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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 18009

Speech to the Green Capital Business Breakfast, Sydney

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/07/2011

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 18009

I thank Jeff for his acknowledgement of the traditional owners of this land.

And on behalf of us all, I pay my respects to the Gadigal people, whose long journey of caring for this land continues proudly to this day.


That's why we're here today

Because we love this land.

We respect its people.

And we care profoundly for its future.

Since 1972, the Total Environment Centre has been at the forefront of preserving our precious natural heritage.

Working with visionary leaders like Neville Wran and Bob Carr, you've achieved miracles:

The great forests of north-east and south-east NSW protected forever.

The Blue Mountains not only saved but inscribed on the World Heritage List.

A world class chain of marine parks.

But what we didn't know in 1972 was that greenhouse gases were threatening the future of our environmental wonders.

We know now, and we've known for some time.

Leaders like Bob Carr and Margaret Thatcher raised the alarm in the late 1980s.

By 2007, even John Howard found it prudent to respond as the tide of evidence continued to grow.

Just like the conservative leaders of the UK, France, Italy, Germany and New Zealand have as well.

Today, in 2011, we know in abundant and undeniable detail the threat that carbon pollution poses to our way of life.

And I can tell you this: there is no leader on earth who is getting briefings that tell them anything different.

All of them have faced or are facing the same tough choices we are, with all the political difficulties they entail.

And each of them needs to answer to their own people - to humanity at large - and to the future ... for the decisions they make or fail to make.

When I am advised that we will face more days of extreme heat, more bushfires, more droughts, coastal flooding, loss of agricultural land in the Murray Darling Basin, devastating effects for the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu, then the time has come to act.

And act we will. I won't let this country surrender in the face of the challenge of climate change.

Our nation will act to cut carbon pollution and seize a clean energy future.

The costs of acting are manageable.

And the opportunities from acting are great.

Indeed, it is those very opportunities that bring us here today.

New investment and new technology. New jobs and new skills.

Since 2002, the Green Capital program has connected business and NGOs to debate how we make these opportunities a reality.

And I'm here today to affirm your great work and to say:

The time for words is over.

The time for action has arrived.

The environmental imperative to cut carbon pollution is strong, the economic imperative to modernise our economy is strong too.

And I say this with full awareness of global economic conditions.

As we have been reminded this week, Europe is still struggling will high unemployment and excessive sovereign debt.

The US recovery is also showing renewed signs of weakness.

We are not immune to developments in the global economy.

Here, consumers are still more cautious than they were before the global financial crisis, and credit conditions remain tight for some borrowers - and this is not surprising.

At the same time the strong dollar and competition for labour puts pressure on the non-mining sector and contributes to softness in the short-term.

Yet while there are heightened risks in the US and Europe, the fundamentals in Australia and our region are very different.

We are located in the right part of the world at the right time.

The prospects for our region remain much stronger as the weight of global activity continues to shift in our favour.

Just last week we saw China reporting growth of almost 10 per cent for the past year.

Our fundamentals are strong - we have low unemployment, strong job creation, and record terms of trade that are driving an unprecedented pipeline of business investment - $430 billion forecast in resources alone.

We also have a strong budget position, very low debt and a resilient financial system which all position us well for the future.

This fundamental economic strength has its ultimate roots in our creative and confident people ... but thirty years of economic modernisation has been vital.

The floating dollar is a vital safety valve on inflation in our resource-rich, export-oriented country.

Flexible enterprise bargaining lifts productivity and competitiveness in every sector of the economy.

Successive reforms to education and training and the system of skilled migration help lift the productivity of our people.

Superannuation ensures the country's savings, and insures the country's future.

And just as we are economically stronger now for the modernising reforms of the past three decades - so we must embrace economic reform now to have a strong modern economy in decades to come.

Just as this Labor Government took steps to protect jobs during the Global Financial Crisis - and just as we have kept the economy strong since, while hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created - we will continue to undertake the reforms this country needs to keep jobs growing.

Pricing carbon will have powerful economic effects.

It will mean we use our energy more productively - producing more output for a given level of energy input.

It will direct domestic capital - steering it towards new clean industries which will thrive in a carbon constrained world.

It will attract billions of dollars of international investment from firms looking to produce in economies which have certain, efficient policies to tackle the carbon challenge.

In years to come, carbon productivity will be as important to luring investment from multinationals as labour costs, tax rates, human capital, and levels of technological sophistication have been in past decades.

That's why carbon pricing is part of our broader economic agenda - because it will give us a stronger economy, because it will put us on a stronger competitive footing, and because it will allow us to take advantage of economic opportunities as they arise - rather than playing catch-up in the years to come.

This is an important part of our broader economic agenda for the country.

Such as building high speed broadband - to ensure Australia thrives as global growth is increasingly driven by the production, distribution and exchange of information.

