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Monday, 18 November 2013
Page: 535


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (20:54): I would take the minister far more seriously when he talks about mandate if he had used that language when the then Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, voted against putting a price on carbon when the Labor government of the day had clearly won an election on exactly that policy. We are in a Westminster system here where the parliament is elected and the parliamentarians vote. Nobody is suggesting that the Palmer United Party drops all of its policies and picks up all of the policies of the Liberal Party because they won government. Nobody is suggesting that Bob Katter put all of his strongly held views aside and go with the government on every single point because they won. That is not how the system works; it is not how the system has ever worked in this country and it is certainly not how the system worked when in 2007 the Labor Party went to the people with a policy of introducing a price on carbon, as did John Howard, won the election convincingly and yet when Tony Abbott became Leader of the Opposition he decided to vote against the will of the people. And there was no screaming of the word 'mandate' at that time from his mouth in the way that there is now.

The most frightening thing about this debate I have been listening to for the last few hours—unfortunately it will not go long enough—is that so far I have not heard a member of the government talk about their own policy. What I am hearing from them is almost a denial that they won the election. They are not talking about themselves at all, even though they as government have the responsibility to act in the interests of future generations and take action on climate change.

I believe that climate change is real. I believe we are already starting to see the effects of it through extreme weather events. I believe the science and that we will see greater and greater extreme variations in climate and greater disasters as the years unfold. And I believe that this generation, those of us who over the last century have ripped stuff out of the ground and burnt it and benefitted economically from that action and became wealthy on the back of that action, are obligated to act in the interests of generations that will follow us and ensure that they have a world that is as easy to live in as the world that we inhabit at the moment. I can only assume that any government that puts up a sham of a policy such as Direct Action—a policy with no detail that no credible economist or scientist believes will work, which gets called a figleaf at various times—either does not believe in climate change at all or does not understand or accept that a government governs not just for this generation but for the generation that follows and the generation after that.

This is a government, we have seen in the last few weeks, that does not consider the future. We can see other examples of it: the intention to abolish the MRRT, which preserves some of the wealth of this generation for the next one. We have seen them put together a cabinet that does not look to the future at all. It has no science minister, no innovation. We have seen them now take incredibly weak action on perhaps one of the most significant policy challenges that the world faces. It is incredibly disappointing that in a debate as important as this not only did they seek to gag it but they failed to speak at all on their own policy. We are still waiting for the details of this sham policy. It is clear it does not exist. It is clear there has been very little work on it since 2010 when the most recent paper was released. And it is incredibly disappointing to stand in this House opposite a government that clearly does not accept its responsibility to govern for future generations as well as this one.

We know from the International Energy Agency it is estimated that, for each year effective action is delayed, it will cost an additional $500 billion in the world to cut global emissions. That is for each year we fail to act. In the last 15 years we had the Howard government that failed to act significantly for far too long—failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol, failed to take significant action, became a convert towards the end of the Howard years and put together their own emissions trading policy, but essentially failed to act over 12 incredibly important years. Those years will be seen as lost years by future generations. It will be an even greater tragedy if this time around the Liberal Party cannot live up to the responsibility of government once again.

Debate interrupted.