Tammy asked a Supplementary Question
Legislative Council Tuesday 16, May 2017
CLIMATE CHANGE (S)
The Hon. T.T. NGO (14:57): You will like this. My question is to the Minister for Climate Change. Can the minister tell the council how businesses and governments are preparing for climate change?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for his most excellent question. Businesses, there is no surprise, across Australia are responding to the threats of climate change and making sure that they have the answers put in place for their businesses, their shareholders and their customers, because no-one else, at a federal level at least, has actually taken the issue very seriously.
They understand that taking action is not just about the environment but also about the economics and the business environment as well. This has been brought home to me a number of times, but recently I attended two events in Melbourne. The first was the Carbon Market Institute's 4th Emissions Reduction Summit. It's Australasia's premier conference on emissions trading, and grasping the economic opportunities that the transition to a low-carbon economy presents was highlighted at the conference. Over 500 delegates from the banking sector, the finance sector, industry generally, energy, manufacturing, carbon sequestration sectors and others attended this two-day event.
It was quite clear, at least from the businesses who presented, that they were ready, willing and able to make the investments and commit resources to address the impacts of climate change, and the overwhelming message that I heard was that they felt South Australia was on the right track.
Many businesses approached me about our plans for our state. Mr President, you might very well ask: why were they interested? They were interested because we are leading and providing the policy certainty that business needs in this country, which is something that is sadly lacking out of Canberra.
They were excited by the South Australian government's energy plan and our commitment to the low-carbon transition for the energy sector. They are excited by Carbon Neutral Adelaide, an ambition that is delivering innovation and investment. They see the enormous potential we have in carbon sequestration, a growth industry that can help our land sector, including farmers who can earn money while helping to conserve our state's beautiful and precious environment. I invite those opposite who are naysayers and heckling these ideas, that business is taking on this role for themselves because of the lack of leadership at a federal level, to return from the 1830s and the 1850s mindset that they are stuck in and embrace the tremendous economic opportunities that await the transition to a low-carbon economy and what that presents for our state.
It is a transition that is delivering jobs and this was reinforced at the Australian Solar Council's conference, the other event that I attended in Melbourne. Attendees at the event were very interested in the government's energy plan—no surprise there—a plan that is delivering jobs, putting downward pressure on electricity prices and helping take back control of a broken electricity market. It is a plan that has already unlocked new investment in renewable energy production— Members interjecting:
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Liberals opposite are asking who broke it. Who privatised the electricity sector in this state? They did. Here they are leading with their chin again, asking, 'Who broke the market?' Well, you did, Mr Ridgway, you did. You think privatisation is the solution to market-based economic challenges that are facing us—
The PRESIDENT: The minister can sit down for a second. It is totally inappropriate for anyone to be pointing their finger while interjecting. Minister, will you continue your answer and will everyone else allow him to do so in silence.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President, for your protection. As I said, it is a plan that has already unlocked new investment in renewable energy generation. The day I was addressing the Solar Council's event the Clean Energy Council released a report showing that over $1.7 billion worth of renewable energy projects are under construction or are about to start in our state this year. These projects will help provide 863 megawatts of energy generation, I am advised, right here in our state and deliver approximately 620 jobs. More importantly, a number have been finalised after this government introduced Our Energy Plan because it gives business confidence to invest.
For example, the Bungala Solar Project is being constructed 10 kilometres north-east of Port Augusta and will help deliver returns to the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation. This project will help also deliver jobs in the local Port Augusta community. I understand phase 1 is to be up and running by summer this year and the entire project will be completed by August next year.
There is also the Lyon Infrastructure Group's proposal for a solar and battery farm in the Riverland. The $1 billion project will see the installation of 3.4 million solar panels and 1.1 million batteries, I am as advised, as well as create 270 jobs. These are some examples of how South Australia is benefiting from the low-carbon economy and our transition towards. The Solar Council informed me that we can expect more of these projects. They have recently come back from a trip to China where, I am told, South Australia was the prime topic of conversations, and not just because of the football.
Our Energy Plan has been well received and companies are looking to invest in
South Australia on the back of it. It is clear that the world is responding to climate change and so are South Australian businesses, even if the federal government isn't. Unfortunately, the federal government has abandoned action on climate change, something that was made very clear in the federal budget released recently.
Let me say at the outset that I commend the federal government for funding $68 million, previously committed, obviously, but still it is worthwhile to see it there in black and white in the budget for the Proton Therapy Unit and also for their recommitment to work with states is to ban cosmetic testing on animals. However, the budget was lacking when it came to tackling climate change issues. The words 'climate change' were not mentioned once in the federal Treasurer's speech—not once.
