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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 10981


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (11:36): I listened very carefully to the member for Hasluck and have rarely heard a more confusing speech. One minute he is talking about cascading champagne and, the next minute, the great concern for the poor. It is a very strange speech. One minute he is saying there has been plenty of debate and, the next, we are trying to close down debate. There have been 20 years of debate in this House and in the community. Of course he would not remember the debate we had in the previous parliament. He would not remember a very good speech made by the member for Wentworth. He should go have a look at that speech. It was a very good speech from when he crossed the floor—and exceptionally good speech, actually. I will talk a bit about that later. The choice before the country is basically whether we are going to have practical solutions to practical problems or whether we are going to resort to absolutism and the politics of extremism and delay. As I said before, we have had 20 years of talking about this issue and having bills before this House in the last parliament. It was debated extensively. We had contested debates. We had passionate debates. We have had 20 years of talk, committee reports and parliamentary inquiries.

There are piles and piles of information out there in the public sphere and lots of debate in the community and that is a good thing. But what we do know, what the government knows and what members of the opposition know, if they cared to look at this problem and examine those reports and evidence, is that climate change is a problem. I referred to a speech given by the member for Wentworth on 8 February 2010. It was a very good speech, a passionate speech, a decent speech and a speech that showed a great deal of courage. It is a very hard thing to do, to say to your party they are wrong. It is a very hard thing to do on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is what the member for Wentworth said last year:

Climate change is the ultimate long-term problem. We have to make decisions today, bear costs today so that adverse consequences are avoided, dangerous consequences are avoided many decades into the future. It is always easy to argue we should do nothing, or little or postpone action.

That is what the member for Wentworth said last year.

We know that in previous incarnations the opposition and indeed the Liberal Party in government embraced emissions trading schemes. Prime Minister John Howard said in a release on 21 October 2007:

This year, the Government decided to implement a national emissions trading scheme, to commence no later than 2012. It will be the most comprehensive scheme in the world.

That was John Howard's commitment in 2007 to the Australian people and we know that that was matched by the opposition. This was a matter of bipartisanship. It was a matter of consensus. We know that we had a degree, at one point or another, of consensus about how to deal with this problem. It was a practical problem to be dealt with through a practical solution—emissions trading, a market based system.

We know that we have choices. We know that we have the choice to do nothing. We have the choice of public subsidies, which is the opposition's current problem. It is $3 billion to deal with a problem that many of them do not think exists. We have the option of dead hand regulation or we have the market based mechanism. we know that market based mechanisms are the best way of rewarding efficiency, of allocating risk and of getting the job done. We know that because there have been cap-in-trade systems in the United States, and I have talked about this in other speeches, to deal with the elimination of leaded petrol and to deal with acid rain. Cap-in-trade systems have already worked. We know that is the best way to go.

We talked a bit about the speech made in contribution to this debate by the member for Hasluck. He used a whole lot of language like 'scams' and whether or not emissions trading would work and said it 'won't do anything' and he talked about wealth redistribution. You have to wonder what drives these sorts of speeches. They have moved so far from the Shergold report, from Howard and from Turnbull. They have moved so far from that rational, basic thinking. They have moved so far away from that public policy framework. You have to wonder what drives it.

Conservatives around the world, including Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, have praised the carbon trading system. A letter was written to Prime Minister Gillard saying that they praised our approach to dealing with carbon. So you have to wonder what has driven this approach and change of emphasis in the opposition. It is rank opportunism. What we have seen is a desperate opposition, desperate to get into government and desperate to run a fear campaign for their own base political desire to get into office. People listening can say that all politicians are driven by that desire but it is not in the national interest to always be driven by votes. That is basically why they are running this fear campaign: 'The sky is going to fall', 'There is going to be a massive cost' and 'It is a great revenue churn.' That is what you hear from those opposite.

What is perhaps more concerning than that fear campaign—which is not based on fact but rather on fiction—is the assault on science and the assault on experts and this constant criticism and assertion that somehow we are trying to shut down debate. We have had 20 years of debate. We live in a free country. We have had rallies out the front. We have had many programs in the public sphere about the science. There has been a lot of questioning and rigor put upon that science. You just wonder what drives it.

