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MIGRATION (CLIMATE REFUGEES) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- Parl No.
Lightfoot, Ross (The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT)
- Question No.
Macdonald, Sen Ian
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- Start of Business
- INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE WORLD'S INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
- IRISH MOTORWAY PROJECT AND THE HILL OF TARA
- SENATOR HEFFERNAN
- LOCAL GOVERNMENT
- INCOME OF UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
- WALLARAH 2 COAL PROJECT
- MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (NATIONAL HPV VACCINATION PROGRAM REGISTER) BILL 2007
CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 2007
CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (INSOLVENCY) BILL 2007
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (TRUSTEE BOARD AND OTHER MEASURES) (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 2007
- TRADE PRACTICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 2007
- Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Committee
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
- AUSTRALIAN POSTAL CORPORATION AMENDMENT (QUARANTINE INSPECTION AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2007
- THERAPEUTIC GOODS AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (NATIONAL HPV VACCINATION PROGRAM REGISTER) BILL 2007
- INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS (NOTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT) AMENDMENT (COSMETICS) BILL 2007
- INTERNATIONAL TAX AGREEMENTS AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 2007
- CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 2007
- CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (INSOLVENCY) BILL 2007
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ronaldson, Sen Michael, Minchin, Sen Nick)
(Stephens, Sen Ursula, Minchin, Sen Nick)
(Fisher, Mary Jo, Abetz, Sen Eric)
(Hutchins, Sen Steve, Scullion, Sen Nigel)
(Macdonald, Sen Ian, Johnston, Sen David)
(Fielding, Sen Steve, Ellison, Sen Chris)
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
- MIGRATION (CLIMATE REFUGEES) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- Treaties Committee
- Regulations and Ordinances Committee
- Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee
- Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(Brown, Sen Bob, Coonan, Sen Helen)
(O’Brien, Sen Kerry, Johnston, Sen David)
(Bartlett, Sen Andrew, Abetz, Sen Eric)
Wet Tropics World Heritage Area
(Milne, Sen Christine, Abetz, Sen Eric)
Convention on Biological Diversity
(Brown, Sen Bob, Abetz, Sen Eric)
(Webber, Sen Ruth, Coonan, Sen Helen)
(Allison, Sen Lyn, Ellison, Sen Chris)
- Wilderness Society
Thursday, 9 August 2007
Senator IAN MACDONALD (4:27 PM) —I am very interested in the Migration (Climate Refugees) Amendment Bill 2007, although it has only recently been drawn to my attention. I will ask some questions in the committee stages of the bill on just how it would operate, because a cursory look at the terms of the bill suggest to me that it would be wide open to abuse and that it really has little to do with climate change, immigration and visas but a lot to do with the Greens normal stunt-like approach to parliament and their policies. In the committee stage I will be very keen to ask some questions and try to get some answers.
I want to generally indicate that the Australian government over a succession of environment ministers, and particularly under the current environment minister, has been not just very concerned about climate change but actually doing things about it. I reiterate a point I always make: the Labor Party and others have come to this debate recently because focus groups I think have indicated to Mr Rudd that this is an important issue. Labor has a focus group approach and answer to climate change.
In contrast to that, the Howard government has been looking at this issue since the former Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, initiated the Australian Greenhouse Office back in, I think, 1997. As I recall, the Australian Greenhouse Office was the first government agency of that type to be set up anywhere in the world to address the issue of climate change. So, unlike Mr Rudd, who has come to this issue because focus groups have told him to do that in the last 12 months, the Howard government has been addressing this issue for 10 years or more. The Greenhouse Office has been very well funded to do its work. The Australian government has financed any number of initiatives—it would take the whole of my 20 minutes to go through them—at very great cost to the taxpayer. But I think the taxpayers, along with the government, are happy to have spent the money because what we have achieved has been important.
