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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 3313

Senator WORTLEY (2:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline why it is necessary to act on climate change, can the minister provide authoritative sources that demonstrate that climate change is real and can the minister advise the Senate on whether there are any alternative views?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I thank Senator Wortley for the question and for her interest in climate change matters. There are, of course, a great number of authoritative sources that can be cited on the issue of climate change. But those opposite might be interested to hear from one authority in particular. That would, of course, be the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull. It is Mr Turnbull who has said:

… climate change is a fact, not a theory.

He also said that the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘confirms that human activity is causing global warming’. The fact is that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2008. But, sadly, on this issue Mr Turnbull’s party room still remains a safe haven for the climate change sceptics. He appears to be incapable of showing the strong leadership that is needed and standing up against the sceptics in the party room for what he knows is right. Last night we saw the extraordinary spectacle of a Liberal senator—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! When there is quiet we will proceed.

Senator WONG —I was saying that last night we saw the extraordinary spectacle of a Liberal senator in this place actually being to the right of Senator Boswell on the issue of climate change, and I congratulate Senator Cash for that remarkable achievement. But, most importantly, Senator Cash broke ranks with her leader, Mr Turnbull, by demanding—

The PRESIDENT —Order! There needs to be silence on my right when Senator Wong is answering the question. When we have order we will proceed.

Senator WONG —As I said, Senator Cash is the latest in a line of senators and MPs who have broken ranks with their own leader, Malcolm Turnbull, but more importantly they do not even agree with John Howard. (Time expired)

Senator WORTLEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the minister’s answer, can the minister now outline whether there is any hope on the horizon for action on climate change? Have any recent developments increased the likelihood of Australia making progress on climate change? Will it be possible for Australia to move forward on climate change?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —It is quite clear from Mr Turnbull’s public statements that he does want to act on climate change. He was once one of the parliament’s strongest advocates for emissions trading, but since he has taken over the leadership, which I note he did so in part by campaigning against Dr Nelson on the issue of climate change, he has unfortunately been looking over his shoulder, watching his back against Mr Costello, worried about losing the support of the climate change sceptics such as Senator Cash. With Mr Costello now apparently out of the picture, we might see Malcolm Turnbull finally able to show the leadership to put Australia’s national interest ahead of his own political interests. Mr Turnbull should do what he knows is right. He should support action on climate change. Instead of looking over his shoulder, he now has the chance to look forward and look to the national interest.

Senator WORTLEY —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister further expand on the prospects for action on climate change? Is there any new evidence that the minister can provide to the Senate that climate change action may be possible?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —There is some evidence—and it comes from a surprising quarter—of there being some light at the end of the tunnel and that is from Mr Abbott. This morning Mr Abbott was asked the question, ‘Do you think Turnbull now has more authority in the party room on difficult issues such as the CPRS now that Costello has gone?’ and Mr Abbott said:

All of those issues can now be discussed purely on their merits without any injection of personalities that might otherwise have occurred.

Tony Abbott has said it how it is. The internals of the Liberal Party have been driving the opposition’s position on climate change. So with Mr Costello out of the picture the question now is: does Mr Turnbull have the nerve to do what he knows is right, to stand up to those like Senator Cash, sceptics on that side, and support action on climate change? Those over there who know climate change is a real issue should turn up and say, ‘Hey, Malcolm, Peter’s gone; it’s your chance now to do the right thing.’