It is evident what drives it, and I spoke about this in previous speeches. Last year we had Lord Monckton come and spread his particular brand of corrupted science around the country. We had him meeting with the member for Warringah. We know that drove a lot of the email campaigns and we understand that changed Tony Abbott's position. We know that on 12 December 2009 Tony Abbott said, 'The argument on climate change is absolute crap.' We know that on 27 July 2009 he said, 'We can't conclusively say whether man-made carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to climate change.' We know that he previously said, 'I think the science behind the policy is contentious to say the least.' We know that on 27 July 2009 he said, 'I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.' In the Herald Sun on 5 January 2010 he said:

And it seems that notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped.

We have had this constant assault on science. We have seen it in his language and his statements to the media. We know that many on the other side of the chamber question the science. Nobody is debating their right to do so but one has to question why they have adopted the same target for carbon emissions as the government. One has to question why they are going to spend $3 billion on their direct action plan. We have heard very little about direct action in this place. There have been oblique or passing references to it.

This is not a contest, as I said before, about practical solutions for practical problems; rather it is just rhetoric from the other side for rhetoric's sake. They come into this place and they attack and attack. They spend barely any time on their plan because they know it will not work and it will cost a lot. When you get right down to it it is a fig leaf to cover their extremism. We know that this extremism within the Liberal Party is being driven by the email campaigns of those on the far Right.

But for the internet, these people would be sitting in a log cabin somewhere waiting for the United Nations to invade or waiting for whatever conspiracy they think is going to unfold before them. The language of many of these people is very similar to the language of the member for Hasluck. The Galileo Movement is out there saying that carbon pricing is one big scam somehow to impose communist government on this country or that it is one big scam to embrace some sort of wealth transfer.

And then there is this revolting campaign against science and scientists. We had the Four Corners program last Monday night, where Professor Ian Chubb and Professor Will Steffen talked about the emails that they get, including death threats and abusive emails. I will not read them out in the House because they involve fairly extreme statements and threats. You have to wonder what drives people to send those to scientists. It is one thing to have a crack at politicians; it is another thing entirely to try to worry scientists and prevent them from doing their jobs in research and communicating that research to the public.

On that Four Corners program one scientist who was visiting this country, Professor John Schellnhuber, was addressing a climate conference in July. A protestor—a demonstrator—got up. No-one is complaining about the right to demonstrate but the protestor got up and presented a noose to a scientist at a conference. You have to worry about the state of our democracy when that happens in our country. Presenting a noose to someone is a threat. This is something that has been completely absent from Australian public life.

It is a disgrace that that happened and it is a worry that that happened. It is all being driven, I think, by the importation of extremism from other parts of the world. We have seen politicians encouraging this and importing these techniques from the far Right in the United States of America. Senator Bernardi is one of those people. He has been exposed as doing this through Menzies House. He calls it activism but, let's face it, it is all about the embrace of extremism. If you are in the Liberal Party you should be very concerned that people are moving slowly but surely away from John Howard's moderation and away from Malcolm Turnbull's moderation—their commitment to markets—to this bizarre ideology of being fearful of the world, fearful of international cooperation and fearful of markets. And because of that fear people are willing to allege treason, to present nooses, and to issue threats and they underpin all of this with a sense of absolutism and extremism.

I think those opposite need to move back to the moderation of John Howard and the Shergold report. They need to move back to Malcolm Turnbull's great speech to this House defending an emissions trading system. It is all about practical solutions for practical problems. We have had 20 years of debate; it is about time we actually implemented our plans. Too many times in this parliament the emissions trading scheme and strong environmental laws have been frustrated by the politics of extremists—extremists on the far Right, who want to delay and prevent this scheme, and extremists on the far Left, who believe it does not meet some 110 per cent principle.

This government is about doing things. We are going to implement this practical solution to a practical problem. I think that on 1 July next year everybody will shrug their shoulders and just get on with a prosperous economy and an increasingly efficient and green society and economy.