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Matters of Urgency - Emissions Trading Scheme


 I rise today to comment on this urgency motion and note that it is really an opportunity for senators to make a pitch in the Queensland election. It was not written that way, but we have had a clear example that that is what this is about.

Well, I am very glad that we have an impression of Fred Flintstone from the prehistoric city of Bedrock entering the debate here with a quarry vision. I congratulate Senator Brandis, because he and his cohort around here seem to only be able to look from the base of the quarry out onto the prehistoric city of Bedrock and go on with their climate scepticism. If you want to lose your job in Queensland, plus your livelihood as well, the best way of doing it is to vote for climate sceptics. The best way of losing jobs and livelihoods in Australia today is to vote for the climate sceptics.

Let me just tell you about Queensland, Mr Deputy President, in that regard: 63,000 people earn their livelihoods as a result of the Great Barrier Reef. Those people have real jobs, and they should be sustainable jobs, but they will not be sustainable jobs if we see global warming progress at the rate it is going. If the climate sceptics have their way, we will see bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef occurring much more frequently because of increased temperatures, and soon we will have no tourism industry on the Great Barrier Reef if that continues.

The first point I make is: vote for a climate sceptic if you want to lose your job in the tourism industry and if you want to see one of Australia's greatest icons disappear. That is why the Greens have always talked about the importance of addressing global warming to protect ecosystems as the base, not only because they are intrinsically worth while because of biodiversity but because of the jobs that they actually nurture.

The second point I make is: if you want to sit in the bottom of the quarry shouting, ‘Yabba dabba doo,' which is what we have heard here today so far-and here comes Bamm-Bamm to join them-then you are guaranteeing that there will be no jobs, because the reality is that there is an end to the mining boom. And there is rapidly going to come a point where Australian coal sold into overseas markets loses its legitimacy. Just as the tobacco industry lost its legitimacy in terms of the health debate over time, the same thing is going to happen with the coal debate.

For all those people who go on about coal being the backbone of the economy: if you look at the number of jobs involved in the quarry vision, it is nowhere near the number of jobs that are out there in the service industries. The problem with Queensland is that it has had successive governments who have not had a vision beyond the quarry, who can only ever see the narrow base for Queensland in terms of mining, tourism, agriculture and a building boom-and that is it. You need to diversify the economy, to move to the new green economy, to actually rebuild manufacturing in the new economy. If you want to keep manufacturing in Queensland, you have to do it by using renewable energy. The competitive advantage in the world is soon going to be with those countries that can produce large amounts of renewable energy consistently, and that is where large energy users are going to go. All this threat and talk of leakage at the moment is just nonsense. As I demonstrated in estimates only a week or so ago, the issue is not leakage; the issue is profitability. They want in for their cut.

One of the worst aspects of the emissions trading scheme-which is why it is absolutely not the case that the government has not looked after Queensland; I would argue it has looked after them way too well under the emissions trading system-is that it gives up to 90 per cent free permits to the big polluters, who are based in the old sectors. Queensland has done better than most in terms of coal, in getting those free permits under an emissions trading scheme.

Looking at climate change for Queensland, we just heard, ‘What about Mackay?' from Senator Joyce. Well, what if the recent cyclone had come across the coast there? We would not just be looking at a disaster in an ecological sense; we would be looking at a massive human disaster as well. How could anyone who lives in Queensland stand in this parliament today and talk about not addressing global warming, say that we cannot afford to do it, when that cyclone should have been a big warning that it is only a matter of time before a major cyclone comes much further south than anyone has ever anticipated and crosses the coast? We had the former Premier in Queensland talking about building bunkers up and down the Queensland coast while at the same time building new coal mines. How ridiculous it is for both Labor and the Liberal National Party in Queensland to be talking up new coal mines, coal railways and coal ports on the one hand-while suffering cyclones down the coast and talking about building bunkers-and at the same time be saying, ‘Oh, by the way, we will save your jobs in agriculture,' when we know the flooding, for example the floods that occurred in Ingham earlier this year, wipes that out.

The fact of the matter is that we have to address global warming. It is true that those in the quarry are starting to understand what global warming is about. It is true that we have always had floods, fires and droughts in Australia, but the climate scientists are telling us that they are going to be more intense and more frequent. So while we have had bleaching events previously on the reef, they have been spread out enough so that the reef recovers over time. We have had floods, of course, and we have had fires and cyclones, but now we have them more frequently and in a more intense way. So you are going to have stronger cyclones and you are going to have them further south than previously. You are going to have disease outbreaks you have not had before, like dengue fever, as a result of changed climatic conditions. So, if you want to lose your job in Queensland, if you want to lose your livelihood in Queensland, and if you want to face life-threatening scenarios on a more frequent basis, then vote for the sceptics. Continue to have the quarry vision; continue to see the state simply as somewhere where you dig holes in the ground and ship it overseas. If you want to do that, you will guarantee Queensland goes further and further backwards. If you want to guarantee a future for Queensland, you look at protecting the highest quality agricultural land for the future for niche markets, you address climate change as rapidly as you can so you do everything you can to protect the Great Barrier Reef and the jobs that are associated with it, you move, as the Greens are doing in Queensland, for World Heritage listing in Cape York to increase the jobs and status and you stop land clearing. Here again we have those in the quarry just putting their noses out long enough to clear the vegetation all around the quarry-250,000 hectares a year are being cleared in Queensland. If you are interested in global warming then you protect native vegetation; you do not knock it down. The Greens are certainly out there saying there must be an end to that level of land clearance.

We have had the government up in Queensland, supported by the Liberal National Party, prepared to put a railway through Shoalwater Bay. So intense is their view of the quarry, they cannot see anything beyond it and were prepared to do that. It was the Greens who stood up for Shoalwater Bay, the Greens who stood up for the refugia in Queensland, where you have over 100 nature refuges at risk from mining. What we have is a political system in Queensland that has never been able to lift its sights beyond the quarry. That is why we have had that nonsense argument put here today that, by addressing global warming, somehow Queensland is being done in. I would argue that by not addressing global warming, Queensland will definitely be done in-Queensland jobs will go. It is about time that people started to recognise that even at this very moment jobs are being lost in those resource based industries because we have hollowed out manufacturing, we have failed to invest in education and training and we have failed to diversify the economy and get into the new green jobs that are the future. That is why Queensland is vulnerable and that is why the old political order that can only see the quarry, which is filled up with the likes of Fred Flintstone and his friends, is the way to the past. If you want to go back to pre-industrial Bedrock then I suggest Senator Brandis is a good one to be driving that old car.


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