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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 3366

Mr MARLES (Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs) (9:59 AM) —I have said many times that Geelong is on the front line of the climate change debate in this country. We are a city by the sea with an economy driven by carbon-intensive industries. This means that we have an economy and jobs dependent on carbon and at the same time we have low-lying regions along the coast vulnerable to rising sea levels. Over the last decade, as the member for Mallee reminded us, we have also been prone to drought.

The Gillard government understands these concerns. We know people want more and better information about the science of climate change, how it will shape our future and the mechanisms for Australia to move to a low-carbon future, which is why I am really pleased that Geelong is the first port of call in the national conversation being led by the recently established Climate Commission.

The commission was set up last month to provide all Australians with an opportunity to learn more about the science of climate change from a team of eminent Australians, leaders in their field, led by the acclaimed scientist and former Australian of the Year, Professor Tim Flannery. The commission will be travelling the country over the next few months talking about the science of climate change, how it will impact us here in Australia, the work other nations are doing to reduce their carbon dependency and, importantly, how a carbon price will work in our economy and our community. This is a conversation that as a nation we need to have—and Geelong is being given the chance to kick it off.

It is a great opportunity for us as a community to come to grips with this issue and, in some ways, lead the way in the national debate. I strongly urge anyone who has been thinking about this issue or who has questions or issues to raise to join in the conversation at the Geelong West Town Hall tomorrow evening. It is also an opportunity for the doubters, like Councillor Stretch Kontelj, to hear from the experts. In a letter to the Geelong Advertiser this week, Councillor Kontelj revealed himself to be a climate change sceptic and, in the process, placed himself on the extreme edge of this debate. He now stands at odds with Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt and half the utterances of the Leader of the Opposition—although, depending on the day, Councillor Kontelj and Tony Abbott may make common cause. Councillor Kontelj may disregard my views, but it will be more difficult to dismiss the opinions of an eminent Australian in the field such as Professor Flannery. This is, of course, the point of the opportunity which the Climate Commission represents. This is a difficult debate where there are established facts about our climate and what is happening to it, and those facts need to be understood to understand the debate.

In my view Australia and its industry needs to place a price on carbon if we are to have competitive industry and the jobs that goes with it in the future. But, whatever your views about the policy Australia needs, there is no longer an excuse to be ignorant about the facts of climate change. The Climate Commission is the opportunity to have all your questions about climate change answered.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I was loath to interrupt the honourable member, but I do remind him of the provisions of standing order 64, which provide that he ought to refer to other members by their electorates or official titles. In accordance with standing order 193, the time for constituency statements has concluded.