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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4274


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (19:52): If the previous speaker is a believer in climate change, can you imagine the debates that take place in the party room of the coalition? They must be absolutely hilarious. There is an argument that the coalition have a mandate on climate change. The mandate they got from the public was a mandate based on lies, a mandate based on misrepresentation, a mandate based on fear and loathing. That is the mandate the coalition went to the election on. They ran fear campaigns on climate change, they ran fear campaigns against refugees and they ran fear campaigns against taxing the mining companies. And now they come in here and say, 'I'm a believer in climate change.' Senator Macdonald said he could remember when the planet was iced over. I am one of the oldest senators here and I have to rely on the TV to see that! I did not know Senator Macdonald was that old.

The other issue that came through in Senator Macdonald's speech was this Greens-Labor alliance about some kind of terrible conspiracy against humanity. When Senator Macdonald was talking, I had a look at that well-known group of communist conspirators, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA. This is one of the pre-eminent scientific groups in the world. They say, 'Here is the evidence for climate change.' They do not go on with the nonsense that Senator Macdonald went on with. They go through the scientific analysis of why you need to deal with climate change and what is happening. They indicate that certain facts about the earth's climate are not in dispute.

They say that the heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the 19th century. Here we are in the 21st century and the coalition is not able to understand the signs that were there in the 19th century. NASA goes on to say that the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling: global sea levels rose by about 17 centimetres—6.7 inches—in the last century. The rate of rise in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century. It is not Senator Milne arguing that, it is not Senator Cameron arguing that; it is NASA—the heartland of the United States' technology and science—saying that this is a fact. NASA says that global temperatures are rising and that most of the warming has occurred since the 1970s, with 20 of the warmest years having occurred after 1981.

NASA says that the oceans are warming and that they have absorbed much of this increased heat. So the heat is not actually out there in the air; it is being sunk into the oceans, with the top 700 metres—2,300 feet—of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. NASA is tracking the increase in temperatures of the ocean, the sea-level rise and the shrinking ice sheets. It says the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment shows Greenland lost between 150 and 250 cubic kilometres of ice between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometres of ice between 2002 and 2005. This is something that is happening now. These are issues we have to deal with now.

NASA also says that Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades. The glaciers are in retreat. The glaciers are retreating almost everywhere in the world, including in the Alps, the Himalayas, the Andes, the Rockies, Alaska and Africa. Senator Macdonald, it is the NASA website saying this. This is what the top scientific and technological organisation in the United States is saying. It is saying these are extreme events. The number of record high-temperature events in the US has been increasing while the number of record low-temperature events has been decreasing since 1950. The US has also witnessed an increased number of intense rainfall events.

Then there is the issue Senator Macdonald raised about the Great Barrier Reef. It is ocean acidification that is killing the Great Barrier Reef. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by 30 per cent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, hence more is being absorbed into the oceans.

This is not some loony-left organisation that does not deal with the scientific facts; this is NASA. And this analysis is replicated by scientists all around the world, including Australia. If you go to the Australian Academy of Science's website you will find the same facts. If you go to the Bureau of Meteorology's website you will find the same facts. If you go to the CSIRO's website you will find the same facts. We are dealing with factual issues here, not whether there is some climate change akin to the changes in climate that have taken place over many years. This climate change can be put down to human centred activities. It can be put down to us pouring carbon into the atmosphere. It really is about big business, over the years, not having to worry about polluting the atmosphere—they have been simply getting on with their production, not worrying about what is happening in the atmosphere. Now they are being called to account, because there is a need for us to put a stop to carbon pollution in the atmosphere.

We heard much discussion earlier about the coalition's mandate. I repeat: I have a mandate as well. I made it quite clear, when I was standing for election, that I recognised climate change was an issue and I supported a price on carbon. Millions of Australians voted for the Australian Labor Party and the Greens because they wanted action on climate change. They do not want us to walk away from climate change.

I have a personal interest in this. I live in the Blue Mountains. My house was evacuated twice last summer because it was unsafe for me to be at home. It was unsafe for me and it was unsafe for hundreds of families—thousands of families, actually. We were told that we had to leave. There were 80-kilometre-an-hour winds in the Blue Mountains and fires raging. If you were in Penrith and you looked up to the Blue Mountains, it looked as if somebody had let off an atom bomb. There was a mushroom plume of smoke near Springwood and the Blue Mountains. I was there. I had heard all these things about protecting your house and what you could do and what you could not do. We had radiant heat jumping 80 metres across the Nepean River. Everybody thought, 'The fires are on the other side of the river; we're going to be okay.' Tell the people in Yellow Rock that. The radiant heat—not embers but radiant heat—from the fire started the fires in Yellow Rock. It was so intense. What was the point of me standing out there with my garden hose in 80 kilometre-an-hour winds with the trees bending over around me? I had to get out. Families all around us had to get out. Why? Because the climate is changing. There is more and more of this happening around the country. If we do not take action on climate change, this is what we will be faced with. Do not take my word for it. Listen to NASA, listen to the CSIRO, listen to the Bureau of Meteorology, listen to the science academy and listen to all the experts that tell you this. And yet we are not going to do anything about it.

