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Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Page: 1013

Senator CAMERON (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate the challenges Australia faces on climate change and what steps the government is taking to meet those challenges?

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! I will call Senator Wong when there is silence.

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —Thank you, Mr President. It is interesting to notice the different range of interjections on the other side when the words ‘climate change’ are uttered in this chamber, evincing yet again the complete division on that side, certainly between Senators Boswell and Minchin and others who claim to care about the issue of climate change and want to do something about it. What we know is that carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases are causing the world’s climate change and we are experiencing more extreme weather, higher temperatures, more droughts and rising sea levels. We also know that, with one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, this nation’s environment and our economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now.

At the last election Australians made it clear that they wanted action on climate change; that they, unlike too many in the Howard government, understood the challenge of climate change and wanted a government to act. We are getting on with the job of tackling climate change in a number of ways. As you will recall, Mr President, our first official act was to ratify the Kyoto protocol. We are now engaged in negotiations for a global agreement. We are creating a massive expansion in low-pollution jobs and renewable energy, firstly, with our 20 per cent renewable energy target, which will increase the uptake of renewable energy in this country by four times—a massive investment in renewable energy in Australia. Through the Nation Building and Jobs Plan, which was announced by the Prime Minister, we have made the largest investment in energy efficiency in the nation’s history. Later today I will be releasing the exposure draft legislation for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We will be releasing that exposure draft, as we said we would; the outworking of the decisions in the white paper— (Time expired)

Senator CAMERON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on any international developments on climate change which may have implications for Australia?

Senator Boswell —What about the workers?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I will take Senator Boswell’s interjection. It appears he is lecturing the Labor Party about the workers. It is a pity he did not remember that when he voted for Work Choices in this chamber. The fact is this is about the jobs of the future, Senator Boswell, as well as protecting today’s jobs. Unlike you, we will not shy away from the task of building tomorrow’s jobs whilst we protect the jobs of today. In relation to the question, there have been some welcome developments in recent times. I particularly welcome the comments of both President Obama and his US climate envoy, Mr Todd Stern, in recent weeks which did a number of things: first, reinforcing the US administration’s commitment to a strong international agreement at Copenhagen and also to a broadbased cap and trade emissions trading program. We are pleased that the new administration is showing leadership on this issue. We have always said since we have come to government that critical to any international agreement will be the United States as well as China. (Time expired)

Senator CAMERON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister indicate to the Senate what potential threats there are to Australia taking responsible action on climate change?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —There is a very simple answer to that, through you, Mr President, and that is: those opposite—those opposite who made sure for over a decade they did nothing on this issue, dominated by—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, address your comments to the chair; do not take the interjections from the other side. Those on the other side: interjections are disorderly.

Senator WONG —a government on that side which denied the existence of climate change for years, locking in continued growth in Australia’s carbon pollution, which it has left for this government to put in place policies to turn around. What is interesting is to look at the range of things that those opposite have said about when they would announce their position. First they said they would announce their targets after Professor Garnaut’s report. Well, that was September last year. Then they said it would be after the Treasury modelling: October last year. Then they said it would be after the white paper: December last year. Then they said after their own Pearce review, which occurred last month. When will you actually announce a position? You do not have one. (Time expired)