Climate Change

About this Item
SpeakersKaye Dr John
BusinessAdjournment, ADJ

Page: 1386

Dr JOHN KAYE [6.15 p.m.]: Cate Blanchett, the well-known actress, has been the subject of a campaign of vilification and abuse because of her decision to appear in a community-funded advertising campaign supporting the imposition of a carbon price. She has been specifically targeted by the climate denier media, including News Limited, and The Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce. The arguments against Cate Blanchett's involvement revolve around her wealth. It is being said that low-income households will bear the greatest burden of a carbon price and that someone as wealthy as Cate Blanchett is not capable of understanding those impacts. That is extremely ill-founded and is based purely on the principle of shooting the messenger rather than the message. Low-income households would carry the burden of a carbon price only if it were implemented in an incompetent manner. A $25-a-tonne price for carbon would raise about $7.5 billion a year in Australia. If that were invested in the transformation of household economies, particularly at the low-income end, household costs would decrease rather than increase and a lower carbon consuming economy would emerge.

In simple economic terms, which seem to escape most members of the Coalition and a big chunk of the conservative media in this country, Australia must make a transition. That transition can be made only if we put a price on carbon and ensure that the revenue collected is directed to low-income households. After all, it is low-income households that will bear the cost of inaction. Increasing food prices, higher temperatures and the spread of disease will all impact unfairly on them. Cate Blanchett is standing up for low-income households rather than condescending to them as suggested by Senator Barnaby Joyce.

A carbon price and a transformation to a low-carbon economy will create jobs. A study undertaken by the University of Newcastle two years ago estimated that 73,800 new jobs would be created in New South Wales as a result of a transformation to a low-carbon economy. Those jobs could be located in rural and regional areas, and particularly areas of high unemployment and widespread poverty. Cate Blanchett has every right to stand up for those jobs and for the future of the planet. As a mother and as a public figure she has every right to make a statement as part of a community-funded campaign.

Australia has a long way to go to address climate change. The current debate about carbon pricing shows that the denier, voodoo science has leaked into the mainstream parties. That debate is diverting us from the real task confronting this country; that is, creating a clean energy economy based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Real action on reducing our carbon footprint can start only after we put a price on carbon. Real action involves direct public investment in technologies such as solar thermal, reinvigorating the solar rooftop program and the wind energy sector, and ensuring that a large percentage of the components of those industries is manufactured in Australia. Those jobs and the economic benefit that they can bring to Australia and New South Wales are a crucial ingredient in ensuring that low-income households do not bear the burden of increasing unemployment or the cost of making the transition.

No-one is saying that transformation to a low-carbon economy is easy. We all recognise that changes need to be made to the economy if we are to reduce our dependency on carbon. After all, Australia is the greatest carbon-polluting nation on the surface of the planet—25 tonnes per head of population per year. To break that habit, to begin the transformation and to break our addiction to coal will take substantial changes throughout the economy, starting at the household level. But if this is done sensibly and properly, it does not mean a lower standard of living for low-income households; it can mean a higher standard of living.
    The Hon. Scot MacDonald: One per cent of the world.
      Dr JOHN KAYE: The honourable member says 1 per cent of the world. It is actually less; it is 0.3 per cent of the world and 0.03 per cent of the world's population, but we are 10 times the world's pollution average per head of population. It is time we made this transformation and it is time we started now. The longer we delay, the greater the impact on our economy and the greater the impact on low-income households.