Climate Change Bill 2022, Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022

House of Representatives 3/08/2022

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (17:12): When I asked the people of Wills to give me the privilege of being re-elected as part of an Albanese Labor government, I made it clear that I was committed to taking real action in government and getting things done. That’s what we would do if we won government: real action on the cost of living, real action on secure local jobs and, of course, real action on tackling climate change. I campaigned on the fact that an Albanese Labor government was committed to taking that real action by implementing our policies and legislation to lower our emissions, create thousands of clean energy jobs and decrease household bills with massive investments in renewable technology to make us a renewable energy superpower.

During this first sitting of the 47th Parliament, we are making our commitment to real action clear and manifest with the introduction of the first genuine climate action legislation after more than a decade of inaction. The Minister for Climate Change and Energy nailed it in question time when he said, ‘A decade of inaction is over.’ There are a lot of platitudes in politics, and the conversation about climate action is not immune to that—that’s for sure. Those on the other side like to promote a false, rather damaging dichotomy that it’s either the environment or the economy, as if you’ve got to choose. There are also those from the minor parties and those on the fringes who think we can wave a magic wand to deal with climate change, without a genuine plan for workers and the communities that they support around Australia. The country has been crying out for sensible and real action in this space for a decade. We are delivering it.

I’m very proud of the Climate Change Bill 2022 because it’s the first real climate change bill in a decade. We’ve had nine years—almost 10 years—of wasted opportunities and those opposite dithering and in denial, delivering 22 so-called energy policies, all of which were abandoned when they started fighting each other in their own party room and could never agree on one of them. It was a disaster, and the Australian people had enough of it. They had enough of the dithering, enough of the denial. They just had enough of it. They wanted things to get done.

Australians trust that we will get this right because Labor has a strong track record of environmental policy, and we have the commitments to prove it. Let’s not forget that it was the Whitlam government that was able to prevent Joh Bjelke-Petersen from drilling in the Great Barrier Reef. It was the Hawke government that was able to save the Franklin River, Kakadu National Park and the Daintree Rainforest. It was the Keating government that worked to protect our oceans. But we don’t need to look at the past anymore, because it will be this Albanese Labor government that will be remembered for taking real action on climate change and protecting our environment for future generations.

Our commitment is backed up by a fully modelled and costed plan, Powering Australia. It’s a plan to reduce emissions by at least 43 per cent by 2030, joining our international partners like Japan, South Korea and Canada in that ambition. It’s a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, bringing us into line with countries like France, Denmark and Spain, which have similarly legislated targets. It’s a plan that reflects Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and the efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees on pre-industrial levels. Rejoining our international partners in this effort is not just important in doing our fair share to reduce emissions; it is critical to our long-term bilateral relationships, our engagement with our partners across the globe.

Already, under the leadership of Prime Minister Albanese, this government has made significant strides in repairing relationships that were damaged by Australia’s lack of leadership in the previous government. No longer are we the subject of ire from our international partners, who expect us to do our fair share. This is a principle, the fair share, which is somewhat similar to the fair go. It’s a principle that Australians easily understand. Do your bit. Put your fair share in. Make the effort. We’re no longer speaking to empty rooms at international conferences; we’re actually bidding to host them. We’re no longer leaving our Pacific neighbours, our friends and partners in the Pacific, on their own as they experience the devastating impacts of climate change, the existential threat they face. We’re with them now.

We will not be limited in our ambition. As the Prime Minister has said, our target is a floor, not a ceiling. We will become a renewable energy superpower with the investment that will be unleashed by our policies and our legislation. We will be accountable, unlike the previous government, when it comes to this action. This will take the form of an annual climate change statement to parliament, ensuring accountability on meeting our targets, including progress made in achieving those, international developments relevant to addressing climate change and the effectiveness of the government’s policies in meeting the set targets. This statement will be informed by the independent Climate Change Authority, which will also be tasked with providing ongoing advice on adjusting future targets.

We have a plan to create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid jobs. This is important because it’s not just about words or a so-called just transition with nothing really to back it up. Our plan is to lower power bills for ordinary Australians, to help more Australians join the solar revolution by installing 400 solar community batteries around the country, and to connect 100,000 Australian householders who may not be able to install solar, like apartment owners and renters, so they can draw from excess electricity stored in batteries. This will allow more Australians to take full advantage of cheap solar energy.

I know the people of Wills, my electorate—and it’s interesting that most of my colleagues on this side hear the same thing when they talk to their constituents—tell me they feel a real sense of relief that they finally have a government that is actually doing something in the national interest. It’s as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. That’s a widespread view. It’s nationwide. We have a federal government that actually cares about this country’s future and future generations and is committed to taking real action here in this place and in our governance. It has brought together all sectors of civil society: the unions, the business sector and environmental groups. All of them joined our minister when he formally signed our new targets in June this year. So I congratulate the Minister for Climate Change and Energy for his efforts to develop legislation that recognises the significance of this challenge while bringing the different elements of Australian society together, including here in this parliament. I thank the members of the crossbench, who have sought to negotiate in good faith, and I call on those yet to declare their support to consider the bigger picture.

I also call on members of the opposition—the handful that are here—who are still opposing this legislation to reconsider, because we have a unique opportunity to end a decade of fighting, denial and delay. We have a unique opportunity to chart a new path forward. We have a unique opportunity to do something inherently good—something significant—for the people we represent and for future generations.

On election day, Australians voted to end the climate wars; they had had enough. Our Prime Minister spoke eloquently of the possibility of a better future and the potential of a better future, and now this parliament can do the same. We can vote to end the decade of delay and denial. We can vote to mark the end of our climate delinquency. We can vote for our children and our grandchildren to have that better future. We can vote for real action.