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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 11575

Ms SAFFIN (5:14 PM) —In 2007, when I stood for election with the Rudd Labor team, we had a plan. That plan was to tackle climate change. It was a 10-point plan, a holistic approach to the challenge of climate change. It was a plan that would protect our jobs, protect the environment and the economy in the here and now, and take us into the future. It was a plan that rose to the challenge. Since I came into this place—since the Rudd government was elected—we have all worked to implement that plan. Since the election we have had the appointment of the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, the green paper, the white paper, draft legislation, and wide consultation and deep consultation with communities, industry and interested groups on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which brings in the emissions trading scheme and its implementation. It is one of the biggest consultation processes that I have seen.

When we went to the election, the people of Australia said: ‘We want you to do something about climate change.’ We are doing something about climate change and we will continue to, but that has been thwarted by the coalition—the opposition. The coalition were and are divided on climate change. They do not talk about solutions and responses. Their view of climate change prevents them from coming to any reasonable let alone reasoned response. It just seems to me a crazy way to do business. They say that they are interested in jobs and, you know, they are—it seems the key job they are focussed on is the Leader of the Opposition’s job and other aspirants coming up behind him. It is in their base political interest to drag it up. That is what I see and that is what people in the electorate see. That is the reality. Their coalition partner, the National Party, has nine members in this place and five in the Senate. The only jobs they are interested in are their own. It is like natural attrition; they are going the way of the dinosaur.

Mr Forrest —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: standing order 92 goes to your responsibility to prevent quarrelling between members.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Is this a point of order?

Mr Forrest —Yes, under Standing Order 92. I have sat here for an hour and I have heard government members—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —What is the point of order?

Mr Forrest —The point of order is that I want you to ask the honourable member to stick to the contents of the legislation. All this extra argument—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —You have made your point of order. I am going to rule on the point of order. This has been a very wide-ranging debate and there have been similar comments from both sides. I would remind members, though, that we do have legislation before the House and I ask them to be relevant to it.

Ms SAFFIN —I will be relevant to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] but relevant to the context of the legislation that is being debated and discussed in this place and with us in the community. My comments are contextualising the debate around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the emissions trading scheme. I have had some of the National Party members trail through my electorate and they talk about it being a tax. No, it is not a tax. It is a cost on what always should have been costed and factored into our economy. It is not a tax.

But enough of that sort of political madness from the other side. What the Rudd government is doing—what we said we would do—is tackle climate change with the 10-point plan, a plan for our future, to ensure that we and our kids, their kids and their grandkids, will have a future. It is a plan that will save jobs. I will turn to some facts on that a little bit later. ‘Protect the environment, protect the economy’ is ultimately what we have to do. It transitions us to a low greenhouse gas emission economy and a renewable energy economy and society. That is a challenge and the Rudd Labor government is up to that challenge, and it is actually doing it.

The thrust of the emissions trading scheme is to place a market price on carbon pollution. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will start to reduce emissions. The Rudd government also has three pillars of action on climate change. We know what they are—it is pretty straightforward. The first is to reduce Australia’s emissions. That is what we have to do. That is what we are committed to do. That is what the electorates want us to do and that is what we are attempting to do. No. 2 is to adapt to the effects of climate change that we cannot avoid. We have an adaptation program and policies in place to take us there, across all sectors of society. No. 3 is playing a strong role in the global effort. I note that Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has become ‘friend of the chair’ in Copenhagen, which is quite an honour and responsibility. It demonstrates the role that we are playing not only domestically but internationally.

What amazes me is that some people, and I hear it in this place on the other side, say climate change does not exist. They are climate change deniers. Climate change does exist. It is a naturally occurring process plus it has been exacerbated by human activity. Climate change exists; it is a fact. You cannot deny it. People might debate where and how and all of that, but it exists. We know that it is a fact. I find the denials quite incredible. Again, the other side says the science is not clear. I do not know how much clearer they want the science to be. The science is in. You read the science and it is really clear that climate change is happening in our time and human activity has accelerated that, and there are negative impacts. Today I heard the member for Tangney talking about having an inquiry into the science—an inquiry into an inquiry! How many inquiries do we have to have? Twelve years and then another two years; it is just bizarre.

I also hear a few scientists join the fray. They join the fray not as scientists but as citizens with their opinions like everybody else, but they do it under the guise of the academia and being scientists. You have to listen. I did listen to some speeches today. I have been in this place for two years, but today was the most consistent compilation of ignorance I have heard since I have been here. It really was quite breathtaking. I think if the scientists were listening—and I am sure they are not tuned in to us today—they would have been quite amazed at some of the things they would have heard from the other side.

Last week Mark Dreyfus and Dr Mal Washer organised with Climate Works some very eminent scientists to come here. A number of colleagues from all sides had lunch with them. Over sandwiches we were able to chat about climate change. It was a real treat. It was not long enough. When we were having that discussion we were able to ask any question or raise anything. Those of us who have been in the teaching profession often say: ‘It is all right. You can get up and ask a stupid question.’ We were able to do that. As I was talking with some of those scientists I wished that every member of our communities had the same opportunity. It would be enlightening for them to have that conversation, but I know that is not possible.

Members of our communities have to rely on their local members to communicate with them about climate change. I find incomprehensible what the member for Tangney and some other members on the other side share with their electorates. My mind boggles. Senator Joyce in the other place talked nonsense. He said a leg of lamb is going to cost $100. That is absolute bunkum. I have never heard such rot in all my life. He represents Queensland. Poor Queenslanders have to listen to that sort of tripe all of the time.

