Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2017 - Second Reading

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:22): The Greens political party have been called many things, but, clearly, they are now a party in denial. If ever you'd wanted to know why the voters of Tasmania and South Australia and Batman have at last turned against the Greens, you've had a classic example now, with that speech of denial from the current Greens leader in the Senate. Fifteen years ago, when the Greens parties in Europe started to fail, I predicted then that the Greens political party in Australia would, not long after, follow suit. Following the result, even in Tasmania, can I say, and then even in South Australia, which used to be the Greens heartland at one stage, and now of course in Batman, the voters of Australia have eventually woken up to the hypocrisy and fraud of the Greens political party.

Let me start by asking Senator Di Natale, or any of the Greens speakers who might speak in this debate, this question I always ask and can never get an answer to from the Greens. According to the Greens, Australia's emissions of carbon are what's causing global climate change. I repeat that. This is the Greens' claim, and you've just heard Senator Di Natale say that: what Australia emits in carbon is why the world's climate is changing. It is an incontestable fact that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. You can shut Australia down completely, stop our emissions totally, which in world figures is 1.4 per cent, but what impact will that have on the changing climate of the world? Don't listen to my answer; listen to the answer of Australia's Chief Scientist who, when asked that question, said, 'virtually none.' Yet Senator Di Natale has spent 20 minutes trying to confuse the dwindling band of supporters of the Greens political party that somehow it's Australia's fault, and if we open up the Adani coalmine that is going to cause greater cyclones, huge floods and snow storms around the world. The Greens are completely hypocritical, and completely fraudulent, when it comes to this debate.

Even Senator Di Natale started off by saying the storm in Darwin is the biggest storm ever for the last 30 years, and that's the same with everything. The floods in Brisbane a few years ago were the biggest floods in Queensland since 1927. Cyclone Yasi was the biggest cyclone ever to hit Australia since 1918. These events have happened before, they will happen in the future, and nothing Senator Di Natale says will change that.

I ask Senator Di Natale to tell me how you and your Labor Party mates—well, you used to be mates—think by doing something in Australia we're going to stop world climate change? I'm fascinated to hear how, with 1.4 per cent of emissions, something we do in Australia is going to save the world. It is just nonsensical. It's a question I keep asking and no-one from the Greens political party has ever even attempted to answer the question on how Australia, which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon, can possibly have any effect on the changing climate. Sure, when the rest of the world—the other 98.5 per cent of emitters—reduce their carbon emissions, then Australia should do something as well. But until then why are we destroying Australian jobs—the jobs of Australian workers? I used to think the CFMEU and the Labor Party were interested in them, but they are clearly not anymore. They go for the Greens' ideology, and I hope after Batman the Labor Party will at last realise that the Greens' message is failing and failing rapidly.

Please can someone from the Greens political party or the Labor Party, who seem to subscribe to this foolish fantasy, tell me how Australia, which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, is affecting world climate change?

Senator Di Natale says renewables are the way to go. Certainly the government's position is that it is technology neutral for investment in the energy sector, and we've introduced legislation to remove the prohibition on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from providing finance to carbon capture and storage projects.

I will point out to the Senate, and anyone who might be listening to this, that in all the world agreements on reduction in emissions Australia is one of the few countries in the world that has actually met all of its targets. It's done it mainly under Liberal governments by cleverly managing the economy, but not destroying jobs, and particularly not destroying the futures of other countries. Senator Di Natale rails in one breath against the Indian company Adani—there seems to be a bit of a racial tone to the accusations against Adani—and then in the next breath he will say how the Greens political party is always looking after those poor people around the world. Yet here is the chance for the poor people in India to get the electricity that Senator Di Natale has been using for the last 50 years —I might say it is coal-fired power electricity. Why do we deprive the poor people of India of that opportunity? And that's what the Adani project is all about.

We have unlimited reserves of high-quality, low-emission black coal in the Central Queensland area, where I come from, which is there to be exported to India, to establish new coal-fired power stations, to give the people of India the very limited luxury of electricity, which they don't have now. Senator Di Natale and the Greens would deny the Indian people this opportunity. The Indian people will get coal-fired power stations because they need it for their country to progress, but they'll get dirty coal from Indonesia and other places. They could get coal from Australia—a cleaner power, a cleaner coal—and that would bring jobs to Australians and help the Indian people. Yet, the Greens will never answer my question. I challenge anyone to come back to me in the hundreds of times I've asked this question in this chamber: how is it that Australia, which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the carbon emissions of the world, is going to affect climate change? I know I'm repeating myself, but I will keep saying this until the people of Australia—all of them—understand that it is not Australia's doing. Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent, and even the most revered scientist in the world—Australia's Chief Scientist—in Hansard in answer to my question: 'What impact would it have if we reduce Australia's emissions by 1.4 per cent?', answered: 'Virtually none.' This just shows the fraud and hypocrisy of the Greens political party and the voters of Australia are at last waking up.

Senator Di Natale talks about clean, green renewables. We all like that but, of course, when the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, how do we get power? The South Australian former government, the Labor government, had a great idea. They were going to turn on all these diesel fired generators, hundreds of diesel fired generators polluting the Australian atmosphere. It just shows the absolute hypocrisy and stupidity of the argument of the Greens political party and, I might say, their mates in the Labor Party on this. Sure, you have to have a mix, and under the Turnbull government we are getting that mix. We are encouraging renewables where they work and we are encouraging other forms of energy.

