Monday, 22 August 2011
Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011; In Committee
I am pleased to hear Senator Milne and the Greens party wanting to do something for rural and regional Australia. If you go and ask some of the 5,000-odd people out the front of the building now, most of whom are from rural and regional Australia, they will tell you that the Greens political party is the worst thing that has ever happened to rural and regional Australia. I might suggest to Senator Milne that if she is interested in helping rural and regional Australia not only should she do what she can in relation to this carbon farming initiative, but if she wandered outside and spoke with people from rural and regional Australia and found out what really concerns them that would show some real commitment to rural and regional Australia. If you go out there and ask those people, the things that really concern them are the carbon tax that is being imposed upon us by the Greens-Labor alliance. People out the front, people from rural and regional Australia, people from my town in country Australia, people right across the north of Australia, know that the carbon tax will be bad for them. It is a toxic tax. It is going to increase their cost of living but particularly for those in rural and regional Australia because of the greater reliance we have on transport and fuel and the greater impact that the carbon tax will have on those of us who live in rural and regional Australia.
So I am pleased to hear Senator Milne at least mouthing the words about support for rural and regional Australia. I just wish she would go outside and hear the real problems of rural and regional Australia and adjust her party's approach accordingly. Give up this government that has been so devastatingly bad for all in rural and regional Australia, in fact all Australians. Slip down and ask BlueScope Steel workers. None of them have much confidence in this government, which is being propped up by the Greens political party.
Getting on to the amendment before the chamber, which is as I understand it for the independent domestic offset integrity committee to monitor scientific research relevant to the issue of permits and to advise the minister about best evidence in relation to permits, Senator Birmingham on behalf of the coalition has indicated that the coalition would be supporting Senator Xenophon's amendment. I just raise the issue, though, that I hope this independent domestic integrity committee is independent. I hope that it will monitor all scientific research. This is a concern I have with this amendment. You would be aware, Mr Temporary Chairman, that we set up an independent climate change commission to oversight so-called climate change and appointed Professor Flannery to lead that group, appointed him to a position in which he gets $180,000 a year for two or three days a week work—much more than you, Mr Temporary Chairman, as a member of this Senate gets every year. I know that you and most people in this chamber work seven days a week and many of them work anything from 12 to 15 or 20 hours a day seven days a week. They do not get the sort of pay that Professor Flannery is getting to run this so-called independent Climate Commission on behalf of the government.
This is my point in relation to this amendment. The government appointed to that independent commission only those people who had a scientific view or had a view of science that the government supported. So in this amendment this domestic offset integrity committee is being asked to monitor scientific research. I just hope that if the amendment is passed and the integrity committee is looking at and monitoring scientific research that it monitors all research and not just, as in the case of the Climate Commission, research which the government agrees with. In Professor Flannery's case and in the case of the Greens-Labor alliance, all of those scientists who do not agree with Professor Flannery's view on climate change are just ignored. I am not saying they should be believed. I have often said in this chamber before, with thousands of scientists believing one way and thousands of scientists believing another way, that I am not a scientist and I do not form an opinion when it comes to the cause of climate change. We all accept that the climate is changing. But the scientists cannot agree and so I put myself in the category that simply says if a scientist cannot agree what chance have I got?
In Australia we do not have the totalitarian, fascist governments of the middle of the last century when you had to believe what Hitler or Mussolini thought or you were put to the sword. There was only one view and that was Hitler's or Mussolini's and if you disagreed with that it was off with your head. We are a democracy and we are not like that, yet in this case the Labor-Greens alliance government is saying there is only one view of climate science and if you do not agree with it not only will you be ignored but also they will make sure that you never get any research funding. That is to the extent where a lot of respected scientists in Australia are now not game to raise the alternative view because they know that they—and their associates and colleagues who might be seen to support that view—will simply not be funded for research which keeps scientists in operation. That is the sort of thing that happened under the fascist governments and the communist governments of the last century: you have got to believe what the government believes or you are finished. Let us hope that, with this amendment, the independent Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee looks at all scientific research, not just research that the government wants it to look at to come up with a view that the government has already preordained.
In relation to the climate change commission, we know that Professor Flannery and all his colleagues on that were only appointed because they shared the government's view. They refused to look at any other scientific work on the issue because that did not accord with what the government wanted Australians to believe. As for Professor Flannery, we know he is the one that has been warning us about tidal increases but then we find—and I did so with absolute amazement—that, contrary to what he is telling everybody else about tides rising, he goes and buys a property or two right on the edge of the Hawkesbury River, so clearly he cannot believe that the tides are going to rise by as much as he has been predicting around the place. Perhaps we will hear more about that at estimates and perhaps the government will come clean in their supposedly open and accountable paradigm about Professor Flannery's conflict-of-interest statements. I understand from last estimates that he put one in but no-one has been able to see it. That is another secret of this very secretive government. We are told that he has indicated his interests that might be in conflict with his duties. But while the government knows that, nobody else in this chamber does. We are not being taken into the confidence of Professor Flannery or of the government. It is another secretive deal by this government that has really become renowned for its lack of accountability and lack of openness. So, whilst as Senator Birmingham has indicated, we support this amendment, I do hope if the amendment is passed that the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee will be a committee of integrity—unlike, I suggest, the climate change commission, which seems to me to lack integrity because you are only appointed because of your view on things—and that, if it is going to monitor scientific research relevant to the issue of permanence, it will actually monitor all scientific research and not just the research that the government wants it to look at.