It is also very important to highlight that this is a global problem. Australia produces less than two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If you turned off every electric light bulb, shut down every power station and closed every mine in Australia tomorrow, the greatest impact that would have on greenhouse gas emissions would be about 1½ per cent. It would still leave a real problem for the globe, in that 98.5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions would continue to pollute the world. So Australia’s principal contribution to mankind is to try to get the big emitters—China, India and the United States—to the table so that some sensible program can be agreed upon and implemented to stop global greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of our respected and supposedly responsible politicians are determined that Australia should damage itself economically for a result that would not make one iota of difference to greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, climate change. They are determined that Australia should destroy itself economically without making any real contribution to climate change. What we have to do is try to convince those big emitters—and, in that way, we can make a real contribution to the climate change debate. Notwithstanding that Australia is such a small emitter, we have done more, proportionally, than most other countries to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The programs the government has been involved in have contributed very substantially to that.
Mr Rudd’s current policy—I think it is still his current policy—is to sign up to the Kyoto protocol. But I suspect that will not be his policy after he speaks to the Bowen Basin miners, members of the CFMEU, who, along with me, recognise that Labor’s policy of signing the Kyoto protocol is a ridiculous response to climate change. Signing a bit of paper will not make one iota of difference to climate change. In fact, a lot of the countries that have signed the Kyoto protocol have done nothing. I think 167 countries signed onto the Kyoto protocol—and only 34 of them have attempted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even those who had the best intentions have not reduced their greenhouse emissions as they agreed to do at Kyoto. Indeed, Australia is on track to meet its target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. We are one of the few countries that are doing that. Signing the Kyoto protocol will not make one iota of difference, yet that seems to be Labor’s main policy approach: sign a bit of paper and the world will be all smiles again. That is just ridiculous, but it is typical of the focus-driven policy approach from the Labor Party at the present time. They are focus driven on everything, it seems, except tax policy. Their only tax policy is to have no policy at all.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator IAN MACDONALD —I hear the members opposite laughing. Perhaps they can tell me I am wrong. Perhaps they can tell me when their tax policy is going to be released. We would be very keen to see it. My understanding is that the opposition’s only pronouncement on tax policy is that it will not have a tax policy—and I suspect that is also something Mr Rudd has picked up from focus groups. We in Queensland know how Mr Rudd operates. He was the adviser to Premier Goss when he shut down any proposal for getting decent water supplies to south-east Queensland. There is a crisis now, 10 years later, because, when Mr Rudd, as head of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, was advising Mr Goss, they decided to stop any proposals that the National and Liberal governments had put forward for a proper water supply in south-east Queensland.
The interjections from the other side have diverted me from the bill before us. Before getting into the bill, I want to raise a couple of issues. This bill is predicated on the fact that climate change is going to cause disasters in many communities around the world and that there will be a need for a higher level of migration of people as a result of that. Could I just point out that sea level rise is a long-term challenge for our region which scientific evidence tells us does not present an immediate danger of displacing entire Pacific island populations. Sea level rise is a complex issue, and all of the factors need to be understood and reported accurately. Inundation of Pacific islands could be caused by factors such as land subsidence, tectonic subduction, natural climate variability, El Nino, tropical cyclones and the like, long-term tidal cycles and land use patterns. Climate change is only one variable in this mix.
We as a government, as a nation, are providing more than $42.25 million in practical assistance to Pacific island countries to deal with climate variation and sea level rise by monitoring sea levels, improving climate prediction, assessing vulnerability and planning adaption action. In the 2007-08 budget, the government announced $7.5 million for the UNFCCC’s Least Developed Countries Fund to help some of the poorest countries, including some of these Pacific island countries, to assess and adapt to the impacts of climate change. I should mention that at the, I think, 2005 Pacific Island Forum, the Prime Minister and the other Pacific leaders agreed to consider measures to address population dislocation should a genuine need arise.
