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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7847

Ms REA (3:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Minister, how is the government taking an evidence based approach to tackling environmental issues, including the challenge of climate change?

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Bonner for her question. I know she has a strong interest in this issue. The fact is that evidence based policy is important to the Rudd government, including when it comes to a comprehensive environmental and climate change agenda. I think it is worth while pointing out that there is a new approach afoot in the democracies of developing and developed countries which says that we will have a greater emphasis on rigorous public policymaking informed by available and credible evidence. It is a similar approach to that we have seen from the Obama administration in their environment and climate change agenda—guided by evidence, guided by the science.

The government are committed to driving reforms based on evidence in tackling genuine priorities in our environment—for example, through targets identified under the Caring for our Country program. Under Caring for our Country we published a business plan last year and called for projects that would address clear evidence based targets. This year my colleague Minister Burke and I have approved over $400 million worth of projects to address these targets. We are driving reforms as well through the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency, which I detailed yesterday to the Built Environment Meets Parliament conference, laying out this government’s energy efficiency agenda.

Mr Hunt —That was a great speech.

Mr GARRETT —I am very pleased to hear the shadow minister commending me for that speech. Thank you, Shadow Minister; I am glad you were listening. It includes better energy efficiency standards for new homes and commercial buildings, sweeping reforms to minimum standards ratings and assessments for energy efficiency and buildings in the future, mandatory disclosure of energy use for commercial office buildings and national legislation for appliance energy efficiency standards and labels. This is an evidence based agenda. For example, energy efficiency appliances alone are projected to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by some 19.5 million tonnes per year in 2020, the equivalent of taking almost five million cars off the road permanently.

Energy efficiency is a key plank in the government’s approach to tackling climate change based on the evidence and centred around a price on carbon under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. It is important to note that this is evidence based because it is guided by the science—report after report peer reviewed by other scientists, and a consensus of the world’s leading climate scientists, who have all urged the world to take action on climate change.

There is another approach which is in evidence in the opposition and it has come to the fore today in the parliament as the opposition has voted down the government’s CPRS. That approach is to discount and reinterpret evidence through an extreme ideological prism. The logical endpoint of that approach is to deny climate change, to delay taking any responsibilities for the challenges that we face. It is the approach of the climate change sceptics. This approach has seen the rejuvenation of some careers of prominent backbenchers and I am thinking of the member for O’Connor whose public pronouncements on this matter have been so evident. He is happy for us to know that his party is voting down climate change legislation in this House. These are the sceptics, the member for O’Connor and others, who are now dominating the Leader of the Opposition—a Leader of the Opposition who has gone from being the environment minister in the former government who wanted the world to know that he would have ratified Kyoto to the leader of a party who, on the very day of the vote on a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, cannot deliver a coherent position.

These are the numerous coalition sceptics, too many to name, too many to mention, who we saw yesterday, the day before the CPRS vote would be voted on in the Senate, coming to a presentation on how to stick your heads back in the sand. This is an extraordinary approach when a matter of such importance is before the Australian parliament. Despite years of research and reports we have a coalition that can only present a report that is not their policy and who today have failed the people of Australia.

Earlier today I was down at the National Library of Australia with the member for Curtin. We were admiring some relics of the past. Meanwhile, in the Senate, in this parliament, the relics of today were voting against the climate change legislation that we need in this country to satisfactorily address this most important of issues. We are voting for the national interest; they voted for their self-interest. In the face of the huge challenge that is represented by dangerous climate change, the Australian people deserve so much better.