My community is quite green. Targets have been set, yet quite a few members in my community would like us to have the ultimate targets for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. My green community knows that Australia’s climate is changing, and it is not for the better. The changes are observable to us and measurable to scientists, and scientists bring some meaning to that. It behoves us to listen to what they have said.

People regularly look at the Bureau of Meteorology’s website—or BOM, as we call it. Farmers use that website. In my area, which has a lot of hail, storms, floods and fires, we all regularly go to that website. Staff wondering when they should drive home, because there is a big storm coming, will look at that website. We all look at it. That website has credibility. Under the heading ‘Australia’s climate is changing’ it states:

It is the Bureau’s responsibility to provide decision makers and the general public with accurate observations and information about our changing climate.

Australia and the globe are experiencing rapid climate change. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian temperatures have, on average, risen by about 1°C with an increase in the frequency of heatwaves and a decrease in the numbers of frosts and cold days. Rainfall patterns have also changed—the northwest has seen an increase in rainfall over the last 50 years while much of eastern Australia and the far southwest have experienced a decline.

In the language of the scientists:

Observed changes in climate, especially in temperature increases since about 1970, cannot be explained solely by natural causes such as solar activity—

that fact is really clear—

Reconstructions of climate data for the past 1000 years indicates that this recent warming is unusual and is unlikely to have resulted from natural causes alone.

That is the language of the scientists—it is ‘unlikely’; 99.9 per cent, beyond reasonable doubt, to put it in lay terms.

The earth is heating up. We are experiencing more catastrophic events. We have had 12 of the driest years on record. We live on the driest and hottest continent on earth. We do not have a lot of water. About 80 per cent of us live in coastal communities and see the coast and the rivers and think we have a lot of water, but we do not. It is a real problem. The scientists say that the current global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is approximately 380 parts per million and the rate of increase has been exponential in the industrialised period. Again, that tells us something.

The Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change gave a ministerial statement in this place on 12 August. It is worth restating some things he said. It was called ‘The scientific imperative to act on climate change’. It is important that we keep restating the scientific imperative because that is why the Rudd government is doing this. He stated:

This science has been thoroughly tested and verified—

I agree—

These statements are based on careful analysis of hundreds of papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature—

I agree; I have read a lot of it. He continued:

Publication in newspapers and blogs—

which we all see and have plenty of—

is not a substitute for the careful processes of scientific rigour.

…            …            …

The basic physics of the greenhouse effect have been well understood for more than one hundred years.

This is not a new thing. I am often surprised when the tenor of the debate is as though we were learning something new. We are not. This is not new. What is new is the action that is being taken, because there has not been any action taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation. That is the problem. The statement continues:

Burning of fossil fuels, destruction of forests and agricultural practices have caused carbon dioxide concentrations to rise by 37 per cent, methane by 150 per cent and nitrous oxide by 18 per cent. Most of this increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has occurred during the lifetime of those sitting in this House.

That is a fact. The Department of Climate Change website states:

The Government has committed to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 if the world agrees to an ambitious global deal to stabilise levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent or lower. This will maximise Australia’s contribution to an ambitious outcome in international negotiations at Copenhagen this December.

That is nearly upon us, and it is really important that we work towards that.

Last Saturday in my electorate, various climate change groups—and there are a lot of them, including at every high school; we have many and they are very active—gathered at what we call the North Coast national show at Lismore. They had a few events there, one of which was presenting me with a quilt. It was called the 350 Climate Quilt, because 350 parts per million is the ideal target for emissions reductions that some people—people who are really active about climate change—have set globally. They wanted me to present the quilt here today, and I did present that symbolically to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change today. There is also a youth environmental society, and I am going to read from an email they sent me, because they also had an event at the show. They got on their pushbikes and rode them around the ring, which was a bit different, because it is usually horses and all sorts of other animals. But they got on their pushbikes and rode around. They are a great group of young people, and I was with them on the day. The email reads:

2009 has been named the year for action on Climate Change. In Australia alone a number of events have happened, are happening and are being planned for the distant future. This is also the case for the international community. Saturday the 24thOctober has been named the International day of Climate Action. On this day the international community will come together and take a stand for a safe climate future. Scientists say that the 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity.

The Northern Rivers Youth Environmental Society has organised a “350” event giving our local community the opportunity to take their stand on their climate future. This event will involve local participants participating in a bike ride through the show grounds as part of the parade. There will then be a photo taken of all participants outlining the 350 symbol. Gordon Fraser-Quick will then address the audience with a few words on climate change, 350 and why we have taken a grass roots action demanding that international leaders take a hard stance on the issue of Climate Change.

As a local politician, we recognise the power you have in influencing our leaders and Australia’s stance on Climate Change.

They are very hopeful for me in their comments!

Mr Price —They’re very accurate.

Ms SAFFIN —Indeed, Chief Government Whip! The email continues:

We recognise that you can report back to our leaders the issues that are important to us.

And indeed I have done that.

Because of this we would like to extend a special invitation for you to attend to our 350 event.

They went on to say that their action would be one of over 2,000 actions in over 120 countries and one of over 150 actions in Australia. The email ended:

Yours Sincerely,

Emi Christensen

on behalf of the Youth Environmental Society

Mr Symon —Very good.

Ms SAFFIN —Yes, very good. The quilt was made by people from Kyogle, Lismore, Dunoon, Clunes, Corndale, Cawongla and Nimbin. (Time expired)