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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 502


Senator CAMERON (3:58 PM) —I find it quite bizarre to be lectured by Senator Cormann on the needs of Australian working families when Senator Cormann in this place supported Work Choices and supported the ripping away of workers’ rights on the job, resulting in lost pay and conditions for workers right around this country. So I do not take kindly to a lecture about working families from the extreme side of the coalition that is epitomised in Senator Cormann.

It is also a bit hypocritical to be lectured about broken election promises by the party who invented core and non-core promises. It is a bit rich, I must say. What we have decided to do is accept the reality of the election outcome. We have decided to accept what the Australian public were telling us, and that was that they wanted change. We had a position on climate change going to the election that the public were not happy with. We have listened to that. We paid a heavy price for not being in tune with those Australian families who want to take a long-term view of the economic and environmental issues that face this country. It is families with kids and, like me, with grandkids, who want to make sure that we leave not only a strong economy but an environmentally sustainable country and world. We heard nothing from Senator Cormann about the real issue of climate change.

Climate change is here. Climate change is real. Climate change requires a response, and this government is prepared to do that. We are prepared to take on the fear campaign that was mounted by the coalition extremists—the campaign that brought down their leader, Malcolm Turnbull, because he was in tune with the emerging view of Australian business and the view of Australian public: climate change is real and requires a price on carbon to deal effectively with it.

I go to the latest analysis that I can find in relation to the environmental issues that we are facing—again, something that Senator Cormann did not address. He spoke in the abstract. He spoke as if climate change were not an issue, as if all we were having was some esoteric debate about a price on carbon. Not once did he mention the reality of climate change—a reality that many on the coalition side, including their former leader, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, accept. The document is called The Copenhagen diagnosis: updating the world on the latest climate science and is dated November 2009. You should listen carefully to what leading Australian scientists are saying about the need to take action on climate change. They said in their principal findings that greenhouse gas emissions are surging. Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were nearly 40 per cent higher than in 1990. Even if global emissions are stabilised at current rates, 20 more years of emissions would give a 25 per cent probability that global warming will exceed two degrees Celsius. For all the climate change deniers—all the extremists—on the other side, these are the issues that you have to deal with. The scientists are telling us along with Mr Turnbull and senior economists in this country that every year of delayed action increases the probability of damaging climate change in this country.

Recent global temperatures demonstrate that global warming is human induced. There is no argument about this anymore. The only argument we hear is from the extremists and the wreckers in the coalition who want to make short-term political points in relation to climate change. The report goes on to say that over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.19 degrees Celsius per decade, in lockstep with predictions based on anticipated greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gas emissions are increasing exactly as was analysed and predicted. Over the past decade, despite a decrease in solar forcing, a warming trend continues. The globe continues to warm. Natural short-term variations are occurring as usual, but there is no change in the warming trend. Senator Boswell will need to address these issues. It is no use coming up here with your fear campaigns, your rhetoric and your nonsensical arguments. You must deal with the factual position that the scientific community in Australia and the scientific community worldwide have found: global warming is real, global warming is dangerous and global warming needs to be addressed. That has resulted in the melting of ice sheets and ice caps, and the melting of both ice caps and glaciers is accelerating. All available measures demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate.

Summer melting of Arctic sea ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. The area of sea ice melt in 2007-8 was 40 per cent higher than anticipated by the IPCC assessment report for climate models. Satellite data demonstrates that the global average sea level rise of 3.4 millimetres a year over the past 15 years is about 80 per cent greater than previous IPCC predictions and is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets. I did not hear a word about that from Senator Cormann. It will be interesting to see what Senator Boswell says about these scientific facts that are there before the political decision makers of this country.

The report goes on to say that by 2100 global sea level is likely to rise at least twice as much as anticipated by Working Group 1 of the IPCC Assessment Report. For unmitigated emissions, sea level rise may exceed one metre by 2100, with an upper limit of about two metres. These are not scaremongers. These are reputable, highly respected scientists, and they say sea levels will continue to rise for centuries, even after global temperatures have been stabilised. Several metres of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries. Who will have to face this several metres of sea level rise? It will not be the extremists in the coalition who are trying to oppose change and action to deal with this. It will not be you. It will be the children, grandchildren and future generations who will have to deal with our lack of action on these issues due to the blocking and irresponsible actions of the coalition. If sea levels do rise that amount, it will destroy billions of dollars worth of property and infrastructure along the coast of my home state of New South Wales, including central Sydney. The Thames barrages would become inoperable and central London would be submerged along with major cities around the world, including New York City, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires and Mumbai.

