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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 60

Senator MOORE (3:13 PM) —I want to pay a compliment to Senator Macdonald for the alliteration in the contribution he just made to this debate. I thought he was going to burst into song at one point. I felt quite exited when he started talking about the workers. I had hoped, Senator Macdonald, that we would be able to have some song from you.

Senator Macdonald has followed a similar process to senators opposite who took note of answers to questions yesterday. The opposition are getting up and putting forward alarmist positions. They are talking up fear. They are scaremongering about why Australia must not play its necessary role in what is an international response to climate change and what it must do as part of an international process.

We heard the minister respond over a number of question times about the process that she and other people in the government have put in place to engage people in this country, particularly industry. Senator Macdonald raised points about industry in Australia. The industries, the Business Council and the communities of this country need to be involved in this process. This response to climate change will not just impact on some of us. It must involve the whole of the Australian community. We have not run away from this issue.

In fact it is quite similar to questions we asked when we were on the other side, encouraging the then government to take up their responsibility to put in place a process to address climate change and the necessary reduction in our country’s carbon emissions profile. We kept asking: ‘Why are you not accepting that there is a responsibility for Australia—not just for us but for our international obligations to our environment?’ and they did not respond. Now that we are here on the government benches, they are talking about ‘rushed’, ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘ill-considered’ processes because there has been no real commitment from the people in the opposition to seeing that this is not something that is academic, something that can be pushed aside; it is something that must happen and must happen now, through the process the minister outlined again today. She talked about the various consultative processes that she, her department and her office have been involved in, with a range of people who have indicated that they have concerns about what will happen to them, their industry, their jobs and their futures.

Indeed, it is absolutely necessary that those people in industry and others in various places around Australia put forward their concerns. It is not something that can be hidden when we are working through such a significant period of change. One of the key elements of any form of change management is the trust that concerns can be aired without automatically getting a punitive response or a denial. And that is what the other side do not seem to be able to understand—that you can actually engage in a process of discussion and consultation without necessarily all agreeing. We know that through the COAG process we are hearing from each state government in this country about what their concerns are on what the future will hold for them and what decisions will have to be made.

It is very easy to sit there and pick a couple of headlines out of individual states—and I know we will hear that in future contributions this afternoon. But the important thing is that we continue to work on what we must achieve, and that is an effective program in this country which addresses what we need and what our communities need. But also, most importantly—and I think this has been often lost in this whole debate—we have a responsibility to the whole of the world environment and saying that we have to hold back, we have to wait, rejects that responsibility, as does saying that we just cannot proceed and be part of the leadership in this area, because without leadership nothing will be achieved.

We expect people from the other side to try and make political mileage, though it is rather ironic that we hear from them, now, about looking after the workers in this whole debate. It is very easy to get a quick headline, as Senator Macdonald showed in his contribution. It is very easy to get a quick headline. What is not easy but is absolutely essential is that we engage effectively in a process which works at achieving what we must do—which is to reduce the carbon emissions in our whole nation, while ensuring that we compensate effectively where there needs to be compensation, and that can only be identified when the people who have the concerns have the strength and the power to put their views forward.