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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5202

Senator McGAURAN (3:22 PM) —Senator McEwen talks about furphies. She says that the coalition do not have a policy on emissions trading. We rejected the bill last week.

Senator McEwen —Where is your policy?

Senator McGAURAN —Is that policy enough for you? A no vote from the majority of the Senate, by the way—that is a policy if ever I saw one! And Senator Boswell, I should add: what a wonderful address he gave the chamber. He still has the passion. After 25 years in this chamber, he still has the passion, and this issue is one that raises the passion more than most. This is definitely an issue that goes to the top level. It ranks with native title and other very emotional issues.

But Senator McEwen and other previous speakers call our questions ‘furphies’. Yesterday she called our question on agriculture a ‘furphy’. That just shows that she has no concept and that the Labor Party has no concept at all of the knock-on effects of the emissions trading scheme on the rural sector. It is all there for them to see. The bells are ringing, the alarm bells are ringing: ‘Hello from earth, Senator Carr!’ The alarm bells are ringing with regard to the rural sector if the scheme goes through as it stands without an international agreement—is that policy enough for you? If the scheme goes through, dairy farmers will pay up to an extra $10,000 at the farm gate and that will break an already ailing dairy sector.

It is the same with the beef sector. Is it not enough today that BlueScope’s CEO rang the alarm bells? Isn’t it enough for you today that he said jobs will be lost? Where is your defence of the blue-collar workers? Senator Boswell was right: where is the defence of the blue-collar workers? To the credit of Jennie George, she has tried to alert those on the other side, but those on the other side are not interested in the blue-collar workers. They are not interested in the knock-on effects that the ETS scheme will have. They have got two interests in this. One is definitely the politics of it. They believe that maybe they can win an election on this. What they have missed, and you hear it from Penny Wong’s language—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! You will refer to people by their correct title.

Senator McGAURAN —Minister Wong, the ‘high priestess of climate change’, I once heard her called. You hear it in her language. It is the language of old. It is the language of some 12 months or so ago when extremism was the politics of the day. If science, or if anyone, dared question climate change, they were in fact burnt at the stake.

But what they have missed is that in the last 12 months the politics of this has changed dramatically. The public has started to wake up and they want a far more moderate approach to this. They want to know how this will affect their jobs and how this will affect the economy. You talk about science—hello, to earth, Senator Carr—and what is to be believed in science. Did you know, Senator Carr, that the Antarctic in fact is not shrinking at all, and that is a scientific fact which no-one denies? But Peter Garrett still gets out there and tells us—doom and gloom—that the Antarctic is shrinking and polar bears are falling off the edge. That sort of extremism is not happening and Minister Wong is still getting up in this chamber and using the old language of extremism. She has missed the political shift in all of this.

Government senators interjecting—

Senator McGAURAN —We have a policy, do not worry about that, and, as I said before, our policy is that we voted it down. How much more of a policy could you get than that?

But I want to return to the issue of the day that we have raised, which you have just brushed aside—forget about the jobs in the steel industry. BlueScope has just reported a severe decline in its profit for the coming year, a 30 per cent reduction in the price of steel for future contracts. So they are facing hard times. You can talk about recovery but it will not be coming to BlueScope Steel for some time. The CEO alerts you, and it has been read out today, that one of the greatest risks to their viability—not profitability, viability and competitiveness internationally—is the ETS, and you just brush it aside because politics is No. 1 and the second one is the tax grab.

I know that Senator Forshaw and Senator Hutchins and a lot of those New South Wales politicians do not believe in the scheme that you are putting forward, but they do believe in the tax grab that is coming, and I believe that the Prime Minister has his eyes on it more than anything else. If you want to take this to an election, we are happy to fight on it.

Question agreed to.