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Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Page: 5889

Mrs D’ATH (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline for the House why it is important that we address climate change in a consistent, economically responsible way?

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) —I thank the member for Petrie for her question. It is a very important question, because members on this side of the House understand that climate change is the biggest economic challenge the global community faces. Delaying action on climate change will cost our economy dearly. The Stern review estimated that if we do not act the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least five per cent of global per capita consumption now and forever. It is that serious.

The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change has stated that delaying action will increase the impact of climate change on the community and the likelihood of a disruptive shock to the Australian economy. The business roundtable also stated that the longer we delay acting, the more expensive it becomes for business and for the wider Australian economy.

As the infrastructure minister was saying before, had those on the other side of the parliament acted some time ago—some five years ago—when a submission on emissions trading was taken to the cabinet, this country would be a lot better off. We must deal with this issue—it is urgent—and the best way to deal with this issue is through an emissions-trading system. So when it comes to climate change we need to act with resolve, we need to act with courage and we need to act with consistency.

All we have had from the member for Flinders is flip-flopping around—joined of course by the member for Wentworth. The member for Flinders has had six different positions in two years. In November 2006 he said he was opposed to an emissions-trading scheme, calling it the wrong way to tackle climate change. Then, in June 2007, he supported the Howard government policy to introduce an emissions-trading scheme. Then of course, in February 2008, he was opposed to an emissions-trading scheme again. In May 2008 he said:

Perhaps the most important domestic policy in recent years has been the decision by the Howard government that Australia will implement a national carbon trading system.

Think about that. That was in May 2008, but this is what we got from the member for Flinders in June 2008. On Radio National he said, ‘The answer is simple, we have not made a decision yet.’ That is what he said on Radio National in May.

And of course we had his final position out there on the doorstep this morning. We had the shadow minister and member for Flinders out there saying that he was going to walk away from it again. He said there was going to be no commitment prior to 2011—he was going to delay the start date. So he is for it, then he is against it, then he is for it and then he is against it. This is what he said. He said this this morning on the doorstep: ‘We will look at the timing following Garnaut.’ This is a guy who has made a career criss-crossing the country in his hemp underpants pretending to be the green conscience of the Liberal Party. So we have had three policies every year—six policies in total.

This morning I noticed a quote in the Australian that there would be ‘a lot of push-back’ in the party room over the need for an ETS. I say to those opposite who are pushing back that you will not have to wait long because you will get another position from the member for Flinders. We on this side of the House take climate change very seriously. It requires courage and it requires consistency and that is what will be delivered by the Rudd government.