium-term policies announced before the next election and, more importantly, we've got a track record, when in government, of taking action on climate change, seizing the economic opportunities that go with it and not betraying future generations like those on the opposite side. They talk about family values, but they're undermining the Australian family as we speak.