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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Page: 7736

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (13:22): I do not intend to speak for a long time.

Senator NASH: Why not?

Senator MARSHALL: The reason is that I have been speaking on this for nine years. We have been talking about the impact of climate change ever since I have been here, in opposition and now in government, and finally we are at the point where we are actually going to stand up and do what needs to be done. I am very proud of that and that is why I am going to speak. I am not going to mount all the scientific or economic arguments that we have talked about over the years. I am just going to make a few points because it is important, I think, to put my position again in general terms in this debate, which is that we are going to do what we have known for decades needs to be done.

I want to start my contribution with a quote from my good friend Senator Chris Back. On 30 November 2009 he said:

Certainly we want to see action on climate change. Anyone who says that we do not is an idiot; a complete idiot.

Of course Senator Chris Back is a member of the opposition. I bet he wishes he could take those words back now because as he looks to the left of him in the opposition, and to the right of him and in front of him and behind him, he sees those very people who do not want to take action on climate change, the very people he described as idiots—complete idiots. I am sure he really seriously wishes he could take those words back. I am sure his colleagues wish that he had never said them in the first place.

We have spent enough time on this. The first government review of emissions trading was undertaken almost two decades ago. During this excessively long deliberation there is little that has been left unsaid on the matter; therefore, I wish to make only a few obvious points. As I have said already, I have spoken on this issue many times over the nine years that I have been here, and there is little left to be said. The science is clearly decided: climate change is happening now. This is not a matter of opinion. The science is there. The consensus of scientific professionals across the world is so strong as to be irrefutable. Continuing to debate this point is akin to debating the existence of gravity. I have not heard anything in the debate in this chamber that we have had over many years that has changed the position of the science one iota. What I have heard is a debate about political opportunism, not about science. It is about political opportunism for the opposition to mount a debate, a scare campaign, to galvanise political support based on ignorance, and I think they should be ashamed of that.

The economics of what we are doing are good. The mechanism that is central to the government's plan to reduce carbon pollution, putting a price on pollution, is supported by the IMF, the Productivity Commission and the federal Treasury as being the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution, and I have not heard anything in this debate that questions the economics of what we are doing. But again what we have heard is political opportunism, a scare campaign to try to galvanise political, opportunistic support against what this government is doing.

Given that the scientific and economic arguments are decided, we have to ask: why is the opposition persisting in this debate? Again, that only goes to reinforce that the debate is not at all about the issue. It is about the opposition abrogating their responsibility to do something and using a political opportunity to try to win support against a government that is prepared to make the hard decisions to do the right thing by the economy and by future generations of Australia. I believe that will ultimately backfire on them.

I do not want to be judged by history as belonging to a wilfully ignorant and obstinate group within this chamber whose legacy, if they had their way, would be to leave an uninhabitable planet for our children and our children's children. I do not want to be part of that legacy and I am not going to be. Our generations have consumed more of the world's resources than any generation before us, and this pattern cannot continue unabated. We know we need to act, and people who continue to stick their heads in the sand, as the opposition does and would have us all do, commit what may well be the greatest negligent act ever visited on humanity.

History will catch up with those who oppose these important bills. In 2011 ignorance is no longer an excuse. Political opportunism is not a responsible course of action for people who have the responsibility to look after this generation, the next generation and generations to come. That is the responsibility we have in this place. I would not be numbered amongst those Australian politicians who once opposed the enfranchisement of women and Aborigines, I would not be numbered amongst those who opposed the introduction of universal healthcare or superannuation and I will not be amongst those to be condemned by history as opposing this important reform.

We do not do this because it is fun; we do it because it is the right thing to do. We know we have to act, we know why we have to act and we know what it is we have to do. We are going to do this because it is the right thing to do, not just for this generation but for the future generations of this country. I commend these bills to the Senate.