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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 4667


Senator IAN MACDONALD (11:40 AM) —In a week that the locals here in Canberra tell me is the coldest week they have had in the last decade, it is somewhat ironic that we are debating global warming and climate change and the Labor government’s flawed and politically motivated so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I do not think that anyone denies that the climate is changing. Indeed, the climate has been changing for as long we have kept records or done research. We all remember that once the globe was covered in ice. Obviously, it has changed since those days. During the break, I saw a plaque up at the Chillagoe Caves, in Cape York, which was describing the geological uniqueness of that locality. This plaque reminded us that, 250 million years ago, Brisbane was the location of the South Pole ice cap. Clearly, the climate has been changing for many millions of years. But is it a man-made change? I am not sure how many human beings caused the ice cap to melt 400 or 500 million years ago. Perhaps some of the Labor Party people could explain that to me.

In this debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills, I do not want to make any judgment on the cause of climate change. I always think that, if the world’s top 10,000 scientists and experts cannot agree on what is causing it, what chance have I got to make an informed judgment. I have to say that, over the last five years in Australia alone, those who are studying climate change and who are promoting the view of the United Nations have received more than $200 million in research grants looking into climate change. As a result, one would think that we might have had more evidence than we have at this time. I was disturbed to learn that grants to people who do not follow the Labor Party line on climate change have suddenly dried up. Those scientists who have a different view are no longer being funded by the Labor government’s research money. That is a little bit disturbing in itself.

If there is any possibility of man-made greenhouse gas emissions being a cause of climate change then certainly we in Australia, as world citizens, have a part to play in reducing those emissions. There is a difference between playing our part in conjunction with the rest of the world and destroying Australia’s economy and the livelihoods of Australian workers by penalising our country in a way that no other country is being penalised. And we are doing this simply to pander to the political egos of our Prime Minister and our current climate change minister. Yes, of course we must play our part, but we must do it at the same time as the big emitters. When the United States, China, India and Russia reduce their carbon emissions then we should do it as well. When our competitors like Indonesia, South Africa, Columbia and Argentina start their emissions trading schemes then certainly we should do that too. But to act in advance of that is simply tilting at windmills like Don Quixote. It is a heroic statement that the Labor government would have us make, but it is one that is almost meaningless.

I think that Penny Wong is our Don Quixote of climate change. Her actions in advance of the rest of the world are at best based on misinterpretation and a misplaced heroic, romantic, idealistic justification or, worse, are a con job on the Australian public to feed her political ego and that of her boss. Those egos know no bounds. I think that even Labor Party members and senators understand that Senator Wong has got it wrong. It was quite clear recently that, when there were substantial amendments made to this bill—what is it: version 10?—a couple of months ago, Mr Greg Combet was brought in, supposedly as the junior minister, to fix it up. Even the Labor Party have recognised that Senator Wong has got this completely wrong, and Mr Combet has been brought in to try to sort out the mess that has been left by the Labor government.

In this debate I could not believe my ears when I heard Labor senators saying and implying that all of the ills of the world will be cured if we pass this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill this week in the Senate. Are those Labor senators seriously trying to tell me that we will save the Barrier Reef if we pass this bill this week? I heard a Labor senator say yesterday that the tropical diseases coming down from the north would be addressed if only we could pass this bill and Australia could start reducing some of its less than 1.4 per cent of world greenhouse gas emissions. Are these Labor senators seriously trying to tell us that the rainforests will be saved if we pass this bill this week? Give me a break! Australia exudes less than 1.4 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This bill, even in its horrendous complexity and regulations, will only reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by a little bit. To suggest that the Barrier Reef is going to be saved by passing this bill just insults our intelligence.

Where is the intellectual rigour in that argument? A former Labor Treasurer of Queensland, Keith De Lacy, said that even if Australia stopped emitting all greenhouse gas today then within 12 months China would pick that up and a bit more. As Senator McGauran has just said, Martin Ferguson, a quite courageous Minister for Resources and Energy in the Labor government, agrees that Australia’s actions are only a pinprick in the world’s fight against climate change. If emissions are the cause, then it needs action from the big emitters.

Seriously, is there any real, meaningful prospect of reduction from these other countries? Is the United States going to substantially reduce its emissions? We have heard a lot about the bill that has passed through the House of Representatives, but all of the informed commentators will tell you that it will get nowhere before Copenhagen and in the end the United States will look after itself.

We have heard what China is doing. Whilst they will have words to say, they are increasing their emissions. And it is the same for India, South Africa, Indonesia, Columbia and Argentina, those countries which are big competitors of ours in coal and beef exports. They are not even contemplating an emissions trading scheme and yet Minister Wong and Mr Rudd want to penalise Australian industries, and therefore Australian workers’ jobs, in this horrible political ego trip they are embarked upon at the present time.

To suggest, as Minister Wong does, that Australia has got to go to Copenhagen with a legislated response so that the rest of the world will follow suit, is ridiculous. How vain! How absolutely stupid to think that, just because Senator Wong turns up in Copenhagen with a completed bill, that is going to influence anyone else in the world as to what they should do.

