Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bills

Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading

1:11 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make my contribution to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013, but, before I do, I congratulate Senator Stephens on the very passionate presentation that she just made to the chamber. All of us who know Senator Stephens know that, as a New South Wales Labor representative from Goulburn, her commitment to rural and regional Australia, agriculture and horticulture is unquestioned. Well done.

While in government, Labor did recognise that Australia did need to act on climate change. We need to take action as Australia is the biggest polluter per capita in the world. In government, we responded to the science and to an overwhelming concern from the Australian community that action needed to be taken to reduce the amount of carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere. Prime Minister Abbott, then Leader of the Opposition, made an admission in October 2009 that around:

… 80 per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.

That quote was made in Beaufort in Victoria on 1 October 2009, yet he still chose to obstruct the Labor government's plan to protect the environment and, of course, future generations.

This should surprise no-one. However, as the Prime Minister has a long history of climate scepticism, it is now his duty to explain to the Australian people in detail how the coalition will combat the impacts of climate change and why he wants to axe the successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation. When it comes to the environment and climate change, unfortunately, this Prime Minister is a walking contradiction. After years of confused statements on the issues of climate change and global warming, it is time for the Prime Minister to get serious on this very important issue.

On 27 July 2009, Mr Abbott said that he was:

… hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.

That was in an interview with Kerry O'Brien on The7.30 Report. He also said that he thought the issue was 'absolute crap'. When questioned by Barrie Cassidy in February 2010 about his comments, the then opposition leader's response was:

I think what I actually said was that the so-called settled science was a little aromatic.

Well, Mr Prime Minister, we know what you said. You did not say that. The Australian people know exactly what you said, and I suggest, Prime Minister, that you should at least try sticking to the truth.

After Mr Abbott made his views on the science behind climate change quite clear he then shocked us with this little pearl in a television interview in 2009:

… if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax? Why not ask motorists to pay more, why not ask electricity consumers to pay more, and then at the end of the year you can take your invoices to the Tax Office and get a rebate of the carbon tax you have paid?

It would be burdensome, all taxes are burdensome, but it would certainly change the price of carbon, raise the price of carbon, without increasing in any way the overall tax burden.

That was on a Sky News interview in July 2009.

So is this supposed to be one of those moments where we were not to take him seriously because what he said was not written down? Perhaps what he said was not the gospel truth? At the time of that interview a price on carbon was Liberal Party policy. While Mr Abbott was clearly trying hard to toe the party line, eventually his climate change scepticism got the better of him. Mr Abbott cemented his position on climate change when he replaced Mr Malcolm Turnbull as the Leader of the Opposition, after he and other coalition members revolted over Mr Turnbull's cooperation with the Labor government on an emissions trading scheme.

This should have been a very clear signal to the people of Australia that the new opposition leader, being Mr Abbott, had no interest whatsoever in climate change or global warming. The Prime Minister's conduct throughout this whole debate has proven, unfortunately, that you cannot take him at his word. So where does this leave us now?

We have a Prime Minister and a government who do not believe in climate change; they have made that clear. The arrogance of this government has been astounding when dealing with questions surrounding this issue. We must not forget the moment when Mr Abbott accused the United Nations climate chief of, in his words, 'talking through her hat', while being interviewed by Neil Mitchell on 3AW on 23 October 2013. Following the disastrous fires in New South Wales in October this year, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ms Christiana Figueres, said that while there had not yet been proven a direct correlation between the New South Wales fires and climate change, what is:

… absolutely clear is the science is telling us that there are increasing heat waves in Asia, Europe, and Australia; that these will continue; that they will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN framework—those were her words.

Further to Mr Abbott's responses on Neil Mitchell's 3AW show on 23 October, the Prime Minister continued on to say that bushfires are 'just a function of life in Australia'. Tracy Bowden reported on the ABC's 7:30 on 21 October that many climate scientists have confirmed that there is a link between global warming and bushfires. John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute said:

Carbon pollution is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is like putting the weather on steroids. It drives the greater extremes. It's not just warmer weather, it's wilder weather.

So here we have scientists who have research based on extensive data, and the Prime Minister simply brushes off their expertise and settles it by saying, more or less, that we should just put up with these natural disasters because they are part of our Australian lifestyle. Prime Minister, this simply is just not good enough.

There is one person in the coalition, however, who has the courage to stand up to Mr Abbott on climate change.

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