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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1419


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (11:41): I indicate my opposition to the government policy in relation to the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013. What you have to understand, when you look at this little part of the coalition's anti-climate-change policy, is that this is about government secrecy. This is about ensuring that there is no independent authority having a look at the shambles of a policy called direct action—the policy that would require twice the area of Victoria to be planted out with trees to gain some of the climate CO2 reduction that they claim they will achieve. It is about ensuring that that short-term policy, which has been roundly criticised from within the coalition as well as externally both by scientists and by economists, hides the incompetent development of this policy and the incompetence of the policy itself. It is about trying to shut down critiques. It is about saying on the one hand, 'We are about small government, we are about ensuring that the country gets value for money, we want a smaller bureaucracy', but on the other hand, because they were in trouble with the climate change policies, having to then establish a bureaucracy to hand out grants to polluters in this country.

The reason for this bill is the ongoing secrecy that just completely envelopes this poor, incompetent government. It is saying: 'We do not want the public to know how incompetent we are in delivering this policy, how incompetent the policy is itself. Therefore, we will not have any analysis; we will not have any independent critique. We will have public servants out there arguing the government's position, and we will then describe them as the experts in this area.'

We all know how that works in Canada, where the scientists have been closed down. The scientists have not been allowed by conservative governments in Canada to make any critiques of the Canadian government's position on climate change policy. They must clear every public statement through the Canadian minister. And who was one of the first governments that the Abbott coalition cosied up to? The Canadian government. You can just imagine the two conservative leaders sitting around a table, exchanging views on how you close down economic and scientific critiques of government policy; and the Canadian government telling the Liberal coalition here that you shut them down by making sure that a public servant cannot speak out on the environment, cannot speak out on science and cannot speak out for the public good.

So that is what the alternative is. There is no alternative to the Climate Change Authority being an independent authority and actually analysing what is going on. The alternative is the Canadian model, and that is the model that the coalition government will try to implement—a model that is about secrecy and closing down analysis, closing down scientific critiques and closing down any advice to the public that does not match what this incompetent government wants to put out to the public.

We have had only a short period of this government. I have to say that, if ever a honeymoon period came to a shuddering halt, it was with this coalition government. The public know they cannot trust the coalition: they cannot trust the coalition to look after them when they are in trouble; they cannot trust the coalition to look after the public good when they are facing bushfires in the Blue Mountains; and they cannot trust this government to provide proper support to communities in trouble. That is the short-term approach of the government.

In the longer term, dealing with climate change and carbon pollution, this government cannot be trusted either, because this government is prepared to push the science aside, push the economics aside, come up with some stunt labelled 'direct action' and try to perpetrate a con job on the Australian public. The Australian public are onto this government. They have never been onto a government so quick as they have been onto this government. They understand that the government is incompetent. They understand that the government is untrustworthy. They understand that the government has got no policies in a whole range of areas. They now know that it has to set up 50 inquiries to try to develop some semblance of a government program moving forward, because there were no government programs in place other than three-line slogans on issues that are really about short-term political advantage and not the national interest.

You see it writ large by this government day in and day out. Abolishing the Climate Change Authority so they can maintain their secrecy and antiscientific approach is just one of the ways that they deal with this. Let us look at them on education. How incompetent has any government been in this country? Talk about a double backflip with a pike. The coalition government have invented a new high-diving manoeuvre. I do not think anyone has ever seen contortions like the contortions of the coalition on this issue.

It is no wonder that the Australian public are going: 'We've been conned. We've been absolutely conned by this conservative government. They told us they would do all these things and, after they came to power, the issues that are important for the Australian nation are ignored and the issues that are pushed are part of the ideological agenda of the extreme right wing of the coalition, who don't believe in climate change, who don't believe in scientific endeavour, who don't believe in proper economics and who at one stage were talking about the market being the way forward.' The market is only the way forward for the coalition when it suits big business, but the market is not the way forward when it comes to trying to deal with climate change.

In fact, what the coalition want to do is put their hand in every person's pocket in this country—they want to take money out of your pockets—and hand it over to their big business mates, who are busily polluting this country with CO2. That is what direct action is about: them putting their hand in your pocket, handing the money over to big business and pretending that that is what is going to deal with the climate change challenges for this country.

We know that every economist of any standing—other than the pet economists, the tame economists, of the coalition—says that you need to put a price on carbon to deal with CO2 pollution not only here but around the world. That is why there are states in the United States that are picking up carbon pollution programs that deal with it through a market based system. They are putting a price on carbon. There is a price on carbon going in China. There is a price on carbon in the UK. There is a price on carbon in Europe. Why do they do that? They do that because they understand that, if you want to leave your economy dragging behind the rest of the world, you will not deal with carbon pollution, you will not have your industries adjust to a low-carbon economy and you will not create the new jobs that are demanded by a low-carbon economy. That is the problem we have with this coalition. They are not looking forward. It is about short-term political advantage pitted against the long-term economic reality of what is needed for a strong economy for the future. They deny the economics and the environmental science.

