Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2015 - Second Reading

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (11:57):  Mr Deputy President, what a wonderful speech. I must say that it is a long time since I have heard a speech that is so clear and perspective on the reality of life. I am delighted that there is at least one Tasmanian non-government senator who understands, firsthand, just how destructive the Greens political party is. Senator Lambie, we have had our differences and I am sure we will in the future, but could I say to you that I congratulate you on the way you understand what happens in Tasmania and in the forestry industry. The Greens are just hell-bent on destroying Australia in whatever way they can. Some of you will be pleased to hear that the things Senator Lambie has said will allow me to shorten my speech by about 10 minutes, because she said many of the things that I would have said! Senator Lambie, it was a wonderful speech. Congratulations. I, as you may know, was the forestry minster years ago, when we actually thought we had saved the Tasmanian forestry industry from the Greens and Labor, through the CFMEU. Dare I say that the F part of the CFMEU went against the Labor Party at that time and agreed with the government that we should do things in Tasmania that would save the industry.

Unfortunately, that did not last too long. One of the regrets of Mr Howard taking me out of that portfolio, I might say, is that my successor was not able to continue the success of the Tasmanian forestry industry, but that is a personal matter. But you have certainly hit the nail on the head. In those days when I was the forestry minister, we were trying to include offcuts as part of the renewable energy regime, but the Greens and the Labor Party had the numbers to stop it. So I am delighted to hear what you said today.

I am also delighted to hear you say something that I have said many a time, and that is that we all acknowledge that the climate is changing. In spite of the Greens getting up and saying, 'You're all climate change deniers,' I have forever agreed that the climate is changing. As I have always said, there was a time—I was not around—that the earth was all covered in snow and there was once a rainforest in the centre of Australia. Of course the climate has been changing; it is not an argument. But what is the cause of it? Is it man-made pollution? Some scientists seem to think that it is. As you rightly point out, those scientists continue to get grants from governments for so long as people like the Greens political party and the Labor Party continue to give money to try and prove the theory that they are trying to prosecute. Of course, without those grants—if they did not have climate change to get the grants—then they would probably go out of business and have to do something that was actually useful for mankind.

Clearly, the climate has always been changing. Is it man's emissions of carbon? I always say that I do not know. If top scientists who are skilled in these matters have different views—and they do—then I always claim, 'Well, I am not in the class, and I am not convinced.' The Greens will say that any scientist who supports their view is correct, brilliant and a leader in the field. But any scientist who has an independent view and a different view is pilloried by the thought police, of which the Greens are the leading advocates.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD:  The Greens would have everyone agreeing with their view, but if you do not—well, Senator Lambie, you just heard the interjections from the Green, trying to browbeat and bully you to their point of view. I am delighted to see, Senator Lambie, that you will not be bullied by the Greens and by the thought police on these issues.

We are entitled to have a different view. I am not claiming that I am right. In fact, I am claiming that I do not know. There are very credible top scientists, very professional scientists, who have a different view and who are equally skilled and professional as those favoured by the Greens political party. But the Greens, of course, will denigrate anyone who does not conform to their view. Thank you, Senator Lambie; you have shortened my speech by 10 minutes. Thank you for your perception of what is happening in Tasmania in the forestry industry and, particularly, of the destructive force that the Greens political party is.

I just want to say a few words on this subject. My colleagues, in the second reading speech and otherwise, have indicated what the bill is all about. It has been well publicised in the newspapers. I think that most listeners will understand that, with the turn down in the Australian economy thanks to the Labor Party, there is less electricity to be used and we do not need the same quantity of renewable energy. So I will not go over that.

I just want to highlight four industries in the north of Queensland, where, as you all know, I come from and am passionate about. I am delighted to see that the aluminium industry, the cement industry and the zinc industry in Townsville will be totally exempt from the renewable energy requirements. Those three industries provide an enormous capacity for Australia. They provide export dollars and import replacement dollars, and they employ literally thousands and thousands of North Queenslanders and Central Queenslanders in their works.

Had they been included, as was originally proposed some years back, then you would have seen the disappearance of all three industries from Australia. There is no doubt that the aluminium industry could not have continued to exist in Australia. There is no doubt that the cement industry could not have continued to exist. There is no doubt that the zinc factory in Townsville would have had to shut its doors. All congratulations to Mr Hunt for being able to negotiate that. I also give congratulations to representatives of those three industries, who made their views known and have convinced the government and, I understand, the opposition as well of how essential it is—for employment, for Australia's economy and for our exports—that those industries are put on the same playing level as their competitors overseas.

I also want to mention another great industry in northern Australia, and that is the sugar industry. Mackay Sugar was the leader, almost, in renewable energy from the leftovers of sugar cane. Their co-generation plants are world-class. I understand and have some sympathy for Mackay Sugar. I know that the greatest amount of renewable energy was better for their future plans, but I think that they will understand the impact on the balance of society. Even as it is, Mackay Sugar, of course, will be able to continue its existing co-generation plants and will continue to feed into the electricity grid to the benefit of electricity consumers as well as, importantly, the ongoing viability and success of the manufacturing sugar industry in the Mackay region.

I am conscious that the sugar industry would like to expand co-generation into other mills—the ability to use co-generation certainly brings down the total manufacturing costs, and that can only be good for the manufacturing industry which is so essential to Australia.

It is important to recognise that the manufacturing industry in sugar employs many thousands of people in North Queensland. Sure, the canegrowing industry, which is very important in the locality that I come from, is the mainstay of the local economies of those towns, and it employs a lot of people—fewer these days than it used to, of course, with the increasing mechanisation in the canegrowing industry—but we can never forget that a big support base in many of the country towns in North Queensland is the sugar manufacturing industry—that is, the mills that crush the cane and export the raw product. So, whilst I know many parts of the sugar industry would have liked the Renewable Energy Target to stay where it was, I think they understand the need for reform, and I am sure they will continue to be able to successfully run those existing plants. I am hopeful that, into the future, new methods, new science, and new technology will allow the sugar industry to again—as a by-product—contribute to renewable energy in Australia. With that, I urge support for the bill.

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