Legislation that affects businesses

21 March, 2023

Mr BROADBENT (Monash) (18:18):  I feel I've passed this way before many times—many speeches. If you listen to the member for Jagajaga today, you'd say that the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022 is the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you listen to the member for Corio, you get the same message, but there were some underlying messages that came through to me as I listened to a number of the speeches today. And, while the member for Corio is still here, I thought her speech was very effective on behalf of her electorate, but then she said, 'We've got to support businesses so they're not affected.' Hang on! All of the press releases and all the information says that all of these businesses are going to be affected. It's just about how much they're affected.

My concern with the legislation is that we don't know how much they're going to be affected. We haven't got any idea. Nothing I've read in all the information tells me exactly what it's going to cost.

Now, I know governments can't get everything right, Treasury doesn't get everything right and the climate group don't get everything right, but shouldn't there be some reasonable guide where I can tell my community what it's going to cost? There are 215 of these big organisations across Australia, and of course this will capture more as time goes on, because as a business grows, they come under this target. It says here in Chris Bowen's own press release—to the ABC, of course—you can't reduce production to reduce your emissions, otherwise people would have an incentive not to grow their business. He said, 'No, you can't do that; we won't count that. We're going to do a separate assessment of every organisation and then tell you what your 4.9 per cent target is.' Who's going to make the assessment, for heaven's sake? I'm simple; I come out of business. I just want to know what you're putting forward, and what it's saying here is we want to give business the heads-up on where we're headed as a nation. But this 'Federal government to lower emissions ceiling on biggest polluters by 4.9 per cent each year' is supported by all these people. It doesn't say how; it just says this is what we're going to do.

As you know, this type of legislation was introduced by a previous government, and in that previous government I saw people on the other side heavily criticising the legislation at the time. In fact there wasn't one speaker from the Labor side supporting the legislation that was brought forward then—not one. So we've done a complete reversal where they're totally supporting the same type of program, but instead of making it voluntary, where businesses could do their very best to reduce those emissions—we were getting there; there's proof in the pudding—now they're saying, 'We're making it mandatory because we're the government that makes things mandatory. If business doesn't do what it's told, we'll make it mandatory and we'll get all these senior business leaders to bow down before us—

Mr Willcox:  Bend the knee.

Mr BROADBENT:  and bend the knee to our program, what we've decided to do.' That's exactly what's going on here. At the end of the member for Corio' speech, which was a good speech, on the topic—she got the talking points right—she also said, 'Hey, this goes down really well with my local environment groups, all about my coastline, my rivers and the things that are happening.' Do you think this legislation will make one ounce of difference to the erosion that is happening around all of our Victorian beaches at the moment in a 200-year cycle we've been expecting for ages? Only very strong man-made groynes, rock walls and other processes can stop that. We've actually built on land in this nation that 200 years ago was ocean and sand dunes. There are shells in my backyard at Phillip Island because that's where the sea once was.

We're saying these bushfires are being caused by climate change. How dare I even suggest they're not all caused by climate change. Could they be caused by bad management of our forests for 200 years and more recently in the last 50 years? We saw that in the last bushfires that went through New South Wales and Victoria. Did they have a problem with their townships where there'd been Indigenous management of the forests? No, they didn't. But step outside the Indigenous management and the places were torn to shreds by fires, because of our management of our environment. I take the blame.

In this legislation I would back you 100 per cent if I hadn't heard it all before and believed that the legislation was actually going to do what it is suggested it will do.

