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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 127

Senator POLLEY (3:22 PM) —I too rise to take note of the answers given to questions on the important issues of global warming and climate change. I would first like to make mention of the contributions by Senator Eggleston and Senator Birmingham to the debate. Senator Eggleston would like people to give the Howard government some credit for what they have done on climate change, but it is drawing a really long bow to expect the Australian community to acknowledge the very little that this government has done over 11 very long years. The senators on the other side are champions at taking credit for anything that is good—for example, the way the state governments have managed their economies—but, when it comes to taking responsibility for the lack of action, we see this government running a mile, and they are the champions of the blame game.

It is Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party that have shown leadership on this very important issue. Mr Rudd recently outlined the details of the very clear need to address the serious issue of climate change and of the policy agenda that the Labor Party will take forward to the pending election. A Rudd Labor government will take decisive action on climate change because we believe climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the global community. Tackling climate change should be a national priority, but, after the Howard government’s 11 years of inaction and denial, Australia is now on track to increase its greenhouse pollutants by 27 per cent by 2020.

In reports released earlier this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, reaffirmed unequivocally what the Howard government has known since 1996: climate change is real, it will hurt our economy, it will hurt the environment and, most importantly, it will affect our children’s future. In coming decades, hotter and drier summers in the south of our country will threaten our rural communities and industries. The harsh reality of climate change is that the Great Barrier Reef could be destroyed through coral bleaching, the Kakadu wetlands could be flooded and the Snowy Mountains could lose much of their snow. These Australian icons are the backbone of our tourism industry and regional economies.

It should be noted by the Senate what the Stern review in the UK made clear last October: the costs of delay will be far greater than the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions now. Labor believes we can address climate change immediately with solutions that ensure the integrity of our water supply, protect our environment and secure Australian jobs and industries now and into the future. A Rudd Labor government would be committed to restoring Australia’s international leadership on climate change and would immediately ratify the Kyoto protocol to help forge a global solution to climate change. Labor will aim to cut Australia’s greenhouse pollutants by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050 and introduce an effective emissions trading scheme by 2010.

Labor is also committed to leading by example. Central to this point, Labor has committed to using its purchasing power to provide a market for new, efficient technologies. Labor has also pledged to help Australian families to green their homes. Labor will offer $10,000 low-interest loans for Australian households to implement energy and water savings and provide rebates for rooftop solar panels. These are real initiatives that go part of the way towards a solution. Labor has agreed to work in partnership with businesses to drive energy efficiency improvements that will deliver smarter and more productive industries and to establish a $500 million national clean coal fund.

Labor is also willing to invest in sustainable agriculture and to protect our biodiversity. We will work with farmers to encourage sustainable farming practices which reduce emissions, develop carbon sinks and protect our unique plants and animals. As I said, it is not about blaming others and wanting to take credit; it is about action and leadership. I think it is necessary and vitally important. It is something that the Howard government has not done and on which it has shown no leadership, and I do not believe it will do so. Labor is the only party—(Time expired)

Question agreed to.