Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No.2] - Second Reading - 10/07/2014


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:30): I want to make a few comments on the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013 but, before doing that, I want to refer to some things that the previous speaker, Senator Ludlam, mentioned. I am not quite sure what it has to do with the Climate Change Authority bill, but he seemed to be warning us that Sri Lanka is a bad place to be and that it is a bad international citizen. It begs the question: why did your leader go for a much-publicised holiday to Sri Lanka? I think she publicly made some very favourable comments about Sri Lanka. That is not really relevant to the bill, but it simply shows again the hypocrisy of the Greens political party. On one hand they criticise Sri Lanka; on the other hand, the leader of the Greens political party goes there for a holiday and speaks glowingly about it. How can anyone in Australia take any notice of what the Greens might say?

The Climate Change Authority was set up by the Labor government, with the support of the Greens, as 'an independent advisory climate change body'. I suspect that all of the board members of the Climate Change Authority are clever people, probably committed to their own views, but you can just look at them and see how independent the authority is. One of the members of the authority is Mr Bernie Fraser, former Reserve Bank Chairman. You do not need to be a keen student of Australian politics to understand that Mr Fraser has always been of a left-wing inclination.

Another board member is a Professor Quiggin, from my state of Queensland. He is obviously quite an intelligent man; he is a professor at the University of Queensland. But I have never heard him say anything or write any document that is not supporting the Labor Party. I am sorry—I have seen him do stuff where he does not support the Labor Party but only because he is supporting the Greens party. This is the sort of independent advice you get on climate change. I could go through a few of the other board members. We have also got Ms Heather Ridout. How many boards was she appointed to by the Gillard government? How many times did she get up and publicly praise the Gillard government? No doubt these are very good and able people, but to put them on as an advisory body that is supposedly giving independent advice is just a joke. That in itself is a reason to get rid of this allegedly independent advisory body.

Professor Hamilton is another board member. Again I am sure he is a very good person, quite bright, but he set up the Australia Institute. Ask anyone what the Australia Institute is about. It is there to promote the views of the very left of Australian politics, represented in this place by the Greens and the Australian Labor Party. So 'independent' climate change authority it is not and never has been.

That authority costs Australian taxpayers something like $8 million a year. That is not a big amount in the scheme of things. We almost pay that amount each day in interest on the borrowings from the Labor-Greens government that occurred over the last six years. The interest that we pay on the debt that was run up irresponsibly by the Labor government, supported by the Greens, is costing us something like a couple of million dollars a day. So I guess $8 million for the Climate Change Authority is not a big amount, but every amount counts. When you have a financial crisis, as we do in this country, when you have a country that is heading towards owing something like $500 billion to foreign lenders, then every little bit of a saving that you can make is important.

Most senators will recall that when the Howard government left office we had some $60 billion in credit, plus $60 billion put aside for a rainy day. Within a couple of years, that $60 billion in credit had disappeared under the profligacy of the Labor-Greens government and, worse than that, we had borrowed over $100 billion from foreign lenders. Now we are on a trajectory towards a debt of almost $600 billion. Just calculate—you do not need to get out your calculator—$600 billion and put interest at anywhere between two and six per cent, whatever you like, and work out what that sort of mismanagement is costing our country at the present time.

Senator Ludlam: How much?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I could pause my speech and find the calculator, but you can do that, Senator Ludlam. You perhaps do not have much else to do at the moment. Perhaps one of the smaller benefits of abolishing the Climate Change Authority is that there will be an $8 million saving to the Australian taxpayer.

What was that particular body supposed to do? Was it supposed to give advice on climate change, on climate and on matters related thereto? It may have escaped the attention of the Australian Labor Party and the Greens that we actually have a very highly regarded Bureau of Meteorology that is very capable of giving any government advice that it might need in relation to climate change matters. We also have the highly regarded and highly respected CSIRO that has very good independent people who are able to give the government advice should the government need it. So why did we then set up another body? Apart from giving some Labor-Greens fellow travellers a job on the board, apart from setting up yet another bureaucracy in this town and leaving the Australian taxpayer to pay for it, I cannot see any reason we needed a Climate Change Authority. I suspect that I—and if it were not I it was certainly others from my side of the parliament—said that when this authority was established under the Labor-Greens regime in government.

If it were doing its job and did not have this obvious left-wing bent, what I would like the Climate Change Authority to tell me is: how is what we do in Australia, where we emit less than 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon, going to impact on the climate of the world? I keep asking that in this chamber. It is not a new question. In the long time we have been debating these matters, nobody has ever been able to give me an answer to that. Remember, it is not as if the Labor Party's carbon tax were going to stop the 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions of carbon. It was only intended to stop five per cent of Australia's 1.4 per cent. If you calculate that down, the absolutely infinitesimal impact that such an action would have on the climate of the world is very obvious. In the debate this morning, the minister kindly gave me figures. I did not write them down. Approximately, he indicated figures such as: China emitted 23 per cent, the United States emitted 19 per cent, the European Union emitted 13 per cent and Australia emitted 1.4 per cent. And yet, if you listen to Senator Milne and the Greens political party, all of the cyclones, all of the floods and all of the natural calamities throughout the world are caused by Australia's emission of 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, and under Labor and the Greens we were going to reduce that by five per cent.