The Australian government, as you know, Mr Acting Deputy President Lightfoot, have a long record of responding generously when needs arise in the Pacific, and we will continue to do so. Further, it is important to point out in the context of this bill that our current migration program is designed to serve economic, social and demographic objectives. We also have a substantial humanitarian program which resettles people who have been subjected to persecution or gross violation of human rights in their home countries. The global climate change phenomenon is a focus for all governments. We are strongly engaged in global dialogue on this particular issue. It is not appropriate to speculate on how our government might respond to possible future environmental challenges in the region—that is a matter for negotiation with other regional governments—but any responses will be consistent with our role as a responsible global citizen. The government manages a range of aid programs designed to assist developing countries in our region.
At times, questions have been asked about why Australia is not doing more through its immigration arrangements to alleviate the plight of Pacific islanders affected by climate change. Australia has long maintained a global non-discriminatory immigration policy. Australia is already strongly engaged in supporting development in the Pacific. In the event of environmental conditions in certain Pacific states reaching disaster proportions, Australia would play a major part in any international response. As I have mentioned, the Prime Minister recently committed to the development of an Australian-funded technical college for the Pacific, and work has began across a range of Commonwealth agencies to explore how that commitment will be met. It is likely that many of the graduates of such an institution would have skills in demand in Australia and would meet standards required to have their skills recognised in Australia. So we are clearly doing a considerable amount already to help our Pacific island neighbours.
On a closer look, it seems that this bill is, as I mentioned earlier, simply another stunt promoted by the Greens. I understand that they are doing this at the behest of the Friends of the Earth. The Friends of the Earth is a very interesting organisation. It is connected with an Indonesian organisation called WALHI, which is the Indonesian chapter of the Friends of the Earth. There are some interesting connections between WALHI and the Australian Greens. I note a press release, dated 12 January 2004, in which Senator Bob Brown and a WALHI director tried to blame Alexander Downer for violence at the Newcrest mine in Indonesia. That is an interesting proposition. I also note that the so-called Mineral Policy Institute—an NGO specialising in campaigning to prevent ‘environmentally and socially destructive mining’ and other minerals and energy projects in Australasia and the Pacific—has listed Senator Bob Brown as its patron. The Mineral Policy Institute was also affiliated with Friends of the Earth International.
Interestingly, WALHI appears to have now been joined by radical Islamic groups in its campaign against the US mining giant, Newmont. A photograph—which I could perhaps table if the Senate were interested—recently featured in the Indonesian press shows Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, flanked by Muhammad Al Khaththah, the leader of the Indonesian chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, attacking Newmont’s environmental record. I also note an article from the Straits Times of 22 April 2006 which states:
The head of Walhi, the main environmental group, is also a member of Hizbut Tahrir, a hardline Muslim group which emerged over the past year, and which has been famously described as being a ‘conveyor belt for terrorists’. Although the group claims to be non-violent, the Walhi chairman took part in recent violent demonstrations outside the US embassy, wearing full Islamic robes.
I would be somewhat interested to know—and perhaps in her closing address Senator Nettle could refer to this, or perhaps we could refer to this a bit more closely in the committee stage of the bill—what the Greens’ response is to this apparent alliance between radical Islamists and the Friends of the Earth on whose behalf, I understand, the Greens have moved this motion today.
Time is running away from me, unfortunately, but I did want to turn to the provisions of the bill to address some of the issues there. With this new form of visa being encouraged by the Greens, one wonders what safeguards might be put in place to ensure that other matters were taken into account as well in relation to suitable entrance into Australia. We proudly have very strict immigration procedures. Over many years, both Labor and Liberal governments have been very generous with their immigration policies, but have been determined to ensure that people coming into our country and society do really have a commitment to Australia and all that Australia stands for. I would be interested to see in this bill just where this new form of visa would fit with the people who might be eligible to come in, because disasters, if they do strike as anticipated by this bill, will strike in many places and it would be very important, I think, for those in charge to carefully look at, as we currently do— (Time expired)
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot)—Do you wish to table that document? If you do, you will need to seek leave, Senator Macdonald.
Senator IAN MACDONALD —If anyone doubts that it is here, I have it and they could come and see it. I do not think I need to table it.