Or reforming our schools, universities and TAFEs to drive faster accumulation and more efficient allocation of our human capital.

And introducing an efficient price to fund hospital services, so this large sector of our domestic economy remains efficient - and so our long-term fiscal settings are not threatened by the challenges of our ageing society.

And increasing superannuation, to ensure that the benefits from the mining boom continue to be felt in the Australian economy well beyond the mining boom itself.

In the midst of uncertain global economic conditions, we should not lose sight of this country's strong economic backbone - a backbone that has been constructed by reforming governments over decades.

And we should not lose sight of the need to ensure that backbone stays strong in the years to come.

The costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action - both immediately, and in the longer term.

That is true of climate change - as it is true of economic reform more generally.

One of the messages of recent economic history is this: stay on the reform road - keep modernising your economy - or pay a high price.

Retreat is not an option.

Friends, the contours of the Government's “Clean Energy Future” plan will be familiar to you all.

It can be summarised in a single concept:

Making the biggest polluters pay.

Or in the language of economists - pricing externalities.

Pricing carbon is a catalyst for a clean energy investment boom.

As a result of the government's plan, renewables (excluding hydro) will grow by 1700 per cent to 2050.

At that stage, renewables will make up 40 per cent of electricity generation, from a base of just 10 per cent today.

The bulk of that transformation will be driven by our price on carbon.

Starting at $23 a tonne next July and moving to what we expect will be around $29 a tonne when the emissions trading scheme commences in 2015 and reinforced by a nation-wide cap on the total amount of emissions allowed in the Australian economy.

That will change behaviour and therefore drive investment.

And to give the transition an extra boost, we have decided to establish a Clean Energy Finance Corporation to drive private investment.

Call it a catalyst - call it an impetus.

It will do amazing things for renewables in this country.

Similar to the UK's Green Investment Bank, CEFC will invest in the commercialisation of renewable and clean energy technologies.

It will provide loans, guarantees and equity to help make these projects a reality.

The Corporation will be independent from government like the Future Fund and be run on a commercial basis.

Investment decisions will be made on a rigorous case-by-case analysis.

And projects that are financed will be expected to pay their own way.

Alongside the Corporation, we'll also establish a new independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency or ARENA to manage $3.2 billion in clean energy initiatives.

This represents funding that is currently being administered at the departmental level across different programs and agencies.

We want to bring that funding together and put it on a more transparent and systematic basis.

The $10 billion allocated to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will go to mature technologies that are ready to be scaled-up.

The $3.2 billion to ARENA will go to more early stage technologies to assist them towards commercial viability.

As a third complementary measure, we will also close down 2000 megawatts of

high polluting electricity generation in south-eastern Australia.

To preserve market integrity, this will be done by tender.

And no generator will be turned off until we are satisfied that alternatives are in place to keep the lights on.

And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with affected workers and communities.

Friends, put those measures together:

Closing down the worst sources of coal fired power

$13.2 billion for new investments

Our 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target

Plus the impetus from the carbon price, and clean energy will be turbo-charged in this country.

Solar, wind, geothermal, tidal power, natural gas, co-generation.

And, yes, clean coal too.

I've seen some of these projects for myself and glimpsed through the curtain what a clean energy future will look like.

Some, like the CSIRO experimental solar facility at Newcastle, almost seem like something out of sci-fi.

The trial plant at Mayfield West has 4000 square metres of mirrors all facing onto a single tower where compressed air is heated to 900 degrees in order to drive a turbine and create electricity.

Because it doesn't use water, this will be great for remote towns and villages in dry regions of Australia and indeed the world, allowing them to replace diesel generators with clean, green power from the sun.

Other models, like piping methane out of rubbish dumps and using it to generate electricity are so simple it's hard to think why we didn't do them before.

Last week I went to the Rochedale Renewable Energy Facility in Brisbane and saw exactly how it works.

I know the clean energy industry is ready to roll.

And my message today is: “Go for it”.

I thank all of you at Green Capital for playing such a central role in helping to define the way Australian business thinks about sustainability.

You have shown courage.

You have shown responsibility.

Today, I stand with you on the side of science and reason.

On the side of good economics.

On the side of the future.

With you, I'm focused on cutting carbon pollution, tackling climate change and getting Australia a clean energy future.

Long after the opinion polls have been forgotten, I want to look the next generation of Australians in the eye and tell them: we did the right thing by you.

In the years to come I want Australia to be a nation that finds itself standing on the right side of history.

A nation secure in the knowledge that it has risen to the challenge and tackled carbon pollution.

A nation with a clean energy economy that gives our people the jobs and the opportunities of the future.

We're closer to that future because of the great work of the Total Environment Centre and the Green Capital program.

Thank you.

Transcript 18009