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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5474

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (6:49 PM) —Obviously, I have to respond to that. The Greens always come up with this Calamity Jane type of politics: the world is going to end and therefore that becomes the excuse for everything else to be set aside. Australia would be in no position in the world to propose anything if we had our backside hanging out of our pants. If we were broke and if no-one had a job, there would not be much point standing on a pulpit then. That would quite obviously be a great recommendation that your position was without note.

Senator Brown talks about catastrophic global warming. There seems to be some sort of idea that there is a nexus here and that something we do here in this chamber is going to change that. First of all, I have to put on the record that I have serious doubt about our ability to change the climate. What we must do on the way through is nurse our economy so that it is still there at the end for us.

They always come up with the same hoary chestnuts. They talk about the National Party, the Liberal Party and the coalition running scare tactics. But the obvious one that gets dragged out is that the Great Barrier Reef is going to perish. I do not pretend to be an oceanographer, but I know people who are. I refer to Dr Peter Ridd, who is the oceanographer from James Cook University. He did the thesis on it, not me. He says that this is rubbish and that the Great Barrier Reef is far more robust than the Greens want to give it credit for. I think that he knows more than we do, sorry; I think that he does. That issue has to be taken on board.

Then we have the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. If carbon is pollution, then rainforests are rubbish. I do not think that carbon is pollution. Carbon is a substance. If carbon was pollution, then I have big problems. One of the interests that I have in common with Senator Brown is an interest in botany. I remember the Wollemi pine, Wollemia nobilis. One of the reasons that is given for the abundance of life that was apparent at the point in time when that pine was common was supersaturation of carbon—1,000 to 1,500 parts per million. Looking at the Antarctic, we had the development of animals with the capacity to deal with long nights and long days. The botany was of that form as well.

I am just premising this because the amendments and the propositions that Senator Brown puts forward work on the core argument that more carbon is bad. The world has been through times when there was vastly more carbon in the atmosphere than there is now and a short period of time when there has been less. We cannot just destroy the Australian manufacturing industry and believe that we will have anything to offer the world other than a great reason not to have more environmentally sensitive purposes.

I think one of the good things about renewable energy targets is that they start breeding efficiency. I wish that we had biofuels and other things like that involved in this. With forests, I think it is absolutely essential that we do not just take the logs and waste the rest of the trees. If we have the capacity to use what is lying around, that is good. Senator Brown draws this connection between the National Party and the coal industry. I do not think—and neither does anyone else in the National Party—that coal should be used in prime agricultural land, but I am not going to flush Australia’s major export down the toilet. That should not just be the position of the National Party. It should be the position of the National Party, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. It is Australian working families who are one of the greatest beneficiaries of the coal industry. For the life of me, I have never seen any constructive, economic presentation of facts that shows us how we are going to progress the Australian economy away from the coal industry. We get lots of hyperbole and statements about glowing horizons of wonderment of where Australia may end up. I know where we will end up if we completely disarticulate the main export earner and the main income earner for our nation. We will end up broke. That is not clever.

I suppose the National Party has to be cognisant of the economic reality we live in. We rely on the money that comes into this nation from export sources. Our main export source is the coal industry. It would stand to reason, therefore, that we would be supporting the coal industry, being one of the biggest employers in regional areas. We do not support it absolutely, unequivocally and in every corner of the countryside, and we have been leading the debate to make sure there is a protection of prime agricultural land that should not be exploited by coal. But the Greens have this all-or-nothing approach to politics. They occupy a very distinct part that never has to actually cough up the reality of the positions they put forward. Senator Boswell has stated the obvious: what the Greens are hoping to do is put a proposition forward that is once more going to start eating into the capacity of Australia to maintain a manufacturing base. It is a Labor Party Prime Minister who says, ‘We want to have a nation that makes things.’ You cannot make things if you are completely unviable on the international market. How do you actually sell something? I close by saying to Senator Brown: if it is really the be-all and end-all of carbon reduction, then you will have to look at taking on nuclear power. If you do not take on nuclear power, then you unfortunately are living in the 1950s.