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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5434

Mr HAYES (12:57 PM) —I congratulate the member for Cook on his contribution on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and associated bills. I think what he has done for the rest of us is confirm that, under no circumstances, are they on that side of the House in a position to move forward to address the issue of climate change. I guess he is sitting in hot company, with all the various climate change deniers, which I am happy to refer the member to—although he knows them; he sits in the party room with them. He understands that at this stage they remain climate change sceptics. His selective quoting from submissions to the Senate was done for one reason: to try to buy them time.

There are those of us who well remember the election of 2007 and issues such as Work Choices. But what issue was up there with Work Choices? It was climate change. We have a responsibility to the Australian public in that regard. We have a responsibility to future generations to act on climate change and act now. That was the mandate that was given. Maybe the member for Cook and his colleagues over there did not understand what occurred last election. You reckon they would have, although seeing how they have acted on Work Choices ever since and how they wanted to water down the passage of the Fair Work bill yesterday just goes to confirm that there is no environment right for doing things, according to the opposition. And, once again, they are consistently saying that now is not the right time to act. The simple fact is that we are on one of the hottest and driest continents on earth. Australia’s environment would be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we did not act.

In the face of the current economic crisis, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is an effective mechanism through which to provide business certainty about the government’s plan to tackle the issue of global warming. We have been very mindful to protect jobs, particularly in these difficult economic times. One way we have sought to do this is through the proposed one-year buffer. The one-year buffer proposed by the government allows business to weather the current global recession while simultaneously being able to plan for their future investments through more sustainable business practices. Again, that is consistent with the dialogue that we have had with industry. We have sought to support the jobs of today while at the same time putting in place a scheme that will create the low-pollution jobs of the future. That is the responsible activity of government. I cannot believe that we are still having this argument, but the cost of inaction will have a far greater impact on jobs and our economy than any responsible action taken on climate change now.

Our approach is in contrast to the great climate change sceptics on the other side of the House. I would like to note a few recent comments—there is a pattern which emerges here. It was only last week that the member for O’Connor was cited from an interview at the doors as indicating that the majority of those in the party room were against taking action. As a matter of fact they did not believe that climate change was a factual event.

Senator Cory Bernardi said this:

But exactly what is causing climate change and what—if anything—should we be doing about it should remain the subject of debate? … We need to question the prevailing orthodoxy of belief …

That comes from the good Liberal Party senator from South Australia, only to be matched by Senator Abetz from Tasmania—a senior office holder in the Liberal Party, as I understand it, and also on the opposition front bench in the Senate:

There is no doubt that weeds pose … a challenge much clearer, more present and possibly more serious than the unclear challenge which climate change may or may not pose to our biodiversity …

That could hardly be the comment of anything but a climate change sceptic. Following this pattern, when John Howard led the government, the science and technology committee—I forget what the actual topic was that they handled—had a majority of Liberal Party members. They had a report authored by the member for Tangney, Dr Jensen. He indicated that there was no real substance to the issue of global warming. He went on to cite what was occurring on Pluto and Mars and other places throughout the universe to try and back his point up. They actually included that in a report presented before this parliament when they were in government, just before the last election. It is absolutely fanciful for anyone to take seriously that over there there is not a paddock full of climate change deniers.

We know that they are locked into their way and now they want to delay, delay and delay. Less than 12 months ago, the Leader of the Opposition said he would ‘move on emissions trading schemes come what may’, and he emphasised that his position on climate change was ‘not conditional on international action’. Notwithstanding that, he reckoned at that point in time that we must consistently move forward in this country.

To some extent that is consistent with the views he expressed when he was the environment minister in the Howard government. But now we know that he has been forced in his own party room to delay any decision on climate change. He is now arguing that Australia should wait until after the passage of bills on emissions trading in the United States and wait until after Copenhagen in December, where other countries are going to sit and determine what they are going to do. No wonder people in this country have a cultural cringe. Here is the Leader of the Opposition and he wants to talk about anyone doing anything provided it is not us. If you look at all his commentary to date you will find he wants to wait for the passage of the US bills and wait for Copenhagen—that, by the way, is the last in a long line of about six or seven excuses as to why we should not take any action when it comes to climate change.

It is true that the world is going to come together and attempt to deal with things cohesively and collaboratively in December of this year. But if we are going to have a real voice there, we cannot go there on the basis of ‘just wait’ and ‘suck it and see’. That is what we have been asked to do. It is a little bit like what the former opposition spokesman on Treasury wanted to do about the international global financial crisis and its impact on us here in Australia. I do not have the exact quote but I am sure I am not far off the mark in saying that at that stage he said, ‘Let’s wait and see what happens.’ We did not want to wait and see how deleteriously the Australian economy could be impacted. They did not want to be looking at stimulus; they did not want to be creating demand; the opposition wanted as a policy position: ‘Let’s wait and see what happens.’ If anything, this has got to be the party of inaction, inertia and incompetence.

The opposition may refuse to acknowledge how important it is to provide certainty in relation to the position on CPRS. When they do that they are certainly not reflecting the views of the business community. This bill’s importance has been recognised by various areas within the business community and principally by those at the sharp end of this. Companies such as Santos, Shell and BP—companies that I have had an association with in the past when I worked in the hydrocarbon based industries—have acknowledged the importance of it. The business community generally, together with the environmental groups and the Australian public, expect this parliament to do the right thing and pass this CPRS legislation and do it now. Delaying the passage of this legislation will directly undermine investment certainty at a time when business least requires that to occur.

In closing, I would like to refer to the comments of the Business Council of Australia in a recent media release:

In the interests of business certainty, the BCA calls on the Senate to pass legislation this year to establish a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme …

It is regarded as a necessary step to enhance future profitability and investment confidence that we establish this scheme and we do it now. Not only does this bill provide the crucial balance between economic stability and environmental sustainability but it is an act of responsible behaviour on the part of our current generation.

There are many other things I would like to talk about but time is now going to be against me. I would like to conclude by saying the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and its associated bills create an essential national emissions trading scheme to meet Australia’s commitment to its objectives under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto protocol. This period of economic uncertainty has presented the opportunity for effective, efficient future planning. That is what these bills do and I commend them to the House.