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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11457

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (18:28): It is disappointing that what we all know to be such a serious issue, not just for Australia but for the globe, is being used for political purposes by the members opposite in the way it has been for not weeks but months now. Rather than come in here and debate the merits of the clean energy bills before parliament, they continuously choose to play politics. In response to the member for Curtin's contribution, I say this: I too recall the 1998 election, and the outcome of that election, as I recall, was that the two-party preferred vote—that is, the majority of Australian people who voted—was against the Howard government. Yet the Howard government, knowing that a majority of Australians had voted against that proposition, still came into this chamber and turned that proposition into law. The Howard government did that because, at the time, it believed it was doing the right thing. In the same way, this government believes it is doing the right thing with these bills. This was said on 6 November 1990:

… the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.

That is from one of Margaret Thatcher's speeches. She made a number of speeches in respect to this very issue, 21 or 22 years ago—and 22 years later we are still debating the merits of whether we should do anything or not.

It is interesting that 21 years ago Margaret Thatcher touched on two critical issues. Firstly, global warming is hard to accept because you cannot see many of the changes that are taking place. They occur relatively slowly, although quickly in terms of the time that man has been on this planet. Secondly, she talked about making changes that cause sacrifices. All people, if asked, would rather not have to make sacrifices. It is clear that this is exactly what the opposition are playing with the Australian people. They are pretending to the people that you do not have to make a sacrifice, that you do not have to do anything, because the issue will go away—it is not really there because you cannot really see it. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is why this debate is so disappointing. Members opposite know that this is being dishonest with the Australian public.

I suspect there are many members opposite who know that this situation, global warming, is real and that we as a nation have a responsibility—not only to ourselves and to the globe but also to future generations—to act and to do so now. They also know that each year we delay action on this issue it becomes much more difficult and much more costly for future generations, if and when a decision is finally made.

Members opposite constantly say that this is not a good time for Australia to act. Please tell us when you think it will be a good time. It would be fair to say that there will never be a good time to make tough decisions which impact on the Australian people but they are decisions that have to be made. If we do not make them, the costs to Australians will continue to rise. Because we failed to act 20 years ago and because we failed to act three or four years ago, we are already paying dearly.

Members opposite keep criticising the fact that we are introducing legislation which puts a price on carbon. The Australian Labor Party has supported a price on carbon for the last decade or so. I recall that this was an issue in 2004, an issue in 2007 and an issue in 2010. It has been debated, and the Australian people supported a price on carbon in those elections.