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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2178


Senator LINES (Western Australia) (17:57): I want to speak on this matter of public importance today on the failure of our Prime Minister to act decisively on climate change. Climate change must be one of the very biggest issues that the whole world is facing. Certainly when Labor were in power, we had a record on climate change to be absolutely proud of. At least with Mr Abbott, you knew where you stood. He describes climate change as 'crap' and there was no pretence about where Mr Abbott stood on climate change.

What we have seen with this new Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, is he is all pretence. He says one thing and does another. The views that he held just a couple of years ago, he now no longer holds. We really have to dig in and look at what that is really about, and it really is about Mr Turnbull saying what is most important to him is remaining the Leader of the Liberal Party and certainly remaining the Prime Minister of Australia. Obviously he will do whatever it takes, including compromising all of his values, to retain that job, because nothing else would explain the fundamental shift we have seen from Mr Turnbull on the issue of climate change. I think Mike Seccombe, in The Saturday Paper, summed it up well when he said:

A policy of ‘indirect action’ may be one way Malcolm Turnbull can hang on to the reins of the Coalition while keeping his emissions reduction dream alive.

And that, for me, really sums it up. It says that the Prime Minister really has a policy of indirect action, and that it is absolutely about retaining his job as Prime Minister. We all know that 44 members did not vote for Mr Turnbull, and that is a significant group to have against you. Most people in that group are from the extreme Right: the people who do not support marriage equality, who do not support the republic, who do not support climate change. They are the group that have well and truly harnessed the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull.

It is also worth remembering that the government's adoption of Mr Turnbull, like Mr Howard's adoption of an ETS, was poll-driven. It was driven by the polls. Certainly the party did not want Mr Turnbull; they were forced to accept him because of the disaster that Mr Abbott had turned into. After a year and a half of terrible opinion polls, Liberal Party members knew they were headed for oblivion if they did not take some drastic action. It is a shame that in his quest Mr Turnbull lost his taste for climate change along the way, but that is the reality of it.

Remember the first time Mr Turnbull lost the leadership? Mr Turnbull lost the leadership in opposition because he wanted to take a bipartisan position on emission reduction. If we are serious about climate change in this country, and if we are serious about our contribution to the world issue of climate change, then it does need to be a bipartisan position. That was a view that Mr Turnbull was prepared to embrace, before he became the Prime Minister and before he got into the Lodge. That is certainly one of the things he has sacrificed along the path to become Prime Minister. In fact, that path—Mr Turnbull's journey to be Prime Minister—is just littered with his personal beliefs that he used to hold; they are strewn across the roadside as he made those long strides to become the Prime Minister.

What we know is that Mr Abbott's views on climate change—even though they depart drastically from mine and from the Labor Party's—were his views and he was prepared to cling to those views. Ultimately, some of those views—not climate change—brought him down. And we know, and Mr Turnbull knows full well, that he only won the leadership last year because Mr Abbott had turned into a nightmare in the polls. Australian voters were well and truly sick of Mr Abbott and, in that vein, Mr Turnbull looked and sounded like a breath of fresh air. Australian voters welcomed that, but I tell you what: that fresh air has now become almost as polluted as it was under Mr Abbott. It is very clear that Mr Turnbull is interested in his own power, in retaining the leadership of the Liberal Party and of being Prime Minister at all costs. He has been prepared to not just compromise his values and beliefs; he has sold them down the river.

And in Paris, Mr Turnbull completely sold us out. Our leader, Mr Shorten, was there, along with our shadow environment minister, Mr Mark Butler. Again, according to The Saturday Paper, some detailed analysis conducted by Germanwatch, Climate Action Network Europe and other affiliated environmental groups scored Australia third last—not third from the top; third from the bottom—among 58 countries, ahead of only Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. That is how low we have stooped with regard to climate change under the leadership of Mr Turnbull. Our shadow environment spokesperson, Mr Butler, said that the global pact showed Mr Turnbull's policies, including pollution reduction targets and an intention to abolish several climate related agencies, were 'massively out of step with the rest of the world'. That is where we are now, and Mr Turnbull has taken us there because his quest for power overwhelms any ambitions or beliefs he might have had about changing our climate policy. There is a clear choice for Malcolm Turnbull, although at this point he does seem to have made the choice to stick with the right wing, the Tea Party members in his own party. He has a choice to set Australia up in line with the rest of the world or to remain at the bottom of the countries at the Paris summit.

Let us look at the government's record. In the past two years, the government has: abolished a price on pollution; abandoned an emissions trading scheme; slashed the Renewable Energy Target; cut funding to carbon capture and storage; cut funding to climate change adaptation programs in the Pacific; and tried, and is still committed to trying, to abolish the widely respected and innovative Climate Change Authority. It also wants to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Why does it want to do that? Because it does not want those agencies' eyes on it; it does not want those agencies' eyes on the very poor record of the indirect action of Mr Turnbull and his government on climate change. That is why it wants those agencies gone. If you look at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in particular, we know under Mr Abbott that the government tried to push the corporation in the direction of windfarms. When that failed, they abandoned it—they left it alone for a little while, but they have recently confirmed that is still an agency—despite its massive success and the innovation it has been involved in. In my own state of Western Australia, the wave energy technology that is really now coming to fruition was funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Labor never accepted the spurious argument that hanging at the back of the pack, waiting for all other counties to act before we did, was a good policy position. It is still not a good policy position. The science on climate change is clear, and it is well established. We want to, in government, set up a consultation process to determine our final target, and we want to use the Climate Change Authority's baseline target of a 45 per cent reduction on 2005 levels as our starting point. Labor want to look at how we approach an internationally linked ETS and a goal of 50 per cent of Australia's energy generated from renewables by 2030. We have, for the first time in this country's history, put together an electricity modernisation plan. That has never been done before, but it is something that needs to be done. Change does not come unless you have good plans and good policies in place, and Mr Turnbull has shown us well and truly he is not interested. (Time expired)