Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
No doubt Senator Abetz, the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, would have been expecting such a question on climate change today, given the embarrassment this government is experiencing on the issue of the environment. I refer specifically to its lack of action on climate change and the confused message it has been sending out, with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other ministers appearing to have different views on what the government’s position is on carbon emissions trading. Given that the Prime Minister’s discussion paper on carbon emissions trading indicates that it is unlikely that a global scheme will emerge in the near future and given the apparently different views of members of the government, it is likely that inaction will be the outcome under a Liberal-National coalition government. This seems a fair assessment, given the way that the government has equivocated on climate change while global warming has made its impact.
The Australian public, our constituents, are genuinely concerned—concerned about the impact climate change has already had, the impact it is having today and the impact it will have tomorrow on our planet and future generations. They should be concerned, given that 600 scientists, including 42 Australian scientists, representing 113 governments on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have found that warming of the climate system ‘is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice’ and rising sea levels. The public are concerned, knowing that this government, after 10 long years in power and after years of denial, has fallen well short of addressing the issue.
In the last parliamentary session of 2006, the government pushed through the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2006. What a missed opportunity that bill turned out to be for the government to address the very real challenge of climate change if it believed climate change was a serious and genuine concern. Those opposite cannot get away from the fact that this bill was made up of 409 pages of amendments without a single mention of protecting Australia from dangerous climate change; nor was there any measure to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution.
Regardless of what the senator said today, for 10 years the Howard government has failed to listen to the concerns of the experts—the scientists—and the Australian people on environmental issues, failed to provide solutions and failed to provide hope for the future. It is a government without answers led by a Prime Minister who has been a climate change sceptic. We have the Prime Minister leading a government that has failed to deliver climate change solutions for 10 years and claiming on Lateline to be a realist on climate change and not prone to exaggeration. Yesterday during question time we had him saying ‘the jury is still out’ on the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change but then, following the nightly news, returning to the chamber to correct his statement.
What the Australian public is seeing is a government that does not know what it believes on the issue of climate change and emissions trading. On Monday the Prime Minister said Australia could implement a domestic scheme if there was ‘reasonable anticipation of activity on the global level’ and then yesterday we had the Minister for Finance and Administration, Senator Minchin, saying that the government continues to be opposed to Australia acting unilaterally to tax Australian industry by way of a domestic emissions trading scheme, or carbon tax, in the absence of any action by our trading partners or other major nations in the world. This government has been backed into a corner on climate change and has been well and truly exposed as a government that cannot be trusted when it comes to dealing with our environment and as a government with a decade of climate change scepticism, policy inaction and complacency.
Throughout that time Labor has been asking the questions, putting forward ways to address environmental issues, moving amendments and introducing bills. This week, Labor’s leader, Kevin Rudd, announced he will convene in the coming months a national summit on climate change. The summit will be designed to bring together Australia’s best scientists, with a view to shaping a national consensus on the best way forward for Australia to deal with climate change over the next decade. (Time expired)