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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6324


Mr MELHAM (3:01 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. Would the minister outline any barriers that exist to Australia reducing its carbon emissions?


Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) —I thank the member for Banks for the question. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most significant environmental reform that has been attempted in this country. It is the means by which we as a nation can reduce our carbon pollution and achieve the targets that the government has set out by 2020. It is such a significant environmental and economic reform that many, particularly in the business community, have called for a bipartisan approach to this issue to deliver a greater investment certainty environment for business. And yet what the government has encountered is nothing but obstruction by the opposition. The fact is that the biggest barrier at this point in time to the passage of this important environmental reform is the coalition. Importantly, we know that the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the coalition, has made a number of important statements. It appears from that commentary that it is accepted by the coalition that action on climate change is necessary. From the comments made it also appears that the coalition supports the government’s targets for reducing emissions. And there has been a recognition by the Leader of the Opposition that there will be an emissions trading scheme in Australia at some point in time. These are important comments that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the coalition.

It is therefore a legitimate question to ask: why has there been nothing but opposition and nothing constructive put forward by the coalition? All that we have seen are excuses for the delay. The underlying reason for this position, it is clear, is the division in the opposition ranks over this important issue and that, as we approach the debate in the Senate over the CPRS, is what is holding up such a fundamental environmental reform. We know that the coalition is peppered with climate change sceptics and others who are simply opposed to any action on this issue. Senator Bernardi, a member of the coalition, is on the record as saying that humans are not even responsible for climate change. Senator Abetz apparently believes that weeds are a greater threat than climate change. The National Party, as stated repeatedly by Senator Joyce, is flatly opposed to emissions trading.

Further evidence of the division amongst the opposition is contained in the report released this week of the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy, which is chaired by the coalition. Paragraph 2.36 of that report states:

The balance of the evidence discussed above suggests that climate change is occurring, is driven by anthropogenic factors and is a grave threat to accustomed ways of life and natural systems. If this view is right, the calculations above make a virtually unarguable case for taking global action.

But Senator Cash of the coalition issued a minority report choosing to differ. It stated the following:

I do not believe that this properly reflects the balance of evidence in terms of the science of climate change.

This is just further evidence of the division in the coalition over this important issue that is frustrating the passage of such a significant environmental reform. The fact is that with the CPRS due to be debated shortly in the Senate it is time for the coalition to take responsibility and to act in the interests of the Australian people in dealing with climate change. The coalition needs to support action on climate change. It is time to put aside the excuses for delay. It is time to listen to the business community, which wants investment certainty and which is arguing for the passage of this legislation. It is time to put positive suggestions forward and not excuses. It is time for the coalition to support the CPRS. It is time for the coalition to support the government’s renewable energy legislation and to do what the Leader of the Opposition knows is right for this country: to take action on climate change and pass this important legislation as soon as possible.