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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4884


Senator ABETZ (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Now that the minister’s flawed and rushed emissions trading scheme has been defeated, will the government give a commitment that this legislation will not be reintroduced before the UN climate change meeting at Copenhagen in December?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I thank Senator Abetz for the opportunity to remind him of the commitment we have given. We will bring this back. We will bring this legislation back because, whilst those on the other side want to continue to deny that climate change is real and continue to be divided on this issue, we are firm in our resolve to do the right thing, to do what we told Australians before the last election we would do and to pass this legislation. I remind those opposite what happened here today. One of the major political parties kept its election commitment. Labor senators voted to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution under a cap-and-trade scheme.


Senator Heffernan interjecting—


Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, on a point of order: I do not know what one does in regard to this matter, Mr President, but Senator Heffernan shouted aggressively and rudely at Senator Wong, firstly, but then he made an obscene gesture and I ask you to make him apologise for an obscene gesture.


Senator Heffernan —I apologise to Senator Sterle. He knows I was sending him an obscene message.


Senator Chris Evans —Rubbish! Apologise.


Senator Heffernan —I did apologise to Senator Sterle.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I remind senators that shouting across the chamber is disorderly, as is any interruption to the speaker during their answer to a question in this place.


Senator WONG —I remind everyone in the chamber what occurred here today. Those of us on this side of the chamber voted to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution, voted to ensure we reduce our contribution to climate change and voted in accordance with our election commitment. Those opposite voted to ensure that Australia’s emissions continue to rise and to ensure that Australia’s contribution to climate change continues to worsen and contrary to their election commitment. That is what has occurred here today. We know the reason for it is not that they have any sensible policy because not a single amendment on this issue of national importance was put forward by them. Seriously, how extraordinarily weak, how extraordinarily lazy and how extraordinarily arrogant it is to come in here after a year and a half and not even respect the parliamentary process enough to back your position with an amendment—not a single amendment. Australians understand that you are all at sea and completely divided on climate change. (Time expired)


Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the Minister for Climate Change and Water that a majority of Australians now wish to have the legislation deferred until after Copenhagen. Will the minister confirm that none of our top three major trading partners—China, Japan and the United States—will have an emissions trading scheme in place before the Copenhagen meeting?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I can confirm that the European Union already has an emissions trading scheme in place and that the US congress has already passed a cap-and-trade scheme through its House of Representatives. I can confirm that the leading economies of the world and the declaration at the G8 made clear that cap-and-trade was the way to go—strong endorsement that cap-and-trade was the way to go. It is a little bit like deja vu. I am reminded of the excuses that those opposite, when in government, kept giving the Australian people about why they should not ratify Kyoto.


Senator Minchin —Mr President, on a point of order: the minister was asked a very simple question about the status of our three trading partners—China, Japan and the United States. I would ask you to direct her to the question that was asked of her.


Senator Ludwig —Mr President, on the point of order: Senator Wong is answering the question. She is providing information to the Senate about those countries, which is within the ambit of the question, I would humbly submit.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, you have 16 seconds remaining in which to answer the question.


Senator WONG —I would ask people to remember that the same excuses put by those opposite for refusing to sign Kyoto are now being trotted out again as an excuse for inaction, and everybody knows that actually— (Time expired)


Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise whether China, Japan and/or the United States are part of the European Union? Further, can I ask: given that none of our top three trading partners—namely, China, Japan and the United States—will have an emissions trading scheme in place before Copenhagen and given that the United Nations and the United States have both said that having an emissions trading scheme in place is not necessary in order to achieve a global deal, will the government undertake not to reintroduce the Australian emissions trading legislation before Copenhagen?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I will make two very simple points. First, there are a range of factual errors, again, in Senator Abetz’s question. As usual, if the truth does not help, they will make something up. The second point is this: I wonder if Senator Abetz was in the party room when John Howard endorsed going to a cap-and-trade scheme as part of Liberal Party policy before the last election. Because what we are observing now is Senator Abetz walking away from—


Senator Abetz —I rise on a point of order, Mr President, on relevance. I know that the temptation for this minister in particular is to get personal when she does not have facts at her disposal, but I would invite you to draw her attention to the question and remind her that she needs to be directly relevant.


Senator Ludwig —On the point of order, Mr President: what Senator Abetz has put forward is a six-part question, if I counted correctly. Senator Wong went to it in the first instance and dealt with one of the points specifically and, also within the ambit of the question, rejected that part of the question, which was in fact spuriously put. I submit that the premise of the question was unsustainable and, on that basis, Senator Wong was within the ambit of the question and her answer was directly relevant to the question. As I understand it, Senator Wong has about 30 seconds left to finish answering the six-part question.


The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, you have 31 seconds remaining to answer the question.


Senator WONG —I would like to remind Senator Abetz of something. Here is a quote:

… the Howard Government’s policy last year, was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012. It was not conditional on international action.

Mr Turnbull said that on Lateline in July last year. Have you have changed your position again?


Senator Heffernan —Mr President, on a point of order: it was conditional on letting Australian farmers know what they were up to.


The PRESIDENT —That is not a point of order, Senator Heffernan; it is a debating point.