Senate debates

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Bills

Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; In Committee

9:33 am

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of this amendment. In the context of this committee debate, the ending of this committee debate I anticipate, the government has made clear that it intends to gag and guillotine this debate if it is not concluded shortly. It is very clear that the deals have been done and the government is likely, finally, to have the numbers in this chamber to end an effective response to climate change.

I was in this chamber when the CPRS, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—something which would have introduced a market mechanism, a floating price for carbon—was voted down by this Senate. The reason it was voted down on that day, the fundamental reason, is the same reason this legislation is likely to be voted down today—that is, a man called Mr Tony Abbott. He decided that it was in his political interest not to look to what was responsible, not to look to what was right, not to look to an effective, credible response to climate change, but to stake his political career, his political ambitions, on fearmongering and scaremongering. That is what this debate has been about for years. It has been about Mr Tony Abbott wanting the leadership of the Liberal Party, wanting to be Prime Minister, and staking his political campaign on fearmongering. The man who told us that Whyalla would be wiped off the map now cannot even guarantee to Australians that they will get the sorts of price reductions that he campaigned on for years.

If these bills pass today, it will be a day in history where this parliament failed the test of leadership, failed the test of rising above opportunistic politics and short-term sectional interest to act in the national interest. If these bills pass, this nation will have walked away from a credible and effective response to climate change, it will walk away from reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and it will walk away from the task of transforming the Australian economy into the clean energy economy that we have to be in the 21st century. If these bills pass, this nation will be the only nation in the world going backwards when it comes to tackling climate change.

Putting a price on pollution is the most environmentally effective and economically responsible way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And I remind those opposite of the journey to populism and fearmongering that they have undertaken—a sorry tale indeed. Let us not forget there was once a bipartisan commitment in this country half a decade ago to act on climate change. There was a bipartisan commitment half a decade ago to do the right thing, to do the responsible thing. Those opposite talk about intergenerational responsibility. Senator Cormann talks about not giving a credit card to the next generation. That is precisely what you are doing. You are passing a credit card for all of our inaction on this serious threat of climate change to our children and our grandchildren. It is an absolute abrogation of the responsibility that we have in this place.

Let me remind those opposite of what Mr Howard said in 2007. There is a great YouTube clip that people can go back to. I am quoting:

I will also be announcing a 'cap and trade' emissions trading system that will help Australia substantially lower our domestic greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest cost.

Stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will be difficult, but not impossible. We do not have to sacrifice our economic prosperity to tackle the problem.

Australia will more than play its part to address climate change, but we will do it in a practical and balanced way, in full knowledge of the economic consequences for our nation.

So John Howard in 2007 backed in an emissions trading system, the same as the Labor Party is currently moving in this place—the same principle, the same approach, that Labor is putting to this chamber: an emissions trading scheme to give the most effective response to climate change, a cap on pollution, a price set by the market, firms able to find the cheapest and lowest cost way of reducing the pollution we put into our atmosphere.

The fundamental problem is this: as long as something is free our economy will continue to do it. As long as polluting is free, we will see more and more pollution. We understand that intuitively. We understand that in so many other areas of policy, but on this the government has chosen to go down a path which is opportunistic, which is all about fearmongering. I think future generations will look back on these bills and they will be appalled at the short-sighted, opportunistic, selfish politics of those opposite. Mr Abbott will go down as one of the most short-sighted, opportunistic, selfish and small people ever to occupy the office of Prime Minister.

What we will see and what we are seeing from those opposite are short-sighted politics to dismantle a policy which has been supported by them, by the overwhelming majority of scientists and the overwhelming majority of economists. It is easy to run a campaign against a price on carbon, because you are saying to people: 'What we are doing is polluting the atmosphere and we now have to stop doing that. We have to change how our economy works.' But it could have been done if those in the Liberal Party—Mr Turnbull and other moderates—turned their backs on a man who describes climate change as 'absolute crap' and did the right thing by the nation.

There is a lot of talk in politics today about the need to have the reform imperative—about the need to have the courage to reform. If you look back to the great economic reforms governments have implemented—and I particularly want to talk about the opening up of our economy, the liberalisation of trade, the floating of the dollar under the Hawke and Keating governments—it would have been easy to run scare campaigns on those policies. But there was a modicum of bipartisanship for the betterment of the nation—responsibility being taken at that time for future generations. Where is that now? The man who killed it is the man who occupies the Lodge—or, not the Lodge, Kirribilli. The man who killed it is the man who occupies the office of Prime Minister—a short-sighted, opportunistic scaremonger. That is this Prime Minister.

These bills dismantle a policy which has been in place for two years which is working exactly as it was intended, reducing emissions, reducing pollution while supporting the households of Australia and the competitiveness of our economy. I think future generations will look back at the people who claim the carbon price was a wrecking ball and identify the real wrecker—a Prime Minister who has practised hypocrisy, deception and destructive politics when it comes to the challenge of climate change. We on this side of the chamber accept the science. We on this side of the chamber accept the responsibility to do something in this time for the next generation and we in this chamber will never walk away from a serious and credible response to climate change.

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