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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 4663

Senator McGAURAN (11:20 AM) —I was quite happy to yield my position on the speakers list to Labor’s Senator McEwen in the hope that one on the long list of Labor senators to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related climate change bills would show some balance. I yielded because frequently Senator McEwen does show that sort of balance, but what a great disappointment that speech was. I was profoundly disappointed. She simply read from the old party script of extremism. She threw out the line that, if we have a three-degree increase in global temperature, this will follow. Will it? Is that what is predicted? Is that what she believes? Is that a scientific fact? No, it has just been set up as a straw man.

I say she read from the old script of extremism, the old language, which was no doubt handed to her by the ‘high priestess’, as she was dubbed last night by Senator Bernardi—the high priestess of climate change, Senator Wong. But I would point out to Senator McEwen that there is a new script going around by the New South Wales senators from her side of the house and from their New South Wales state colleagues also, who have woken up to just how damaging this bill will be to the economy for zero effect. So I started to doubt that I should have yielded my position to Senator McEwen because everything was blamed on climate change. Those who listened would have heard that everything was blamed on climate change. It was the old rhetoric. She has missed the shift in this debate. She has missed the shift in public opinion on this. She is still at the extreme end, the Senator Penny Wong end of it all, where forest fires are blamed on climate change. That has nothing, of course, to do with state forest management—it is all to do with climate change! And, of course, every flood and every drought are directly linked to climate change—it has got nothing to do with the fact that we are on the driest continent in the world and that droughts have been part of Australia’s history! It is all to do with climate change. If you are running late for the train, it is climate change. If Geelong does not win the Grand Final, it will be climate change.

This is the extremism and the language that we all dealt with just 12 months ago. I think everyone in this chamber would agree there has been a serious shift in this debate, but the government, or at least their leadership, have missed it. People are not buying that sort of extreme language anymore. They seek a more moderate position, a more sensible approach to the question of climate change and carbon pollution reduction. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 does not provide it. In fact, I would say this bill is the most economically damaging bill to go through the parliament, in modern times anyway, particularly at this time, during the global economic crisis. I could not quite understand the previous speaker’s point that this is a good time to do it, that everyone is going to ‘cop the pain’—to use her terminology, they are happy to cop the pain for the so-called gain. I should not just point out Senator McEwen; she was the previous speaker but it was the same with all the speakers on the other side. I do not think they know their own scheme, to tell you the truth. Not one of them have pointed out where the gain is. Sure, they think there is a lot of political gain in this—according to the press gallery, the ‘beltway’, as they call it—but they have not articulated the true gain to Australia whilst there is no international agreement.

Given the global economic crisis that we are in, just consider the $13 billion in permits, in the first year, that companies have to go out and purchase. They will have to borrow that money at a time when they are under extreme pressure. It is not as glowing as the previous speaker, reading from some survey, would have it. The fundamentals and the facts are there; we are not in recovery. Whatever shaft of light the government is pointing us to, there is a long way to go. Putting this extra burden of some $13 billion a year on the economy, for companies to have to find that money to borrow on top of what they are already struggling with in the credit squeeze, will do great damage to our economy.

I suspect, in fact in my heart of hearts I believe, that this legislation is purely political. Senator Mason gave a brilliant analysis of just how political this bill is, particularly for the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. When he jets off to Copenhagen, he wants it in his pocket so he can prance around showing off, as he does. He thinks he is important—yes, that is a cheap shot, Senator Conroy, but I noticed you enjoyed it.

Senator Conroy —Laughing at you, not with you!

Senator McGAURAN —I think you would almost agree with me, in your quieter moments. This legislation shows us the other side of the Labor Party, and this probably appeals more to Senator Conroy. The truth is that this is the mother of all taxes. The Labor Party is a high-taxing government at any time, always looking for an excuse to do so. After they were elected in November 2007 their first budget was in May 2008, so within six months they started to raise taxes. In their second budget, of course, they added to that, with no less than the alcopops tax. So they are always looking for a reason and an excuse to lift taxes. Well, they have got themselves a bill that will raise the mother of all taxes. This is a tax hike greater than the GST, which raises about $12 billion. Years of long, complex and shifting debate have accumulated in this bill before the Senate. It is a bill that will wreck the economy and deliver Labor the biggest tax take and tax increase they have ever dreamed of.

