The Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022 is a very important bill. It is a very important bill to be speaking on, and I’m very conscious that I am speaking today a day ahead of the release of the sixth IPCC report tomorrow. I’ve got to say I am dreading that release a little bit, because it’s the sixth report, and these reports don’t get any better. Each time, the picture gets a little bit more difficult. Each time, we find out more and more about how our climate is changing and about how the time we have to address that is getting shorter and shorter. Each time, the ask gets a bit more urgent. So, when the member opposite asks, ‘What’s so dangerous about carbon dioxide?’ I do encourage him to read that report tomorrow. I think it will set out a lot of those facts he is looking for around what makes it dangerous, what it means for us here in this country and what it means for people around the world.
This is a genuine problem. It is a genuine problem that this government was elected to do something about because, as we continually hear from those opposite today on this debate, those opposite refused to. For almost a decade, they refused to address climate change, and the consequences of that mean that our country is coming from behind where we should, when we are trying to address this pressing, urgent issue that will affect our country, will affect our economy here, will affect our children’s futures, will affect our future and will affect the future of our entire planet. From the get-go, since we were elected, our government has been focused on addressing the challenges climate change poses for Australia and for the world. We understand climate change is a crisis, and we are working to take action on that crisis.
As we do that, we’re not doing that because we think we can ignore it. We’re not doing it because we think this is a moral obligation. We’re doing it because we recognise this is a necessity, and out of that necessity there are opportunities for our country. There are opportunities for our environment, for the climate, for our people, for the future of our country, and for the economy—for good jobs and secure industries of the future.
The Climate Change Act that our parliament passed in September last year laid the groundwork for climate action going forward. It set our government’s target of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. It’s putting Australia back at the table in global efforts to reduce climate change. It has done some of the work we needed to do to once again be seen as a responsible player globally, to be seen as someone who is doing our part within a region—our region, the Asia-Pacific—that we know is going to be and already is being particularly impacted by climate change. We are doing the work that puts us back in the conversations about all of that work that is happening internationally—the conversations with allies, with friends and with other countries that we were locked out of for nearly a decade because previous Liberal-National governments refused to take action.
This safeguard mechanism is the next important foundational step forward. It will require our country’s largest industrial facilities to reduce their emissions, gradually and predictably, in line with our country’s targets. This is a reform that will put Australian industry on the path to net zero by 2050 while also ensuring Australian businesses stay competitive as the world also works towards net zero.
For business and industry, this bill aims to support and encourage industry to unlock emissions reductions where they are most efficient. We know that some businesses do already have low-cost abatement opportunities ready to go and in fact could reduce their emissions faster than is required by the safeguard mechanism. This bill is designed to incentivise such action, enabling these businesses to be issued tradeable safeguard mechanism credits. Other businesses that have more limited abatement options can then buy these credits to help meet their required emissions reductions. Crediting and trading will lower the cost of reducing emissions, helping the safeguard mechanism to meet Australia’s climate targets in a cost-effective way and enabling increased ambition over time.
Australian businesses and investors in Australian businesses know that the world is changing. They want to remain competitive in that world, and they know that they need the right signals in place to not just stay competitive but also innovate and thrive. Many businesses that operate facilities that will be covered by the safeguard mechanism have already made long-term climate commitments that match or surpass our country’s climate targets. These reforms to the safeguard mechanism will provide strong investment signals for those businesses and provide a balanced scheme that is effective, equitable, efficient and simple.
Despite all of that, those opposite continue to ignore the realities of climate change. In my home town of Melbourne, we have quite a few electorates that changed hands at the last election. They changed from being Liberal or National seats to teal seats, and some of them changed to Labor seats. One of the key reasons those seats changed was that they saw that those opposite continue to deny that climate change is a reality. Yet even after that really clear message—that the Australian people know this is a reality, that the Australian people know that climate change is real and we need to take action—those opposite continue to come in here and ask questions like, ‘What’s so bad about carbon dioxide anyway?’ They continue to deny. If we still had them in government, we would continue to delay. The opposition is putting our country’s future at risk. So long as those opposite continue to refuse to take necessary, sensible, measured action to make reasonable efforts to reduce our climate emissions, they are standing in the way of a future for all of us.
It’s not just the Australian people who have sent this message to the Liberals and Nationals; the Australian business community have also asked them to get on board with the safeguard mechanism. We know the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said:
Past failure to deal with this reality has crimped certainty for industry and investors, and left our energy sector in disarray. Australian businesses and households are now paying the price.
They’ve made it clear they support the reforms to the safeguard mechanism:
This is the best way to secure the planning, investment and innovation that will underpin the decarbonisation of our economy without sacrificing reliability or affordability.
