Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (15:38): The topic of this matter of public importance today is, of course, ‘the importance of legislating net zero emissions by 2050’. I was surprised, then, when the member for Grayndler, the Leader of the Opposition, took 10 minutes of this chamber’s time and didn’t actually mention what he would legislate if he were Prime Minister. This seems to me to be a glaring omission. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone from that side of this debate talk about what it is they would like to see legislated.
The government absolutely accepts the necessity of reaching a net-zero-emissions platform by 2050, and the PM has made that commitment in this place. He will also make that commitment in Glasgow next week. Then the whole world will know exactly where Australia stands on this, and it will be with a number of other leading democracies around the world that have the target of net zero by 2050. I’ve raised many times in this place and outside the concerns that I have about a number of other countries of the world who will say one thing and do the other, but I will let the Prime Minister deal with that. Just as we signed up to Kyoto 1, Kyoto 2 and the Paris commitments without passing legislation saying, ‘We shall meet these particular targets,’ so we have done with this one—and so we shall do exactly the same. We’ve set the target and we will meet and beat that target. The track record of this government is that we underpromise and overperform—that we overdeliver—and I think we will do the same with this.
We’ve had outstanding results on emissions reduction. We’ve heard a lot in this chamber, from this side of the House at least, about our more than 20 per cent reduction since 2005. But, in fact, it’s a much better result than that; we’ve had a more than 38 per cent reduction in our domestic emissions. But, at the end of the day, we have very little control over what other countries do with their emissions, and regardless of where they source their energy requirements from—for instance, whether they buy the coal from us or anyone else—the net result for the world will be the same. If I have time at the end of my five minutes I will get back to that.
On the matter of legislating a target: what does ‘legislating a target’ even mean? If we legislate that we will be at zero by 2050, what does that actually mean? It doesn’t mean anything unless the government does something to facilitate that. That is the legislation that counts: what is done to bring about that outcome? Well, we might as well legislate for world peace, or we could legislate for an end to cancer. But, if you don’t do anything about it, you’re not likely to get to that point. We could legislate, for instance, that no child should live in poverty. But, if you don’t do anything about it, you’ll never get to that point. If you want to achieve world peace and you say you are going to legislate it, you could legislate to get rid of your defence budget. I don’t think that would work. In fact, I’m absolutely confident that it wouldn’t work. You could legislate to double it, but I don’t think that would work either. If you wanted to get rid of child poverty you could legislate to give every kid $1 million. But I am pretty confident that that wouldn’t fix the problem either. The point is that having a legislated target means absolutely nothing; it’s about the tools, the incentives and the rules you put in about it.
That makes you wonder what it is that Labor actually want to legislate. Do they want to legislate the end of the coal industry? Do they want to legislate that people can’t use fossil fuel driven cars anymore? Do they want to get rid of diesel? That’s the legislation that really counts. As the Deputy Prime Minister has pointed out, nearly all our laws actually stop people from doing things. The world in a vacuum has no laws except the laws of nature. In a civilised democracy like Australia we have developed laws that say thou shalt not kill and you shall not drive on the right-hand side of the road. We don’t pass a law saying that you should drive on the left-hand side of the road; we pass a law saying that it’s illegal to drive on the other side of the road. It’s the same with climate change or emissions targets. All you can do is legislate to stop people doing things, and that is the sting in the tail of where the opposition comes from. What are those taxes? What are those things that they are going to stop everyday Australians from doing?
I spoke about coal. I don’t have much time, except to say that we are a minor producer of coal in the world. China produces eight times what we produce and India produces three times what we produce. We are well down the pecking order. (Time expired)