To many Labor senators, this is the main point. I am sure from listening to their addresses to the chamber that many have not read the bill. They would not even know that it is to commence on 1 July 2011. They would not yet know that, in the first year, the price of carbon is fixed at $10 and then is open to the market after that and will probably range between $25 and $40. They would not know that the minimum commitment is to reduce emissions to five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, absent a global agreement; and, with a global agreement, to some 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. They would not have a clue about those essences of the bill. Many of them see a tax take and they have ignored the knock-on effect of this tax take, as all tax takes have a knock-on effect.

As I said, I believe there has been a shift in the debate, and the previous speaker particularly highlighted that the Labor Party are blind to this shift. The public no longer accept the rhetoric of scare tactics that climate change is the sole cause of the drying up of the Murray, with no mention of El Nino or overuse of the Murray; or that it is the cause of the shrinking of the icecaps in the Antarctic, which not even Peter Garrett can deny anymore—he tried, but he had his head pulled in. The Antarctic is not shrinking; it is increasing. What an irony that you can no longer use that as the great icon, with the polar bears slipping off the icecaps.

This is the language and the extremism of just some 12 months ago. If you slightly challenge the science then you are burnt at the stake. But thankfully we have had some more honourable scientists come forward and balance the argument. I have been on several Senate committees inquiring into elements of climate change. You should see some of those scientists who are ramping up and drumming up the rhetoric of climate change just for extra research dollars; it is as simple as that. But thankfully some more honourable scientists have had the courage to come forward and put a more balanced argument. The absurdity of the debate reached unbelievable heights when one of Labor’s chief advisers on the issue, Professor Garnaut, suggested that farmers ought to switch out of sheep and beef production and move into kangaroo production because their emissions are less. I notice the Labor Party has not dispelled that recommendation from his very bulky report.

While Senator Wong walks into this chamber at question time and still rants the old language of extremism, the truth is that the Australian public are looking for more moderate presentations. In other words, they are looking for the truth of the matter. If this scheme was ever established, what would be its effect on the economy? What would be the effect on their jobs, their households and their bills? Will they have a job? What is the effect on worldwide emissions? This side of the chamber has had the courage to put it to the government that this is not all about politics. The effect is that people will lose their jobs by the tens of thousands. It will crush the economy and it will have no effect—it will be worthless; zero effect—on global emissions.

Labor speakers have come in here and not told the truth when they have said that we need to pass this now before the Copenhagen agreement. We found out, as other speakers have said, that the US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change said, ‘You don’t need to go to Copenhagen with legislation in your back pocket.’ Speakers have told us that Treasury modelling has shown that this will have minimal effect on the economy—a 0.1 per cent reduction in GDP over some 40 years, which is nothing. And who is going to still be around here in 40 years? But the truth is that that modelling was flawed because the government set the parameters of that modelling. That modelling had to assume that there was an international agreement—that China, India, the United States and Europe were all party to an international agreement. If that were the case, you may well get that result. But the truth is that they are not and, certainly at this stage, it looks like a distant hope.

Labor speakers have come in here and told us that we have to rush this through to give business certainty. I do not know what business the government have been speaking to—the Business Council of Australia, perhaps—but they ought to speak to the aluminium, coal or mining industry. I thought it was really well put by Anglo Coal Australia’s CEO, Seamus French, when it was put to him, ‘Do you seek the certainty of the ETS?’ and therefore whether we ought to pass this bill. He said, ‘We don’t want the certainty of a bullet.’ That is what this bill will result in if it is passed: it will be a bullet to business. It will be a bullet to jobs. It will be a bullet to households and families. It will be a bullet to the Australian economy. And, as I keep stressing, for what? For nothing. It is for political ends and political gains. If they want to play that political game—if this is what you are trying to do, Senator Conroy—and set it up for political purposes down the track, go ahead and make my day. I see the shift in the public on this and I am happy to keep it simple with them and debate it.