What it will do is it'll put the price of steel up, it'll put the price of cement up and it'll put up the price of products that come from those steel and cement products. Some of our biggest companies are going to have to cover higher costs because of this legislation—that's acknowledged by the government. But do they acknowledge how much harder it will make it for a first home buyer to be able to get into a home, or that a backyard shed will increase in price? I'm not saying it'll become unaffordable, but a backyard shed is going to cost you a whole lot more. Your little shed in the backyard is going to cost you a whole lot more because of this legislation. Do you know that all your main buildings will cost a whole lot more because of this legislation? Do you know that these companies will have diminished output because of this legislation? And do you know that in China their emissions are rising because they're building power station after power station after power station after power station? Of course their emissions are going up because they've got greater product going out. And yet this bill says if you increase your business and you have greater emissions, it is only natural that as our economy grows our emissions are going to grow. So how do we deal with that in this legislation? I thought the proposition before the nation prior to that was a much better proposition than this is because of all the unknowns that are in this legislation.

The government talks about a soft hit on the economy. What's a soft hit on the economy and what's a hard hit on the economy? This is going to be just a soft hit on our own economy. Is that the same type of soft hit that has been wrought upon white paper manufacturing in this country? The courts have decided they know better than governments in our regional forest agreements and other agreements we have regarding the management of our native forests, where right now in Victoria 400 forestry workers in one area or another are being paid to do nothing. Every week 400 of them are being paid to do nothing because our whole forest industry is caught and stuck in the courts, and the state government of Victoria is doing nothing about it. They have the power and the authority to end this tomorrow. The same ideology is driving this legislation as is driving what's happening in Victoria. And you say: 'Oh, it doesn't count. We're saving our forests.' Unless you are going to make pallets out of recycled plastic to take the steel that members in this House produce in their electorates, you actually need hardwood pallets for those exchanges of heavy freight. You can't use pine; it's not strong enough. Two years ago it was identified that, unless there were more hardwood products being sawn through the sawmills and put into pallets, we're going to run out of pallets. If you run out of pallets you stop moving freight around this country or around the world.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Buchholz):  The member for Monash, you make a very good point. I'm going to exit the chair on a duty roster, but before I leave, a point was made earlier on and it's a correct point. You've alluded on a couple of occasions to the member for Corio in your speech when referring to the previous speaker. It was actually the member for Corangamite. Can we get the Hansard to address that please.

Mr BROADBENT:  Thank you for correcting me. The member for Corio is equally guilty actually, but thanks for drawing it to my attention. I won't make that mistake again; I have very high regard for the member for Corangamite. Having said that and having been corrected, I haven't been corrected on the fact that there are 200 people totally supported by their union, the CFMMEU forestry division, begging the Victorian government to do something about this issue so that we have the pallets needed for our exports and all the internal freight moving round Australia—no pallets; no freight.

All of these things have consequences. This legislation has consequences. All this side has asked the government of the day is: what are the consequences? 'We have a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, which is in seven years time, and it's going to affect all of these 215 businesses—end of story.' Can you explain what the cost will be for us to get to that by 2030? 'No, but we'll have a 43 per cent reduction.' To the detriment of whom? Who's going to lose their jobs? What businesses won't to be able to operate under this process? Is it a crime in this day and age to ask reasonable questions of the government of the day about the policies they've put in place? There is nothing I've read here, or in the excellent talking points I was given by the coalition, on what the cost is going to be. Nobody knows. It could be anything.

Are we going to risk our most important industries? I heard the members of parliament on this side of the House—on the coalition side, the opposition side—talk about how it's going to affect individual companies in their electorate. Those companies are probably not part of the big business spruikers. They're just businesses trying to get along in a very difficult world. I recognise that. We recognise there are changes in the climate. I've been seeing changes in the climate since 1990 when I came into this place and recognised there were differences and there were practical things we could do. I've seen every government struggle with it. But to come in and implement it this way will, I believe, be a detriment to the nation.

I also haven't seen one of these programs, in all my years in the House and out of the House, come to fruition with the promises and dreams that were made in the process of implementing the legislation. I've never seen one. I've never seen one state government meet its targets for emissions reduction—not one. I've heard a lot of promises, usually just before elections—a lot of promises and a lot of guarantees. My state government—the Andrews government—is actually introducing the State Electricity Commission of Victoria back again, with renewables. Because I'm out of time: every time I've seen an announcement on renewables, the price of power goes up.

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