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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 685

Senator CAMERON (6:19 PM) —I have been really interested in this so-called debate on this matter of public importance on carbon pricing this afternoon. I think the tone and quality of the debate are epitomised by what we have just heard from Senator Cormann. He argues that this debate is about the extreme Left. I do not understand that, because it is not about the extreme Left. Madam Acting Deputy President Troeth, you know, as do we all here, that people like Professor Ross Garnaut, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, Senator Boyce and yourself have all got concerns about where this is going. It is an absolute fabrication to say this is about a Left versus Right issue. Do you know what this is about? This is about my grandkids, Scott and Amy, and the grandkids of this country having a life in the future. It is about them being able to enjoy the same economics, society and environment that we have enjoyed. If we fail to deal with this seriously, if we want to just be climate deniers and climate sceptics, then we will not be doing the right thing by the grandchildren of communities right around this country.

You know that global warming is real. The science is in. There is no argument about the need to do something about this, yet the argument we have heard from the coalition today is an argument based on finger pointing, denial, fear and the lowest politics that you can find in this country. I do not think it is good enough. I have been quite angry today listening to the quality of the debate from the opposition on this issue. Let’s cut to the chase: the Australian public are sick and tired of the climate sceptics, sick and tired of the climate deniers and I think, even worse, sick and tired of the political opportunists who actually know we have to do something about this but are not prepared to stand up within the coalition and say: ‘Yes, this is a worldwide problem. Yes, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.’

People on the opposition side know that this is real, so the fundamental question for the opposition is: is climate change real? If the answer is yes then you have to deal with the scientific issues that are before us. If you want to be anti-science, if you want to be anti-intellectual, if you want to be anti the real economics of climate change, you will do exactly what you have been doing here all day—that is, stand up and ignore the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is that climate change is real. Everyone who stands up to speak in this debate should be saying whether they believe climate change is real or climate change is a fabrication. There is no doubt in my mind and no doubt in the minds of the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and by far the majority of our scientists that we need to deal with global warming and that carbon pollution is real.

If that is the case, I come back to how I opened up. I want a future for my grandkids. I want them to have a decent environment to bring up their families in the future. If we do not stand up for it now then they are the ones who will suffer the consequences. It would be easy for me to say: ‘This is unreal. This is not right. I don’t believe in it. Nothing is going to happen.’ I might have a few years left, but when I am gone my grandkids will still be here and they have got lives that they must lead. If there is any truth to what the scientists are telling us then what we have to do as a parliament in Australia is stand up for them, not score petty political points about who said what and when they said it and who said the other thing. The reality is that there is a political consensus growing that carbon pollution is real, is a danger and has to be dealt with. That is the reality.

With every challenge there come opportunities and I want Australia to be part of the opportunities that arise from dealing with climate change. For instance, there will be jobs in a whole range of areas arising from putting a price on carbon and dealing with carbon pollution. In the UK they are talking about the revitalisation of the north-east of England because there is such a huge demand for specialist welders, facilities and skilled tradespersons to build the fleet of wind turbines that is going out into the North Sea. One hundred metre tall wind turbines are being built right across Europe.

The argument from the conservatives in the UK is not about who said what and who did what. They are saying we have got to get on with this. David Cameron—who is absolutely no relative of mine, let me tell you; he must have come from the black Camerons—at least understands the issue of getting on with creating the jobs of the future. David Cameron has said he is putting £60 million into the shipyards in the north-east of England to give them an opportunity to work with the 18 million tonnes of steel that is required to build these wind turbines. He is not arguing as we hear the conservatives argue here. He is not arguing like the Liberals argue here. He is saying we have got to get on with it and deal with this issue. That is the reality of leadership. The problem here is we have got no leadership on the other side except from a few Liberal MPs who know that this is a serious issue and know that it is about the future of the country.

I would not normally quote David Cameron but I may as well given that the Liberals are wont to quote him. He made a speech on 14 May 2010 at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. He said:

The three things that I would pick out are, first of all, the green economy.

Do you ever hear the coalition here talk about the green economy? They never do because they are not interested in jobs. They are only interested in looking back. They are only interested in petty political points. They are only interested in trying to destroy the building of this nation for the future. David Cameron said:

We’ve got a real opportunity to drive the green economy - to have green jobs, green growth, and make sure that we have our share of the industries of the future.

Where are the David Camerons in the coalition? Madam Acting Deputy President Troeth, I must say that you were the equivalent of David Cameron. You stood up and argued that this is a real issue that has to be dealt with. He went on to say:

Clearly there’s the climate change agenda, where we’ve got to get back on track, both nationally and internationally. And third, there is the issue of energy security, which I think is vitally important, which we need to do a huge amount of work on.

On 25 October he went on to announce £60 million for the green jobs economy. He said:

We need thousands of offshore turbines in the next decade and beyond …

Sitting suspended from 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm

Senator CAMERON —Before the break I was quoting the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and I want to finish that quote. The Prime Minister said:

… there is a hugely compelling economic case to be made for fighting climate change that is barely out of the blocks yet.

This is not the Australian Prime Minister; this is the Conservative British Prime Minister. He goes on:

Both developed and developing countries have the potential to make massive gains from a green economy; the low carbon market is already worth up to £3.2 trillion and is forecast to grow by around four per cent a year over the next five years.

What could be more of a difference—the British Conservative Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, who really does not think that climate change exists. For us on the Labor side we understand that this issue has to be dealt with. We understand that you have to put a price on pollution. What we have said, as distinct from the fear campaigns that have been promoted from the coalition—and fear campaigns will not have the legs to see you through on this, let me tell you—is that every cent raised out of the price on carbon will assist families with household bills. It will help business make the transition to a clean economy and it will tackle climate change.

We are the party dealing with the big issues. We have dealt with the issue of providing decent rights to workers. I found it absolutely galling to see the Leader of the Opposition in Western Sydney, yesterday, asking people if he could pump petrol into their cars. He was a Work Choices warrior! He wanted to rip away workers’ rights, rip away the penalty rates, rip away their annual leave loading and rip away the right to collectively bargain. That was the biggest ever hit on workers’ standards of living in this country. We are the party that provided decent rights for workers. We will provide a decent health system. We will provide fairness in the tax system. We will make sure the mining companies pay a fair share of tax. We will provide a fair go for pensioners. We will provide a fair go for families. And that is on top of dealing with the global financial crisis.

As I have said before, the science on climate change is overwhelming. The only issue we have is that the extremists have control in the coalition. Tony’s troglodytes are triumphant in the coalition. The extremists on industrial relations are in charge. The extremists on race are in charge. The extremists on the environment are in charge. But we are going to take you on. We are going to take you on on every one of those issues because we are about building a sustainable society in this country, a society that is looking after the future, not looking over the shoulder to the past.

I say to the coalition senators: have a look at what is happening with the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the UK, where there is a consensus of political views on the need to deal with climate change. It is only the Republicans in the Tea Party in the US and the Australian coalition, linked to One Nation and the Tea Party, that are opposing dealing with climate change in the interests of the nation.

The debate has been an absolute disgrace. The debate from the coalition side has been about fear campaigns. It is about denying the science. It is about being climate change sceptics and the worst thing is that people like Senator Birmingham who believe in climate change are running the same agenda of denial and opposition. I have to say, Senator Birmingham, it is worse coming from you because you know the truth on climate change. (Time expired)