I know I'm old, but I remember the time when Australia's main competitive advantage in this world was that we had cheap power, because we are blessed with high-quality coal. It was that cheap power that in the fifties and sixties burst Australia to the head of the world economies. Now, unfortunately, because of the actions of the Labor Party, I have to say, more than the Greens political party, that is coming into difficulty. Senator Di Natale says Adani can't get money for their project. I don't know how he knows that—quite frankly, I don't either—but I suspect they do have the money. But why would you invest in any project in Australia? One government, the Liberal government in Canberra, and the Labor government in Queensland have said: 'Yes, this coal project in Central Queensland can go ahead, providing all these environmental conditions are met. it provides jobs for Indigenous people there. Yes, it can all go ahead.' So you invest your money and start the project on the basis of approvals given by the state Labor government and the federal Liberal government, and then Mr Shorten, to win votes in Batman, comes along and says, more or less: 'It doesn't matter what's happened in the past. If you invest your money, I'm going to introduce federal legislation to stop it.'

Why would you invest in a project when you have a government—an alternative government, I might say—saying to the world, 'It doesn't matter what the current governments, including the Labor one in Queensland, say; if I get into power I'm going to stop Adani, after they've invested all this money.' If you ever wanted a way of chasing investment in all of its forms away from Australia, you only have to look at Mr Shorten's stupidity in the recent Batman by-election. He was so keen to win that seat from the Greens that he just said anything that he thought might attract a few of the loony Greens voters over to his party, and he succeeded in that.

But in doing that, what's he done to the workers—the coal workers and the mining workers of Queensland, the state that I represent, the people up my way? The people of Townsville are looking to the Adani project, a project of billions and billions of dollars, to kickstart the economy of the Townsville region and the North and to provide literally thousands of jobs for CFMEU members—well, people who would be CFMEU members, although we know the statistics: the number of people joining unions these days has plummeted to nine per cent of the private workforce; only nine per cent join the unions. Why? Because the union they thought was looking after them—the construction, mining and forestry union—has sided with Labor and the Greens to deny them jobs in the mines, for no purpose. As I've demonstrated, it's not going to make one iota of difference to climate change. All it does is send Australia's jobs offshore and make our energy bill much higher than it should be.

The hypocrisy and lack of truth and rigor in the Greens' speech is demonstrated by Senator Di Natale's comment that 'No-one's building coal-fired power stations these days.' Well, sorry: in China there's about one new coal-fired power station built every week. And in India there are coal-fired power stations being built all the time. Even in Germany these days there is a new interest in coal-fired power stations. Why? Because with carbon capture and storage, with these new HELE plants, you can have the benefits of coal and affordable energy at the same time as grabbing particulates and other elements from coal that aren't as useful to the world as they should be. So, again, you've got to understand that the Greens are in denial. After the last awful couple of weeks that they've had, I can well understand that. But clearly the Australian voters have woken up to the hypocrisy, the stupidity and the outright lies of the Greens political party and have deserted the Greens in droves.

A lot of very positive action has been taken by the Turnbull government, and all credit to Mr Josh Frydenberg, the energy and environment minister, and Matt Canavan, the resources minister, led by our Prime Minister. We are taking a balanced and sensible look at Australia's energy needs. Under the Greens political party, now supported by the Australian Labor Party, power prices for ordinary Australians are skyrocketing through the roof. Yet we have this unlimited supply of high-quality coal in central Queensland, near where I live, which is readily available to give Australia that competitive advantage that it had in years gone by.

I know I'm being repetitive, but I want to again demonstrate this. I want to ask anybody from the Labor Party or the Greens political party to tell me how anything we do in Australia, which emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, is going to affect the changing climate of the world, assuming, as I do, that carbon emissions do have some impact on climate change—although I acknowledge I'm not one who gets into this debate, because I am not a scientist and I don't understand it, but I do know that equally qualified scientists have very divergent views on this same subject. But even accepting that carbon emissions have an impact on climate change, I asked this question of the Greens political party. I must have a look in Hansard, because I think I've asked this same question 100 times and, would you believe, never once has there been an answer. You don't have to be terribly bright—and I'm not terribly bright—you just need to have a little bit of common sense: Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions and, according to the Chief Scientist, even if we stop that completely—that is, shut down every car, turn off every light and stop any use of Australia's principal source of energy, which is coal-fired power—it would have, to quote the Chief Scientist, 'virtually no' impact on the changing climate of the world.

Do I think that perhaps today, after the flogging the Greens have received in the ballot box in the last few weeks, I will get an answer to that question? I suspect not. The Greens will continue in denial of the facts, of the truth of these matters, of the absolute common sense. The Greens want to reduce Australia's emissions by 50 or 80 per cent—I don't know what it is—but even if you reduce it by 100 per cent not one iota of difference would it make to the changing climate of this world.

This bill, which seeks to prohibit forever investment in coal-fired power stations, is just another loony lefty creation of a party not only in great denial but in steep decline in voter support. I'm delighted to say that my fellow Australians have eventually woken up to the hypocrisy, the lack of truth, the outright lies of the Greens political party and I am sure that they, like a lot of their theories, will be confined to the dustbin of history, and the sooner that happens, the better for Australia.

Back to List