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Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Page: 8669


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (1:05 PM) —I rise today to contribute to this debate on Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related legislation. I note that this is the second time I have spoken on this legislation—as it is for many others in this chamber. Despite the amendments and the dirty deal announced by the Prime Minister earlier today, the legislation in front of us is no different to the legislation that we debated some months ago.

The government’s CPRS legislation, the ‘continue polluting regardless scheme’, has been flawed from day one. It has simply become worse with each passing deal struck with big polluters, and now with the climate change sceptics. The Prime Minister has been first class in spinning this issue from day one—calling for a need for action on climate change, while delivering virtually nothing. His doublespeak for action, coupled with the government’s pathetic pollution reduction targets, will mean nothing for tackling carbon emissions for the future or for saving the environment. It is simply locking us in to failure when combating dangerous climate change. The lacklustre approach in this legislation has done nothing but give a cash splash to the big polluters. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has again proven himself to be the half-baked Prime Minister—all spin and no substance.

The Greens cannot and will not support this legislation. It is environmentally flawed, environmentally ineffective and economically inefficient. Just now, the Prime Minister had his press conference and announced that there is no real change in his deal with the coalition that makes this any more environmentally effective or economically efficient. It is still as useless as ever, but of course we are giving an extra $5 billion to $6 billion to the big polluters. We are not able to support this legislation and I must say, as a member of the party that has championed action on climate change in this place for years and years, it is very sad to not see a piece of legislation before us that actually takes seriously the challenges of climate change. We cannot accept a target of five per cent. We know that a minimum of 25 per cent is what is needed in order to even start the action needed to tackle climate change. That is the minimum that is required by the global community and by scientists, and it would go some way to repairing the years of dangerous inaction that have taken place before us—years of ignorance and cynicism that have left our planet screaming and crying for help.

Sadly, the government are not listening to the science or the community and are continuing to promote their five per cent target as the most ideal and economically responsible model to combat climate change. We know that this is simply not true. They are not listening to the community and they are not listening to the science; they are listening instead to the big polluters and now to the climate change sceptics. As my colleague Senator Christine Milne has highlighted on a number of occasions in this place, committing to a minimum five per cent target is worse than useless. In fact, 25 per cent is the bare minimum required by the science and the global community. Without committing to at least 25 per cent, we are locking ourselves into failure—failure to clean up the mess that has been created from years and years of inaction and ignorance.

The government’s original bill was so flawed in its design that not only were the targets pathetically low but the scheme also actually ensured that it was impossible for motivated individuals to take the action they wanted to take to contribute to reducing climate change. We know that the original bill not only set a cap beyond which the emissions could not rise; it also set a floor below which they could not fall—a simply foolish approach from a government who say they want to take action on climate change. The harder individuals or state governments work to reduce their fossil fuel use, the more pollution permits can be issued to those who simply do not care at the expense of the actions taken by individuals and the expansion of emissions by the big polluters. The minister has spent months concealing this flaw within the legislation and, while we have finally seen some recognition, I am fearful that today’s announcement of a deal with the coalition has simply given a veneer of interest in voluntary action rather than a true motivation for individuals, state governments and local governments to take a full role in order to reduce climate change. It is simply ripping money out of householders and giving it to the polluters.

Mr Rudd says that failing to act today is rolling the dice with our children’s future, but failing to be honest about the challenges that face us with climate change, playing politics instead of being practical and instead of promoting true action on climate change, is playing russian roulette. The government has announced today that $5 billion dollars extra will be taken out of households and put into the hands of the big polluters so they can continue business as usual. I said in my first speech in this place over a year ago that we need to end the mantra of business as usual. We need more decisive and immediate action to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions. We need to face the realities of the big challenge before us, not gloss over it with spin and no substance. What we have seen from the Prime Minister today is more spin, more spin, more spin. We have not seen true commitment to tackling climate change. A five per cent reduction target goes nowhere near what we need to do. He is, despite his own spin, leaving it to future generations to clean up his mess.

Surely we are all of the same opinion in this place that the way we are currently living in this world is simply not sustainable. We need a transformation and a willingness to do things differently. We must listen to the concerns and views of our younger generations, those people who will have to carry these burdens into the future. In 2050 I will be 69 and my daughter will be in her 30s. I shudder to think about what our world will look like then if we continue to defer the tough action needed and simply put it onto the shoulders of future generations. It has always been of great interest to me that those who are the biggest sceptics of taking action on climate change and those who want to spin the relevance of the tough decisions that we have to make are not the people who will be around in 2050 or 2060 or 2080. They are not the people who will be living through the nightmare that will be left simply because we had a Prime Minister and a government who today did a dirty deal with dirty polluters because the coalition would not get their act together.

It is absolutely astounding that a government that was elected on the mantra of tackling climate change has simply been able to spin itself into a web of inaction and falsities. We need a government that actually understands the challenges before us and that will be prepared to reduce our carbon emissions, not just talk about it, and a Prime Minister who, when he talks about the future of our younger generation and about our children and our grand children, understands that he must match words with action. To date, we have not seen any of this. To date, we have seen billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going towards big dirty polluters to continue business as usual, while householders and young people who are desperate to do their part in tackling climate change will not be supported, state governments that are trying to do things will not be supported and local governments who are actively representing the concern of their local community that something above spin and talk be done will not be supported.

This legislation locks us into failure. We hear stories of women, and young people in particular, working right around the world in their individual communities—whether they are in Australia, the Americas or in the low-lying islands of Kiribati or Tuvalu—to alleviate the effects of climate change. These people are taking action on climate change that really matters, because they are faced with the realities of the dangerous climate change that awaits us.

Unfortunately, we have a government that continues to spin and talk without any action. It is already giving $16 billion in compensation to Australia’s biggest polluters and now we hear today that Prime Minister Rudd wants to give them even more. He is buying friends on this issue and not buying moral credibility. He talks a lot about the moral courage needed to take action on climate change, yet nothing he has done today actually proves that. Every dollar that compensates the big polluters is a dollar less for individuals and householders to take on the challenge of climate change. Every dollar spent—every extra dollar spent—and given to polluters is a dollar less that is put into tackling climate change and making a real difference. Today we have seen an extra $5 billion to $6 billion given to polluters and not to really tackling climate change.

The Rudd Labor government was elected in 2007 on the back of a mantra to tackle climate change. Today’s announcement of the dirty deal to continue dirty polluting simply locks us in to failure and makes their promise to reduce carbon emissions even worse. The CRPS legislation continues to be today the ‘continuing pollution regardless scheme’.

Australia cannot actually afford to be playing these games of politics with the environment any longer. We know that the rest of the world cannot either and Australia must be playing its part in ensuring that we step aside from the politics and talk about the realities that face us. We know that we need to be taking real action on climate change. Mr Rudd has the rhetoric down pat—there is no doubt about that—but he does not have the substance to follow through. The future of our children, our grandchildren and their children is at stake. This is serious business and committing to a half-hearted attempt at reducing the effects of climate change is simply not good enough. Kevin Rudd said today that not supporting this legislation would be a roll of the dice for our children. That is what he said today. Well, all spin and no substance is playing Russian roulette.