Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Economics Legislation Committee; Reference

6:17 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Water) Share this | Hansard source

No, Senator Boswell. It is not my motion; it is your motion. That means that I cannot close the debate. I would like to close the debate to send the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills off to an inquiry, because we have had this debate and all we had from Senator Joyce was a reiteration of the same set of conspiracy theories and, frankly, madness that we heard over a long period of time in what I think was the third longest debate in the Senate’s history—the debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009.

There has been some talk about this being rushed. I say that we are in no danger whatsoever of being accused of rushing. We had 12 years of inaction under John Howard until he finally decided to adopt an emissions trading scheme as policy and this legislation has been before the Senate no fewer than four times. You might recall that the first time the opposition played procedural games so as not to have to debate it. What are they doing now? Exactly the same thing—more procedural games because they do not want the bills brought on. It is somewhat bizarre, because we have had a lot of hairy-chested noise and a lot of chest-thumping from the Leader of the Opposition. He keeps saying, ‘Bring it on!’ Yet here in the Senate chamber we saw the opposition seeking to delay yesterday and then successfully delaying debate today on this legislation until the next sitting.

While the Leader of the Opposition is saying, ‘Bring it on!’ and beating his chest, we have the opposition in the Senate wimping out because they do not want the debate. If they want the debate so much—if they want to do what Senator Joyce said and run the scare campaign they say they want to run—they should bring the debate on. But they are not doing that. They are playing procedural games deferring it until the May sittings, and now they want another inquiry.

For the information of the Senate, if this inquiry gets up it will be no less than the 15th inquiry into climate change since the Rudd government took office. There have been 15 inquiries. This is process gone mad. These are people who will do and say anything to avoid taking action on climate change. I would have more respect for the opposition if they could just reiterate what they believe, which is, as Mr Abbott said, ‘Climate change is absolute crap.’ Why don’t you just tell people that instead of playing these games in the Senate to avoid having the discussion?

While I am on the subject of some of the more remarkable things put forward in this debate, I comment as a side issue on the irony of Senator Joyce lecturing the Senate about economic risk. Senator Joyce is seen as such a liability by the coalition as the shadow minister for finance—and we know they are all lining up to take his job—that he cannot even get a question during question time on any issue to do with economics, presumably because he might mix up his millions, billions and trillions.

This matter has been before the Senate previously on four occasions. This would be the 15th inquiry into climate change since we took office. Senator Abetz says, somewhat grandiosely, ‘There are a lot of amendments.’ But he is talking about the amendments that we negotiated with the then Leader of the Opposition and Mr Macfarlane and that were endorsed in Senator Abetz’s party room. He is asking the Senate to go and do an inquiry into amendments that his party room supported before they tore down their leader. This is extraordinary. Didn’t you talk about it in your party room? You were certainly in there for many hours before you endorsed it, yet now you are going to send it off for another Senate inquiry just to make sure that we waste more taxpayers’ funds on more inquiries on an issue that you have already decided you are going to oppose. That is really the issue here: you are not referring this matter for inquiry because you actually want to find out anything. You are not referring it because you might change your minds or because you want to inquire. You have made your position absolutely clear to the extent that you have executed a leader so you do not have to vote for action on climate change. That is what you have done.

It is really quite an extraordinary abuse of process to be suggesting that there is any merit to this inquiry. We have had years of inquiry into the best way to reduce emissions in this country. Your own Prime Minister, John Howard, commissioned Peter Shergold to do a report through the Task Group on Emissions Trading. It reported whilst you were still in government and it said very clearly that the lowest cost way to reduce emissions, which is the key to dealing with climate change, is to introduce an emissions trading scheme. You went to the last election with that policy. You now have elected a man who says climate change is absolute crap. I disagree, but what you are doing is delaying debate in this place rather than simply saying, ‘Bring it on,’ having the debate and voting against the bills. I do not quite understand why it is that you would take this path.

There were a whole range of other matters, and I do not want to go into this in detail because we had a very long debate on the last occasions where many of these same issues were argued by the opposition over and over again. I remind senators on that side, when they accuse people on this side of being part of some bizarre conspiracy around the science of climate change, that even John Howard recognised the science. Margaret Thatcher recognised the science. The US Department of Defence has also indicated its view on climate change, which is that it does represent a significant threat. We know that emissions trading has been adopted in over 30 countries.


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