Letter to the Editor: Safeguard Mechanism Bill isn’t ‘saving’ anything

Mar 23, 2023

Dear Editor, 

There are a number of flaws with the Federal Government’s Safeguard Mechanism Bill which supposedly promises to reduce emissions, with “no financial impact.” 

This is a bill that will target 215 of the nation’s largest emitters, forcing them to reduce their emissions by 4.9 per cent each year to 2030. Most of these companies are in mining – coal and gas, manufacturing/ steelworks, construction, and transport. These industries, to meet the proposed legislated requirements will more than likely “buy their way out” of reducing emissions with carbon credits, or simply just cease operating.  

Government’s explanation of “no financial impact” is a joke. Because everyday Australian’s will be feeling that impact as companies choosing to purchase carbon credits – fossil fuel miners for energy and electricity, steel and aluminium producers, construction firms and transport operators – pass their costs on. That’s everyday Australians who are already suffering at the hands of increasing electricity costs, increasing costs of goods and general cost of living pressures.  

So if these costs continue to rise rendering our domestic goods and services unaffordable for Australians, people will be left with no choice but to turn their backs on our goods our services, and we’re already seeing changing consumer habits with Australians dropping new items each week from their shopping lists.  

Once the ripple effect of these habits work their way back to our major production industries, we’ll be scratching our heads and looking overseas to import our essential items.  

So there you go, you’ll achieve your Net Zero targets because we simply won’t have any industry remaining.  

But I remind you, you shut down coal and gas, you bankrupt the country. Queensland’s 2022-23 revenue is budgeted to be $81.2bn. Royalties account for 16.8 per cent of that – $13.6bn. How many economies can you take $13.6bn out of and expect them to continue functioning and providing essential services… especially one that’s hell bent on a $62bn intermittent energy plan and $7bn on Olympic Games upgrades.  

So we’ll be left with no money for overseas imports anyway. We’ll just be in a tunnel of economic horror. 

Focussing on emissions, what has the government actually achieved in reducing emissions? It’s ironic that this bill is complementary to the push for renewable energy, including solar panels.  

But, if you think solar panels are carbon neutral, think again. I speak with authority here, after putting in a standalone solar system as a Queensland Minister. It requires massive amounts of energy to manufacture the solar panels which includes smelting the silicon. You can smelt silicon with wood, or with coal, but again it burns a lot of energy and releases a hell of a lot of carbon dioxide into the air. Further, the majority of Australia’s solar panels are built in China – a country with a rapidly increasing coal-fired power station network. Wind turbines are in the same boat. So are we really “safeguarding” the environment and heading towards Net Zero, or just kicking the can down the road?  

The next issue with this alternative form of energy is reliability. You say renewable energy, I say intermittent power supply.  

At the time of writing this letter, 2.20pm AEDT, Tuesday, March 21: Coal was suppling 64 per cent of the electricity to the NEM, wind was 8.4 per cent, solar was 14.6 percent and hydro 6.9 per cent. Those statistics make for some interesting viewing if you look at what sources are fuelling the NEM when the sun stops shining.  

The average peak demand on the NEM is about 35,000MW, the minimum demand is about 15,000MW. Our current solar and wind operations can only generate about 14,000MW.  

In South Australia and Queensland, we’re already having blackouts, and you can scream all you like, but the blackouts are there because there’s insufficient power in the grid. It’s already under pressure. 

And over the next five years, we’ll have 8000mw of coal-fired capacity switching off. We’ll have just 2000mw of baseload coming online with Snowy 2.0, expected to operational by December 2027, about a decade after then PM Malcolm Turnbull made its announcement.  

So we’ve got all this electricity going offline within the next five years… but it’ll be more than a decade before the cavalry arrives.  

Returning to emissions, the government has achieved just a 16 per cent reduction in CO2 levels in the last 20 years… leaving it with a lot of work to meet its legislated targets. 

So let’s look at some solutions that could actually make a difference, and which companies can’t buy their way out of. 

Mandate the requirement that every metropolitan government vehicle be an electric vehicle and make the transition to biofuels such as ethanol to reduce transport emissions.  

Make the move to modern, algae-ponded high efficiency, low emission coal-fired power stations, where the algae captures the CO2, and becomes a commodity, such as feedstock. Introduce a Reserve Resource Policy along with this, so our generators receive coal at a set fixed, and lower price – a win for everyday Australians, a win for the environment. 

God bless,  

Hon Bob Katter  

Federal Member for Kennedy