House of Representatives Speech- Climate Change 2010

The scheme that has been announced today by the new Leader of the Opposition is simply a continuation of the delay and denial that we have become accustomed to in this area from the opposition. To those elements of delay and denial the opposition has now added the element of deception. We had delay for 12 years. There was delay on the part of the former government to even truly engage with the fact that there is dangerous climate change occurring, delay on the part of the former government to ratify the Kyoto protocol, delay on the part of the former government to engage with the serious attempt that is being made worldwide to deal with what is accepted to be a grave problem that faces the entire planet.

The scheme that has been announced today by the new Leader of the Opposition is simply a continuation of the delay and denial that we have become accustomed to in this area from the opposition. To those elements of delay and denial the opposition has now added the element of deception. We had delay for 12 years. There was delay on the part of the former government to even truly engage with the fact that there is dangerous climate change occurring, delay on the part of the former government to ratify the Kyoto protocol, delay on the part of the former government to engage with the serious attempt that is being made worldwide to deal with what is accepted to be a grave problem that faces the entire planet.

Throughout that period of delay during the term of the former government, we had denial always bubbling along in the background, denial by a good part of those in the opposition room, those on the other side of the House—denial of the climate change science, denial of the seriousness of the problem. Finally, right before the last election, the delay and denial seemed to lessen just a little as, desperate to shore up some position for the last election, the former Howard government accepted the need for an emissions trading scheme and announced as its policy in the middle of 2007 that it too—like some 32 countries around the world that as of now have either adopted an emissions trading scheme or are in the process of adopting one—would introduce an emissions trading scheme if it were returned to office.

Yet, when the Labor government came to office, committed as we were and as we remain to an emissions trading scheme, the opposition returned to their calls for delay. We had: ‘Let’s wait for Garnaut to report.’ We had: ‘Let’s wait for the United States of America to legislate.’ We had: ‘Let’s wait for Copenhagen.’ We had: ‘Let’s wait for the rest of the world to take some more action. Let’s wait for China.’ Anything seems good enough for the opposition, rather than taking the action that they know they should take. Because of the knowledge that it is unsupportable for any responsible political party in Australia to go to the people without accepting that there is a need to take some action, we have now had the new Leader of the Opposition put forward his supposed grand scheme which, it is said, is going to do what all of these schemes need to do—that is, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by our country and, in doing so, persuade the rest of the world that Australia is putting its shoulder to the wheel in the task of reducing global emissions.

What have the opposition come up with? What has the new Leader of the Opposition come up with in his first major policy announcement, because that is what this is? What the new Leader of the Opposition has come forward with, in his first major policy announcement, is a piece of deception. We have had delay, we have had denial—both of them continuing for 12 years—and to that we have had added deception. We have a climate con job, one that does not achieve the emissions cuts that are said to be the purpose of such a scheme and one that does not in any sense grapple with the problem that the world is facing.

Australians should be in no doubt that the denial camp is running very, very strong on the other side of this House—running strong in the National Party, running strong in the Liberal Party. You can start with the new Leader of the Opposition’s statement at Beaufort in Victoria last year where he said that the argument about climate change was ‘absolute crap’. Those were his words. I am sorry to have to use those words in the House, but those were the words of the Leader of the Opposition, and that shows what he thinks of the serious work that has been done around the world now for some several decades—and that is even before I go to other senior representatives on the opposition front bench. One could start with the words of Senator Minchin, who told the Four Corners program in November last year:

If the question is, do people believe or not believe that human beings are causing, are the main cause of the planet warming, then I’d say a majority—

and he was talking about the Liberal Party—

don’t accept that position.

And has that ever been made clear since the change of leadership of the opposition! Senator Minchin is also, of course, a conspiracy theorist, and had this to say on the same program:

For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, … and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.

That was Senator Minchin. Senator Joyce, the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate and the shadow spokesman on finance, a very senior position, said:

If you believe what they say about global warming, chapter and verse, then you are way off the mark.

Those persisting in serious denial are lurking on the opposition benches both here and in the Senate. That shows why nothing that is produced by the opposition can in any sense be believed in this area.

The climate con job that has been produced today is a failure. It is a failure because it will not achieve its stated purpose, which is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our country by the stated five per cent target. It will not even come close and, of course, it is a fraud because what is said in the plan that has been produced by the new Leader of the Opposition includes a large number of misstatements. It is as good evidence as one could want of why the new Leader of the Opposition and those he leads can in no sense be trusted by the people of Australia in this area or indeed in any other.

