Thursday, 19 November 2009
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Bass for her question. In the current negotiations that the government is pursuing with the opposition with respect to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, we have two broad objectives. They are maintaining the environmental integrity of the scheme and maintaining its fiscal sustainability. The government is, of course, committed to returning the budget to surplus as quickly as possible and it is important that if we reach agreement it does as little damage as possible to the overall position of the budget, both in the short and in the longer term. I remind the House that the people we are seeking to negotiate with are the same people who have been seeking to tell the Australian people for months that the projected deficits in the budget are too high and that the projected debt as a result of that is too high. So I hope they take that on board in the negotiation process.
But, unfortunately, the process of negotiation has been somewhat complicated by the people behind the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Groom who do not quite have the same perspective on these issues as they appear to have. We have some leading figures in the Liberal Party suggesting that this is all some kind of communist conspiracy and others suggesting that it is about a Nazi approach to science. We have the member for Tangney offering some kind of intergalactic conspiracy involving various planets and things of that kind. In spite of that, the government is seeking to negotiate in good faith, and we accept that the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Groom are seeking to negotiate in good faith, but unfortunately they are being held hostage by the wackier outer limits of their own party. To illustrate just how ludicrous the statements were by Senator Minchin last week, just contemplate these facts. He is suggesting that there is some kind of global world government left-wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world, some kind of communist conspiracy, that apparently his own leader is party to and his former leader John Howard is party to, and one of the very first international leaders to draw attention to the seriousness of the climate change challenge was none other than Margaret Thatcher—the great icon of the conservative movement all around the world, to which Senator Minchin adheres.
This is sure some communist conspiracy. This is a real ripper of a communist conspiracy. It is so devious, it is so subtle and it is so pervasive that it includes the Leader of the Opposition, it includes John Howard and it includes Margaret Thatcher. Senator Minchin is incubating a kind of rural militia from backwards Montana in the Senate. He is out there in his fatigues. He has the bandana wrapped around his head. He has the gun-racks, he has the pick-up truck and he has the stock of beer there, and he is off chasing all those global conspiracies. The big problem here, unfortunately, is that he is holding the rest of Australia hostage in this process. He is holding the rest of the country hostage.
I am asked about the budget implications of these issues. We can work out with reasonable accuracy the budget implications of proposed changes to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, but there is another aspect of this that I would like to draw to the House’s attention. The government is looking at budget matters with a long-term horizon because of the impact of the global financial crisis. We have 10-year projections in the budget papers and, indeed, projections going slightly beyond that. So that is a 10- to 12-year period. As well as asking the question, ‘What impact might these negotiations have on the budget?’ which is a legitimate question that we are very concerned about, we are also interested in the question of what happens if Senator Minchin, the member for O’Connor, the member for Tangney and all the other wacky crew get their way? What happens if there is no action on climate change in Australia and no action on climate change globally?
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I think you would agree with me that the phrase of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation is unparliamentary against my colleagues in the House, and I would ask you to ask him to withdraw it.
Government members interjecting—
The point I am making is that there is a serious price to pay for inaction on climate change—not just a price for the nation but specifically a price for the budget. If we see a collapse in tourism in the future in Far North Queensland because of the Barrier Reef, if we see Australian agriculture shrinking dramatically as a result of climate change and if we see the costs of dealing with amelioration and remediation on Australia’s coastline rising because of climate change, all of those things will inevitably impact on the budget in the medium to longer term. There will be the need for adjustment packages. There will be higher unemployment. There will be the need for specific compensation to assist people who are affected. So I would urge the House, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Groom and those people in the Liberal Party who still have at least one foot on planet earth, to think very carefully about the implications of being held hostage by the urban and rural militias in the Senate that Senator Minchin is incubating because the implications of that for Australia, for the budget and for the people in rural and regional Australia in the longer term will be very serious.