HON DR STEVE THOMAS (South West) [10.09 am] — without notice: I move —
That this house calls on the Minister for Environment to provide a complete and transparent account to the house of —
(a) what communication took place between the minister and the Environmental Protection Authority in relation to the EPA guidelines released last week that would require the offset of any residual—net—direct emissions associated with a proposal with scope 1 emissions in excess of 100 000 tonnes per annum;
(b) what communications took place between the minister’s office or any of his staff and the EPA on this issue;
(c) what communications took place between any other minister and the EPA on this issue;
(d) what stakeholder communication the EPA undertook with potentially affected parties/businesses prior to issuing its new guidelines; and
(e) what steps the government will take to stop the EPA guidelines being enforced in every future EPA assessment of projects with scope 1 emissions in excess of 100 000 tonnes per annum.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [11.24 am]: I want to say a few words on this motion. To be very clear, I do not know what role the Minister for Environment played in the discussions with the Environmental Protection Authority about the creation of these particular environmental guidelines, which I understand is effectively the question that members of the opposition are trying to get to the bottom of. However, I do know that the EPA is an independent statutory body. It is absolutely true that the Greens do not always agree with the decisions that are made by the EPA. In fact, in the past I have been very critical of some of the decisions that have been made by the EPA. That is why I am pleased that the EPA has come up with a set of guidelines that we can wholeheartedly endorse— finally! I want to point out that the EPA guidelines make it clear that were it not for the federal government’s inaction in this space, it would not feel the need to take such urgent action. It is urgent action. I particularly point to paragraph (e) of the motion, which states in part —
what steps the government will take to stop the EPA guidelines being enforced ...
My quick response to that is: I hope none! I hope the EPA guidelines will be well and truly upheld. However, with all the commentary that has been coming out, particularly the position that our illustrious daily paper has been pushing very heavily, it would appear that politics has, once again, been put in the way of responsible action on climate change. I have been disturbed by the haste with which our Premier and, indeed, our Minister for Environment have tried to distance themselves from this very important and necessary action on climate change. I remind people that industry has had plenty of time to get used to the idea that there absolutely needs to be a change in business as usual on the issue of climate change. It has been almost 30 years since Australia signed a range of international protocols around the need to address the absolute crisis that is climate change. In the past, we have had to deal with the drama of climate change denial. I think most people are no longer there and have finally accepted the science of climate change. But, my goodness, it took decades to get to that point. I notice that some people are still deniers, but I think they are well and truly in the minority, just as those scientists who are opposed to climate change are absolutely in the minority.
It then became not our problem. We have always looked to other countries, other states and the federal government to deal with climate change. Apparently, this state never needs to step up to the plate and do something about climate change. I think it will be only a matter of time—I am talking about the next few years—before we will have to say, “Whoops, too late. We didn’t do anything about it, and we should have done something about it.” We know what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying about the urgency for us to take action on climate change. We already have to start talking about adaptation. I am concerned about what will happen into the future. I feel very confident that history will ultimately be on the side of those of us who have been calling for urgent change. However, it is not nice to always be right. I would like to see change happen. Change needs to happen right now.
I want to remind people of what these guidelines are calling for. Part of what the guidelines are calling for is transparency. Everyone in this place has carried on about transparency. This is exactly what the guideline are calling for. They are calling for industry to be transparent about what, if any, offsets are currently being undertaken. Gee, that would be fantastic! If industry is not undertaking any offsets, everyone has the right to know about that. That is a critical part. I wonder whether people want to throw out all the guidelines. Are all the guidelines completely unacceptable, or is only the requirement that people do something—anything—to initiate offsets unacceptable? People are talking about jobs, and they should talk about jobs, because jobs are really important. However, industry is absolutely inflating the impact of the sorts of offsets that are being called for. I point out also that jobs are created when industries implement offsets. That is a no-brainer. That is something that happens.
I want to come back to the urgency of why the EPA has done this in the first place. The EPA has put this up because climate change is a crisis. Climate change is something that every single one of us in this place needs to take absolutely seriously. I wish we did not have to. I wish it was business as usual. But I cannot look my kids in the eye and say to them that I am not going to do anything. I will not do that. Members need to recognise that that is the awesome responsibility that lies with all of us while we are here. The time to act is now. We cannot wait 10 years. The time to act will be gone in 20 years. We have to start doing this now. I do not know to what degree there might have been a nudge, nudge or wink, wink from the minister or, indeed, anyone from government to the EPA to say, “Look, would you be able to establish these sorts of guidelines?” but what I do know is that there has been an unholy haste to distance themselves from that. I am desperately disappointed with that. I want us all to be talking about how we need to address the issue of climate change. I am not hearing genuine solutions being put up in this place. This is beholden on all of us.
Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.