You can see the stupidity of the argument and you can see the hypocrisy of the Labor Party and the Greens on this issue. I was recently alerted to some comments by a retired English politician, Lord Deben. I thank Senator Singh for very cleverly pointing out to me that I was pronouncing his name wrongly previously. This member of the august House of Lords, an unelected body in the United Kingdom, suddenly appeared in Australia a couple of days ago and was roundly critical of the Abbott government because it was trying to get rid of Australia's carbon tax. I wonder why Lord Deben did not make a comment about his own country and the European Union, of which the United Kingdom is part. He did not seem to worry about the 11 or 12 per cent of emissions from his own country, but he thought Australia's emission of 1.4 per cent, which the Labor Party was trying to cease by five per cent, was suddenly a huge issue. Of course, when you have a look at Lord Deben's background you will see that he is chairman of a consortium of some of the biggest wind development companies in the world. He also has a couple of other interests in that particular area. I read on Google that, for just one of his board positions, he was getting something like 35,000 pounds of English taxpayers' money. I do not attribute bad motives to Lord Deben, but it does raise the question of whether his interest is more than just his alleged interest in climate change.

There is another question I have asked the Greens and the Labor Party on every occasion I have spoken. It has been many times over many years, but never once has anyone attempted to explain this to me. Once upon a time, the world was covered in ice. Once upon a time, the centre of Australia was a rainforest. Once upon a time, there was an inland sea in Australia. All of those things changed. I am the first to agree that the climate does change. My opponents opposite call me a climate change denier. It is typical; they never let the truth get in the way. I accept climate change; I always have done. The climate has clearly changed, because if it had not we would still be covered in ice and snow. Clearly, it has changed. But is it man's emissions of carbon since the 1850s that has caused that?

Senator Ludlam: Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry—I do not think man was emitting industrial carbon at the time we were covered in ice or at the time when there was a rainforest in the centre of Australia.

Senator Ludlam: You haven't moved past year 9 science.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, explain it, Senator Ludlam; don't just sit there and shake your head. Of course the climate is changing—I agree. But is it man that is doing it? Well, I do not know, and I am always very open about that. I am not a scientist. I have read both sides; they both sound good to me. But there are as many well-qualified scientists who disagree as who do agree.

Senator Ludlam: Ninety-seven per cent agree.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, '97 per cent'—that is when you count them, Senator Ludlam! We have had in this chamber the vilification of anyone who did not happen to agree with Ms Gillard or Senator Wong or Senator Milne. If you had a different view to them, you were clearly—well, I will not go into that, but you were clearly, in their view, someone of lesser understanding, if I could put it politely. And they were loud in their vilification of anyone who had the temerity to have a different view.

I know any number of highly qualified scientists who have a different view but, because they have a different view, under the Greens-Labor regime they were never able to get a grant for research out of the Labor-Greens government. I can give you the names of two, and I know there are hundreds more whose university careers were destroyed simply because the research grants that are so important in the careers of university academics would never come their way because they had a view that the Gillard government and the Greens political party did not like. That in itself is a scandal. I wonder where the Human Rights Commission and all those other groups that are so vocal when it suits them were when this little piece of information came around? I have an answer to a question on notice back in 2009 from the good Senator Kim Carr here, when he was the relevant minister, listing pages and pages of research grants that had gone to people who were trying to prove the political case of the Labor Party and the Greens political party, the alliance in government. I could not identify any grants—I believe there were one or two—in these dozens of pages of grants that went to anyone who was trying to question the orthodoxy.

Senator Kim Carr: Did they apply?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They have always applied, Senator, and I can give you the details if you want them. But, under your regime, they knew it was just a waste of time.

Senator Kim Carr: Did they apply?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, they did apply.

Senator Kim Carr: But they didn't get up. They weren't good enough.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Smith ): Order! Senators on my left!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They might put it up again under this government, but, under you, Senator Carr, they had to follow the government line.

Senator Kim Carr: I didn't pick them—unlike you, I wouldn't do that.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senators on my left!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They had to follow the line of Ms Gillard, Senator Carr and Senator Milne. If you did not follow that line your chances of getting a research grant were zero, zilch—non-existent.

Senator Kim Carr: Rubbish! They weren't good enough.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, 'weren't good enough', Senator, because they would have said something that did not fit your political line. Remember: it was your leader who promised the Australian people before the 2010 election: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' She told us it would never happen. Why did she tell us that if she subsequently said it was a good thing to do? You do not need to delve too closely into what happened to understand the hypocrisy, and the downright dishonesty, might I say, of the Australian Labor Party. Ms Gillard and Mr Swan promised there would be no carbon tax. The minute they could, they got in and broke that promise.

I just want to ask: if it was such a good idea, why did Ms Gillard promise not to do it? Has anyone ever answered that? I repeat my question in the hope that someone might be able to explain it. Australia emits less than 1.4 per cent of the world's carbon emissions; how is reducing that by five per cent going to save all the cyclones and floods that the Greens tell us will come upon the world if we do not reduce our 1.4 per cent emissions by five per cent? Is there anything in that that is believable? Similarly, the climate has changed. What was the cause of that climate change prior to the industrialised era of this nation? Something was doing it. It clearly was not man's emissions of carbon, so tell me what it was. That is why this whole debate is never as clear cut as the Greens and the Labor Party would have us believe. I retain an open mind—

Senator Wright: An open mind!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You see, this is the thing, Mr Acting Deputy President: if you cannot win the argument, just shout abuse; just belittle those who do not agree with you; abuse them—that is the Greens' position. (Time expired)

Back to List