Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Emissions Trading Scheme

3:40 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, on your election. I move:

That the Senate take note of an answer given by the Minister for Climate Change and Water (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Bob Brown) today relating to an emissions trading scheme.

I would like to start by saying that it is quite obvious that Mr Ferguson, the Minister for Resources and Energy, is undermining Minister Wong at a fast rate. I am surprised that, with the attack on her, she is not in here actually holding her own position. It is very clear that the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, is out to undermine the emissions trading scheme and the integrity of that scheme. The fact that his department has circulated to business a proposal which is supposedly more industry friendly than the green paper is a split in this government and they need to come clean on it straightaway. We would like to see immediately Minister Ferguson’s proposal that he has circulated to these businesses which are coming to Canberra for what the minister is describing as a ‘crisis meeting’.

Nobody is in crisis except those industries who have known the problem of climate change and who have done everything in their power to support the former Howard government doing nothing on climate change. They have been on every delegation to UNFCCC meetings undermining any potential for a global agreement. Now they are in Canberra with Minister Ferguson and will be doing their level best on Friday to undermine even the position that the government has taken. Minister Wong was careful not to say whether or not she had been invited to Minister Ferguson’s meeting. It is very clear from her answer that she was not. Was she even consulted when Minister Ferguson rushed out to these 50 big polluters and set up a so-called crisis meeting? They are here to do the biggest theatrical performance of the rent seekers you could ever wish to see. That is what will be happening in Canberra on Friday. And what is the aim of it? The aim of it is to try and bring pressure to bear. They want more money for their so-called clean coal and so-called carbon capture and storage. They already have a minister out there saying that the long-term liability should be carried by the community and the taxpayers and now, not content with that, here they are lining up because they want more free permits and a more friendly proposal in terms of compensation that they might get from permit sales.

I think it is extraordinary that nobody is picking up on the fact that the Minister for Climate Change and Water is being actively undermined by the Minister for Resources and Energy in her own government, and he would not be doing it without the Prime Minister’s wink-wink, nod-nod. We know this Prime Minister is a control freak. We know that he is looking over the shoulder of every single one of his ministers. He knows exactly what they are doing. While we have Minister Wong running around with her green paper consultations, we have Minister Ferguson out there inviting the key polluters to Canberra to enable them to put more pressure on to make the rest of the community pay so that they get off as scot-free as they possibly can. These are the people who have prevented action in the past. These are the very same companies that refused, for example, to implement the energy efficiency opportunities that they have been required to identify under the legislation. They were the people who lobbied to say, ‘No, we should not be forced to implement those opportunities. We should just know about them and decide ourselves.’ And deciding not to implement the energy efficiency opportunities when they could have done so, they now come with their hands out to get compensated, which is even more against the public interest. I have a real concern about what is going on with this government.

The second thing is that, in consultation, we had Minister Ferguson inviting 50 business leaders of the major polluters to Canberra to have their whinge for 10 minutes about what is wrong with the emissions trading system and put forward their solutions, which—surprise, surprise—are, ‘Give us more money, give us more free permits, slow it down, have a low cap and try and take it out.’ But where is the roundtable for the 50 environmentalists, the 50 scientists, to have a crisis meeting to say how bad climate change is and how it is getting worse?

Just this week we have had reports that a 160-square-kilometre piece of the Greenland ice shelf is just hanging on. We have every scientist out there saying that things are worse. Last week we had Professor Will Steffen saying that we are probably looking at a four-metre sea level rise this century. Where is Minister Wong’s climate crisis meeting for the environment movement? Where is her crisis meeting for the scientists? Why do we have the government bringing here those who wish to destroy the planet in terms of climate change and not take any action on their emissions and not having the other side of the argument? I do not know of 50 environment groups that have been consulted. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.