House debates

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Questions without Notice

Climate Change

2:11 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. Why is it important to take action on climate change and what might prevent this from occurring?

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Pyne interjecting

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Albanese interjecting

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The minister will resume his seat. I simply put it to the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the House that the quarrel they had after question time yesterday will not continue during this question time. If they want to deal with this quarrel, I will give them the opportunity to leave the chamber and deal with it. But I think to continue on today is unnecessary as it was unnecessary yesterday. The Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change.

The Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the House having left the floor of the chamber—

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister has the call. I simply say that sometimes I surprise myself at the risks I take. The minister has the call.

Photo of Greg CombetGreg Combet (Charlton, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hindmarsh for the question. This country needs to act as part of a global effort to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change. In fact, the IPCC report predicts that without action against climate change, global temperatures will increase by up to five or six degrees by the end of this century. In fact, the record shows that 13 of the last 14 years have been the warmest on record. We will be exposed to drought and we will be exposed to more intense and extreme weather events, including bushfires and heat waves, without taking action against climate change. Australia has already experienced an unusually hot second half of 2009. The Bureau of Meteorology reports that the mean temperature for the five months to November has averaged 1.38 degrees Celsius above the average from 1961 to 1990. So taking action against climate change is critical. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the centrepiece of the government’s efforts to bring down emissions. Disunity on display right now in the coalition is threatening action against taking on the threat of climate change.

As I remarked yesterday, the opposition is split into two camps, and I want to acknowledge those on the opposite side who hold the view that we need to take action against climate change. But they are of course up against the sceptics led by Senator Minchin. Senator Bernardi seems to be a disciple in this respect and, emboldened by Senator Minchin, he has offered this contribution in the debate that took place on Four Corners, a debate amongst those who are members of the coalition. Senator Bernardi had this to say: ‘The earth is not actually warming. We still have rainfall falling.’ Thankfully it is not rising. ‘We still have crops growing. We can go outside and not cook.’ These comments not only are bizarre but are wrong. We have already seen warming of 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1950 in this country. South Australia, where Senator Bernardi is from, is the nation’s driest state, and climate change will put at risk a large part of the state’s $3.6 billion agricultural industry.

He is not alone of course. The member for Barker goes so far as to seemingly welcome climate change. He had this to say in the second reading debate:

I can assure you that in fact more people will die from global cooling because coldness causes more deaths than heat ever does and ever will.

And this is despite the fact that there were in excess of 370 heat related deaths in Victoria in the heatwaves at the beginning of this year. But the sceptics group in the coalition simply will not attend to the evidence that is available. The member for Hume, to whom I referred yesterday also, had this to say in the CPRS second reading debate:

Carbon dioxide, for the information of the House, feeds plants. It is a potent fertiliser—

               …            …            …

In other words, there are people alive today thanks to extra carbon in the atmosphere.

What the member for Hume is missing is that it is the rising concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are contributing to global warming. The fact is that there is expected to be a 40 per cent increase in drought frequency by the year 2070 in New South Wales, for example, and over a doubling of heat related deaths in Sydney by 2020. Is this of no concern to those in that camp in the coalition?

All of the members of the coalition opposite should support the negotiations between the government and the opposition and support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. It is extremely important for this country that the views of the sceptics not be allowed to block possible agreement with the government which would result in the passage of the CPRS. Climate change is a great and important challenge for this country, and the national interest will be best served by sensible and responsible action by all of us. Those of you in that camp of the sceptics, led by Senator Minchin and backed up by the member for O’Connor, the member for Tangney and others who spoke in the Liberal party room opposing negotiations with the government, opposing climate science, should look at the evidence, take responsibility and act in the national interest.