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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1941

Climate Change

Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:32): My question is to Senator Sinodinos representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Mr Hunt. On 26 September 2016, the CSIRO made a presentation to me led by its chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall. They provided no empirical evidence that carbon dioxide from human activity affects global climate. Senator Sinodinos, are you aware that the CSIRO refused to state that there is any danger indicated in the last 200 years of climate records. Further, they showed no empirical evidence of any unusual changes in climate. Further, they have not done their due diligence—as an example, the Bureau of Meteorology has truncated data, reduced the 1930s warming period and inflated recent temperatures. Would Senator Sinodinos please explain the process by which the government has come to do due diligence and the evidence that it relies upon for its current policy on climate?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! The Cabinet Secretary representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Sinodinos.

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:33): I thank the honourable member for his question and for his interest in climate change and climate science. The first point I would make is that, as a new member of the chamber, Senator Roberts was afforded the opportunity of a briefing with the CSIRO. It was a two-hour scientific briefing in Sydney on 26 September 2016, organised at his request. Dr Marshall as well as senior scientists from CSIRO made themselves available through Senate estimates to answer additional questions from Senator Roberts. Senator Roberts had the benefit of what I thought was a delightful exchange with the Chief Scientist at estimates. I was at the table representing the minister. Having listened closely to the Chief Scientist and having received information from you, Senator Roberts, over the years, I have seen nothing to sway me from the view, which is the view of this government, about the reality of climate change, the importance of tackling it and the fact that the government is on the right track in doing that. I suggest that if you have any evidence that appears to contradict any of this, of course, it is always open to you in a public arena to put that evidence.

We as a government have to deal with these issues in a very precautionary way, and the balance of the science and of the evidence is clearly in favour of the proposition that we have to do things about climate change and climate science. We in this chamber can have legitimate differences about how to do that. But if we are getting to the state in this country where everybody wants to be selective about the facts that they use to support particular propositions then I think we are on a very dangerous course. It is very important for us, as policy makers, to understand where the balance of risks lie, and the balance of risks lie, in this case, in putting our heads in the sand and believing climate change does not exist.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Roberts, a supplementary question.

Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:35): I wish to advise you, Mr President, and Senator Sinodinos through you, that tomorrow evening in Parliament House there will be a public presentation of the empirical evidence contradicting what the senator has just said. Given that my team of world-leading scientists and I publicly exposed that, will the government please outline the cost-benefit analysis that it has done for its current climate policies?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:36): I do not have time available to set out the full cost-benefit analysis of dealing with this matter. The thing we have to remember in dealing with this matter is that we are dealing with this not only in a national sense but also in an international sense. We have been part of a whole series of international panels which have looked at these issues. In that context, I reject the proposition that somehow there is some vast global conspiracy which has sought to put the world on this particular course. The fact of the matter is that it is a free country and you can present whatever facts you like, but I believe we have to go with the overall preponderance of the science.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Roberts, a final supplementary question.

Senator ROBERTS (Queensland) (14:36): It is remarkable that we have just heard the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science state that it is just not a matter of facts. What we want is the science, and I want to know why the government, now that he has raised the international issues, has not provided a complete, proper, rigorous and required cost-benefit analysis of the Paris climate agreement before foisting it on everyday Australians and Queenslanders.

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:37): There was a lot of preparatory work in the lead-up to Paris. That work involved evaluating the impact of the science to date and evaluating the impact of the measures we have taken as a country. We took a measured approach to our targets for 2020 and 2030. We will continue to do that. One thing that is clear is that the coalition is dealing seriously with this issue in a way which manages the transition in the interests of employment and in the interests of all Australians.