In response to a question today, the minister, Senator Minchin, said that his government was not going to 'rush down a path' in response to climate change. No, Minister, there is no way that anyone in this country could ever claim that the government was going to rush down any path in response to the incredibly important issue of climate change. In terms of process, what people in the community have been saying is: 'What is the government doing?'
When we ask straightforward questions about what is actually happening in the government's planning, we are given a list of publications that go back several years-and, indeed, there have been publications on various issues to do with climate change and our future. We are told, consistently, that the government did set up the first Greenhouse Office over 10 years ago, and we acknowledge that. There has never been, from this side of the chamber, any rejection of those statements from the government. However, we-and not just us but also the community-are demanding and expecting more.
We heard from Senator Wong, in one of her questions today, about the processes being put forward by businesses across Australia. These are not the people that the government usually dismisses lightly and labels. We heard in the recent contribution from Senator Lightfoot the tired old arguments, the labelling of people who have genuine concerns about the environment and have been pursuing these issues for many years. Once again, it is really easy to just whack a label on them and dismiss them, to call them 'lefties' and say they are people who have not got a realistic approach to the world.
Given that that is the background to the government's arguments, it must be a little confronting for a government that has dismissed the arguments about the need for immediate and strong action on climate change to be confronted by such an amazing group of leftie radicals as the Business Council of Australia and the large businesses at the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, including General Electric, Ford, Toyota, Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart! They are significant organisations and they are saying that there is an expectation of and a need for action. We had, towards the end of last year, a gathering of faith groups-people who usually gather to talk about their natural concerns about their own lives and the future of our community. One of the priorities for this gathering of faith groups was to say that there needed to be an identification and acknowledgement of, and a unified plan to look at, the impact of climate change in our community. That is not too demanding. That is not asking for too much. And it certainly is not asking for someone to rush down a path. However, when there are other groups that move forward-as we have heard today from Senator Wong-to talk about environmental demands, what happens is that the government tries to attribute motivation. They look at the statements that are being made and, instead of looking at what the demands are-which are that there needs to be action taken-they attribute motivation. Well, I think, Minister, the motivation is concern and a need for a future.
During the recent Senate estimates processes, considerable numbers of questions were asked of various departments about what processes had been undertaken specifically on economic modelling of the impacts of climate change. And I think there has been much more awareness, both at home and internationally, since the release of that significant report in the UK. But, nonetheless, we asked quite specific questions of the government and their public sector workers about what economic modelling had been done. I would have thought that there would have been a simple answer, 'Yes, this has been done,' or 'No, it hasn't.' But after sustained questioning, it became clear that there has not been any formal economic modelling by this government about the impact of climate change. There has been the production of documents; there have been reviews; there have been reports. Senator Minchin mentioned a number of those in his response to questions without notice today. But the specific question is: what has this government done, through its economic facilities-through the Treasury, through the department of finance-on the economic costs and impact of climate change? That, to me, is something that all Australians need to know. It is something that cannot be dismissed lightly. People cannot be labelled just for wanting to know what economic position has been taken. Instead of hearing that all-too-easy abuse and rejection of people who have alternative views, we want to know what is happening. Creating structures is not taking action. Writing papers is not taking action. And if we are all going to be sitting here waiting for the report on 31 May-(Time expired)
26 February, 2007