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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1398

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:06): I was speaking to this motion when the Senate adjourned last night, and I was indicating that I will be one of the few government speakers on this debate. We are trying to get this bill to a vote. It is part of the election commitment made by the coalition. It was an election commitment which was warmly endorsed by a clear majority of all Australians. I cannot understand the Labor Party, in particular, opposing it. I can understand the Greens opposing it, because the Greens are rabid when it comes to anything to do with their favourite project of inflicting on Australia the carbon tax and all the paraphernalia around the Climate Change Authority that this bill seeks to abolish.

The Labor Party should understand the voice of the people. There can be no misunderstanding: as Tony Abbott said many, many a time, the last election was to be a referendum on the carbon tax. The people of Australia spoke very, very clearly on what they wanted to do with the carbon tax. They wanted it abolished. Why? Because they, like me, realised that having the world's largest carbon tax does not save the planet, it does nothing at all to reduce carbon emissions around the world. In fact I emphasised, when I spoke before, that Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon. If, with this carbon tax, we do reduce our emissions by five per cent, which is the goal, then five per cent of 1.4 per cent is not going to make any difference whatsoever, not one iota of difference, to the changing climate of the world if man's emission of carbon is the cause of that.

Before my opponents malign me and keep saying that I do not believe in climate change, I repeat, for probably the 500th time in this chamber, that I do acknowledge climate change; of course the climate is changing. We were once covered with ice. Once upon a time the centre of Australia was a rainforest. Of course the climate changes. But I get sick of hearing the Greens saying that all of the floods and the cyclones we have seen in recent times are because we did not have a carbon tax early enough. Every time the Greens say, 'Look at these awful floods. They are the worst floods we've ever seen in Australia, in South-East Queensland,' I keep pointing out to them that that is only since 1974. They are not the worst. They are only worse than anything since 1974. There were bigger ones in 1974. I am sure that was climate change that caused them in 1974.

Similarly, Cyclone Yasi up my way was the worst and biggest cyclone we have ever had in Australia—since 1917, when a bigger cyclone struck the coast of North Queensland. It is all relative. The climate does move in cycles and, as someone who lives in the north, I know that cyclones are cyclic. Perhaps that is why they are called 'cyclones'. Every 10 or so years we will get a very severe cyclone. I know in my town of Ayr we had three cyclones in two years back in the late 1960s, I think it was. Fortunately, touch wood, we have not had any since then. We have seen the cyclones come and I regret for the people of Cardwell and Mission Beach that it hit there, but I have to say I was glad that it did not hit my town.

The point I make is that these things happen. They have always happened. Yet if you took any notice of the Greens—which, fortunately, very few Australians do these days—you would think that all of this was because we did not have a carbon tax early enough. They say, 'We're going to stop Australia's emissions by five per cent'—that is five per cent of the 1.4 per cent—and suddenly that is going to cure every cyclone and every flood in the world. I heard Senator Waters on the radio this morning and learned there is a new reason for climate change, and that is the fact that Mr Hunt has today, fortuitously, given approval for the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion. It is news that I was delighted to hear. At last common-sense has prevailed. Senator Waters even claimed that this decision is going to ruin the Barrier Reef—mind you, if Senator Waters had a look at a map she would see that Abbot Point is a long, long way from the Barrier Reef. According to her, it is going to destroy not only the Barrier Reef and the tourist industry but, from the way Senator Waters was going on, you would think it is going to destroy mankind. But it is also going to cause climate change, according to Senator Waters. These are the sorts of wild accusations you get from the radical environment movement. They have no interest in science and proper process.

In the case of Abbot Point, the approval is given subject to the most stringent conditions—conditions that have been imposed by scientists and people who understand these issues. You will have the Greens and Greenpeace and everyone protesting. The Greens always love the standard of living that Australia's wealth brings, but they want to stop the process that brings the wealth to Australia. It brings wealth to Australia in a sustainable way that is environmentally conscious. The conditions that Mr Hunt has imposed are pretty stringent. I just hope they do not frighten away the proponents. I am hopeful that those developments will go ahead, because it will mean so much to the people in the small township of Bowen, just south of where I live. I recently attended a seminar in Bowen when the whole town was anxiously awaiting approval for this expansion. There were small business people and people wanting jobs in that area who were desperately keen for a decision to be made. I congratulate Mr Hunt on his decision to proceed with that, and with the Gladstone and Mackay proposals as well.