An honourable member: Is that right?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I read it twice and I couldn't see it at all. The federal budget's documents also confirm that the government is still intent on shutting down the Independent Climate Change Authority.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: This is important. The Hon. Mr Wade probably didn't read this.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Dawkins.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: If I remember rightly, your advice was that ministers should only be asked to comment upon matters that are under their jurisdiction, and the minister is actually—
The PRESIDENT: Order! Go on, Mr Dawkins.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: The minister is actually referring constantly to the federal budget. The minister actually— Members interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: The minister, I don't think, has any jurisdiction over the federal budget.
The PRESIDENT: I just want to give a bit of clarification. When I ruled last week in regard to a question to the minister, the minister was being asked about his views on the federal Labor Party, which is a political organisation, which I said had nothing to do with his portfolio, but there may be times when a position of a federal government does impact one way or another on a state minister, so they have every right to be able to put that in their answer to help give a full answer to the question.
The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable minister.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President. Oh Solomon, come to judgement. I thank you for that very wise pronouncement. As I said, the federal government budget documents confirm that the government is still intent on shutting down the independent Climate Change Authority. The authority was established to provide expert advice on the challenges of tackling climate change, and its report has been very useful to state and territory governments around the country, regardless of their political make-up.
It seems that the federal Liberals just don't like the advice of experts. Even Direct Action, the Liberals' own policy, wasn't immune to this. At the very least, one would have thought that the government might recommit to their own policy, Direct Action, sadly lacking though it is in many areas, but Direct Action, of course, you will recall, is Tony Abbott's signature con trick that Malcolm Turnbull labelled as a 'fig leaf' when he was outside of cabinet.
Now Direct Action is Prime Minister Turnbull's only major policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the climate change emission reduction targets set by the federal Liberal cabinet, and Direct Action is set to run out of funding. Direct Action, under their budget, is set to run out of funding, and this budget shows that there is no longer even the fig leaf—not even the fig leaf that Malcolm Turnbull accused them of having. The Liberals aren't even funding their own Direct Action plan.
It is almost like the Prime Minister who once wore those bomber leather jackets and championed an emissions trading scheme along with 100 per cent energy now believes, just like his predecessor, that climate change is nothing to talk about. It is clear that the Liberal Party is determined to do nothing, because they are the party of coal interests in this country. It is a very sad state of affairs. Mike Bloomberg, another leading player in world business, says:
Government can no more save the coal industry than it could have saved the telegraph industry or the horse-and-buggy industry a century ago. Pretending otherwise only hurts those in coal communities—trapping them in a dying industry instead of helping them acquire new skills and gain access to new career opportunities.
These are wise words that the government should be paying attention to, because in all these transitions it is the community, ultimately, that needs the help from government to transition through this change. That's why we need to have packages in place—structural adjustment packages, if you like—that help communities transition through this very difficult change.
The Liberals might not like to heed the words of experts such as scientists or economists, but you would think that they would at least sit up and listen to the advice of business and people like Mike Bloomberg. Thankfully, as I said, businesses in this country are shrugging off the federal government's lack of leadership. They are doing it for themselves. They are standing up for their shareholders and for their customers, and they are saying, 'South Australia is on the right track. We want to do business with you.'
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:08): Supplementary: does the minister share the disappointment of consumers and constituents, and indeed the Greens, that the promised ban on animals being tested on for cosmetics in this country is not actually going to be delivered until 2019, as revealed in the Budget Papers, as opposed to being delivered on this year, as was promised at the federal election?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (15:09): The Greens are attempting to lead me down a path of condemning the federal government, one that I am happy to jump onto. I thank the honourable member for it. We do have some difficulties with a federal government which calls together environment ministers. They have actually downgraded environment ministers' meetings. They are no longer even ministerial councils answerable at COAG.
Instead, environment ministers have to get together and have a coffee catch up to try to influence the federal environment minister's agenda. States come to the federal environment minister with great ideas about working together. For example, banning plastic microbeads in cosmetics. Both New South Wales and South Australia have raised this with the federal government and their response has been, 'Well, they are all great ideas, but we have no interest in providing national leadership. We will let you get on with it yourselves.' That's what the states have to do.
Unfortunately, in the absence of federal government leadership, these things take a lot more time to organise. But, with assiduous action by members of the public and by states and territory jurisdictions, we can occasionally prod the government to be a little bit embarrassed about their lack of inactivity. They make these pronouncements about things coming down the track. As the Hon. Tammy Franks has noted, they make the promise at a federal election and then squib on it and say 'You will see it come in two years' time.' Well, let's see in 2019 whether in fact it does come through. If it does it will only be because of one reason and that's because there has been a federal election and Labor will be in federal government.