Tuesday, 29 May 2007
I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to the House, that it was actually the debate that the Prime Minister had with Sir Nicholas Stern, as Sir Nicholas Stern pointed out quite clearly once he visited Australia, which showed that the Prime Minister’s intransigence and the government’s intransigence in not signing Kyoto was an impediment to us making progress on the issue of challenging global warming.
Let us go back to the parliament last week. On 23 May the Prime Minister was asked about taxpayer funded full-colour brochures on climate change with a personal covering letter. He said, ‘No such decision has been made by me or, to my knowledge, by the government.’ When he was asked whether this pamphlet had been market tested, along with the covering letter, again we got no answer. Then on 24 May he was asked whether $176,000 had been allocated for market testing and research by Blue Moon Pty Ltd. That was already on the public record from Senate estimates. I am happy to tender that particular correspondence right now. It is marked 23 May 2007—’Dear Dr Holland’, ‘from Mark Tucker’:
Blue Moon Research and Planning Pty Ltd were appointed on a single select arrangement to undertake developmental, formative and evaluation research for the Climate Change Community Information and Education Campaign on 16 April 2007 by the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications.
I think that is fairly clear. But still, when asked about this particular and specific campaign and undertaking by Blue Moon research, the Prime Minister said:
I simply repeat what I said yesterday: the government has not decided on any campaign.
And then asked again whether the ministerial committee, on which Mr Nutt sits as his representative, had approached the market research company and whether a contract had been entered into, Mr Howard said:
I repeat what I said yesterday: the government has not approved this campaign.
And so it went on and on. On Monday this week, when asked about whether the non-existent advertising campaign—because now we have newspaper reports and clear indications that there is such a campaign—had an elderly lady in it, talking about practical responses to climate change, the Prime Minister said again:
I can only repeat what I said: no campaign has been approved.
Why is it that we know so much about a campaign that the Prime Minister knows so little about? That is really the question that lies at the heart of this censure motion: where is the Prime Minister’s capacity to answer a question here, on matters that everybody else seems to know something about but he does not?
There is a very familiar pattern here for Australians listening to this. Because they will be aware of the fact that, when the Prime Minister was first asked a question about this, he specifically said, ‘I am very careful with my answers’. That is the expression that he used: ‘I am very careful with my answers’. When he was asked whether or not Richard Davies had anything to do with sighting the contract for this particular campaign, again he refused to answer. When he was consequently asked questions in this House, up until this point in time today, he refused to answer. Then finally, when he was asked the last question by the Leader of the Opposition, he said, ‘I will come back to the House and provide you with some information.’ What he has come back and provided the House with is an answer that says the information campaign that was noted in the budget papers is actually the campaign that everybody has been talking about. In that case, why did the Prime Minister not say that on Wednesday last week, on Thursday last week, on Monday this week and on Tuesday this week? If that is what the campaign is, why didn’t the Prime Minister come straight out and say that when he was first asked that question? This would have been the worst performance by a Prime Minister in this House since Billy McMahon when it comes to dealing with questions—the least convincing, least credible performance that we have seen in this House. It is a performance that was driven by ideology, not a performance that was driven by conviction or accountability.
The Prime Minister referred in his response to the censure motion and the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition to all of the things that his government had done and the approach that it was going to take on climate change. What the Prime Minister did not refer to was the fact that the government is simply responding to the poll-driven research that it has, and it is on that basis that it has set in train a marketing and climate change campaign which it has called the ‘Climate Clever’ campaign. We read that the tone of the campaign would ‘create a sense of urgency about the issue of climate change’. There should be a very good reason that we feel a sense of urgency about the issue of climate change—because, for 11 years this government has denied it, and now we have greenhouse gas emissions due to skyrocket some 27 per cent by 2050 as a consequence of this government’s inaction. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that that will cost a lot more than $23 million on a campaign.
The campaign was said to be ‘positioning the government as the primary balanced voice on climate change’. It is certainly the case that this issue could do with some balance, with the Howard government managing to spend some $5.2 million of its Solar Cities campaign, underspent in the budget, and constantly running the line that in actual fact the damage to the Australian economy will come as a consequence of dealing with climate change. Companies in this country, leading business entities in this country, do not happen to agree. In actual fact this is where the Prime Minister has got it wrong. Not only is he trying to cover up the fact that the government was intending to have an expensive, taxpayer funded marketing campaign out there telling Australians what they were doing about climate change, but he also—and this was clear in his answer to us—does not understand that it is businesses and Australians themselves that will do most and benefit most from responsible action on climate change. Action on climate change can help business competitiveness and economic growth. That is the single, straightforward assertion that we make on this side of the House.
What is it that we require in order to see that sustainable economic growth? A national emissions trading scheme—something that the Prime Minister himself has blocked. He blocked a cabinet submission in 2003 to that end. We need national leadership on climate change, yet where is the evidence of the Prime Minister leading on this issue? He has been dragged kicking and screaming into this debate. He says he is not sceptical about climate change. The correct quote is: ‘I am not sceptical about some of the more gloomy predictions.’ Australians listening to this debate and the Labor Party on this side of the House understand that climate change represents the single most important economic and environmental issue that we face—