You will hear a lot from the Greens and the ABC over the next week or so on how this is really going to destroy mankind, but I ask those who might be interested to have a look at the conditions, to understand that these approvals are set with the interests of Australia and Australians in mind. You will hear the Greens saying, 'This will bring so many more ships through the Barrier Reef and that will destroy the Barrier Reef.' I am sorry, but ships have been coming through the Barrier Reef for over a hundred years and any problems that the Barrier Reef has have not been caused by ships sailing between the reef and the mainland or through one of the channels there. I am delighted that Mr Hunt has made that decision, and I will do everything in my power to support that decision and support the people of Bowen.

The workers and the miners who have been losing their jobs in the Queensland coalfields do not know where the Labor Party are when it comes to the loss of workers' jobs because of carbon taxes and mining taxes. You never seem to see them. They are only interested in the miners and the workers when they pay their union fees and can allow the union bosses to do whatever they do do these days with union fees. We only have to look at Mr Thomson to understand some of the things that are being done with union fees. But that seems to be the only time the Labor Party are interested in the jobs of workers.

I am interested in the jobs of miners in Central Queensland. I am interested in small businesses in Bowen and Mackay. I am interested in those wanting work there. I am interested, more than any, I might say, in our tourist industry and our fishing industry and in making sure that our greatest national asset, the Great Barrier Reef, is protected. I am confident that the decision made today, with all its conditions, will continue to protect the Great Barrier Reef. I remind the Greens and the Labor Party that, if they look back through history, it has been the Liberal Party in government that have taken all the significant measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef, because we have always understood how significant it is. It is a win-win situation on Abbot Point.

I have digressed, I have to say, a little bit from the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill, but it was important to bring things into perspective and to reject Senator Waters' claim, which I heard her make on radio, that the approval for Abbot Point will hasten climate change around the world. This just shows the stupidity of the comments.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Coal exports will.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Edwards ): I remind the chamber that interjections are disorderly.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I appreciate your protection, Mr Acting Deputy President. I would rather have the debate with Senator Whish-Wilson, because, as with so many things that the Greens say, it is all based on scaremongering and certainly not on science. You just have them saying anything on the basis that the end justifies the means. I know the Greenpeace attitude: tell any lie you like, as long as you get the result you want. Isn't it the Greenpeace motto: tell any lie you like, misrepresent any fact, as long as you get the end result you want? All lies and misrepresentations are in order.

Getting back to the bill before us, it is essential that we are allowed to honour the commitment we made to the Australian people, and that the Australian Labor Party made to the Australian people as well. I re-emphasise to the Australian Labor Party and to people who might be listening to this debate: it was the Australian Labor Party, the ALP, the Gillard government, that solemnly promised before the 2010 election that they would not introduce a carbon tax. Yet, today we hear from Labor speakers that it is so good. If it is so good, can you tell me why your leader prior to the 2010 election promised not to bring it in? Because of that promise, she got herself elected. Before the 2013 election, the Senate spokesman for the Labor Party was handing round pamphlets in her campaign saying, 'We've already got rid of the carbon tax.' How is that? This is a pamphlet from the opposition spokesman in this chamber on the environment before the election saying, 'We've got rid of the carbon tax.' Well, they hadn't. But here is her chance now. She can retrospectively honour the promise that she was making then that they had gotten rid of it.

The government will be well advised in relation to climate matters by the CSIRO, whose science and understanding we greatly respect. We will be advised by the Bureau of Meteorology—Australia's weather experts, who are world-renowned. We do not need a Climate Change Authority made up of Labor Party friends, with hundreds of public servants and huge costs, giving the previous government the sort of advice they wanted to hear. I have to say it was more political advice than it was climate change advice.

We do not need that, and the Australian people do not need to have to pay for that. We have some of the pre-eminent scientific organisations in the world—the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO—there to advise us. We also have very expert people in the Department of the Environment to advise the minister. We have a minister who understands these things, unlike previous ministers, and who appreciates what is what and, more importantly, a minister who is determined to ensure that the promises we made to the Australian people before the last election are honoured.