House debates

Monday, 23 November 2009

Questions without Notice

Climate Change

2:19 pm

Photo of Jim TurnourJim Turnour (Leichhardt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. Will the minister outline the significant scientific consensus that has developed around climate change? What has the government done in response to the science and what is preventing further action based on the scientific evidence?

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have your names, Greg.

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

I have not hidden my identity. I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question. He has taken a very keen interest in this issue given the vulnerability of Far North Queensland to climate change. This is, in any view, a momentous week potentially for those in Australia who support taking action on climate change.

As the Prime Minister was saying a short while ago, if agreement can be finalised with the opposition then we can achieve as a nation a historic economic and environmental reform. It is important to remind ourselves why the government is so committed to acting on climate change. It is because the scientific case for action on climate change is very clear. The climate is warming and we need to act respond to it.

In 1988, governments formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to analyse the peer reviewed scientific work of global scientists to inform policy making decisions. The IPCC has released four assessment reports that have confirmed the science and informed the international efforts to take action. The most recent such assessment report, released in 2007, has of course been informing the Copenhagen process. That report, the fourth assessment report, found that the observed warming of the climate is unequivocal, that the observed warming is very likely to be due to human activity and that projected warming of between 1.1 to 6.4 degrees centigrade can be expected by 2100. These findings have been both confirmed and strengthened by subsequent world leading scientific societies. Labor accepts the science and that is why the government has a strong record of action in dealing with climate change.

We have ratified the Kyoto protocol. We have committed to international negotiations. We have commissioned the Garnaut climate change review. We have produced green and white papers. We have had extensive consultations with industry and environmental groups. We have set strong targets for emissions reductions. We have passed the renewable energy legislation. We have commenced the largest ever investment in energy efficiency. We have committed significant resources to explore carbon capture and storage and solar technology. We have committed to implement the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and we need the CPRS so that we can begin the difficult work of reducing our greenhouse emissions.

To that end, we need those opposite to support action on climate change. The government has been working hard to achieve agreement. But the opposition remains split into two camps and divided on the science. The member for Warringah has attracted a bit of attention in recent days. He has chopped and changed camps on the Liberal side of politics and he has got an unusual take on the science. The member for Warringah had this to say on Lateline last week in relation to the science:

If you look at Roman times, grapes grew up against Hadrian’s Wall. In Medieval times they grew crops in Greenland and in the 1700s they had ice fairs on the Thames.

I do not think I can explain it to the House, Mr Speaker. We would have to have some peer review of the source material to work that out. The member for Warringah also had this to say back in October in no lesser material than Pyrenees Advocate. He said:

The argument on climate change is absolute crap. However the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.

So it is a political problem from the member for Warringah’s point of view. The climate science, as he said, is ‘absolute crap’ in his opinion.

But in Australian on 19 October when the member for Warringah was in the other camp—that is, the camp supporting the Leader of the Opposition and attempts to negotiate an agreement—this is what he had to say:

It could indeed help the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change talks if Australia agreed in advance not only to a carbon emission target but also a mechanism to deliver it.

That was a sound observation of course but it has been contradicted by a number of other statements. That is, as I have said, when the member for Warringah was in the Turnbull camp, wanting to negotiate. But now he seem to be in the Minchin camp, which is where in fairness he is probably most comfortable, fighting that international communist conspiracy out there. He has been attracted to that. I would leave the observations about the member for Warringah with no lesser authority than the Leader of the Opposition, who said this on 20 November, a few days ago, on the doors:

Tony’s expressed a number of views, each of which was at odds with the views he’s expressed before.

Say no more.

Mr Speaker, as we approach this important and momentous moment when potentially the parliament is able to pass an emissions trading scheme and begin the hard work of emission reductions, all of those on that side of politics need to take responsibility, stand up for what is right in the national interest and work with the government to reduce emissions.