It’s not just them. The Australian Industry Group says that this bill is ‘essential policy infrastructure’, that it’s ‘strongly in everyone’s interests to pass it’ and that it’s ‘needed for industry investment and for any political party’s climate policy vision to work’.
The government has listened. We are leading the way on these reforms. We are taking action on climate change. We are working with business and industry so that they can grow and so that they do have a sustainable future in this country, because we absolutely should be a country with industry. We absolutely should be a country that makes things, and that’s what this bill and the safeguard mechanism enable.
I understand there are also concerns about how the safeguard mechanism will work to drive down overall emissions. I want to thank the climate groups and the members of my community who have engaged with me so constructively about this. Obviously, as a country we have to make substantial emissions reductions in a relatively short period of time to meet our target of 43 per cent reduction by 2030. I want to be really clear: our government is absolutely dedicated to that task. We know that what we are doing is transforming our country and our economy so that we reap the benefits of being a green energy superpower.
We are of course coming from behind. We did waste nearly a decade under Liberal-National governments. We won’t get there through slogans; we will get there through our government’s investments in a clean energy future, through driving the reform we need to transform our economy and through reasonable measures like this safeguard mechanism and this bill. In less than a year since we were elected our government has already demonstrated we are committed to investing in green energy. We know this transformation is one that government can and should play an important role in. We’re not standing by and we’re not waiting for others to do it; we’re stepping forward to work with business and industry and deliver a greener future.
We have our Rewiring the Nation plan getting underway, with some projects already beginning as part of our $20 billion fund to accelerate the decarbonisation of the grid. This includes in my home state the Marinus Link between Victoria and Tasmania and the Kerang link between Victoria and New South Wales, and both of these projects will help unlock renewables and put downward pressure on energy prices. Alongside this we are making up to $1.5 billion available for renewable energy zones in Victoria and for the development of offshore wind. These are substantial investments in projects that will transform how we power our country. These are good projects, they will deliver us renewable energy and they will deliver us jobs and industries that are sustainable into the future. Our government is delivering $300 million for community batteries and solar banks across the country, and I am very pleased we’ll be seeing at least one community battery in Bellfield in my electorate. I think that will be important for the people in that community to have those benefits of renewable energy. I know there’s interest from other areas of Jagajaga as well, and I’m happy to keep talking with community members about that. Our government is backing access to sustainable homes with a $125 million investment to encourage homebuilders and renovators to deliver homes with high energy-efficiency standards, including heat pump water systems, electrification and battery-ready solar panels.
Of course it’s not just in Victoria; this work is going on right across the country. We have in Brisbane, which the member for Lilley is probably particularly interested in, the development of what could be one of the largest renewable hydrogen production facilities in the world; in Broken Hill, $45 million for a 250-megawatt renewable storage project; $47.5 million to develop a new hydrogen electrolyser in Western Australia; $160 million from the CEFC to fast-track the connection of the country’s largest wind farm in Queensland with the national electricity market; and $500 million to help businesses progress innovative projects and technologies to reduce emissions. There are a lot more projects I could go through, but I am conscious of the time. But it gives you a sense of the scale at which this government is trying to operate. We understand the scale of the task before us to transform our economy to make sure it is one that is driven by renewables, that supports Australian businesses and that supports Australian industry, makes sure we are delivering right here the jobs of the future and makes sure we are securing this country’s future economically, environmentally and in addressing the climate crisis.
I know the decade of denial and drift under the Liberals and Nationals was something my community were incredibly distressed about. I know they are worried. They too, like me, will see the headlines generated from that sixth IPCC report tomorrow and they will also feel a bit of dread. They will also wonder what the future looks like for their children, their community and of course our entire planet. We have to get this right. We don’t get a second chance. We don’t get a second world to do this work in. This is the time for this. This mechanism is such a crucial part of the work our government is doing to drive down emissions and to make sure we are transforming our economy and seizing the opportunities of the future, we’re not being left behind and we’re not being left with a country that is facing increasing natural disasters from an increasingly changing environment. We deserve better than that in this country. We can have better than that in this country.
This mechanism has been designed to make sure that we deliver a future that works for our communities, for our industries and for our businesses. It is a sensible, effective measure. It is one that should get support from across this place. This place does not have a good record when it comes to climate change. This is our chance to do better. This is our chance to take our place in history and make sure that we set this country on the right path to make sure that we are looking after our future, our children’s future and their children’s future. That’s what this is about. This is about us being able to achieve those necessary emissions reductions that secure our future.