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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8509

Senator PARRY (12:31 PM) —I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and associated bills. At the outset I want to say that I think the names for these bills are wrong. The word ‘tax’ does not appear in the title of these bills and I believe it should be a fundamental word that is included. It seems to suggest that there is no additional cost or burden to the taxpayers of Australia, yet that is exactly where the cost burden will be felt most.

Some fine speeches have been made in this chamber in relation to these bills, yet the media commentary surrounding these great speeches has been one of trying to create a perception of division. This perception of division could not be further from the truth because we are voting on a suite of legislation that has been rejected already by the coalition. We reject the current suite of legislation that exists before the chamber represented by these 11 bills. My colleagues in the House of Representatives last week—on Monday, I believe—rejected every single piece of this legislation that has now come to this chamber. Some of our senators have been pilloried in the press for rejecting and wishing to vote against the current set of legislation. It is a suite of legislation that we do not support. Until such time that we have additional legislation in this chamber to vote upon, that is exactly the course of action that the coalition will be taking. It appears to be a united, unanimous point of view that we do not support the current Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills of 2009. They are flawed and full of mistakes.

I particularly found the comments of the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in question time on Thursday last week disturbing. The Prime Minister attempted to link a one-day spike in temperature in the city of Adelaide as something that was a result of global warming and climate change. He used the emotive issue of a one-day spike in temperature. Whilst being a record—and records are being more closely monitored now than they have ever been monitored—it does not give any confirmed or proper evidence of climate change in Australia’s environment. When you start to link emotive things that people can get a tangible hold of to a very complex debate, you are doing two things: firstly, the Prime Minister is trying to belittle the intelligence of the community by linking an emotive event to a very complex suite of legislation; secondly, the Prime Minister is trying to be fraudulent in representing the real issues of the climate debate.

Many speakers have spoken far more eloquently and technically than I will in relation to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation, but one common theme exists. The legislation is being introduced basically to allow the Prime Minister to attend a conference, which is becoming less and less likely to be a successful conference, and to strut his ego on the world stage. It has very little to do with science and very little to do with assisting Australia. It has a lot to do with perception. The perception, unfortunately, has taken over and reality is not manifest throughout the debate.

I think my colleague Senator Brett Mason summed it up exceptionally well with his speech. The pertinent lines in Senator Mason’s speech indicated the fact that the debate we are having in this chamber is not about several things. He said that it is not about whether the earth is warming or whether it is cooling or what people believe. That is not what this debate is about; this debate has nothing to do with that. He said it is not about who is to blame for climate change, if climate change exists—are they natural cycles? He indicated that the debate is not about those issues. He also indicated that the debate is not about whether we need a trading scheme, a tax or whatever. This debate is about, purely, a suite of legislation currently before the chamber that we in opposition do not support.

The other speech I particularly want to highlight as well is the speech Senator Nick Minchin made in this chamber, an outstanding speech in my view. Again, the media have misreported the context of the speech. Senator Minchin’s speech expressed some very good and strong personal views, but he expressed the position of the coalition that we will not support this legislation. It is terrible legislation. If it were good legislation we would not be seeking to amend it. That is the first issue. If it were good legislation we would have passed it and we would not have sought to amend it. We have sought to amend it and, as of that cause, we will not be supporting the existing legislation as it stands, so if no amendments become apparent there will be no support for the legislation. That is quite clear and is exactly what Senator Minchin portrayed to this chamber and to the nation, yet somehow the confusion comes out in the media that there is great division. I did not see great division. I saw absolute unity on opposing the legislation that we are debating. That the media cannot even report it accurately shows how complex it is.

