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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2670

Mr MURPHY (2:51 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Will the minister explain the scientific basis to take action on climate change? Minister, is there a credible scientific basis not to take action?

Mr COMBET (Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) —I thank the member for Reid for his question, because he has had a long and continuing interest in climate change policy. Climate scientists are telling governments all around the world that carbon pollution is contributing to climate change. The scientific advisor to the government’s Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, the well-recognised scientist, Professor Will Steffen of the ANU, has indicated to the committee that there is 100 per cent certainty that temperatures are increasing globally and that there is 95 per cent certainty that human activity through carbon emissions is contributing to those increased temperatures. Of course, 2010 was the equal warmest year on record and the period 2000-10 was the warmest decade on record. The scientific evidence is very clear—and it is advice that it has been provided to all governments internationally. But not everyone in this House seems to agree. Eighteen months ago the Leader of the Opposition said: ‘We can’t conclusively say whether man-made carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to climate change.’

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I put it to you that the question that the minister was asked—which I am sure you were listening to as closely as I—did not allow any discussion for the Leader of the Opposition’s views on climate change, carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. It asked about the science to do with climate change, not about people’s views in this House.

The SPEAKER —Order! I will listen carefully to the manner in which the minister directly relates the material to the question. He must directly relate the material to the question.

Mr COMBET —The Leader of the Opposition also infamously said that climate change is absolute crap.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will relate it to the question.

Mr COMBET —The point is that these views contradict all mainstream scientific opinion. But, of course, the Leader of the Opposition does not want to be seen as an extremist or a denier these days. He is trying to invite a cloak of respectability.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister is defying the indication you gave to him that he must relate his answer to the question. He was not asked about anyone’s views in this House.

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, my point of order goes to the provisions in the standing orders to deal with disruptive conduct. Today we have had points of order to every question that has been asked during question time. It is only permissible for there to be one point of order with regard to relevance. That was the second by the Manager of Opposition Business during this question.

The SPEAKER —The minister will relate directly the material that he is using to the question as it was asked. The question asked—and I paraphrase—was: will the minister explain the scientific basis for taking action on climate change and is there a credible scientific basis for not taking action? The minister must respond in a directly relevant way to that question. Whilst I appreciate that there can be argument that is directly relevant—and I have some concerns about allowing argument—the argument must directly relate to the question.

Mr COMBET —I was asked whether there was a credible scientific basis for not taking action on climate change. Of course, when you stop denying the climate science, we will stop calling you a denier. That is the fact of the matter.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The minister will ignore interjections and he will not respond. I am not revisiting an earlier discussion that we had. The minister will directly relate his material to the question. The minister has the call.

Mr COMBET —The Leader of the Opposition has occasionally tried to suggest that he respects the science. Apparently, he has instructed the shadow cabinet to keep the debate away from climate science so that they can focus on their scare campaign tactics. He could not even follow his own advice.