Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
What we have just heard from Senator Crossin was extremely shallow and it was condescending towards the Prime Minister. She sought to use the Prime Minister’s hearing difficulty as a debating point, which is pathetic; it says more about the speaker than about the incident itself. If the Labor Party wants to engage in this very scientific, complex and multilayered debate which the public sometimes finds difficult to get to grips with, it should not do it in here through a lightweight like Senator Crossin. Labor ought to take it a little more seriously than the previous speaker, with her lightweight, unsophisticated and condescending approach. This debate deserves more.
The other side do not care to listen. I guess that is their job in opposition. May we never return to opposition! They asked several questions of Senator Minchin at question time on the issue of a national carbon emissions trading scheme. The answer was quite clear, categorical and black and white: this government does not support a domestic carbon emissions trading scheme for the good reason—backed up by research—that it would not be in this country’s national interest. We said some three years ago, in the national white paper Securing Australia’s energy future, that we would support and work towards an international carbon emissions trading scheme. We will say that until we are blue in the face, until the other side accept that that is this government’s policy.
I take it that the opposition’s policy is to introduce a national—that is, domestic—carbon emissions trading scheme. Well, go ahead! Try and sell that to the business community and those who will lose their jobs as a consequence! I know that you have recently appointed a new business liaison manager; he will have his fingers crossed even before he has heard of your absurd policy. On behalf of the Labor Party, this man is meant to liaise with big business, the energy producers of this country, and present a good face that says Labor, if they ever get into government, will listen to business and be business friendly. Well, try and sell that policy! Go and get your liaison officer to sell this policy. He will have more than his fingers crossed.
There are several other myths that the other side try to sell on this issue, including that the government are still sceptics—that we are late to the issue. I say to the other side that that is far from the truth; it is a myth I would like to put to rest. In 1996, our first year in government, we initiated a major review of the National Greenhouse Response Strategy. The strategy was completed in 1996 and was developed throughout 1997. I stress that it was during our first term in government, in 1997, that we established the Australian Greenhouse Office, the world’s first ever greenhouse office. That office coordinated a national greenhouse approach with the states and local government. I will read from a press release from the then Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, dated 20 November 1997—so you cannot say we are Johnny-come-latelies on this issue. He said:
A new Commonwealth Greenhouse Office is to be established in the Department of the Environment to galvanise the drive to improve Australia’s greenhouse performance.
Through the Greenhouse Office, back in 1997, we put down a policy and a strategy—fully funded, I should add.
There are several other myths with regard to this issue—and, no doubt, I will have more time to speak on the matter because it has been the issue of the week. I suspect it will be the issue of the year, seeing that the Labor Party have now dropped and run away from their industrial relations strategy leading up to the next campaign. But I just want to point out that this government had a policy, strategy and funding for the greenhouse gas emissions problem in its first term of government. (Time expired)