I think a lot of this is about the coalition's one-liner—they have lots of them—'We're open for business.' Business can do what they like. Business can just go on and keep polluting. In fact, what the coalition is going to do is spend billions of Australian taxpayer dollars paying the polluters to stop polluting. What is the sense in this? There is not an economist in the country who would argue that that is a sensible approach. This was, as Malcolm Turnbull said, a 'fig leaf' for the coalition. It was a fig leaf. They were throwing the fig leaf in because they were on the fear campaign on climate change and the fear campaign that jobs would be lost. Yet every economic analysis said that jobs would continue to grow. I was chair of the environment committee in the last Senate for a number of years. Every expert, whether they were an economist or an environmentalist, would say that job numbers will grow—the sooner you take the steps to embrace the decarbonisation of our economy, the quicker you change our economy, the cheaper you do it and the more jobs you create by that approach. I think it is pretty simple.

I heard Senator Macdonald asking Senator Singh if she was a scientist and how she knows these things. I will tell you how Senator Singh knows these things: the same way I know them, and I am not a scientist. Experts come and tell senators, day in and day out, that this is a huge problem. This is a problem that is not going away and we have to deal with it. The environmental scientists come in and tell you that this is just physics. Physics will determine what happens with more carbon dioxide getting pumped into the atmosphere. It means more wild winds, more bushfires, more acidification of the ocean, higher temperatures, fewer cold days and more warm days. Now we have environmental health experts telling us that diseases only found in tropical areas will be slowly coming down the east coast of Queensland because the heat is coming in and those diseases will thrive in it. This is not us coming up with a scare campaign. It is not Labor saying there is a scare campaign. This is us listening to the environmental experts—the environmental health experts and the scientists.

What do the economists say? The economists say, 'You have to deal with this. The sooner you deal with it the better it is for the economy. The sooner you deal with it, the better it is for employment. The sooner you deal with it, the better it is for you to engage in green manufacturing jobs.' I have no compunction about saying I am not an expert in this area, but I defy anyone in this place to say that the evidence is not in on this issue.

I suppose I could do the same as many of the coalition senators. I could head off to the United States, sit down with the Tea Party cranks, listen to them and get a lecture about how this is all some big conspiracy. I could come back here and say, 'This is all nonsense,' and run these agendas that they have been running—fear and smear campaigns from the coalition. But I take a different view. Who knows how long I am going to be here, either in the Senate or on this planet. I am over 60 now. I have two grandkids. One of them is eight and one of them is six—Amy and Scott. They are dear to me, dear to my wife and dear to our family. What we want for them is a future—not a future with warming of two, three or four degrees higher than temperatures are now, with all the problems that that will create. We do not want them to live in an environment where they cannot go out and enjoy what I have enjoyed for most of my adult life in Australia. From my own personal perspective, I want my grandkids to have a future that is not threatened by global warming. When the coalition senators really look at this and push aside the partisan politics of this I think there will be a few who will be worried about their grandkids' future. You cannot easily dismiss this. If there is an issue, you have to take steps to deal with it.

I want to now briefly come back to the Blue Mountains experience. Saying we are 'open for business' and blaming everything on Labor's economic record is just so much nonsense. Everyone knows that Australia is a wealthy country. Everybody knows that we have three AAA credit ratings. Everybody knows that, compared to every other country in the world, we are miles ahead on economic issues. We are just so far ahead that the coalition create a lie and say we are in bad economic times. We hear time and time again that people cannot go to the doctor without paying a $7 tax because the economy is in such a bad state, but they do not tell us that the $7 tax is going to go to some health research fund. If the economy were so bad, the $7 would not be going to that; the $7 would be going to get the deficit down.

The deficit does not need to come down. We are in a far better position than any other comparable country in the world. This is a lie that is being peddled. Everything that comes from the coalition comes from a lie. Their victory in the last election was based on a lie. It was based on deceit. It was based on fear campaigns. So I do not accept this mandate. No mandate based on a lie is a mandate that you can claim.

What do we have now? The Productivity Commission has submissions from Treasury, the finance department and Attorney-General's—all on the instructions of Liberal ministers. Those submissions are basically saying to the Productivity Commission—and the inquiry is about how you deal with disasters—that they want out: 'We don't want to do this anymore. The states have to take responsibility for disaster funding and individuals have to take responsibility through their insurance premiums.' The argument that you have small government so you cannot deal with climate change, you cannot deal with natural disasters, you cannot deal with the health of the Australian community, you cannot deal with the education of the Australian community and you have to cripple the university system on the basis of a lie is just unacceptable to me and unacceptable to the Labor Party.

You have to be called out on your lies. You have to be called out on the fear campaigns you have been running. We will continue to call you out on these issues because I want a future for my grandkids. I want a future for all the kids in this country. That future is only guaranteed if there is an approach by this country to deal with climate change and show leadership. Even John Howard recognised that he had to show leadership, because John Howard was going to the election with a climate change policy based on a market price for pollution.

So these are the issues we have before us here. I know this is a procedural motion and we will deal with all these issues again, but this procedural motion is based on the lie that the coalition went to the last election on. They lied to the community on pensions. They lied to the community on welfare. They lied to them on education. They lied to them on health. Do not come here claiming a mandate based on lies, because we will not wear it. We have to deal with climate change. It is about time you woke up to yourselves because you are the modern-day Luddites. (Time expired)