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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11667

Mr TURNOUR (2:21 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on global and domestic efforts to tackle the challenge of climate change?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the excellent member for Leichhardt for his question. Not only has he been active in making representations on the part of his constituency, but can I say in the various visits I have made as Prime Minister to Cairns and been with him and received the representations from his community that he is held in the highest regard by his community as well. The honourable member asked me about a question which goes to the heart of the interests of the people of Far North Queensland. It is climate change and its impact on the Barrier Reef as well. If you are concerned about climate change it would follow that you are concerned about the Barrier Reef—

Dr Southcott —What’s the unemployment in Leichhardt?

Mr RUDD —Right on cue, the member for Boothby intervenes—and jobs. Let me think: how many people are employed in tourism on the Great Barrier Reef? Tens of thousands. What happens if you do not have a Barrier Reef? You do not have tens of thousands of jobs in tourism, which is why people in Far North Queensland are so desperately concerned about the impact on coral bleaching and other factors coming off climate change on what is not just an enormous environmental asset for Australia and the world but also, critically, a generator of jobs in Far North Queensland.

The honourable member asked me specifically about national and global action on climate change. I have just returned this morning from the APEC meeting in Singapore. In Singapore it was my privilege together with the President of Mexico to co-host a meeting of leaders from the APEC economies with the Prime Minister of Denmark. The Prime Minister of Denmark is the President of the Conference of Parties which will be convened in Copenhagen in about three weeks time. The clock is ticking as far as climate change is concerned, but the clock is also ticking when it comes to concluding an agreement at Copenhagen, and that is what we were talking about. Some weeks ago, as I have indicated in various public interviews and possibly in the parliament itself, the Prime Minister of Denmark asked the Mexican President and me to become Friends of the Chair—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —to assist in what we can possibly do to bring about an agreement in Copenhagen. And it is good to see there is such a strong level of interest on the part of those opposite in sealing a deal! I understand the National Party may have reflected their view on these matters. I thought the Liberal Party was still supposed to be seriously engaged in these negotiations on climate change. Perhaps the script has already been lost on the part of those opposite. This meeting, which is so derided, it seems, by some of those opposite, was attended by the President of the United States, the President of China, the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Indonesia, the President of Korea and others. The object was this: how do we use a leaders-level process—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order, those on my left! The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr RUDD —How do we bring about a leaders-level process to try and obtain an agreement at Copenhagen, given the fact that the officials-level progress so far has become bogged down? What we were able to do then, in consultation with one another, was to listen carefully to the briefing by the Danish Prime Minister, Prime Minister Rasmussen, on how we could bring about a framework agreement for Copenhagen, a strong global agreement in which the world agrees to the global goal of keeping global temperature rises within two degrees and where individual nations commit to specific actions to reduce emissions; one in which a global agreement is built on the basis of individual national actions, which becomes entirely relevant to the debate we have in this parliament on what happens with the future of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Sunday’s meeting of 19 leaders, co-chaired between the Mexicans and us and with the Prime Minister of Denmark in attendance, was an important step forward in seeking to bring about such a framework agreement. This will be difficult. It is also part of the challenge which the President of the United States now takes to Beijing for his bilateral visit to the People’s Republic of China, where the climate change discussions there are of such fundamental relevance to what now transpires in the lead-up to Copenhagen.

There were two clear and important outcomes from yesterday’s meeting in Singapore. One is that many leaders have for the first time indicated that they will be attending the Copenhagen meeting.

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Mr RUDD —The Prime Minister of Japan, which apparently obtains the scoffing interjection of the member for O’Connor, confirmed that he would be attending. In addition to the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Korea, the President of Indonesia—himself so much the author of the Bali roadmap—together with the Chileans, together with us, together with others. The second important outcome was that there was a broad agreement among leaders to support a framework political agreement. President Obama spoke in support of such a proposal. In fact, he cautioned the group not to let the ‘perfect’ become the enemy of the ‘good’ in the agreement that we can seek to realise in Copenhagen. Prime Minister Rasmussen made an important contribution to this meeting. But the underlying logic is clear: a global deal is the sum of the national contributions which underpin it, including the Australian national contribution.

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Mr RUDD —Again the member for O’Connor scoffs. I thought the Liberal Party were engaged in serious negotiations with us. Without clear national positions, including strong national commitments, there can be no deal, which is why we must work on our national commitments as well, which brings us to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. In an exercise of good faith on the part of the government, what we have indicated to the opposition in their good faith negotiations with us is that we are prepared to act on their concerns relating to agriculture. In the positions which have been put forward by the coalition to us up until now, the advice that we have obtained from the coalition is that agriculture was, frankly, a red line issue for them. Therefore, because we are determined to try and bring about a deal on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and because we recognise some of the internal political realities within the coalition, we have made this as a good faith gesture on our part in our determined efforts to bring about an outcome.

The final two weeks of sittings in the Senate will be devoted to the legislation. The legislation will be voted on in the House of Representatives and introduced to the Senate at the beginning of this week. There will be time for every single senator to speak on this bill—every single senator—if they so choose: two weeks. Further, the government will be prepared to extend parliamentary sittings as I know so many senators will want to speak on this bill. But the key thing is this: after so long of not acting on an emissions trading scheme within this country, the time has come to act, as those opposite have consistently argued themselves in recent years.

I say to all those opposite: continue your good faith negotiations with the government. I urge your negotiator the member for Groom, my good friend from Queensland, not to lose heart but to remain engaged in these negotiations, because we have some global interests at stake which will ultimately so much hang, as far as Australia is concerned, on our national actions as well. There is also the minor matter of business certainty. We will continue these good faith negotiations with the coalition. In the national interest and for business certainty we want this outcome. For the international interest and to underpin a global framework agreement at Copenhagen we need this outcome. The clock is ticking for the planet, it is ticking for Australia and it is ticking for this parliament.