This is not a fear campaign by me. This is the scientific analysis, and the facts are being put forward by the leading scientific community in the world. They argue, along with the economists who deal with this issue, that delaying action risks irreversible damage. Vulnerable elements of the global climate system, including the Amazon rainforest, the West African monsoon and continental ice sheets, could be pushed towards abrupt, irreversible change if warming continues unabated through this century. The risk of passing through tipping points increases strongly with ongoing climate change. Standing still, waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty than the very high degree of certainty that currently exists, risks transgressing tipping points before they become apparent to us. The time for action is now. If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of two degrees Centigrade above preindustrial levels, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly.

According to the current science—and understand, Senator Boswell; it is the science—if we are to stabilise the climate, average annual per capita emissions around the world need to be below one ton by 2050. This represents reductions in the order of 80 to 95 per cent below 2000 levels in the developed countries. No amount of dissembling, no amount of rent-seeking and no amount of ignorance dressed up as pseudoscientific scepticism will change these facts. That means we need to start reducing our carbon pollution levels now.

In this area the government has three priorities: first, to continue our strong support for renewable energy; second, to promote energy efficiency; and, third, to work towards the introduction of a carbon price. We will do that in the face of the scare campaigns that will be mounted by the extremists and the wreckers in the coalition. We will not back away from this commitment. We will stand up for future generations, something that the coalition are not prepared to do. Deep in your heart and deep in your scepticism you know that the most efficient way to reduce carbon pollution levels, as we have all heard but only you choose to ignore, is through a market mechanism, in particular the development of a carbon price. A carbon price is a key economic reform that is in the nation’s interests. It will provide an incentive to reduce pollution levels. It will unlock investment in renewable energy. It will unlock investment in low emissions technology. It will generate certainty for business. It will position this country well for our long-term economic competitiveness.

The Treasury had this to say about this particular issue in the blue book that was recently issued:

The introduction of a pricing regime will support strong long-term growth by steadily transforming the economy instead of imposing sharp, more costly adjustments in the future. This is a key economic reform in respect of which it is important that we build consensus for such a public policy position.

The Treasury went on to say:

Whatever approach is taken to limit national emissions, it is also in Australia’s national interest to rely overwhelmingly on market based mechanisms—in respect of both mitigation and adaptation.

These are the market based mechanisms that have been denied and abandoned by the coalition who claim to be the bastion of market based policy in this country. The Treasury goes on to say:

Introduction of a pricing regime will support strong long-term growth by steadily transforming the economy instead of imposing sharp, more costly adjustments in the future.

A carbon price is mainstream economic thinking. That is not where the coalition is. We watch and see now the fear campaigns, the rhetoric, the denial and backflips that have taken place and the coalition now being marginalised more and more in mainstream economic and political thinking in this country. Sadly, the coalition is no longer prepared to be part of the mainstream. You are at the outer levels of real thinking on this because the coalition have been taken over by the climate change deniers, the climate change sceptics. There are economic wreckers leading the coalition at the moment epitomised by your leader, Mr Tony Abbott, who thinks that climate change is crap. That is where you are, on the outer on this issue and you should not be trying to occupy the fringes of thought on policy on climate change. Let me tell you where you are. I have been getting emails. I have emails that were promoted and supported by the coalition. I got an email from a Mr RS of Mascot. He says:

Please don’t let this ETS go through as it is just an excuse to create a world government.

This is where you guys are. You are in this world government area. This is where your mainstream support is in relation to climate change. A Mr Steve G says:

If sea levels really are rising; why did Al Gore buy WATERFRONT property in San Francisco at the same time as he’s making a documentary on Global Warming; why did the Queensland Government buy WATERFRONT land to build a Hospital on the Sunshine Coast.

From a Ms JH:

Disgracefully, the science underpinning climate change/global warming theories had been doctored and falsified and therefore cannot be relied on.

I am not sure that Ms JH is a climate scientist. She may have heard Senator Boswell in one of his rants in parliament on this issue and suddenly become a sceptic, a denier and a wrecker, the same as the coalition. Then we have a Mr James G:

Man made global warming is one of the biggest scams pulled on the world. It is just an excuse to bring in world government and you can’t have a world government without a global tax to fund it.

From a Mr Slade:

You lot of communists will be punished for this.

This is where you are. This is where the coalition is. This is your constituency on global warming and climate change. We are going to change this. We are going to get a consensus and we are going to make sure that the people in the coalition who actually believe in this like your former leader, Malcolm Turnbull, have an opportunity to bring some common sense to the coalition.

I was part of the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy. In that Senate select committee we had the chair, the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Senator the Hon. Ron Boswell, Senator Michaelia Cash, Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald and we had Senator Abetz, Senator Fisher and Senator Joyce make appearances from time to time. This is the committee’s view, the view of those senators except for Senator Michaelia Cash. It says:

The balance of the evidence discussed above suggests that climate change is occurring, is driven by anthropogenic factors and is a grave threat to accustomed ways of life and natural systems. If this view is right, the calculations above make a virtually unarguable case for taking global action.

Senator Boswell, you signed off on that. The only one who had the courage to change it was Senator Michaelia Cash. (Time expired)