Senator Minchin also indicated—and this comes to the crux of the matter—the whole process of managing the introduction of this legislation and the implementation date of this legislation is all designed around one thing. The government could have introduced it a lot earlier and negotiations probably could have been completed a lot earlier. There are a number of things that point to this legislation as being purely a way of creating an opportunity for the Prime Minister of Australia to do two things. Senator Minchin summed it up quite well when he said:

Frankly, the timing of this debate is also testament to the vanity of Prime Minister Rudd. Right on the eve of the Copenhagen conference, Mr Rudd is determined to have this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill … passed so that he can strut the stage in Denmark …

That is the first issue. The second part, though, is that the Prime Minister wants to have up his sleeve a double dissolution trigger that will be of reasonable significance, and that is what he is trying to do. The timing of this points to that and to no other reason. It does not point to any crucial live start-up date. I do not think a start-up date of 1 July 2011—not I July 2010—is a credible reason for rushing this legislation through in the remaining four days of this sitting year. A calendar for this year was introduced late in 2008 to set the weeks and the sitting pattern for this year, and again we have come down to the final four days. As the government did in 2008, so they are doing again in 2009. They are not managing the effective timing of legislation through this chamber.

One wonders why the sitting schedule has been reduced in the number of weeks. Is it so the government can get controversial, serious, heavy legislation rammed through the parliament in the last four days of its life for this year? Is that the true motive? Do the government not want to be called to account for more than the 14 sitting weeks, in effect, that the Senate will sit for this year? Next year they are going to do the same, despite warnings from the Greens, the Independents and certainly us that they are not sitting enough hours or weeks. You cannot expect at the end of a calendar year to be able to say to parliament: ‘Hang on, we’ve got this piece of legislation that we think we want to rush through the parliament. It’s very complex. There’ll be very complex amendments if amendments are agreed to. We want you to consider them in the last three days.’ That is just outrageous, given the government have a sitting schedule that could have been a lot longer and a lot healthier.

The government know that life outside of this parliament does exist. Senators and members make commitments outside of this firm sitting schedule and the government know that to extend hours is a very difficult thing to do at short notice. This is why the government have left it to the death knock to let this legislation come in. It is the absolute death knock for this to arrive in this chamber and for us to fully debate it. Also, we are debating the legislation currently, so if amendments are forthcoming from the current negotiations it is going to be hard for us to digest the information and then debate it in such a short period of time. But the government have been placed on notice—they were placed on notice earlier this year, they were placed on notice last year and they have been placed on notice again for next year’s sitting schedule—so we do not get a repeat of these matters.

I also want to raise some questions about new information that seems to have come to light in recent times which probably bears testimony as to why we should not be rushing this. I am looking at reports in the media, and I stress they are allegations and the veracity of the alleged emails has not been confirmed. But this has made national and international media in recent days. The reports are in relation to the hackers that have broken into the leading climate change science research centre in Britain. Documents have been leaked going back some years. Some of these documents, if they are found to be true, just raise further questions which, if I were the Prime Minister of this country and found that there was some veracity to those documents—and I will go through them in a moment—or even if they were just reported, would mean that I would want to hold off a bit. I would want to cool off a bit before I charged off to Copenhagen or put monumental legislation to this parliament.

Again I stress this is reported in the media and there is no firm evidence that this is correct; however, enough media outlets seem to have taken up the charge and the baton. Some of the issues that have come out of the hacking are that there appears to be a widely divergent range of views about climate change. Scientists appear to be, through the emails, frustrated at trying to find evidence to prove man-made climate change. I am not suggesting that any of these reports are accurate. I am just saying this has been raised and is worthy of further exploration. One leading climatologist who supports the theory of man-made climate change, Dr Kevin Trenberth from the US Centre for Atmospheric Research, says in one of the emails:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t.

Reports say:

Sceptics say the emails are evidence of a conspiracy …

I do not know whether that is the case or not; I am not suggesting that. Reports say:

… some of the climatologists colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view that climate change is real, and is being largely caused by the actions of mankind.

So the theme from these emails is that scientists are having difficulty proving that climate change ‘is largely being caused by the actions of mankind’. The reports go on:

In one email, dated November 1999, one scientist wrote: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

So there is an indication there has been some temperature decline. Again, it just needs further exploration and examination before we rush into what is monumental legislation that is very difficult for us to comprehend. But the ultimate effects of this legislation are such that it would be too late if all of a sudden we found out next year the whole thing has been a hoax. So I think further examination is required.

