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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2687

Ms O’NEILL (4:15 PM) —I relish this opportunity to speak to today’s matter of public importance. I seize it as an opportunity—I will see if I can keep the volume up to the same level as the member who has just finished speaking—to put on the record yet again evidence of the competence of this Labor government and to highlight our proud record in these dark days of fear and loathing propagated by those opposite. What we have endured today is just another tedious moment in the farrago of fear campaigns mounted by those opposite. That is right: a farrago of fear campaigns.

This Labor government respects facts and their context. That is why we are getting on with the job of dealing with the pressing realities that we face as a nation—not the myths and mysterious machinations of those opposite who are trying to create some ‘fear bubble’ that will prevent the whole of Australia from moving forward.

I particularly want to point out the facts around our determination to move to a clean energy future for our kids and for our nation. Carbon pricing: it is the hot topic. You want to talk about it? Well, to quote a great Australian woman, our Prime Minister: ‘Let’s bring it on.’ Let’s talk about the factual basis and the reality that we need to face on climate change. Let’s talk about the fact that the multidecadal trend from 1980 to 2009 has been warming at 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. That is a fact; let’s get some facts on the table instead of this hypocrisy that we are hearing from the other side of the chamber today. This trend has not slowed down during the 2000-09 decade. It is a fact that the decade 2000-09 was the warmest decade on record—significantly warmer than the 1990s, which in turn were significantly warmer than the 1980s. These are inconvenient facts for those opposite, and we have seen them take every political position on this issue from 1980 through to today. They have form in this area, a vacillation: ‘We do believe it’, ‘We don’t believe it’, ‘We do believe it’. It changes quicker than the weather.

Take a look at the spike in the graph of the northern hemisphere surface temperature in the post-industrial age. It is a fact. It cannot be denied by those who attend to facts, but those who want to make it up as they go and change the story from day to day continue to look for signs that they read in the waters or something, about the mythology that they create daily here in this place.

Look at the loss of the Arctic Sea ice. Look at the graph of global sea-level change between 1970 and 2008. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal. It is really happening, guys. You need to open your eyes, you need to look around, and you need to listen to the factual evidence—

Mr Laming —Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that the member address members by their title.

Ms O’NEILL —Climate change is evident from all of these increases in global average air and ocean temperature. There is melting of snow and ice. There is a rising of sea levels. This is scientific fact—not science fiction, as preferred by those opposite. It is this government that is taking the action necessary to meet the reality that exists right before our eyes.

In the past, conservatives in our society have been wont to deny science that challenges their cosy little world view. With Darwin and the theory of evolution, Galileo and the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, Einstein and the theory of relativity: there were sceptics to all of these things. However, these are scientific facts. They are facts that challenged the orthodoxy of the time and they were hotly disputed. As surely as the Earth goes around the sun, there will be those who, for whatever reason, are challenged by science fact. Perhaps they did not pay attention in year 8 science and they did not quite get the concepts mastered. If most of the scientists in the world are scientists who publish in peer reviewed journals, if 97 out of 100 specialists in a field are telling us that something is a fact, it is time to pay attention.

There were people in the 19th century who misconstrued the theory of evolution and insisted that they were not a monkey’s uncle. Just as we had that kind of wilful misconstruing of the facts in the 19th century, we have it as well today in relation to the climate change debate by those opposite. In place of the monkey’s uncle, we have got the modern equivalent in this chamber. We have people like the member for Tangney, who plays games like dunking bits of carbon at the doors. They rail and rant against the increasing and overwhelming body of reputable scientific evidence. It is clearer every day to the Australian people that our government, the Gillard government—in stark contrast with those opposite—is willing and has the courage to act on factual information across so many policy areas. It just so happens that these are the areas of policy failure amongst those opposite.

And so to the matter of competence. Competence begins from a base when you actually get the facts right. We got the awful facts right when we took over from the Howard government and had to clean up the mess that the Leader of the Opposition left in his previous role as John Howard’s minister for health. What we inherited was a completely run-down system from which $1 billion had been ripped out. It was a system that was in crisis due to a lack of foresight and a loss of vision for this country, a system that had been robbed of proper funding and training places for doctors and nurses, a system that was experiencing crises in staffing every day because those opposite could not see the reality. They could not identify the facts. They still cannot; but we did. That is why, since we were elected, we have moved to implement our landmark health and hospital reforms: reforms that will provide better health and better hospitals for Australian working families. This was the most significant reform to the Australian health and hospitals system since the introduction of Medicare—and it took a Labor government to do it. We are not frightened of the big tasks that lie at the heart of leading this great nation.

What was the Leader of the Opposition’s response? As the Prime Minister noted in question time today, the day she forged the agreement with the states, he denounced it before she had even announced it. Carping negativity can do nothing to enhance the outcomes for our Australian people. What a disgrace! These health reforms, which will deliver $7.3 billion in investments over the next five years, 1,300 new sub-acute hospital beds, elective surgery delivered in clinically recommended times for 95 per cent of Australians and training for 6,000 more doctors, including doubling the number of GPs trained every year, were denounced before they were announced. We know the Leader of the Opposition suffers from envy. Perhaps it is the only way in which he is ‘green’. And why would he not be envious of this great government led by our Prime Minister?

There will be better support for nurses working in GP and primary care, aged care and mental health; a national after-hours GP service, with a 24-hour hotline that provides GP advice and can arrange a follow-up visit in your local community; support to upgrade around 425 GP practices and health clinics across the country so that GPs can expand their facilities and locate more services in a single community location; support for 2,500 additional aged-care beds; a personally controlled electronic health record for every Australian who wants one; new investments in prevention, including tough new action tackling smoking; and new investments in mental health services, with 20,000 extra young people per year to get assistance.

This is a small smorgasbord of our competent action in the area of health. It is a testimony to the fact—yes, the fact—that it is the Gillard Labor government that is absolutely acting in the interests of ordinary Australians. Our action is competent, welcomed and determinedly improving the health and wellbeing of our young, our aged, our environment, our economy and our future. When it comes to health, infrastructure and climate change, it is not just an inconvenient truth. When it comes to all the substantial issues of fact that we are addressing as this government, the Leader of the Opposition just cannot handle the truth. He is far more comfortable with—what is that word we are not allowed to say?—denial.