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Monday, 16 March 2009
Page: 2639

Mr ZAPPIA (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Will the minister outline the government’s consistent and comprehensive approach to tackling dangerous climate change?

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I appreciate the applause I am getting from the other side of the House; I did not realise we had so many music fans! I thank the member for his question, because the Rudd government is taking an economically responsible approach to tackling climate change. It is building a low-pollution economy by introducing the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order, those on my left! For fear of being misunderstood, the minister is here for his day job today. He will be listened to.

Mr GARRETT —It is a day job I relish, Mr Speaker. The government is bringing forward practical action on energy efficiency for households through insulation and solar hot water for around three million Australian homes. We know that the longer we wait to take action on climate change the more it will cost and the more jobs that will be lost as a result of the drastic impact climate change can bring.

As the Prime Minister just said to the House, as we are one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australian jobs will be hit hardest and fastest by climate change. So we need to act; we need to grow jobs in clean, low-pollution Australian industries. When he was my predecessor as the former environment minister, and most recently when he wanted the Liberal Party leadership, the Leader of the Opposition himself acknowledged the importance of climate change and said that he was all for an emissions trading scheme. In 2007 he noted that putting a price on carbon was ‘essential’. In May 2008 he said:

… the emissions trading scheme is the central mechanism to decarbonise our economy.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The minister was asked about the emissions trading scheme and again they seem to be confusing the Shergold emissions trading scheme with the current government’s emissions trading scheme. He is not being relevant—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Mr GARRETT —As the Prime Minister noted, the Leader of the Opposition also spoke on this in an earlier interview with Laurie Oakes, and on Lateline on 9 July he said:

… the Howard Government’s policy last year, was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012. It was not conditional on international action.

He went on to say:

… John Howard decided and the Cabinet decided last year that we would move on an emissions trading scheme come what may.

That was the Howard government’s policy, and that was the opposition’s policy last year—moving on an emissions trading scheme ‘come what may’. What has happened is that we have had a phalanx of climate change deniers, we have had the member for Higgins suddenly speaking up and now the opposition leader has said this morning:

I would not support finalising the design this year.

The reason he has given is:

Even the best designed scheme in theory needs to have the input of the knowledge of what happens at Copenhagen and what the Americans will do.

So we have gone from ‘not conditional on international action’ and doing it ‘come what may’, with an ETS as the ‘essential mechanism’, to absolute delay. What has happened in the intervening period? We know what has happened. When he was environment minister the Leader of the Opposition was campaigning for an emissions trading scheme; now he is campaigning for his own position as leader and he is against emissions trading. The Leader of the Opposition is not waiting to see what America does on emissions trading; he is waiting to see what the member for Higgins actually says.

Regrettably on a matter as serious as this, the only job that is being protected by the Leader of the Opposition is his own. Those future jobs that Australians will get from taking decent and prudent action on climate change will now be delayed. Only sceptics believe that delaying action on climate change is good for jobs, because they do not believe that climate change actually poses a risk to jobs. But the Rudd government understands that failure to deliver the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will result in jobs being lost in tourism, agriculture and food production as a result of climate change impacts. The opposition leader’s retreat on climate change puts at risk the future of our environment, economy and jobs. This government will continue to prudently and purposefully take responsible action on climate change because Australians expect nothing less.