So we have a situation here where the government are untrustworthy and incompetent. They would rather see this economy stay in the past. They would rather see this economy not move forward while other economies are developing the technology and the jobs of the future, based on a low-carbon-footprint economy. And what are we going to have? We are going to have this nonsense called Direct Action that even the coalition members with any honesty recognise will never deliver for this country. The coalition are prepared to sacrifice future generations for their short-term political gain. They are prepared to sacrifice future generations to make sure that their electoral funds keep coming in from the mining companies and the power companies around this country—because that is what is driving it: their short-term political gain, the money that is pouring into them from the big business end of town, who do not want to have to address climate change. It is all about them. It is nothing about this nation. It is nothing about the economy.

You can see that clearly when you look at the position that the government have adopted on a range of major challenges, not just climate change and not just making sure that we are an economy for the future. In the car industry, it is their ideological bent that is driving their position. They do not like unionised, high-paid workers. So what do they do? They actually dare Holden, GMH, to leave the country. Day in, day out, they are goading one of the biggest employers in the country to pack up and go home. I do not know how that is in the national interest. I do not know how that can be seen to be a competent approach. It is simply being driven by the ideology of the coalition. They do not like unions. They do not believe in climate change. They do not want working people to get a fair go. They really would like to go back to Work Choices in industrial relations. We know that. They have reintroduced the ABCC, with draconian powers against workers. This is a government that is driven by ideological hatred. It is not driven by what is good for the country; it is driven by ideology.

When people have recognised that, they have turned off very quickly, because you cannot trust the coalition. They are secretive, they do not want any accountability and they are prepared to do whatever they can to make sure that short-term politics drives their agenda. You see it every day in here. It is about short termism. It has got nothing to do with the future of this country. You see weak, sycophantic coalition members not prepared to stand up for their communities if there is a bushfire, not prepared to stand up for their communities when jobs are going to be destroyed. They are the weakest, most sycophantic backbench I have ever seen in this place. They will not stand up for their communities, they will not stand up for jobs, they will not stand up for the environment and they will not stand up for future generations. They are really a weird mob. They have got no values and no principles and they are prepared to drag this economy down if it means that they can go on some talkback show and get a pat on the back from Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt. That is what they are all about. They are going for a view that we should simply be a backward economy, with a backward government. This is the most backward government we have ever seen.

Governments fight hard to make changes. We say we want a fair go for the public school system in this country. What do the government do? Apart from setting about to destroy our environmental agenda, an agenda that is important for the long term, they say that, if you are a child of a rich person in this country then you will get looked after, you can go to a rich school and they will keep pouring money in there, but, if you go to a school in Penrith or you go to a school in the Blue Mountains or you go to a public school in Windsor, where I live—

Senator Bushby: What about Queensland?

Senator CAMERON: I can understand why the Tasmanians are getting a bit agitated about this, because the Tasmanians are the ones that have got probably the weakest backbench in here. They will not stand up for Tasmania, will not stand up to get a fair go from the federal government. They capitulate—from the leader in here to Senator Bushby. They are vacillating, weak backbenchers, with absolutely no interest in what is here for the future. So what they are prepared to do, if, for example, it is a bushfire in the Blue Mountains, is to say, effectively, 'Never mind getting the same rights for the community in the Blue Mountains; we will give you government spin. We will put the government before the community.' It does not matter if it is jobs in the car industry: 'We will put the government before car industry workers.'

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): Order! Senator Cameron, I remind you that, under standing order 193, imputation of improper motives to members is inappropriate.

Senator CAMERON: What are the improper motives? What does that mean?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: About the motives for their actions. Continue, Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON: Well, I think you need to read it carefully, Chair. The actions are clear from the coalition. They do not care about their local communities. They do not care about the education system. They do not care about the climate. They do not care about anything else other than themselves. As long as the money is pouring in from Gina Rinehart and Twiggy Forrest to make sure that their election coffers are kept well and truly balanced, then they do not care about anyone else. It does not matter if you have leaky roofs in the schools in Penrith. It does not matter if you do not have decent conditions in schools in Penrith; as long as the money goes to the private school system, they are happy. So we know what they are all about: they are all about looking after the big end of town, not anyone else.

That is why they want to get rid of the Climate Change Authority. That would be a check and balance on this terrible government the community has already said is no good, on a government that is one of the poorest ever to start off in this country. The public are onto them and onto them early. All these policies they said they would deliver are not going to be delivered unless it means crashing jobs for unionised workers in the car industry, unless it means destroying the environment for their short-term political gain. That is what they are about. They are the most hopeless government that has ever come in here. They have had the shortest honeymoon period of any government in the history of this country. They want to destroy the environment for the sake of their mates in big business. They have no capacity to stand up for the local communities. They have no capacity to stand up to big business. They will continue to run a position here that is economically illiterate and environmental vandalism. So I take the view that, the sooner we get to the next election and the sooner you lot are gone, the better, because that is in the interests of this country.