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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6731

Senator FORSHAW (3:10 PM) —It is quite clear that the opposition have learned nothing about climate change. Their own position, of course, has not changed since prior to the last federal election. The fact is that, notwithstanding those pious words about concern for climate change and a commitment to doing something about carbon reduction, the opposition, when in government, refused to really accept that there was a problem. We know this. The former Prime Minister, Mr Howard, was a climate change sceptic. He was probably one of the leaders of the climate change sceptics in the world. He slavishly followed the position of President Bush. Australia, virtually alone in the world, stood with the US administration at the time in not being prepared to accept that this was a real and significant problem. And of course their position, in the face of all of the overwhelming scientific evidence and the evidence of what was happening and being done in the rest of the world, was ultimately judged by the Australian people as not being up to the mark in dealing with the great challenge of climate change.

I note that president-elect Obama has embraced this as an important issue. I believe that the next US administration will move to a leadership position on the issue of climate change, in contrast to the position that the previous administration held, up until the 11th hour, at the conference in Bali last year. The Rudd government’s very first action was to sign up to the Kyoto protocol, something for which we were condemned up hill and down dale as meaning the end of the Australian economy. We were told that it would cost millions of jobs and that it would destroy the fabric of Australian society and our economy. That was the opposition’s mantra in government and not much has changed. What the opposition has done now is grabbed hold of the financial crisis affecting the world. It is now trying desperately to use that as an argument in order to enable it to say, ‘Let us back off on climate change as an important issue. Let us back off on moving towards the establishment of a carbon pollution reduction scheme.’

I listened carefully to what Senator Johnston said about the opposition’s commitment and the opposition’s time line, but I doubt that it is genuinely the position of most of the opposition. We know that they are, essentially, sceptics. The opposition’s position is that at the end of the day they really do not want a carbon pollution reduction scheme. They do not want an emissions trading scheme. And this is despite the fact that, as the minister pointed out in her answers, just about every nation in the rest of the world accepts that this is the way to go. It is part of an overall package of measures that has to be adopted, measures that include promoting the movement to cleaner coal production and promoting research and development into cleaner energy fuel sources—the whole suite of measures that I do not have time to go through at this point. A carbon pollution reduction scheme is, of course, an inherent part of that process.

It is sad that the opposition cannot accept that we have to tackle climate change and that the fact that we have an economic crisis confronting the world at the moment does not mean the issue of climate change should be just taken off the agenda. We have to move forward on both these critical challenges and seize the opportunities for investment in clean energy. It is what, for instance, our package for the vehicle industry is about: it is assistance to that industry to meet the challenges they confront in the economic situation, but going hand in hand with that is the obligation on them to invest in cleaner and more fuel efficient cars. (Time expired)