Second Reading - Climate Change Bill

Thursday 8 December 2016

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to make a contribution on the Climate Change Bill 2016. In starting off can I say that I think the member for Ivanhoe, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, missed an opportunity to actually talk about his own government’s legislation. He seems fixated with the opposition. He is obviously ashamed of his own legislation if he was not prepared to get up and actually support it in the contribution he made. Can I suggest that his minister might counsel him as to how he makes a contribution in this place, how he speaks about the legislation and what he perceives may be the benefits of the legislation?

I start off by supporting the member for Gembrook and the position he put forward, and particularly on the matter of what is the most critical issue for Victorians at this particular point in time. Yes, climate change is one of those issues, but I do not believe it is the most critical issue for the communities that I represent. If you talk to the communities that I represent — if you talk to the community of Lockington, where the supermarket has been burgled four times in the last two months; if you talk to the community of Gunbower, where there is a crime wave and there are no police resources — you will hear that they are the issues that are important to those particular communities at the moment. Talk to the communities of Timmering and Nanneella — again, a crime wave. They know who the burglars are; the police do not do anything about it. And when the police finally do catch them and take them to court, it is a revolving door and they are back out again on the street committing those same crimes again. They are the issues that are important to the communities that I represent.

Mr Donnellan — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I would ask the member to return to the bill. He is obviously getting his ‘Cs’ confused — ‘crime’ with ‘climate’ — and I would encourage him to go back to climate.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Blandthorn) — Order! If the member for Murray Plains could keep his comments on the bill.

Mr WALSH — Thank you, Acting Speaker. If you think about this piece of legislation before us, you will know there are no costings as to what it will do over time to the communities of Victoria, and particularly to jobs in Victoria. We have seen the increased cost of energy in recent times; we will see the forced closure of Hazelwood by this government. It is a policy the government has had since 2010 — to close Hazelwood. Whereas we were told by the Premier only a month ago that power prices would go up by only 4 per cent, we now know they are going to go up by 10 per cent, and they will continue to go up.

I recently met with Kagome, a food processor in my electorate, and their gas costs are going to go up by more than 50 per cent this year. The detailed work and research that needs to go behind this legislation is to find out what is the cost and particularly what is the cost to jobs here in Victoria.

I want to limit my contribution to around the primary production and water part of the legislation particularly. If you think about the primary production side of it, you will know the last thing we need in this state is the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) — as it could be under this legislation — telling farmers how to run their farms. We do not need the EPA out there telling farmers how they can run their farms.

If you think about what agriculture has done in managing the environment in this state and in managing the climate variability and whatever climate change will be happening in this state in the future, you will see they have done a fantastic job. If you read history you go back to the big droughts — the federation drought of the 1890s and the early 1900s and the 1930s and 1940s droughts — where we had huge dust storms and a lot of topsoil was lost in this state, and you fast‑forward to the millennium drought and look at the changes in farming practices and the fact that we effectively had no dust storms through that drought, you can see that farmers in this state have actually done a very, very good job of managing their soils and their farms for the future.

Farmers know that the soils are one of the critical components to whatever crops they grow or whatever pastures they grow for livestock, and now we have this legislation talking about how you are going to manage the storage of carbon in soils. We do not need the EPA or the Labor government telling people how to run their farms. Farmers are the best managers of the particular resources on their properties, and they do a very, very good job of it. You have the no‑till farmers and you have the zero‑till farmer groups who are leading the way in these things, and they are just getting on and doing it — no thanks to the current government.

The other thing I would like to talk about is water. In all the climate change modelling that has been done, it is going to be about extremes in weather — not just dry, but dry and extreme rain events. We have a government in this state which is an absolute denier about rainfall. It is only fixated on the dry times, not on managing the extreme rain events in this particular state. Why is that? The rhetorical question is: why is that? It is because they want to justify a very, very poor public policy decision by a previous Labor government to build that great white elephant down at Wonthaggi, the $20 billion‑plus desalination plant, that is costing Melbourne Water customers about $1.8 million per day — $1.8 million per day! — to have it sit there year after year producing very little water. It is going to produce some this year not because we necessarily need it but because the government wants to justify that plant.

If you are actually serious about managing the effects of climate change, you would also have a focus on how you manage severe rainfall events, how you manage stormwater, particularly in the urban environment, how you harvest rainwater and how you utilise recycled water to take the pressure off the drinking water demand in this state. This Andrews Labor government just does not want to get involved in this discussion. It does not want to support these sorts of projects. Again, you would ask: why is that the case? The reason that this Andrews Labor government does not want to support those sorts of projects is because the previous Liberal‑Nationals government was a champion of those issues. The government does not want to do it just because we did it, rather than the fact that it is a good thing that should be done.

If you start managing stormwater at its source, using swales, using wetlands, particularly in the urban environment, you reduce the cost of managing stormwater significantly because you take away that surge effect in our urban environment. You particularly have a really positive outcome for the bays. If you manage stormwater in the urban environment in Melbourne, you reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus run‑off into the bays by about 50 per cent. There are good things you can do that this government refuses to do because the previous Liberal‑Nationals government did those things.

Mr Richardson — Are you going to talk about climate change at all, Peter?

Mr WALSH — The member for Mordialloc probably needs a lesson in climate change. The member for Mordialloc is actually showing his ignorance about what the effects of climate change are.

Mr Richardson interjected.

Mr WALSH — If he keeps talking, I am happy to keep talking about the member for Mordialloc’s ignorance on these particular issues. His community is one of the communities that will be impacted by these things. I would have thought he would have a very active interest in how you manage stormwater in the urban environment for the benefit of his community rather than just yelling and shouting across the chamber about this issue.

We do know the climate is changing, and we do know that human existence, and particularly population increase, is having an impact on our climate. There is no argument about that. The argument is about what you do about it. Do you have a piece of legislation that has probably done more harm to the environment than anything else by the amount of paper that has been printed rather than actually do something real? All this bill is going to do is prepare strategies without any costings behind those strategies, and particularly what it is potentially going to cost in terms of jobs in Victoria. As I said, the last thing the farmers of Victoria want is the government and the Environment Protection Authority telling them how they are going to run their farms to meet some nebulous strategy in the future. And to finish, why can this government not actually embrace stormwater harvesting, rainwater and recycled water?


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