Others have been claiming that scientists are trying to bully into submission colleagues who challenge the theory of man-made climate change, and some of these emails refer directly to the debate in Australia. I think that caution is required on this very significant debate. We are asked to just rush through a debate that a government is leading, with or without amendments. The government is leading this debate. It is not going to hurt the government to slow down one iota and say, ‘We’ve got some serious consideration for a variety of reasons’—not to mention the time frame we have been asked to consider it in. There is the time frame in relation to other material that keeps coming forward.

On top of that, we find that other countries around the world, particularly the United States—the Senate—and Canada, have now decided that they are going to wait. They are doing the prudent thing. Their governments will look at delaying and waiting till after the gathering at Copenhagen, which is not an unrealistic expectation. It is a sensible outcome when you have every country going to Copenhagen to make a decision to collaborate and agree—or even disagree—and to go with a position placed on the table and seek some form of international outcome. Why would Australia go, cap in hand, with a fixed set of legislation that may even be required to be amended when the government returns from those discussions? It does not make sense. It has never made sense that you would not wait until after you have a discussion.

Most legislation that comes before the Australian parliament does so because there is consideration of the facts and the material is analysed. Legislation is developed to either fix a problem—remedy a situation—or create new issues. All of that is done in the consideration of all the facts that are on the table. If you were moving legislation in relation to other sectors or industries and you knew there was a major conference or gathering of all the experts on the particular legislation that you were putting forward, surely you would wait and get all the facts on the table. Then you would say, ‘Let’s design our legislation around what we know to be the views of other countries, especially when we are not a major player.’

Colleague after colleague after colleague has got up in this chamber and stated the obvious: with 1.4 per cent of global emissions produced by this country, our behaviour would have no prospect of changing the world’s behaviour and does not affect the planet to a significant degree. Yes, let us be worldly wise, let us be a community partner and let us do our bit. But it has been suggested—and I find it hard not to believe—that, by doing our bit in Australia, where we only produce 1.4 per cent of global emissions, we are promoting more serious global emissions in other countries. If they took up where our industries could not compete, we would end up with industries polluting to a far greater degree and emitting far more seriously than Australia does. So on the global front we are not going to be assisting the global emission rate at all. In fact, we could be seriously colluding to actually increase global emissions by removing manufacturing industries from this country under the current legislation before this parliament, and that would be a great travesty for the world. If we are really serious about climate change and that is a factor, and if we are serious about emissions into the atmosphere, that alone should deter us from going down this path, because we could be increasing the gases that are potentially or allegedly causing problems to our planet. That is the main reason.

On top of that, if we do that, at the same time as not really helping the planet and maybe making the planet worse, we are going to remove jobs. We are going to make Australian families and workers less competitive. They will lose their jobs. There will be inflation because of all the carry-on effects of this legislation. So (a) we are not going to help the planet and (b) we are going to make life harder for good working Australians.

So why do we do this? What is the logic behind this? I come back to some of my opening remarks. The logic must only be that the government want to wedge us in some way, shape or form and to rush to Copenhagen. They feel as though they can cause a problem for us by seeing that we are debating against these bills quite vigorously because we know they are flawed. They see an opportunity to create a double dissolution trigger; otherwise, this legislation could have been reintroduced a bit earlier. In fact, I understand they nearly made a mistake in the House of Representatives and introduced this bill a couple of days too early. Then they realised they could not, so they had to delay the introduction into the Senate even though it was on the way to completion in the House of Representatives.

So this really all points to a duplicitous Prime Minister saying one thing, really wanting to do something else and not really doing it in the interests of Australia. Maybe the rumours are true: maybe the Prime Minister does want to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and maybe that is his grand agenda. I do not know; that is a rumour. When he is sitting in New York in the United Nations chamber as Secretary-General, he really will not worry about what Australians are paying back in Australia for the mess he has left us in.

I reiterate—and I hope the media get this correct—that we are voting unanimously and are united against these 11 bills that are currently before this parliament and this Senate. We did that in the House of Representatives; we are doing it here. Our speeches have all reflected that we are voting against the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills, the 11 bills presented to the parliament, which we do not want to see implemented for the benefit of the planet. They will not assist the planet and they will certainly not help our country.