I refer senators to the evidence given by Dr Brian Fisher, the former very distinguished head of the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and now a distinguished consultant. He has been involved in international negotiations on climate change. He was there at the Kyoto round when Australia did quite well. In evidence before a Senate committee he just pointed out the stupidity, the vanity of Senator Wong in believing that it is essential for her to go to Copenhagen with a passed piece of legislation so that the rest of the world will follow suit. I know that the rest of the world laugh at Mr Rudd and Senator Wong. They laugh at their naivete and cannot quite believe the egos that this pair must have, believing that they are the world saviours on climate change. Get real! I cannot believe that the Labor Party have fallen for this at all.

In fact, sitting in two Senate committees that have looked very closely at climate change and this CPRS bill, I saw that Labor Party senators, whilst they are fighting the good fight and saying the right words, deep down know that this is a crock of a piece of legislation. They know that their mates in the union movement—the bosses do not seem to be very concerned about this at all, but the actual workers—are petrified at the job losses that will flow from this. If they were going to lose their jobs to save the Barrier Reef, perhaps they might be prepared to put up with that. But of course it will not save the barrier reef. It will not reduce carbon emissions. All the evidence that was given at the Senate committee hearings has shown that it will mean that Australia’s emissions-efficient coal industries will simply go to South Africa, Colombia or Indonesia, and there will be greater greenhouse gas emissions. Australian workers will be losing their jobs for no reward at all.

These industries—the coal industry, the aluminium industry, the cement industry—are run by multinational companies who have international boards who will put their investment dollars where they can get the best return. They are not going to put them in Australia, which is being burdened by huge taxes in the production of coal, aluminium, all of our minerals and metals, and cement—those activities and those products that we support and compete with others in. They will put their investments into places like Indonesia, who will not be looking at an ETS and who will not be looking at taxing their industries out of existence.

What happens to the workers I represent in my state of Queensland and who, I regrettably say, the Labor Party has again abandoned? We heard from witness after witness, and there are statistics. Time is not going to let me get anywhere near the statistics I wanted to put into this debate, but it is clear from the evidence that the jobs of people in the Bowen Basin coal area, in the Gladstone area of Queensland, and in Mackay, Townsville, Rockhampton and Mount Isa are going to be thrown to the wolves.

The copper refinery in Townsville, where I have my office, is 50 years old this year. In the last 50 years it has produced marvellous wealth for Australia. The refinery has employed a hell of a lot of Australians. They will be looking at moving overseas. Why? Because 82 per cent of the world’s copper comes from countries which do not have and will not have an emissions trading scheme. So the Australian copper industry, which is going to be burdened with millions of dollars of taxes, will again become uncompetitive against the rest of the world. In Mackay, a city that lies on the Bowen Basin coalfields, what is the local member for Dawson doing about this? What is the local member for Flynn, based on Gladstone, doing about this bill which will cost the jobs of workers in his area? Absolutely nothing. I regret to say that senators from Queensland on the Labor Party side are going to vote to destroy the jobs of so many Australian families in the mining and minerals processing area.

The evidence is there. In the dairy industry there will be $6,000 to $8,000 per farm per year in additional costs—and that is immediately; that is not waiting for 2015, when agriculture is brought into the scheme. This is simply from the initial aspects of the Labor Party’s CPRS. We heard evidence in Mackay that rates will go up by 20 per cent in the city of Mackay, directly related to the CPRS. We have heard that electricity costs for ordinary Australian households will go up anywhere between 50 per cent and 200 per cent, particularly 200 per cent when you add the renewable energy scheme to the CPRS. These are costs that Australians are going to have to bear simply to pander to the political egos of Mr Rudd and Senator Wong. The list goes on and on. The Teys Bros abattoir in Rockhampton currently employs about 1,000 people. When this scheme comes into operation—if it ever, heaven forbid, does—they will have to cut their production by half, and 400 jobs will go out the window in Rockhampton. What is the member for Capricornia doing about this prospective job loss in her electorate? Absolutely nothing.

I have a view, and I formed this view from seeing Labor senators at various committees and from reading articles in the paper, that Mr Rudd and Senator Wong never really wanted to get this scheme through. They know—they cannot help but know—that this scheme, in advance of our competitors, is just going to cost the jobs of Australian working families. They are playing politics. They are hoping against hope that the Senate will knock off this bill, and it will. They will then be able to go out to those who believe Senator Wong is the saviour of the world and say, ‘Look, we tried to do this but those nasty Liberals knocked it off.’ But they will be pleased in the knowledge that all of the job losses which were clearly going to happen will then not happen. The Senate will save those working families from the job losses which would follow the passing of this bill. I cannot believe that—and I know that—the Labor senators are so gullible as to accept that this bill would do anything.

If the bill was going to make one iota of difference to the Great Barrier Reef, to the rainforest, to tropical diseases or to all the other things that Labor senators are mouthing will be saved by the CPRS, perhaps we could accept it, but it will not make one iota of difference to the changing climate of the world. What will make a difference is getting Russia, China, the United States, Indonesia, South Africa, Columbia and Argentina involved. Get them involved, then Australia should play its part. For Australia to play its part before those major competitors do would be to sacrifice Australian working families on the alter of political correctness and the political egos of our Prime Minister and our Minister for Climate Change and Water.

I would ask Labor senators to do the right thing, to be honest about this. I know what you believe deep down in your hearts, but put some courage and backbone into your duties here in the federal parliament and vote with us on this bill. Show Mr Rudd and Senator Wong that you will not be part of the destruction of working families’ jobs in this country. (Time expired)