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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9929

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (17:51): I will speak briefly to the debate that is going on. I have listened with interest to the member for Sturt. We will all hear his voice quite often over the next few weeks, but I think I have come up with a way of shutting him down from time to time. If the member for Sturt does not object and if other members of the House are getting a bit tired of hearing his voice, I might raise that message board occasionally and hopefully he will respond accordingly.

I was a member of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. I think it has been discussed already that there was an opportunity for the coalition to be involved—and it is a great shame they were not. Greg Hunt, in particular—as well as Malcolm Turnbull and others—would have been real assets in the debate on this very important reform. I think that history will probably show that they will regret not having been part of the multi-party committee process. I do not mean to say, though, that everyone on the committee agreed with everyone else. I think it is common knowledge that the minister and I had some disagreements over various road transport initiatives which, it was claimed, would have lead to some sort of behavioural change but which in my view would not have done.

But I think having been on the committee and having been part of what has ended up being quite a successful agreement has meant that, although there are still a couple of loose ends that will probably be tied up in the committee process and in the parliament itself, we have been able to come together and assist in getting a formula together. That is not an easy thing to do. It is not an easy reform and it is not short-term; it is very long-term in nature. Therefore, the way that we did it was different to the gratuitous political arrangements by which we normally do things in here for short-term benefit and for our own benefit as political players. With this legislation, parts of the parliament are trying to do something good for people—the future generations of this country—who have not even been born yet.

It is a great tragedy that the debate has been bogged down by the use of the words 'tax' and 'lie'. It is common knowledge that John Howard was going to apply a tax or fixed price leading into an emissions trading scheme. It is common knowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was going to have a fixed price—or a tax, as people prefer to call it now—leading into an emissions trading scheme. The situation is similar in the current parliament. I use the word 'parliament' because the government is in a minority position. I am sure that, like me, the Prime Minister would have preferred an emissions trading scheme to a fixed price. But, in order to get the institutional arrangements in place, there would still have had to be a period where there was a fixed price—and that, by the definition of economists at least, is strictly a tax. So, even though everybody is virtually on the same page, the debate is still being degraded by arguments about a 'tax' and a 'lie'. Although all that may be very interesting in terms of the politics of this place, I do not think it is very interesting in terms of the future of this country and particularly the future of the globe and the role that Australia can play.

I remember that under the former government this parliament went to war before the debate was finished, and I was offended by that as a member of parliament who was on the list to speak about whether we should go to war. The Prime Minister of the day declared war without representatives of various communities being given the chance to have their say. People may suggest that things do not happen in a hurry, but they occasionally do when there is a political advantage to be gained.

I say to the member for Sturt and others that, although there is a lot of talk about the representation of the various parties on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, the government do not have the majority. I give this undertaking: if the coalition or any other member of the parliament has a constructive agenda to address by way of amendments the real issue of climate change and how we can play a role in bringing in a cleaner future—I do not mean nonsense amendments to delay—I would be more than happy to look constructively at those amendments even if there is a requirement for an extension of time or for other arrangements to be put in place, and I am sure that others on the crossbenches would be happy to do so as well.

We are going to have a period of debate now about a very serious issue, and I think the debate should be serious—we should actually talk about this issue. It is a great shame that, due to the way that the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee was initially put together, the coalition did not want to be part of it. The constructive debate that took place there happened only among those who were involved, despite the fact that there were differences of opinion. I have given an undertaking to the member for Sturt and others provided that they have legitimate concerns and there is not sufficient time. However, if they are considering some sort of speak-it-out arrangement in order to delay, I will not be supporting any extensions. The ball is really in the court of the coalition members.

I know there are a number of coalition members, because a lot of them have come to see me, who are concerned about this issue, and I hope to hear very constructive contributions from them. I am sure that the minister would agree—though he may not—that those on the MPCCC do not pretend to be the holders of all knowledge on the subject. If there are legitimate issues that need to be addressed through the committee process or in the parliament during the third reading, let us see those issues come out as the debate takes place. In conclusion, when it comes to a vote, I will be supporting the amendment to the amendment.