Senator Conroy —There is no question; no-one wrote this speech but you.

Senator McGAURAN —Thank you. I take that as a great compliment, Senator Conroy. He says I write my own speeches. Well, unlike him! You are right; I do write my own speeches.

Senator Conroy —No-one else would claim them.

Senator McGAURAN —Unlike you. You sit there in question time and cannot get up without your laptop, reading from it religiously, laboriously and boringly. You know nothing else but to read from your own laptop. Yes, you are quite right; I write my own speeches and I am proud of it.

Senator Conroy —No-one else would claim them. They are orphans.

Senator McGAURAN —No, Senator Conroy. I should add that I am glad you are listening. Did this quote from Martin Ferguson escape you? I wonder what he still doing in the cabinet—this quote found its way into the Australian newspaper and has not been retracted—because he is the greatest sceptic of them all. He said something that proves how useless and pathetic this scheme is. No, do not go until you hear what Martin Ferguson had to say. The prime example is that Australia’s emissions are 1.4 per cent of the world emissions, while China is something like up to 20 per cent of the world emissions. It was reported recently in the Australian by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson—and Senator Conroy, the most political of the frontbench, scurries out of the chamber when the truth is about to be laid down. I see another one has come in—Senator Carr. Politics is all he knows. If you asked him anything at all about this scheme or any detail of it, he would not have a clue. All he would say is, ‘It sure reads well in the Herald Sun’—before you get to Andrew Bolt’s page, of course—or, ‘It sure reads well in the polls.’ That is how he analyses just about every piece of legislation, quite frankly, but more so with this.

Labor’s own minister in cabinet, Martin Ferguson, quoted this fact, which is damning of the government’s scheme. He said:

And every four months, from now until 2020, China will build new coal-fired power stations possessing the same capacity as Australia’s entire coal-fired power sector.

It is estimated that China will build between 25 to 35 new coal-fired power stations by 2020. The government’s own Minister for Resources and Energy has had the courage to stand up and put a statistic down on the table which shows how worthless this scheme is, because just one new coal-fired power station in China—and China has 35 planned to be built every four months—outdoes the whole coal industry in Australia. I repeat: Martin Ferguson said this. What is he still doing in cabinet?

Senator Ian Macdonald —A very good man.

Senator McGAURAN —A very good man. A very honest man. I bet that he sits alone at dinner time. I bet the Prime Minister gave him a phone call after that—or maybe he did not, because I do not think Martin Ferguson would take phone calls from the Prime Minister. They have had certain clashes in the past.

It is with that backdrop that the Liberal Party have come to the debate. We understand that carbon pollution cannot be tackled from the extreme end—the Senator Penny Wong end and the Mr Rudd end, if you like. The coalition believe that there should be a carbon pollution reduction scheme, but one that does not wreck the Australian economy and also one that is not agreed to before Copenhagen or until the rest of the world has signed up to one. To the extent that climate change is affected by man-made pollution, the best way to fight it is with a strong economy so that the major polluters like the coal industry have the finances to invest in clean coal technologies and expensive, long-range research can be undertaken in alternative fuels, like solar energy.

Time is against me—there are other speaks on this legislation—but, if I had more time, I would discuss how the effects that this legislation will range across the economy. It is not a glib statement that I make. The facts and figures are there for the dairy industry, the beef industry, the coal industry and the aluminium industry. This legislation will affect every big business, small business and medium-sized business, according to a report by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They have noted the impact of the scheme in detail. They are not just protecting their own little corner; they are noting just how damaging this scheme will be.

But where are the unions to protect the jobs? Where are the unions to tell the government about their own scheme? Where are the great protectors of jobs? They got their legislation—‘fair workplaces’ or whatever it is called. We will soon hear about it—there is no doubt about that—as it makes its way through the economy and the thugs return to the workplaces. But where are the unions to protect the jobs of the coalminers? If you listen to the previous speakers, they would have coalminers as waiters in some restaurant or rainforest resort—that is where they are going to send the coalminers. The unions ought to be ashamed of themselves. I saw the leader of the ACTU wandering the corridors today. What was she talking about? She was certainly not talking about this scheme. (Time expired)