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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3930


Senator CAMERON (8:10 PM) —I am pleased to participate in the debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills. I come to this debate as a former power industry worker and as someone who has represented power and coal industry workers as a union official. I have always supported workers in those industries and do not come here purporting to support blue-collar workers, like some of those on the opposite side. I object to workers being used as part of the National Party’s agenda. However, I should never be surprised by the party who helped give us Work Choices.

Opposition senator—Get over it! It’s long gone.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Moore)—Order! Senators, I ask you not to yell across the chamber while this debate is going on. I will call you.


Senator CAMERON —It is absolutely essential that carbon capture and storage is developed to ensure that the industries that are important to this country—the coal-fired power industry, the steel industry and the cement industry—have an opportunity to grow and survive into the future.

Anthropogenic climate change is the most significant economic, social and environmental challenge facing governments around the world. It is a challenge of huge complexity. It is a challenge that demands political leadership. It is a challenge that requires political courage. It is a challenge that will result in social and economic change. This change can be for the better.

This is a challenge the Rudd government is determined to meet. It is a challenge that those on the other side are failing to meet. The challenge is local, regional, national and international. The challenge requires decisions in the short term to influence long-term climate change. There is little doubt that a failure to act now will result in extreme weather, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. This is the climate change reality that the opposition have failed to come to grips with.

Climate change is projected to increase the severity and the frequency of many natural disasters, such as bushfires, cyclones, hailstorms and floods. Insured losses from these events are expected to total billions of dollars. Nineteen of the 20 largest property insurance losses since 1967 have been weather related. An increase in the frequency and severity of drought conditions resulting from climate change will reduce the availability of water. The frequency of droughts may increase by up to 20 per cent over most of Australia by 2050 and up to 40 per cent in south-east Australia and 80 per cent in Western Australia by 2070.

Changes in rainfall combined with increased evaporation are expected to result in reduced run-off across most of Australia. By 2050, average stream flow is projected to drop between seven and 35 per cent in Melbourne, 10 to 25 per cent in the Murray-Darling Basin and 51 per cent in the Stirling catchment area in Western Australia. Agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin could decline by up to 92 per cent. Under a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius, our national livestock carrying capacity is projected to decrease by 40 per cent.

Climate change is expected to cause more heat related deaths and higher incidence of disease from food- and water-borne contaminants. The threat from vector-borne disease will increase; for example, the transmission zone for dengue fever may spread south to Brisbane by 2100. Climate change is expected to affect our infrastructure. Changes in temperature and rainfall are expected to increase road maintenance costs by 31 per cent by 2100. Australia is highly vulnerable to sea level rises and storm surges resulting from climate change, with significant coastal erosion and damage to infrastructure anticipated. Seven hundred and eleven thousand addresses, many billions of dollars of assets, are at risk from rising sea levels and storm surges. Australia’s native plants and animals are also likely to suffer as a result of climate change due to the drastic reduction of the extent and quality of their habitats. Ecologically rich sites such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Queensland wet tropics, Kakadu wetlands, the Australian alpine areas, south-western Australia and sub-Antarctic islands are all at risk.

As we watch these potential disasters unfold, it is an act of political cowardice and gross incompetence for the opposition to stand idly by while the climate deniers and sceptics rule the roost in the coalition party room. Mr Turnbull needs to stand up to the deniers. The Leader of the Opposition needs to stand up to Senator Abetz, who claims:

There is no doubt that weeds pose a challenge much clearer, more present and possibly more serious than the unclear challenge which climate change may or may not pose to our biodiversity.

Weeds are the problem, not global warming, according to Senator Abetz. Mr Turnbull should stand up to Senator Joyce, who on 14 January 2009 said on ABC radio:

Climate change denier, like Holocaust denier, this is the sort of emotive language that has become stitched up in this ETS issue. A climate change denier? One is not allowed to question any more and one is not allowed to call to question? One has to sort of fall into sort of a lockstep goosestep and parade around the office, you know, ranting and raving that we are all as one.

Well that will make a change from ranting and raving out there with the press every morning that parliament is sitting. Senator Joyce was quoted in the Australian on the same day:

This has become a form of religious fanaticism and these environmental goose-steppers are pretty scary. You’re branded a denier. The last time that word was in vogue, it related to the Holocaust.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, in an interview on the same day in Launceston, said:

Oh look, I’m not going to run a commentary on my colleagues. Our position is, the Coalition’s position on this issue is very well known. It is the same as we had in government. We’re very committed to action on climate change that is economically responsible and environmentally effective.

Well, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Turnbull, now has the chance to show his commitment to action on climate change and stand up to Senator Minchin, who on 16 January in the Sydney Morning Herald said:

I don’t think Senator Joyce’s remarks should be seen as anything more than an appropriate contribution to the debate on how the Coalition as a whole should respond to the Government’s so-called carbon pollution reduction scheme.

It is ‘an appropriate contribution’, according to Senator Minchin. That contribution is a contribution of denial. It is a contribution of scepticism. It is a contribution that is economically irresponsible. It is a contribution that, if unchallenged, will consign future generations to climate change that will destroy their standard of living, their environment and their hopes for a decent life. The Australian community is entitled to demand decent leadership from the coalition. Where are those in the coalition who support the need to address climate change? Where are those in the coalition prepared to stand up for future generations and not be intimidated by the deniers and sceptics on their side of the chamber?

As part of his belated response to climate change, the former Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the establishment of a joint government-business task group on emissions trading. This announcement, in December 2006, resulted in what is known as the Shergold report. Despite the many limitations of the Shergold report, a number of conclusions were reached which give the lie to the nonsense we hear from the other side and from those deniers and sceptics that rule the roost on the other side of parliament. I will go through some of the conclusions of the previous government’s inquiry:

Climate change is a global challenge that requires a long-term global solution in order to avoid environmental, social and economic dislocation.

