HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEECH
TUESDAY 21 MARCH 2023
Subjects: Safeguard Mechanism
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS:
Thank you, Member for Sturt, much appreciated. Bit of bipartisanship in the House, hopefully that that might extend to your support for the safeguard mechanism. Possibly – we’ll see – maybe my oratory might change your mind.
Deputy Speaker, in May last year Australians voted for real action on climate change, and they voted for a government that takes real action on climate change and makes it something that is significant, real, that will make a difference to the next generation; not just empty words. Climate change is an existential issue for Australia and for people across the globe, particularly in the Pacific. And the Albanese Labor Government is taking leadership and making a real commitment on this issue, because this government is acutely aware of the urgency, the need to act.
The IPCC report that we’ve just seen released reaffirms what we’ve all been concerned about all along. It reminds us of our agency, and it also reminds us of the urgency to act; that we should have taken this action decades ago, but this country was dealing with a decade of denial and delay. A decade of dysfunction- and of course, Australians are right to be concerned. People in my electorate of Wills are contacting my office because they are worried.
They’re worried about their kid’s future; they’re worried about the world that their kids and their grandkids will inherit. As am I, Deputy Speaker, as a father of two young children. We’re worried about the prediction that temperatures would likely rise 1.5 degrees in the early part of next decade; that the impacts from climate change are more severe than estimated in previous IPCC assessments; that the climate crisis is quickly altering the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land, and frozen poles, which will mean that Australians will experience extreme weather, including heat waves and catastrophic flooding; that our children and our future generations will continue to suffer if we don’t seize the opportunity.
This week, in this place, to make a real start on climate action, this is what the Australian people voted for last May. Now, Deputy Speaker, the safeguard mechanism provides this country with key building blocks as we work towards net 0 by 2050 at the latest. We’ve always said we can get there faster if we’re permitted to make those investments in renewable energy. It’s a floor, not a ceiling, and the safeguard mechanism helps ensure our largest industrial facilities reduce emissions in line with our national targets. It provides us with a system that encourages it and encourages emissions reduction. That’s about reducing emissions from our top emitters, and that is crucial. It’s crucial to reaching Australia’s updated emissions reduction targets of 43% by 2030 and net 0 by 2050. More than 70% of safeguard facilities and 80% of safeguard emissions are already covered by 2050 net 0 targets which these reforms will help them achieve.
As part of the Powering Australian Plan and funded in the last budget, the Albanese Labor Government is investing in the decarbonization of existing industries and creation of new clean energy industries through the 1.9 billion Powering the Regions fund. At least 600 million of this will assist safeguard facilities in reducing their emissions through energy efficiency upgrades, shift to lower carbon processes, or fuel switching to electrification, hydrogen, and biofuels. Why you would oppose that, I’m not sure. I’ve not heard a cogent or rational argument from those opposite, because these reforms help Australian businesses remain competitive as the world decarbonizes; why would you oppose that? Because they enable industries to be supported during this transition; why would you oppose that? The crediting element enables businesses to be provided with tradable safeguard mechanism credits that will incentivize more efficiency and other businesses with limited abatement options are able to purchase credits to help meet their emissions reductions. Why would you oppose that? Crediting and trading will actually help Australia and our industrial businesses meet our climate targets. Why would you oppose that? It’s a cost-effective way of enabling us to continue to work toward our larger goals, and we’ve got to start.
This Parliament debated targets last year, and we agreed to a 43% target; that’s our starting point. It passed through this Parliament, that’s democracy in action. Unless the Safeguard Mechanism and the safeguard reforms are passed, our projections will be lower than 43%. Why would you oppose that? Is that why? Because you want us to underachieve? You want to block business and industry from reducing their emissions, is that what this is about? Is that what your opposition is about? Because this is real action and real reform, maybe you oppose it because of that, because you did nothing for 9 years; because you went backwards for 9 years. Maybe you want to oppose this bill because of that; maybe you just want to oppose reducing emissions that will alleviate pressure on households and energy bills, that will create renewable energy jobs. That’s a really good start, Deputy Speaker. Make sure that we’re headed in a path and a direction that will help us transition into a renewable energy future. Why would you oppose that? Is it because there’s still elements within the opposition party room that don’t believe in any of the signs, that don’t think we should take any action? That were responsible for torpedoing, for blowing up, for destroying – I’ve forgotten now how many-22, thank you, the Member for Cowan has pointed out correctly – 22 different energy plans completely blown up by the Liberal Party room over a period of a number of years. Maybe you want to oppose us getting on with it because you couldn’t get on with it. For the first time in a decade, this Parliament has an opportunity to put measures in place to reduce emissions from our biggest emitters. Some honorable members may call for higher targets. We’ve heard that from many here or feel that this isn’t enough. To those members and those parties, I say this government will work together with you in good faith towards emission reductions.
We would all agree that it would be great to have 100% renewable energy by tomorrow; but our massive continent demands a network that covers thousands of kilometers and all types of terrain and climates. Our electricity system, our grid, is hopelessly and desperately outdated and cannot yet properly integrate the full capacity of the growing renewable sector. So, let’s unlock the potential. That’s why we have a planned $20 billion dollar investment into our electricity system, our grid, to make it up to date for renewable energy. That’s what that’s about – that’s what it is. We know that the opposition and others might want to make this a political issue. Maybe they’re opposing because they want to play politics again, they want to move out of their party room and the destruction of their 22 energy plans over however many years to blowing up any chance of us moving forward as a nation. But let’s be sensible and rational here, Deputy Speaker. We’ll never make a start if we don’t have people on the other side make the commitment, understand the need for the national interest for their kid’s future, as well. That’s why we need real action on climate change, Deputy Speaker and this government is the only party that is delivering that action on climate change. We need people to get behind this; we need the opposition to understand the importance of the future for Australian business, for industry, and that the transition is going to happen whether they like it or not. We need others who feel that this is not enough to get behind this and not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Always found that if you as a political party or in politics, if you are being attacked from each end of the spectrum, people on one side of you and the other side of you saying it’s either not good enough or we’re never going to support that – if you’re somewhere in the sensible center, Deputy Speaker, you’re doing the right thing most of the time, pretty much all the time. And that’s where we are right now, Deputy Speaker, we are in the sensible center looking towards reducing emissions, transitioning to a renewable energy future, making sure that the transition is feasible for Australian industry and Australian business and yet we have people – members on either side of us who wish to not support this sensible step forward.
We need crossbench support on this; we need everyone’s support, even the opposition support, if they can, few of them might see the light here and put their national interests ahead of their party and political interests. Stranger things have happened, Deputy Speaker. But if the Parliament votes against this policy they will be voting against – those opposite – will be voting against emissions reductions. They’ll be voting against a plan for transition for Australian business and industry. They’ll be voting against a future where we transition to renewable energy and all the benefits that pertain from that for our nation and for our climate. They’ll be against any action on climate change. They’ll be against a safe future for Australians. So, Deputy Speaker, I call on the members in this place to consider the Safeguard Mechanism; to consider this bill on its merits and everything that it does for the future of Australian business and our reduction in emissions going forward and maybe, just maybe, some of them might see the light and understand the importance of this bill for the national interest. I hope they do, Deputy Speaker, and I hope the crossbench do as well. That we get the support necessary to move forward so we can actually start investing in the transmission grid. Getting it ready for the renewable energy future that is inevitable despite those who think it will never come. So, Deputy Speaker, I call on the members opposite to consider this bill in good faith, consider the important elements of this bill for business and for the future of renewable energy in this country, and hopefully some of them might actually vote for it. Thank you.