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Thursday, 19 November 2009
Page: 12261

Mr CHEESEMAN (2:04 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the impact of climate change on the frequency of extreme weather events and Australia’s domestic response to climate change through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. It is interesting that he raises a question on climate change because, in the midst of the debate on climate change in the parliament, I am advised it is some 30 days since we have had any questions in this parliament from those opposite on climate change. I am told it is considerably longer since we have had a question on the economy. And I am told it is in fact many, many days indeed since we have had a question on education and whole other areas of concern to working families everywhere.

The question goes to the current weather circumstances in Australia. I would say to those opposite, particularly the climate change deniers and sceptics opposite, that, as one of the hottest and driest inhabited continents on earth, Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now, act globally and act nationally. At its very core, climate change is about rising global temperatures.

Dr Jensen —Zero!

Mr RUDD —Fact 1: globally, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2008.

Dr Jensen —Since 2001: down!

Mr RUDD —I assume from the interjecting member from Western Australia that it is simply a coincidence that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2008. Fact No. 2 is that Australia has experienced warmer than average annual temperatures for 17 of the last 19 years. Again, that would just be an unhappy coincidence on the part of those who interject from opposition benches. Third, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, for the first two weeks of November much of south-east Australia has experienced daytime temperatures more than six degrees centigrade above average, with temperatures peaking in the range 39 to 45 degrees across most inland areas.

I draw the House’s attention also, importantly, to what the Bureau of Meteorology is saying about the week right now. The Bureau of Meteorology weather forecast indicates for the week 16 to 20 November we are likely to see these conditions continue with temperatures in the range of 40 to 45 degrees becoming widespread.

Dr Jensen —Not in Perth.

Mr RUDD —He intervenes, ‘Not in Perth,’ as if an extreme weather event in Victoria is irrelevant or an extreme weather event in South Australia is irrelevant. I would remind the member from Western Australia, whatever his electorate might be, that this is the national parliament. We have national obligations. He might not think we have a responsibility to nationally act on climate change, but he exists on a different planet with a shade cloth happily extended above it. This is what the data says. Furthermore, can I draw the House’s attention to this: Melbourne, last night, recorded its highest temperature for a November night since records ever began, and that outstripped the previous record set in 1901 by almost two degrees. It is 43 degrees in Adelaide today and, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Adelaide has experienced the first spring heatwave ever since its records began in 1887. I presume that the interjecting members over there, the climate change sceptics up the back and the absolute deniers in the centre over there, would say all of these are merely unhappy coincidences. There is a string of unhappy coincidences in the data and you can either choose to embrace what the science says or simply deny what it says and therefore take no action. The Bureau of Meteorology said last night ‘the fire danger levels were into the severe range for a number of hours’. That was Mr Philip King of the Bureau of Meteorology. In these conditions I would encourage all Australians to listen carefully to what the fire authorities have to say.

Let us go also to what the science has said through documents, including by the CSIRO, in the period when the Leader of the Opposition was the minister responsible for the environment. The CSIRO Climate change in Australia: technical report 2007—not ancient history, not even mediaeval history but quite modern history; in fact, only a couple of years ago when he opposite was in fact the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources—says:

Projections for Australia include increases in the frequency of heatwaves; increases in the frequency and length of drought conditions … and a substantial increase in fire-weather risk in south-eastern Australia.

Dr Jensen interjecting

Mr RUDD —I am constantly stunned. It is as if we are back into the trial of Galileo or something and they are simply arguing somehow that the science is fiction and that they alone, in their own prejudiced universe, occupy fact. We are back almost in a mediaeval court when it comes to the mediaeval approaches adopted by those opposite. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition has such a hard time. If you have got to put up with that, mate, I have sympathy for you, I really do.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Mr RUDD —Malcolm, if I had to put up with that, frankly, there would be real challenges.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will get back to the question.

Mr RUDD —This is from the CSIRO when you were the environment minister:

Projections for Australia include increases in the frequency of heatwaves … the frequency and length of drought conditions …

And further it says:

… and a substantial increase in the fire-weather risk in south-eastern Australia.

The CSIRO also forecasts that over the next 20 years there will be up to 20 per cent more drought months over most of Australia and, by 2070, up to 40 per cent more drought months are projected in eastern Australia and up to 80 per cent more in south-western Australia. That is what the CSIRO said in 2007, the CSIRO reporting when the Leader of the Opposition was in fact the environment minister. Those opposite I would strongly challenge to actually embrace what the science says and the responsibility—

885 Turnbull, Malcolm, MPMr Turnbull—Mr Speaker, a point of order: on the question of the Prime Minister’s gestures, offensive gestures are not allowed.

The SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr Turnbull —He has a number of gestures. There is the dead spider; we know about that.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Those on my left will settle down. The Leader of the Opposition is testing the chair’s patience. I simply say to the Leader of the Opposition: if he is being distracted by this he might like to go and watch it outside. To the whole chamber: there is one law of physics—for every action there is a reaction. We may be seeing that today. The Prime Minister will resume his response to the question and start on the concluding aspects of his response.

Mr RUDD —Of course we are deeply concerned about the sensitivities of those opposite on climate change. But there is hope: our good friend and colleague the member for Groom, representing the constructive end of the Liberal Party argument on this—and we appreciate his efforts in negotiating this with us. But we have had comments both from the member for Groom today and from the other end of the spectrum, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, representing the destructive end of the debate. But both their comments are interesting. The member for Groom had this to say on ABC this morning:

I accept that he—

referring to the Prime Minister—

has got a mandate to introduce the scheme. There are plenty who do not, but I do.

I thank the member for Groom for recognising that fact. Furthermore:

… by the time the Senate rises by the end of next week he will have what he is demanding …

He goes on to say:

… but it will be on our terms.

That is fine; that is his political overlay. I do welcome what the member for Groom has said. I welcome his statement that, by the end of next week, we will have a successful vote on the CPRS—in the next five sitting days. That is a good outcome. A vote one way or the other is an appropriate reflection of a good faith negotiation with the government.

The second comment is interesting as well. It is from Senator Minchin and it is directly relevant to this debate. On the question of the upcoming vote he says:

Our party room, our joint coalition party room, will make a decision on how we will treat this bill next during the course of next week after Mr Macfarlane reports to us on his negotiations with the government. We then as a party room will decide which option we will elect to take.

He goes on:

But we will have a clear position at some stage during the course of next week as to what our view on this bill will be.

What we have therefore is clarity from both ends of the debate, the climate change sceptic end of the debate and those within the coalition who actually want to bring about an outcome. So we have now the optimists in the spectrum, led by the member for Groom, backing a vote, and we have the pessimists, led by Senator Minchin, backing a vote. The only person silent so far on whether we should have a vote by the end of next week is the Leader of the Opposition. Can I just say to the Leader of the Opposition that if these are good-faith negotiations and it is the attitude that we bring to bear, stand up today and confirm that there will be a vote on climate change, on the CPRS, by the time the Senate rises next Thursday. We have it from the member for Groom, we have it from Senator Minchin, and we are all ears in terms of what the Leader of the Opposition will say. Five sitting days left until a vote: are we going to have a vote in the national interest or in some internal party interest? Five days in which to vote on the science, or five days in which to ignore the science and pursue prejudice. Five days left for action, or five days for inaction. Five sitting days left to vote for the future instead of simply lying in the path. We are engaged in good-faith negotiations with those opposite. I invite the opposition in question time today to confirm to the Australian people that there will be a vote on the CPRS legislation by the time the parliament rises at the end of next week. The nation and our global interests demand it.