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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4320

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (15:48): I second the motion of the member for Lyne and support the comments in relation to the scientific community and climate change. I think even thus far this debate has been quite significant and important because it has been allowing people to reaffirm their confidence in the scientific community. One of the great tragedies I think I have experienced in this particular parliament was the way in which we had—and some people in this chamber at the moment, some of whom have just been speaking, participated in this process—persecution of the scientific community.

The one thing that we should be very proud of in a democracy, particularly on the Australian continent, which has a very proud background in terms of scientific contributions on a whole range of levels, is that members of the scientific community are allowed to express their views and not be persecuted as if they were political representatives. Our job is to cop the heat occasionally, both from our own colleagues and from the broader community, and I think we all accept that. But we ask our scientists to go out to look for—and source, as the member for Lyne said—the information. We do not know it all. Some of us may think we do, but we do not know it all and we need people who are prepared to give us their objective information so that we can base decisions upon that information.

I saw what happened in terms of some of the people who were involved with the Independent Panel on Climate Change. I saw the persecution that went on of some of our people within the scientific community and I know some personally that were bitterly upset with the way in which they were treated. Some people were not prepared for the persecution that took place. I know a lot of it was aided and abetted by the Alan Joneses of this world and some of the nay-sayers who present that soup each morning so people can feel bad by the end of the afternoon. So I know they were out there but there were also people in the political process that were actually encouraging and inciting them and gaining kudos through participation with them.

Mr Schultz interjecting

Mr WINDSOR: I do agree with the member for Hume that there has been a degree of guilt on both sides of the radio microphone.

As to the Prime Minister and the formation of this parliament and whether I am re-elected or not at the next election, one of the proudest things that I will remember about my participation in this parliament will be that I have actually been involved in something that has some long-term significance for Australians and the human race. Some members of this parliament have been so focused on the short term, the short term being the destruction of the government or the parliament of the day within days or weeks. On a continuing basis we have seen this profile gone through that 'It won't last till Christmas,' 'I'll be in the Lodge by Christmas,' 'It won't last for a year ', 'It won't last'. Well, it has lasted. So we have had the continuation of this constant bombardment by some within the parliament, and by many outside it, about this so-called lie that the Prime Minister told.

I have put it on public record before: I went to the last election on the basis of climate change. I proposed legislation in 2008—it was not supported by either side of parliament—that actually had the options of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme built into it similar to the English legislation, where there was bipartisan support on this issue. And until the start of this particular parliament, there was bipartisan support of this issue in Australia, and I was very proud of that.

During the Howard years, for instance, there was to be a price on carbon. I think John Howard was obviously aiming to have an emissions trading scheme, but he was aiming to establish the institutional framework. The same applied to Malcolm Turnbull during his term as leader of the Liberal Party. There was a period of time where, to get the institutional framework in place, there would have to be a fixed price on carbon—a fixed price. Now in economic terms, I am sure a Nobel laureate would know, a fixed price essentially means a tax.

Most of the people on the opposition side of the parliament, including the member for Hume, a very good friend of mine, participated in the parliamentary processes and their party processes to support a fixed price on carbon—for one year in one case, I think it was the Howard case, and two years I think in the Turnbull case. But nonetheless it was a fixed price, which was essentially supporting a carbon tax to get the institutional framework in place and then morph that into an emissions trading scheme or a floating price connected to global markets et cetera. This was not a tax. It could be exactly the same price, but technically it was not a tax. That is exactly the same as the current parliament is doing. This fixed-price carbon tax, as people refer to it, will be morphed into an emissions trading scheme and it will engage with the international marketplace. I think that is in July 2015. So we have seen all sides of parliament agree to the same process.

One of the most disappointing things in my view is what we saw when the numbers were so tight in relation to the formation of this parliament. If there is any blame to be handed out about having a price on carbon, I would like to take my share of it because I am proud to have been associated with it. I would like future generations to actually look back as we have, and there are a number of members in here who have looked at the Murray-Darling and participated—I thank the minister at the table, Minister Burke, for his involvement, and I thank the opposition members for their involvement in that committee process that I was involved in as well, and many others in various other forms. What we found was an issue that had been out there for 100 years: majority parliaments were unable to solve it; too much politics, state and federal. We at last engaged in a process, and the opposition and the government of this day should be congratulated for the way in which they addressed that particular process. So in 100 years time people will look back and say: 'Well, at least they addressed it. They may have addressed it a little bit late. They could've addressed it earlier. There were warning signs out there for decades, but at least they've addressed it. It wasn't perfect but it was a start.'

