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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 627

Climate Change

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:17): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the resignation of Professor Clive Hamilton from the Climate Change Authority. Professor Hamilton resigned saying that it was 'perverse' that the government would be boosting coal when 2016 marked the hottest year on record. He also bemoaned the fact that the Climate Change Authority no longer had any role in the development of climate policy in Australia. Minister, with Sydney just having experienced its hottest month on record and New South Wales now in the midst of climate change related bushfires, do you accept the independent advice of the Climate Change Authority that burning more coal will lead to more extreme weather and bushfires such as those being experienced currently in New South Wales?

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right! Senator Back! Senator O'Sullivan!

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:18): Senator Di Natale, with all due respect to Professor Clive Hamilton, I doubt his resignation from the Climate Change Authority is going to increase the temperature, any more than I think his continuation as a member of the Climate Change Authority was going to reduce the temperature. Nevertheless, I have been advised that Professor Hamilton has resigned as a member of that authority. But I point out that his appointment was due to expire on 30 June in any event. So the departure of Professor Hamilton from the Climate Change Authority has brought the matter forward by some 4½ months. He has served on the Climate Change Authority since 2012.

I am aware as well that Professor Hamilton has expressed some very, very strong views on the issue of climate policy. We on this side of the chamber welcome all views on this important issue of public policy. We welcome all views, including the views of Professor Hamilton. We welcome the views of people we agree with and we welcome the views of people we disagree with, because that is the way policy and legislation should be formed in a liberal democracy. The fact is, Senator Di Natale—as you should know—that as a result of our signature to the Paris climate change convention Australia has adopted, per capita, the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the world. And Australia is on track to meet its emissions reduction targets. So, Senator Di Natale, we do not believe, as you do apparently as a matter of ideology, that renewable energy—

Senator Di Natale: It's called science. We call it science.

Senator BRANDIS: No, not as a matter of science, Senator Di Natale; as a matter of ideology. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a supplementary question?

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:20): Speaking of independent advice, freedom of information requests reveal that the Prime Minister's office knowingly deceived the Australian people by stating on numerous occasions that clean energy was responsible for South Australia's blackouts, when the advice clearly showed it was transmission failure. Minister, can you explain why the Prime Minister lied to the Australian people?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): Senator Di Natale, I reject that entirely. I reject that entirely, and it has also been rejected, by the way, by the AEMO, which investigated the matter and said:

A number of wind turbine generators in the mid-north of SA exhibited a reduction in power or disconnected as the number of faults grew.

…   …   …   

The significance of the event and the intensity of review has brought to the fore a range of broader issues associated with the changing generation mix across the NEM—

the network—

The generation mix now includes more non-synchronous and inverter-connected plant, which has different characteristics to conventional plant and uses active control systems to ride through disturbances.

The growing proportion of this type of generating plant within the generation portfolio is leading to more periods with low inertia and low available fault levels—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Order! Senator Di Natale on a point of order?

Senator Di Natale: A point of order on relevance, Mr President: my question stated specifically that there was independent advice provided to the Prime Minister, which he ignored. He went on to make false assertions about the role of renewable energy in South Australia's power blackouts. I point Senator Brandis to that independent advice and ask him why the Prime Minister ignored it.

Senator Ian Macdonald: On the point of order, Mr President—perhaps it is another point of order—was the supplementary question in any way related to the original question?

The PRESIDENT: I will deal with Senator Macdonald's point of order first. I have noticed in recent months—in fact, probably in recent years—that supplementary questions have not strictly been related to the primary question exactly. However, I have allowed a lot of latitude and I think that is something that I will continue to allow, because it is on topic although not directly related to the primary question. So, Senator Macdonald, in that sense you are right, but I have allowed this to happen for some time.

In relation to the first point of order, Senator Di Natale, apart from your preamble, your sole question was: can you explain why the Prime Minister lied to the Australian people? The Attorney-General up-front rejected that, so the Attorney-General has been relevant to your direct question. Attorney-General, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: I am simply pointing out to you, Senator Di Natale, that the Australian Energy Market Operator's analysis supported what the Prime Minister had to say. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a final supplementary question?

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:23): With regard to climate change policy, has the Prime Minister now adopted a leaf out of the Donald Trump handbook? Does he have two folders on his desk, one labelled 'Facts' and the other labelled 'Alternative facts'?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:23): Well, Senator Di Natale, with a question as broad as that, you do give me a lot of latitude, so let me take advantage of the latitude you have given me. As I said in answer to your primary question, under the leadership of Mr Turnbull, at the Paris climate change conference Australia adopted per capita the most ambitious emissions control targets in the world—the most ambitious targets in the world. But also under the leadership of Mr Turnbull the Australian government takes a technology agnostic approach, not an ideological approach, as you do—the very opposite of the science which you constantly invoke, Senator Di Natale, but an ideological approach which refuses to countenance the fact that the best results will be delivered to the Australian public, as they ought to have been delivered to the public of South Australia, by a multi-technology mix that includes renewables but also includes traditional sources, including coal.