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Monday, 20 June 2011
Page: 3286

Senator FURNER (Queensland) (16:34): It is great to be part of the contribution to this MPI debate. As always, there is great conga line of people lining up, hands on hips. The climate sceptics who sit opposite are coming in one by one to talk about all this worry about loss of jobs and about our losing touch with the union movement. What a load of nonsense! I will not use the words that Mr Tony Abbott uses when he refers to climate change. We all know what those are. He says climate change is 'crap'—that is the language he uses when he wants to discuss what climate change is all about, Senator Kroger.

As a Queensland senator, I come into this chamber often to speak about climate change, particularly in our state. It is one of those states that enjoy the eastern seaboard with numerous residents living along it. They will be the ones affected mostly by this inaction, if nothing is done about climate change. In fact, somewhere around 85 per cent of the nation's population live in coastal areas that will be affected by climate change if we do not proceed and do something about it. In 2009 it was calculated that, by 2100, about 247,000 residential buildings could be at risk as a result of rising sea levels and that it would cost $63 billion to replace them. And those are 2009 figures, of course.

Mr Deputy President Hutchins, I am sure you have been to Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef and have had the pleasure of seeing what the reef is all about—the marine life up there and the tourists that come from all over the world to go out onto the reef, enjoy time on our beaches and have a great holiday. That is all going to disappear. That is not a scare campaign; it has been identified scientifically that, if something is not done about climate change, all that will disappear.

Conversely, you get the opposition leader going into workplaces claiming that jobs will be lost in wrecking yards and bakeries. At any place he visits he reckons jobs will be destroyed and people will be out of work. There will be businesses shutting down. Once again, it is an absolute nonsense for him to be going around scaring the public about something that needs to be debated soundly with some passion and some understanding of what the scientists inform us.

As you are probably aware, Mr Acting Deputy President Hutchins, on the weekend there was a Labor state conference in Queensland. I was so proud to hear the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announce the construction of the Solar Dawn power plant, which will be built at Chinchilla, west of Brisbane, an area which needs jobs. I heard an earlier speaker in this debate talking about the loss of jobs. This is going to promote jobs. At an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, you can imagine what sort of employment will be generated by this solar power plant at Chinchilla. Incidentally, it will generate 250 megawatts of power. It will be the largest federal government Solar Flagship Program undertaking and we will be supporting it with $464 million of funding. As a Queenslander, I am proud to be part of these announcements, which demonstrate our commitment to renewable energy.

Let us look at the contribution that Mr Tony Abbott has made to this debate. Back in 2007 he supported John Howard's decision to take an emissions trading scheme to the election campaign. In July 2009, he supported the passing of Kevin Rudd's ETS. Then he came out and said he was opposed to the ETS. Today I was fortunate enough to be on the floor of the House of Repre­sentatives, where the Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke of New Zealand's relationship with Australia. I found Mr Tony Abbott's contribution to be quite strange. Rather than approach the relationship with some sort of diplomacy and statesmanship, he claimed that we should water down the carbon-pricing arrangements that we are about to debate in this place. Once again, he flip-flops from one position to another. By inapprop­riately discussing his position on climate change, he made an absolute fool of himself in front of the Prime Minister of our closest neighbour and closest friend, New Zealand. This is what you get from Mr Tony Abbott.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for the debate has expired.