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Christine Milne asks whether Labor will join Obama to leave fossil fuels behind

Speeches in Parliament
Christine Milne 26 Jun 2013

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:24): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, Senator Lundy. Is the minister aware that President Obama said, in his major speech on climate change:

Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interests.

And:

Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.

If so, does the minister agree that allowing projects that exacerbate carbon pollution are not in the national interest? If she does agree that they are not in the national interest, will the government now reject coal extraction from the Galilee and Bowen basins because they significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital Territory-Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:25): The vast majority of coalmines in Australia are not emissions intensive, and will not face materially increased costs under a carbon price. Treasury modelling projects that under a carbon price the coal industry will grow. In addition, there is currently a $99 billion pipeline of investment into the coalmining sector, with 93 new projects either just completed, under construction or awaiting approval.

Therefore, the government recognises that there are a small number of gassy underground mines that have high methane emissions and will face increased costs under a carbon price. We have addressed this in the coal sector jobs package. After taking into account the assistance for gassy mines, the average impact of the carbon price on coalmines will be reduced. So the answer to your question is that we believe strongly that we are able to manage our plan to reduce the emissions from the coal sector in Australia over time. We will be able to do this with the carbon price in place.

Going back to the point you made about statements from the President of the United States, we warmly welcome the US President's commitment to reducing emissions across the US. We know that the President said that the science is unequivocal and that the US plans to take a leadership role in acting, and, most importantly, that the best policy for reducing pollution is through a market mechanism.

Any claim, as we have heard from those opposite, that the President does not support emissions trading, is just one more mendacious claim to add to a growing list of- (Time expired)

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:27): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister well knows that the reference is not to fugitive emissions but to burnt coal exported from Australia. So I ask her again: does she accept that coal from the Galilee and Bowen basins extracted from Australia and burnt wherever in the world will exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution, and is therefore not in our, or anybody else's, national interest? Is that the case, Minister?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital Territory-Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:28): Australia is of the view that all nations should be taking action on climate change. That is why we have welcomed the action that has taken place recently in China. That is why we welcomed the statement of the US President just yesterday. That is why when we act we do so with leadership, knowledge and understanding that we are acting amongst a growing number of nations around the world.

I mentioned in an earlier answer that some one billion people around the world now live in a province, region or country where an emissions trading scheme is in effect, is in operation. We will continue to promote and propagate our view around the world that all nations need to take action on climate change in conjunction with us. I think the recent actions, as I said before, show that Australia- (Time expired)

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:29): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware that Senator Obama also called for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies? If so, does the government agree it is time to end tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, in particular the $2 billion fuel tax credit for the big miners in Australia?

Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital Territory-Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:29): Can I answer the question this way. I do not know how many more ways I can describe the Labor government's commitment to taking action on climate change. We are doing so in a responsible way that allows our industry sectors to transform to a low-carbon future. We have done that with a comprehensive plan of an emissions trading scheme, which is not only implemented but also is going particularly well. We are doing it with a renewable energy target, and we are doing it with a series of investments through our Clean Technology Program in businesses to help them reduce their carbon footprint. With these mechanisms in place, along with investments in companies that are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their technologies, we believe we have the balance right. Mr President, can I remind you- (Time expired)

 

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