Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)— My question is to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. I refer the minister to the recently released survey of Australian businesses by the Australian Industry Group in conjunction with Sustainability Victoria, and I ask: can the minister inform the house of the study’s findings and how Victoria compares to other jurisdictions on engaging with the business community on climate change?
Mr JENNINGS (Minister for Environment and Climate Change)— As I look around the chamber I think I am in the company of people who have been on a very long morning shift waiting for the whistle to blow so that the night shift can come in.
I detect a distinct lack of energy and enthusiasm in the chamber, and I am actually hoping that the chamber’s spirits will rise, just as Victoria’s spirits will rise, in relation to the important report about which I am about to provide some information to the house. It is a very important piece of work undertaken by the Australian Industry Group (AIG), with the support of Sustainability Victoria, which did an extensive survey, a
one-off — —
Mr Hall interjected.
Mr JENNINGS — I see Mr Hall is awake. I did not think he had been awake for the last 3 hours prior to question time, but it is good to see that he is up.
Some 800 companies across Australia were part of the AIG survey, and they are very significant companies because they employ 53 600 Australians in their enterprises and are responsible for $41 billion worth of economic activity. The extraordinarily good news that was embedded within the survey result was that 78 per cent of these corporate citizens in Australian, members of AIG, recognised the appropriateness of investing in and developing business practices that are consistent with their greenhouse gas and climate change obligations.
Mrs Peulich — Because it saves them money!
Mr JENNINGS — It is very wise of Mrs Peulich to stay up for this night shift so that we can actually make sure that members of this chamber recognise and support industry, because they realise that they can be very good environmental and corporate citizens and can also be very wise in seeing business opportunities. Indeed 56 per cent of companies in this survey immediately identified climate change as providing their business with an opportunity for new markets, new processes and new activity that would add to the wherewithal of their economic viability, although only 10 per cent of these companies, according to the survey, believe they are sufficiently well armed with information about the dimensions of climate change and what that might mean in terms of the regulatory regime that might apply across the nation.
Of that measure, industry is actually saying, ‘Come on, federal government, you need to step up to the plate in relation to a national emissions trading scheme; you need to be able to say what the cost of carbon will be within that scheme and what the caps will be in relation to that scheme’. In fact time and again during the course of this year Australian companies — in fact sometimes those that may be perceived as being the most recalcitrant elements of Australian industry — are coming up and saying to the federal government, ‘We need regulation, we need legislation, we need certainty’.
The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which is made up of some of our largest corporations — it includes companies that may be seen as some of our largest polluters, ranging from Rio Tinto and BHP to others — has said consistently, not just to me and not just to the federal government but has been reported in business magazines and the Australian Financial Review as saying to the federal government, ‘We need certainty, we need legislation, we need the parameters of a national emissions trading scheme. So come on — introduce that scheme, introduce those targets and introduce the price of carbon so that we know how to invest’.
What has been the response of the federal government? The federal government’s response includes that of Malcolm Turnbull, who recognises that there is some scientific evidence and that there is some need. In effect he supports federal Labor’s stand in relation to targets being established to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
They range from Malcolm Turnbull to Nick Minchin, who must be the King Canute of Australian politics on climate change. He was standing there on some beach in Adelaide saying, ‘No, no, no, hold back the tide. There is no such thing as climate change’. He is an absolute sceptic of the highest order. He will probably go for the Guinness Book of Records as being the world’s no. 1 sceptic in relation to this. The Prime Minister is caught bang in between Nick Minchin and Malcolm Turnbull.
This is not terribly satisfactory. What you need is some vigour. You need some determination. You need a bit of a commitment. I have not heard many members of the opposition in this chamber step up and support greenhouse gas reductions. I did not see them when earlier this week I reported to the chamber about the industry greenhouse program in Victoria which has seen 600 large companies in Victoria reduce their greenhouse emissions by 1.23 million tonnes each and every year.
The Liberal Party was asleep during the course of that presentation, and the opposition called for me to stop talking about the matter.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr JENNINGS — You don’t want me to pick that up! Members opposite do not want me to pick up the recalcitrance of the Liberal Party in relation to this, as expressed by their interjections. They do not want me to actually respond to that, and the President certainly does not. The important news is what investors, major companies across Australia, are saying. The survey confirmed it. When I released the survey report Heather Ridout was there and Don Matthews from the Australian Industry Group was there arm in arm with Geoff Mabbett from Sustainability Victoria. Together we sent a message to Australian industry and Victorian industry saying, ‘There are business opportunities in greenhouse gas reductions and in terms of climate change opportunities for your business’.
In their hundreds Australian companies are recognising the value of that, and that is the good news for all of us.