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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10767


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (11:48): Many other speakers on this side of the House will expose very clearly during this debate the reality that most Australians will be highly compensated for any increase in the cost of living. They will also drive home that, despite the view of the Australian people that in some ways this is a diametrically opposed debate with regard to cost, in reality the Australian people will be charged $1,300 per household under the Liberal alternative, which has the same end point. One would think from the rhetoric of the Leader of the Opposition that somehow they are pledged to do nothing. That is not the truth. They have an alternative which will pay polluters and which will cost the Australian taxpayers, on estimates not from the Labor Party but from the independent Treasury, $1,300 per household. I will not concentrate on that reality.

One of the problems in this debate has been the way in which Australian public opinion has changed. Indisputably, at an earlier point everyone accepted the reality of climate change and the reality of the need for change. In the last parliament the opposition joined with the Greens in blocking Labor's alternative despite the fact that the Liberals were themselves pledged to change. I want to deal with that change in Australian public opinion today. I noticed the contribution of the member for Hughes. I will not deal with a lot of the rhetoric he had, but he essentially argued that we should ignore climate scientists. They are all wrong. He knows more.

He disputes the views of such a reputable group of people as the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Academy of Science and academies around the world. They agree that human activity is almost certainly causing climate change. He has an alternative view. He is allowed to put it. But to say in this parliament that somehow he knows more is extremely doubtful. Ninety-seven per cent of climate scientists—the ones who specialise in studying the atmosphere, including climate change—agree that it is caused by humanity.

He also argued, quite ludicrously, that the world is not heating up. He reckons it is cooling—an interesting point of view. There is some news for this gentleman. In Australia 2001-10 was the warmest decade on record. Each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the preceding decade. We cannot go on whether there was rain in Kalgoorlie yesterday or whether it is sunny in Darwin today. The fact is that, over a decade across this whole country, that is the pattern. In Australia each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the last. 2010 is the 34th consecutive year—not a one-off and not an occasional—with global temperatures above the 20th-century average. That says a lot.

The debate here has been framed around giving people equity of time. Even the ABC, the great organisation that is so constantly attacked by the opposition, is unfortunately contributing to part of this problem. There was an interesting article in the last edition of the News and Viewsof the Friends of the ABC. They look at an analysis: a paper entitled 'The politics of reporting climate change at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation' by academics from the School of Journalism and Australian Studies at Monash University. They compared the attention the ABC gave to Dr James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute from Space Studies and a highly regarded climate change scientist promoting government intervention, to that given to Lord Monckton, an infamous celebrity who has even been told by the House of Lords to drop his title. They compared the coverage they got on the ABC. Here are the results of that coverage. In one-third of Monckton's appearances, he was unchallenged by opposing sources on the ABC—just allowed to waffle on and give his point of view unchallenged.

On the other hand, Hansen never appeared on ABC television. He had only two interviews on Radio National (one on a program that goes to air at 10pm) and three mentions in online coverage. The extent of Hansen's ABC presence was five appearances in total, compared to 47 for Monckton.

That is part of the situation we have here. It is like giving equal time, five years from the end of the Rugby League season, to somebody who is arguing that Parramatta can still win the premiership. That is what is happening in this debate.

I want to deal with some of the so-called experts that are put forward by those that are basically saying there is doubt and debate. The article in Uniken made some interesting points. It looked at Dr Ken Ring, a noted commentator on this matter:

Ring not only denies any human role in climate change but purports to use astrology to predict weather and earthquakes. In former times he was a clown, magician and author of the book Pawmistry: How To Read Your Cat's Paws.

This is a person who is put out there by them to deny climate change. The article also noted that the George C Marshall Institute in the United States, one of the leading peak groups that is opposing the obvious evidence of climate change, has an interesting history. It previously told us there was no danger in smoking. It also put forward that acid rain was not an issue, that the Antarctic ozone hole did not exist and that the use of the pesticide DDT was no problem for the world. That is the kind of evidence they are trying to produce to say that the rest of the climate scientists in the world are wrong and that they know better.

Quite frankly, many of these so-called expert sources that are brought forward have a record of operating for corporations. They have a financial interest in regard to what they put forward. Talking of that, the article notes one of our Australian experts, Professor Ian Plimer. The article in Uniken made this point:

While scientists have been accused of being on a funding gravy-train, independent journalist Graham Readfearn has also turned the spotlight on Plimer's growing personal wealth—about $920,000 in the in the past two years alone, he asserts—from fees and share sales related to his "role as a director and chairman with several mining companies …"

This person, again, has a very clear commercial interest in arguing for those companies that are scared about climate action around the world.

