Climate Change

 Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (11:02 AM) —I join with my colleague the member for Flinders to chastise the clumsy nature of this motion. Indeed, it is a concern that a member in this place would bring a motion forward politicising a scientific area in such a way that would not really be to the benefit of that science.

To say that climate change is human induced is to overblow and overstate our role in the scheme of the universe quite completely over a long period of time. I note that the member for Fraser came in here today with a very strong view about how human beings have been the source of all change in the universe at all times. He has joined a long line of Labor backbenchers I have spoken about in this place before—amateur scientists, wannabe weather readers, people who want to read the weather, people who like to come in here and make the most grandiose predictions about all sorts of scientific matters without even a basic understanding of the periodic table, or the elements or where carbon might be placed on the periodic table. So the member for Fraser has joined this esteemed group of people who seem to be great authorities on science.

The issue here today before us is not that climate change is human induced. The member for Flinders has raised the very important topic that I asked the Prime Minister about in question time just a few days ago, and that is: what will the effect of the government’s policies on climate change be on human beings in Australia today? How will a carbon tax do anything for the environment? How will it change the climate of the planet? In what ways would a carbon tax alter the climate of the planet? The answers are of course completely uninspiring and unsatisfying. A carbon tax could not do anything except raise the price of electricity. Hence the nature of my question to the Prime Minister: what would the nature of the rise in electricity prices be for the average household under a carbon tax? The Prime Minister refused to answer that question. I think she refused to answer it because there has been some considerable commentary about electricity price rises under a carbon tax.

IPART recently reported that in New South Wales there will be household increases. Households across Sydney have seen major electricity price increases already impacting their budgets. I want to record here that that is a direct result of a Labor state government underinvesting in electricity generation for over a decade—underinvesting in the necessary generation capacity. At the last state election in New South Wales, thousands or millions were spent on advertisements with young girls skipping over green hills with wind towers in the background. On the re-election of the Labor government they commissioned a new coal-fired power plant. The advertisements show the girls skipping across the green fields with the wind turbines, yet the first decision of the New South Wales state Labor government upon re-election was to commission a new coal-fired power plant.

The reality is that no matter who it is—whether it is Garnaut, the government, the state government or IPART—everybody knows that there will be electricity price increases. These have to be managed. A carbon tax will add significantly to the burden on households across Australia. The question must be asked: how will it benefit our environment? What will it do? We hear a lot of melodramatic language in relation to a motion such as this, and we heard some melodramatic language today. We have heard so many predictions about the future. It is of great concern to me that these predictions will never be held to any standard, scientific or otherwise.

And that is a concern with a motion such as this. In this parliament we do have a great consensus about the climate. We have a consensus that we do need to take measures to benefit our environment. The coalition has a set of policies that are, as the member for Flinders put well, laser surgery in terms of their direct benefit to the environment. They are the kinds of things that will achieve an end that people can look at and say, ‘Well, we are doing something for the planet.’

Of course, some of the great failings of this government, including the Green Loans scheme, set us backwards. Policy failure sets us backwards. Imposing a carbon tax on the economy with the justification being the environment, when the environment is not the goal, will set back the cause of benefiting the environment by many years. So will motions in this House that take us back five years and try to have a debate on a political wedge issue rather than deal with the climate, environment and economic issues of the day, which are how well a carbon tax will benefit other Australians.