They do not believe there is going to be any economic problems; they do not believe there is going to be any dislocation. Another proposal says:

Curtailing greenhouse gas emissions will impose a cost both in the global economy and individual nations.

Even John Howard accepted there would be a cost to fixing global warming. The report went on:

While a comprehensive global approach to climate change is required, it will be difficult to reach international consensus in the near future.

                …            …            …

Market-based approaches that deliver a price on carbon will achieve greenhouse gas abatement, commensurate with an emissions target, at least cost.

                …            …            …

Of the market-based instruments, emissions trading should be preferred to a carbon tax.

                …            …            …

An Australian emissions trading scheme, with a carbon price set by the market, would improve business investment certainty.

You see, even the Howard government then conceded the point about business investment certainty. But the opposition, led by Malcolm Turnbull, are deniers on everything relating to climate change. The Shergold report went on to say:

It is in Australia’s interest to develop a domestic emissions trading scheme that might, over time, be linked to complementary schemes in other countries.

                …            …            …

The inclusion of trade-exposed, emissions-intensive industries in an Australian emissions trading scheme must avoid prejudicing their competitiveness but also provide them with appropriate incentives for abatement.

                …            …            …

The Task Group believes the key to success is to begin at once—

that is what Shergold said: ‘the key to success is to begin at once’—

but to proceed with care on the basis of considered and informed decisions.

The split in the coalition has the potential to deny Australia an immediate opportunity to tackle climate change in a comprehensive, considered and effective manner. The government’s bill is economically responsible, environmentally responsible and in the best interests of the nation.

Opposition senators interjecting—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Moore)—Senators, I do not mind people making the occasional interjection, but yelling across the chamber in that way is not parliamentary. Senator Cameron, please continue.


Senator CAMERON —If we ever need any reminding of the need to move forward immediately and effectively, we only need to look at the recent synthesis report, which resulted from a major international scientific congress, entitled Climate Change: Global Risks Challenges and Decisions, that the ANU organised with the University of Copenhagen in March. The report, known as the Copenhagen report, whose authors include Professor Will Steffen and Professor Lord Nicholas Stern concluded:

Recent observations show that greenhouse gas emissions and many aspects of the climate are changing near the upper boundary of the IPCC range of projections. Many key climate indicators are already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which contemporary society and economy have developed and thrived. These indicators include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, global ocean temperature, Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. With unabated emissions, many trends in climate will likely accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

The report also points out that climate change will:

… cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond.

                …            …            …

Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid “dangerous climate change” regardless of how it is defined.

The report goes on to say:

Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions …

The most important point the report makes is:

INACTION IS INEXCUSABLE

Society already has many tools and approaches - economic, technological, behavioural, and managerial - to deal effectively with the climate change challenge.

This report, compiled by some of the world’s most eminent climate change scientists, must be a wake-up call to those opposite and must surely cause those in the coalition who are not captive to the climate change sceptics and deniers to stand up for the nation and stand up for the planet.

I want to turn briefly to the red herrings raised by the coalition deniers to justify inaction on climate change. These include the arguments that action by Australia will simply be a gesture, that the Treasury modelling is flawed, that the CPRS will impose costs on the community and that regional impacts have not been taken into account. Senator Joyce is the lead advocate of the gesture politics theory. This approach is similar to the argument being put forward by some of the biggest polluters in their special pleadings. It is reprehensible that the coalition chooses to perpetuate the falsehood that the government’s legislation would result in 23,500 direct jobs being lost across Australia’s mineral industry by 2020. It is an absolute disgrace that Senators Joyce and Boswell are using this falsehood to create confusion and concern amongst working families in the minerals industry.

The Minerals Council report that this nonsense is based on estimates that there will be approximately 23,500 fewer people employed in the Australian minerals industry due to the imposition of the proposed ETS than would otherwise have been the case under a reference case that predicts at least an additional 86,000 jobs in the industry by 2030. This means that under the government’s proposed ETS there will be around 60,000 more jobs in the minerals industry relative to today. That is 60,000 more jobs in the minerals industry with the ETS. That is the Minerals Council report. That is the report that you reject. That is the report that you are sceptics about. That is the report that you would deny—the actual Minerals Council report. But, in their public utterances on this, the Minerals Council and the coalition, particularly Senators Joyce and Boswell, have sought to put fear into the community by dishonestly characterising slightly slower growth in jobs as ‘jobs lost’. As government senators said in our report for the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy:

It is misleading to present potential future jobs that are not created in one sector of the economy as “jobs lost”. To do so not only offers a misleading picture of the effects of an ETS, but fails to take account of the fact that capital and employment moves between industries and regions all the time.

Many of the employment arguments put up by those who deny that climate change is caused by human activity—those who accept that climate change is happening but believe it is not a problem—and those who see that something needs to be done about climate change but not by them have tried to suggest that catastrophic job losses will result from the ETS. All of these arguments are at best ill-founded and at worst deliberate deceptions. There is ample evidence that an ETS, a renewable energy target and the range of measures contained in these bills will have no net effect on employment in Australia. Treasury modelling demonstrates there will continue to be robust growth in the Australian economy. I draw the Senate’s attention to a speech in the Great Hall by Australia’s Chief Scientist, who outlined the real trajectory for jobs—jobs for biologists and ecologists, jobs for astronomers and space scientists, jobs for physicists and electrical engineers, jobs for mechanical engineers, aerodynamicists and material scientists. These are the jobs of the future, yet all we have from the opposition is denial and scepticism. All we have from them is no hope for the future. (Time expired)