If we are talking about the economists, there seems to be a fairly single debate on this as well. I note the article by Michael Dwyer in the Australian Financial Review of 18 July. He reported that, as many of us are also aware, 'a timely survey of its members by the Economic Society of Australia' had been released the previous week. It found that about 79 per cent of about 530 respondents 'agreed or strongly agreed that price-based mechanisms as opposed to direct regulation were the more appropriate way of cutting greenhouse gas'.

In a smaller poll of 140 members, conducted after the release of the government's carbon tax package on July 10, about 60 per cent of respondents described it as good economic policy.

More than 80 per cent of respondents who expressed a view said they didn't think the Coalition's approach to reducing carbon emissions was a sound economic proposal.

Once again, these are people who have academic credentials. They are not always right, but I think that on balance we would respect their objectivity, their experience, their knowledge and the fact that they are in the public domain and have to defend their position and their credibility in academia.

Recently I asked the Parliamentary Library, which I think even the opposition would agree is an independent source of information for all of us, about the balance of climate debate amongst the experts. The article they sent me, a review of abstracts from all peer-reviewed articles on the subject 'global climate change' published from 1993 to 2003, 'revealed that not one article claimed that the consensus on man-made global warming was incorrect'. The Library said:

Of the 928 papers reviewed, 75 per cent explicitly—

I stress 'explicitly'—

endorsed the consensus position on climate change and 25 per cent took no position … Another study surveyed 3146 earth scientists asking them whether they thought human activity was a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures. The table below—

which I will cite—

shows that 97.5 per cent of climatologists that actively publish articles in peer-reviewed journals answered yes.

That is 97.5 per cent of the people who, unlike me, have scientific credentials, have been through years of study in this area and have produced articles that are peer reviewed—in other words, they have been looked at by others before they are published—say that climate change is humanly directed.

Despite the swaying of the Leader of the Opposition—one day it is 'crap'; one day he believes in it; one day he is uncertain; one day he is going to think about it next week—the truth is that there are significant numbers on the opposite side who, when they get half a chance, are out there denying and undermining that evidence. We have seen again today from the member for Hughes a reprehensible example of that. He is the kind of loose cannon that they have difficulties holding in. He is out there in the public domain saying something very different from what Mr Hunt, the opposition spokesman, is saying on these matters.

I will further quote the CSIRO once again. I personally think they are a reputable body. Their summary of position in regard to this country is:

Australia will be hotter in coming decades

Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5 ºC by 2030. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue—

at current levels—

warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2 to 5.0 ºC by 2070.

They further comment that much of this country will be drier:

In Australia compared to the period 1981-2000, decreases in rainfall are likely in the decades to come in southern areas of Australia during winter

They say in conclusion:

Climate change is real

Our observations clearly demonstrate that climate change is real.

Finally, I want to talk about the question of us being alone and leading the world. This is not the truth, and everyone who follows this issue is well aware of it. Eighty-nine nations contributing 80 per cent of pollution are taking action. South Korea has twice our population, yet its contributions to the international problem of pollution are equal to ours. Our contribution is 1.5 per cent of global pollution. The United Kingdom, with three times our population, contributes 1.7 per cent. These countries will not tolerate giving Australia a blank cheque. They will no longer allow a free ride for this country. Airlines, and Qantas in particular, will face a very real challenge in Europe if this country does not act. It is alleged that China is inactive. The reality is that six provinces and a significant number of cities next year are bringing in similar measures to ours. We have endorsement from the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It has said that Australia must take advantage of its favourable economic position and pursue its carbon reduction policy. It said that the Australian business climate remained positive despite the disasters with mining commodities et cetera:

The authorities must take advantage of the favourable economic situation to pursue long term structural reforms, including those that favour output involving less CO2 emissions.

That was from the OECD, a recognised authority on economic policy, a group that is often cited by those opposite in industrial relations. Those opposite come to us with what the OECD says about our productivity, saying we have loosened the labour markets too much or we have given the unions and the workers too many rights. On this issue, the OECD says Australia should act. There has also been a call from among the significant number of superannuation funds of some size in Europe saying that these reforms are the future, that this is where it is going and this is where countries can lead for their own economic future. I quote finally from the British Guardian Weekly of 29 May. It said:

Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel—a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.

Climate change projections such as those we are doing at the moment:

… would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100

…   …   …

… disaster could yet be averted, if governments heed the warning. "If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding …

…   …   …

Yet even now politicians in each of the great powers are eyeing up extraordinary and risky ways to extract the world's last remaining reserves of fossil fuels—even from under the melting ice of the Arctic.

As I have said before, Canada and the United States have had very pleasant, very civil relations since the 1812 war. Canada has been very vocal in recent months in its concerns about US exploration and US movement in the Arctic because it is basically disappearing. There will be new passages to Europe. There will be exploration of oil and gas. That is part of the climate change reality. It is happening and it is leading to very poor relations between those past friends. (Time expired)