Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 202024 February 2020
I rise this morning to speak against the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2020. This is a bill which purports to introduce a ‘climate trigger’—as it has been described—through a thorough environmental assessment of emissions-intensive activities. But in reality this is nothing more than greenwash and green tape from a political party who consistently place this country and its economic fortunes last on the podium of priorities and who are instead intent upon wrecking this country and its economy.
The bill seeks to define, in the broadest terms, actions which involve mining operations, drilling operations or land clearing as emissions-intensive actions, regardless of the actual emissions associated with such operations. Those of us who understand basic economics understand that all of those operations lie at the very heart of the operational and economic success of this country and are integral to our prosperity and success. This bill seeks to destroy industries which are reliant on these types of operations, and it does so by adding more green tape and creating convoluted regulations which will do nothing but wreck, disrupt and destroy those wealth-generating activities which allow this country to prosper.
The fact is that activities such as mining, drilling exploration and land clearing are already subject to stringent regulation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and are also subject to stringent state and territory legislation on top of that. Insofar as they impact matters of national environmental significance, mining, drilling, land clearing and other activities are subject to rigorous assessment and scrutiny by both Commonwealth and state authorities. This regulatory framework is designed to promote ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of our natural resources. Australia’s response to emissions reduction is already being properly and responsibly addressed through a broad framework of government policy and legislation. This bill seeks to introduce yet more regulation and yet more green tape for its own sake and in truth is nothing more than a green Trojan Horse seeking to blunt economic development in this country.
This bill is premised on the misinformation that Australia’s emissions are somehow responsible for the tragic bushfire season we have just experienced. But of course the Australian people are too clever to fall for such irresponsible hysteria. Just this morning Newspoll reported that only 35 per cent of people surveyed believe climate change was the main cause of the severity of the bushfires. So, if passed, this bill would give the means and the opportunity to challenge, delay, hinder and in some cases completely prevent developments on the grounds of being emissions intensive, when there is no proper basis to claim such.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is a proud legacy of the Howard government, and the Morrison government is committed to ensuring this legislation continues to strike the right balance, enabling development to proceed in a way which protects our unique natural habitat. In fact, there is a 10-year independent statutory review of the act underway, and this bill attempts to circumvent that process. Professor Graeme Samuel, who is leading the review, has conducted a broad range of consultations to inform his report. So, if ever there was a time to be amending this act, now is not that time. This bill is ill-conceived and will merely duplicate much existing regulation, bog down industry and damage our economy.
In contrast to the Australian Greens’ craven attempt to wind back economic prosperity, the Morrison government understands that sensible, reasonable and responsible attempts to reduce emissions can be made without the need to trash our economy. The Morrison government is taking meaningful action to deliver lower emissions while growing our economy and keeping our electricity prices down. While the Labor Party struggle internally with the same uncosted, unchecked emissions policies they took to the election, and were defeated on, the Morrison government has outlined a real plan to meet and beat our targets. We are on track to overachieve on our 2020 target by in the order of 411 million tonnes. We have a package of measures to meet and beat the 2030 target. We’ve laid out that we’ll deliver the target 11 years ahead of time, through supporting farmers, businesses and communities to reduce greenhouse gasses; by bringing new electricity generation projects online, such as Snowy 2.0 and the Battery of the Nation; and by supporting households and businesses to improve their energy efficiency and to lower their household energy bills. We’re now seeing record levels of renewable investment, including almost $9 billion in investments from the Commonwealth. Therefore, the utility of this bill in the chamber today is as questionable as it is unnecessary.
In fact, if the Greens actually wanted to lower or reduce emissions in this country then they would be advocating for the elephant in the room—a nuclear energy industry. Australia has had in the past an opportunity to pursue nuclear energy—a form of energy which is clean, efficient, abundant and virtually emissions free. Fortunately, this country still has the opportunity to establish a nuclear industry, as this country’s geology, climate, plentiful resources and stable democracy make it possible. Yet the Greens have refused to even consider such an industry. Canada—as a case study—chose to pursue a nuclear industry in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, they have seen a safe multibillion-dollar industry thrive. As the world’s second-largest producer of uranium, Canada now exports 85 per cent of its product, as part of an industry worth $1.3 billion per annum. Nuclear energy provided 15 per cent of Canada’s electricity in 2018 with next to zero emissions. In the order of 60,000 Canadian jobs are now supported by its nuclear industry, many of them high-paying and high-tech. If countries like Canada, France and the United States can meet substantial amounts of their electricity needs from nuclear reactors, there really is no reason that Australia should not or could not generate most, if not all, of its electricity from new, efficient and, most importantly, safe nuclear power generation. But, sadly, the Australian Greens are seemingly incapable of articulating why it is that they remain resistant to such a solution, save to observe that in the world of green Left politics no solution is palatable unless it is 100 per cent ideologically pure.
Those of us who tell us that we’re experiencing a climate emergency can, sadly, no longer have their ideological cake and eat it too. We need less politically motivated grandstanding and more pragmatism in order to reduce our emissions further. So, for the Australian Greens, who talk the emissions reduction talk, it’s now time to walk the nuclear-power walk.