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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1240

Senator IAN MACDONALD (11:25 AM) —I do not want to carry this debate on. I understand there is some pressure building to complete the debate so that the bill can be passed. I certainly do not want to give Senator Milne an opportunity for another 15 minutes of saying what she said in the previous 15 minutes. But I do want to comment on how strange it is that Senator Milne should criticise Senator Wong for never answering questions. She is right in that Senator Wong never does answer questions, but Senator Milne is a great exponent of that herself. When I asked her a question before, we had 15 minutes of attacks on me and the coalition, as always,  and we had allegations that I am a sceptic. Well, I am a sceptic of the Greens political party, not of climate change. I accept, and have accepted for a long time, that climate change is happening. We as a government understood more about greenhouse gas in being the first government in the world to set up a greenhouse office. So do not lecture me about those sorts of things, Senator Milne.

My scepticism comes, as always, with the hypocrisy of the Greens political party—a party that is purely hypocritical when it comes to environment matters. Shut down the Tasmanian forests—which are the best managed forests in the world—but do not worry too much about Indonesia or the Solomons or the Congo or the Amazon; they are not too worried about that. What do they do to try to get the United States to the table—the big emitters? They continually attack them; call them names. They have stunts when the United States President comes in to town. What a great way to try to get the United States to get involved in matters of greenhouse gas emissions!

I am not a sceptic, Senator Milne. I am sure no-one takes too much notice of you, but I want to place on record that Senator Milne’s accusation that I am a sceptic is simply not true. I am concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and the changing of the world climate. I do not need to be lectured by Senator Milne saying that Australia will be one of the countries most affected by the changing climate. I know that. My comment simply is: unless you get the big emitters to the table, nothing Australia does will impact upon the changing climate of the world.

The Greens and the Democrats get all very warm and fuzzy: ‘We’ll cut Australia back. We’ll do this, and we’ll do that.’ I am a proud Australian and I like to think that everyone notices what we do in Australia, but I have to say, with some regret, that very few do. We have to play our part. We have played our part, and we will continue to do so. If signing a bit of paper means we are playing our part, well, good luck to us. Let us play our part. What we have to do it if we are really serious about climate change is not destroy the Australian economy while every other economy keeps emitting 98.6 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sure, we have to do our bit, but we do not have to do it in advance of what other countries are doing. We need to get those really big emitters to the table—that is the way we can do it. I did not ask Senator Milne for a 15-minute discourse on what she had said previously, attacking the Howard government and a word or two about the Greens’ mates in the Labor Party. I asked her what practical impact her amendments would have, not on greenhouse gas emissions, not on Australia’s ranking, but on the changing climate of the world. Of course, we did not get an answer to that, because the answer would not suit the Greens political party’s purpose.

As I say, I do not want to continue this on. There are a lot of other questions I have on the bill. This is the third minister who has been in charge of this bill in this debate. Clearly, the government is not terribly serious about it. The questions I asked of the first of the ministers, about the actual set-up of the bill, were not answered.

I am curious to know if the infrastructure announcements by the Labor Party in the pre-election period are going to be subject to advice from Infrastructure Australia. My understanding of Mr Rudd’s comments is that everything the Labor Party promised would be delivered. Even Regional Partnerships projects that had been rejected by the department but had then been promised by the Labor Party in the pre-election period will go ahead without any scrutiny whatsoever. For example, the dead tree in Barcaldine is going to get lots of money, whereas carers, Bonnie Babes and those sorts of people are going to have to fight for theirs. I wonder, Minister, if you could explain to me whether Infrastructure Australia will be looking critically and carefully at the infrastructure promises made by the Labor Party prior to the election. If, as I suspect, they will not be looking at them because they are going to be delivered anyhow, then I ask what credibility this unit, Infrastructure Australia, could possibly have if it is only going to be allowed to look at selected infrastructure areas, not areas that the government has already decided are going to go ahead.