I would like to think that the climate change debate is of a similar nature. It is about the long term. It is not about us. It is not about who the next prime minister is or who the last one was. It is not about whether we are having a tax or a floating price or a fixed price, and that is what the bumper sticker politics has been about here. It is about the long term. It is about future generations. It is about people who have not even been born yet. It is about making a contribution to their futures, to the future generations. It is about the precautionary principle. What if the climate scientists are right? What if they do happen to be right?

I hope the majority of members in this parliament endorse the motion of the member for Lyne, but what if the climate scientists are right and we have done nothing? Do you think it would be cute to be on the Abbott side of the debate, where it is all 'no, no, no' for a short-term advantage so that you can get rid of the Prime Minister and a few other people and take short-term advantage of that? Do you think we will look back and be proud of that particular moment and say: 'We could've done something, but it was more important that we get rid of people, that we persecute people who were involved in the hung parliament. And on the way through, we'll just persecute a few scientists.' We did that with soil science many years ago. The member for Hume may remember that. The member for Groom would remember it too. A lot of the soil scientists were taken out and dispatched because they could not give results in agriculture that were politically saleable in the short term. And what do we have now? Suddenly soil is back on the agenda. Why is it back on the agenda? Because someone said something about humus and organic matter and soil carbon. The shadow minister and the opposition leader have been talking about soil carbon and the relationships with the water cycle and the carbon cycle et cetera and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All of those things have suddenly come back into vogue—not because they are particularly interested in them, but because they are different to having a price on carbon. A price because of a statement that the Prime Minister made.

Part of the formation of government process—and I spent time with Ross Garnaut; I spent time with various international people. I actually went to France a few years ago and talked to the IPCC people about the economics of trying to do something about climate change.

Mr Schultz interjecting

Mr WINDSOR: The member for Hume, in one of his classic interjections, is talking about the flatulence of kangaroos. You can hop off now, Alby. I spent time with those various global experts and many other scientists prior to the election. One of the terms and conditions of the formation of government was that this parliament, this government, address climate change. And it is one of the reasons why Tony Abbott was not selected. It is one—it is not the only one, but it is one of the reasons. He was not serious about this particular issue.

With this motion, the member for Lyne is actually finding out who is serious about our scientific community not only on this issue but on many issues where we ask scientists to put in years and years of work and academic research to find out various things that we need to know as a population. I am proud to have put pressure on the Prime Minister. I think the member for Lyne is as well. And there are others in the parliament who put pressure on the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition during that 17-day period to do something constructive about this particular issue.

If the Prime Minister had had a majority in relation to this issue, she probably would not have had a carbon tax. Institutionally, she would have been required to have one for a period of time to get the economic framework and the financial framework in place. But, after that, it would have morphed into an emissions trading scheme—and, potentially, she could do that today, or within a short period of time, if in fact that was an objective of government. It was a demand of the formation of government that climate change be addressed and that a market focus be part of addressing that particular issue.

The member for Lyne, myself and others were on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee that spent many, many months examining how to put the institutional framework et cetera in place. During that time, I argued on a number of causes in terms of agriculture, soil science et cetera and on how to progress some of those issues. Through the various clean energy funds, some of the money has been pumped into soil science, some has been pumped into some biodiversity issues, some has been pumped into encouraging the adoption of no-tillage and various technologies involved in encouraging the development of humus and organic matter in our soils, and some has been pumped into encouraging the water cycle to work more effectively and hence have an impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide. There are a number of things that have come through as a result of this particular parliament.

In my electorate at the moment, we see that the meat-processing sector are taking up some advantages out of the clean energy funds. They are not only reducing their carbon emissions below the carbon taxation levels; they are reducing their unit costs to process the animals. One of the things that was said at the time when all of this came out, 'the dreadful carbon tax', was that we would be uncompetitive internationally in the meat industry and in other sectors of agriculture. That is absolute rubbish.

The major city in my electorate, Tamworth, is looking at putting in biodigestion processes to grow biomass from its waste material and turn it back into biogas and CO2 for internal glasshouses et cetera. There are win-win situations in this. I am proud and I think we can all be proud of what the scientific community have done to identify what we should do as individuals and as a nation. It is not just us. The question has always been why we should do something when everybody else is doing nothing. That is absolute rubbish as well, and I think Greg Combet has covered that quite well in many of his contributions. The Chinese and the Americans are out there with a whole range of emissions trading schemes and variations on the theme. The shadow minister is correct in saying that there are variations, but let us not denounce our scientific community for the sake of some paltry, short-term political debate. (Time expired)