Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and Administration (Senator Minchin) and the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation (Senator Abetz) to questions without notice asked by Senators O’Brien and Crossin today relating to climate change.
This government has made a shambles of this debate over whether or not we should have a national carbon emissions trading scheme and the link between emissions and climate change. It also goes to the comments that the Prime Minister made—or failed to make—yesterday and to the commitment and change of heart from the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane.
Let me go to yesterday. I have in my mind a picture, late at night, of the Prime Minister sitting down on the sofa. I am sure that Mrs Prime Minister probably said, ‘How was your day, darling?’ It was the first day of the sittings, the parliamentary New Year. I think he probably would have said: ‘Well, church was pretty good in the morning, except I didn’t know all the words to the hymns. That new Leader of the Opposition could sing every one of them without looking at the songbook, so I’d better lift my game there. It was going pretty well, actually, till they asked me a question about climate change and the emissions trading scheme. But I stuffed it up. I didn’t quite get it right. But it’s okay: when I got back to my office, I pretended my lack of hearing had done me wrong and that I mistook the question to be about drought and climate change and I just trotted back into the chamber and I rectified my problem.’
All up, it was probably not a really great day. In fact I think one of the papers gives his performance as a six out of 10. It was not a great day for this government for two reasons. Firstly, they have suddenly discovered that climate change is actually an issue in this country, and it has been an issue for a long time. I think it was Senator Minchin who said today that they had actually been working on the issue of climate change for 10 years. Ten seconds, I think, would probably be the more correct answer if he had been honest with the Senate. This is a government that has failed to believe the words ‘climate change’ even existed, let alone what they meant to this country. But we are in an election year, so I guess they have probably got their radars out and have decided they had better get on board—to start to use the words and to come up with a position.
But there is a bit of a problem, isn’t there? The Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane, is saying: ‘Wait a minute, maybe we should actually have a look at this. Perhaps there is a link between emissions and climate change.’ Some people in this chamber still refuse to believe that there is a link. But then they say, ‘If the rest of the world get on board, we might follow them.’ The government’s problem is that it has always been a follower when it comes to dealing with the issue of climate change. It always has to march behind. It always has to step in line. It always has to wait to see what the rest of the world does before it actually takes any action. It takes no initiatives and has no new ideas. There is nothing creative about Australia when it comes to the international scene and dealing with climate change. So what do we get today? The government says: ‘We’re not actually going to initiate any national scheme, or even a regional scheme, unless it is truly global. Let’s sit back and see if the rest of the world is going to get on board and then we might make up our mind.’
It is the same with the Kyoto protocol: while the rest of the world is talking about stages 2 and 3, this government has not even signed on to stage 1. There is no guarantee, even if the rest of the world gets on board with an emissions trading scheme, that this government will get on board. That is their excuse. They do nothing. They get it confused with the link between drought and climate change and then have the Prime Minister toddle into the House late at night to say, ‘Mea culpa; I got it all wrong.’ Poor thing! It is a wonder they did not send someone else in to apologise for his mistake.
This government does nothing. It is a follower, not a leader. It does not take initiatives in this country or internationally. It is going to sit back and wait until the rest of the world gets onto the starting blocks. This government has had report after report after report on the impact of climate change, and the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly shows there is a direct link between human activity and climate change. (Time expired)