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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7892

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (15:30): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Whish-Wilson today.

Like goats to the volcano, these are the days of the 45th Parliament. Let's not forget that this policy backflip, this reversal, this capitulation started with a speech last week in the UK by the former Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott, where he came out and said, in simple language—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I know that you weren't happy with it, Senator Brandis—that climate change is crap. He talked about goats being sacrificed to volcanos, as well as being thoroughly disrespectful to climate scientists. The big question we need to ask ourselves about the policy that's been announced in the last 24 hours is: if it's so good and it's got the backing of so many experts and it's the solution to all our problems—political problems, reliability problems, price problems and emissions problems—why has it taken five frigging years to get it into this chamber? Why has it taken this mob five years to come up with a policy? We've had five years of policy chaos, five years of policy uncertainty. I'll tell you why—and I'll come back to goats and volcanoes.

I am not going to show you this prop, Madam Deputy President, but I do want to read from one of my favourite cartoonists, Jon Kudelka, who also happens to be a very famous proponent of Tasmania. In his cartoon today, he has a picture of the Prime Minister, who looks like a goat. He's on the edge of a volcano, and he's saying:

"That was my last goat," spake Malcolm. "Art thou appeased, Great One?"

Inside the volcano is a ghostly, smoky apparition of Mr Tony Abbott:

"MORE GOATS!" screamed the volcano god.

Well, there you have it. That's why we have had this capitulation in policy today. It is a capitulation that incentivises more burning of dirty coal, keeping uneconomic, dirty coal plants open for longer. It is a plan that will kill investment in renewables in this country—investment that requires long time horizons, long-term contracts and long-term certainty. It is a policy backflip that will further undermine our global reputation in the fight against climate change. We know that key criticisms of this policy reversal have been raised—criticisms that are very important to us in terms of our meeting the Paris Agreement and the spirit of the Paris Agreement.

Senator Williams interjecting

Senator WHISH-WILSON: What this means—for Senator William's benefit, through you, Mr President—is that we get together every couple of years with the others who sign the Paris Agreement and we agree to tighten our targets and increase our efforts to tackle global warming. That's what we agree to do. This policy reversal puts a ceiling on our Paris commitments. That's what this does. That's the red meat that has been thrown to the volcano god by our Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull.

Speaking about goats, sitting here during question time reminded me of an excellent book that I read by Mr Jon Ronson called The Men Who Stare at Goats. Let me tell you about this book. It's a true story. It's about a secret operations group that was set up by the US military to try to empower operatives with extrasensory perception and special powers. One of the things they did was stare at goats, hoping that if they could concentrate their powers on staring at goats then the goats would die. Interestingly enough, one did actually die during the experiment, and that's outlined in the book.

The metaphorical example here is a very real one. This government can stare as much as it likes at climate change action and pretend that climate change is going to go away, but it won't go away. The oceans are warming, the reef is dying, and we are seeing unprecedented extreme weather. We need to go further than our Paris agreements. This is not an answer to reliable energy, cheap power or climate; this is an answer to saving Malcolm Turnbull's political bacon.

Question agreed to.