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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1068

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (15:46): The previous speaker said that he was an economist. Let me quote from Professor Ross Garnaut, vice-chancellor, fellow and professorial research fellow in economics at the University of Melbourne, and author of Dog Days: Australia after the boom. He says, specifically on this question, in an article in today's paper:

It would lead to larger sacrifices of productivity than would be necessary with broadly based carbon pricing. It would lead either to much higher costs later in the decade or to Australia breaching its commitments to the international community and damaging its own interest in the global mitigation effort.

I think that Professor Garnaut is indeed an authority on this very subject, and he makes the point very well that if we do not proceed with action right now it will cost us much more dearly in the years to come.

This is a matter that is truly a debate about climate change being dressed up as a debate about tax for no other reason than political expediency and for the member for Warringah to become Prime Minister of Australia. By dressing it up as a debate about tax, what we are doing is diminishing the true issue and diminishing the reports of thousands of scientists around the world who have been telling us for decades that climate change is real, that climate change is resulting partially from the emissions of greenhouse gases around the world and that human activity is in fact contributing to those emissions.

The government has had to trivialise that debate in order to get back to turning it into a debate about carbon tax. The problem with that is that what we are doing as a nation is effectively walking away from our responsibility not only to the Australian people but to people right across the world. So much so, that this has been a matter that has been the subject of international discussions and debate for years and years. Right now, there is a conference taking part in Warsaw in Poland, and this government could not even see fit to send a minister of government to those discussions—such is the gravity of this issue.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you accept the science—and this side of the House does—then this truly is the most serious issue facing Australia and the rest of the world. If you do not accept the science, then clearly it is not. It has been part of the government's strategy to undermine the science by running with many of the commentators who are prepared to diminish the work of scientists who have worked in this field for years. Even the most recent report of the IPCC confirms the findings of previous reports. The work of scientists that has been peer reviewed time and time again is supported every time there is another report.

Labor's position on this is very clear: we said from the outset that we are prepared to abolish the price on carbon that we had set. But we are prepared to do it only if the government is prepared to take appropriate and responsible steps in place of abolishing that, because if you do not, what you are doing is simply offloading the burden onto future generations. I want to talk about that burden just for a moment, because one of the primary arguments of members opposite is to talk about the cost to society as a result of the price on carbon that the former Gillard government put on.

What about the cost to society of doing nothing? The cost to society that arose after the 11 or 12 years of serious drought in the Murray-Darling Basin, that ran into billions of dollars? The cost to society every time there is a cyclone, a flood or a bushfire in this country? What is the cost to society of allowing this issue to go unchecked, when we know full well that it is going to have dramatic and drastic effects on our health costs in this country? What about all of those costs? If you factored those into account, then the reality is that with the cost to society it is much better to tackle the problem than to walk away from it.

We know that the government's response to this now is a policy of direct action—a policy that cannot be measured, a policy that nobody supports, a policy that will not achieve the targets and a policy that in reality comes at a greater cost than the price on carbon placed by the Gillard government was to families around Australia—a cost of $1,200 and more to each and every family in this country. (Time expired)