The previous speaker, the member for Goldstein, said, wrongly, ‘We are so far ahead of the world.’ That is nonsense; Australia lags far behind the rest of the world. All of the European Union countries adopted a cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme back in 2004. The scheme has been operating for more than five years, and nobody could suggest—let alone the member for Goldstein in his comment—that Australia is in any way ahead of the world. It is simply nonsense.

What we see in the plan produced by the Liberal Party are, first of all, false figures. We see again the recycling of the figure that the Leader of the Opposition has used so frequently over the last couple of months, his assertion of an increase of some $1,100 in Australian families’ bills each year. He was asked where this figure came from and admitted, back in December, that it was based on nothing more than a Google news search. The recycling of that figure here today in the Liberal material, the great Liberal plan that they announced today, demonstrates that they are not seriously engaging in the problem—they are not seriously engaging in the detail or in whether or not an emissions trading scheme is appropriate.

Instead they are intent on a dishonest scare campaign. They must know that that figure is almost double the actual impact. They must know that there has been comprehensive and detailed Treasury modelling of the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and that that modelling demonstrates that the price rise that is anticipated from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2013 is some 1.1 per cent, on average costing households $624 a year. That cost is to be compensated, and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme contains that compensation, showing that more than 90 per cent of all households will receive assistance and, on average, they will receive assistance of some $660 in 2013.

If the opposition were serious and the opposition were not simply peddling a climate con job, if they were serious about engaging with the problem, they would not be peddling this kind of dishonest and misleading scare campaign, particularly as to the potential costs. They know that it is not possible to reduce emissions without some cost. Every country in the world that is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions has understood that some cost is involved. What is also understood is that, whatever the cost now, the cost of not acting will be far greater, in two senses. The cost will be greater because the cost to our community of reducing emissions if we make a start only in 2015 or in 2020 will be greater because the need to reduce emissions will be greater and we will need to bring down emissions faster, so the cost will be greater in that sense. And leaving aside the cost of simply reducing emissions, the cost to our community will be greater if we do not act now. What we see in this scheme, this document that has been produced by the Liberal Party today, is no real acknowledgement of what the cost to Australia will be of not taking action on climate change.

The simple facts of this matter are that if we fail to act there will be more severe climate events. There will be a decline in agricultural production across Australia. There will be, just to take the Great Barrier Reef as an example, a dramatic destruction of employment—the jobs of working families who live in North Queensland and who depend on the tourist industry for their livelihoods. That will be the effect on jobs in that part of Australia of failing to act on climate change; and of course it requires world action. There will be a massive destruction of employment and jobs in the agricultural industry if we fail to take action on climate change. There will be a threat to every low-lying coastal property throughout Australia if we fail to take action on climate change. The Australian people understand the need for action on climate change, and that is one of the reasons why they supported and elected the Rudd government to govern this country. We have a very clear mandate to introduce a carbon pollution reduction scheme and we are not going to give up, because it is essential that there be both a cap on carbon emissions and a price on carbon in order to get any of the actions that are hoped for by the opposition in their plan.

What we see from the opposition is the same old approach that has been pointed out by the Minister assisting the Minister for Climate Change, who pointed out that this was picking winners by the opposition, where they are simply proposing to pour money towards their cronies, to pour money into selected companies, to pour money into perhaps selected industries and to pretend that that is going to achieve the kind of emission cuts that are in fact required. What they have not said in this plan that has been produced today is that the Liberal plan lets the biggest polluters off scot-free. What they have not said in this plan is that their plan has no hope of achieving meaningful cuts. It is not even costed as to the five per cent cuts they say are going to be achieved by the very limited range of measures that they have identified. They say nothing whatsoever about increasing the Australian target to the 15 or 25 per cent targets which the government has left open as a possibility in order to match action across the rest of the world. They do not say in any sense what compensation there will be. They fail entirely to grapple with climate change. Good intentions will not get us there. Directors of companies are bound by fiduciary duty to achieve profits for their shareholders. Their job is to maximise profits—and most Australians know this—not to look after Australians, not to look after people other than their shareholders. The victims of James Hardie know this very well, but those opposite have failed entirely to understand that good intentions are not enough, good intentions will not get us there.