Malcolm Turnbull and Climate Change - Speech in Parliament

What an extraordinary end note from the member for Hinkler, whose contributions I normally enjoy. But I guess it shows the gulf between the parties and within the parties when it comes to action on climate change. Really, the nub of this MPI as demonstrated by the member for Port Adelaide, the member for Wills and the member for Charlton is not really the debate about whether or not we should have regard to the science, as the member for Hinkler suggested but then seemed to reject through the actual content of his remarks, but whether we should stay clear to our principles. Because I have no doubt that the new Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, like members on this side of the chamber, believes we should have regard to the science and we should also have regard for the advice of economists. He knows that. He knows what he should do but he has chosen not to do so.

That is the tragedy at the heart of this debate.So I think of that famous remark attributed to John Maynard Keynes when he said, 'When the facts change, I change my mind.' Well, the Prime Minister of Australia has a very different aphorism in mind, it appears. He seems to think that he changes his mind according to political convenience, not in accordance with what he believes. He spoke at the outset of his government about leading a government in a thoughtful and considered manner. Nowhere is this less clear than in the area of climate change, where instead he is ruled by the lowest common denominators—by the meanest politics within his party room. I will give this to the member for Lyons: at least he is honest in expressing his views. He is wrong, but he is honest.

The Prime Minister knows better. So it is such a tragedy that, in his first press conference as Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth started as, it seems, he means to continue. On election night he said: 'The policy on climate change that Greg Hunt and Julie prepared is one that I supported as a minister in the Abbott government and it's one that I support today.' That is quite some fig leaf, isn't it! It is a long way from the farce that he said it was and which it continues to be today. It is a long way from the courage he showed in 2009 when he said: 'I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.' And now he has warmly embraced the farce that is Direct Action.

It is just so disappointing that the only shift, when it comes to climate change, is a change of style. We have moved from the cheap sophistry of the member for Warringah to the expansive, self-indulgent sophistry of the member for Wentworth. And we saw that in question time today, as he built on his first question time when he was so fond of weasel-word answers, ducking around his positioning—

Mr Hutchinson: You keep focusing on the Prime Minister.

Mr GILES: Yes, I am focusing on the Prime Minister because it is his job to safeguard our future. It is a pretty fundamental responsibility, and it is a responsibility he knows he should be up to, but he refuses to stand up for it. That is why this MPI is so important, and I hope those in his party room who also share our belief in the science will be paying attention to this MPI and paying attention to the Prime Minister living up to his responsibilities.

In question time today he spoke weasel words on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. I hope people pay attention to the Hansard because that was an extraordinary contribution. It was almost as extraordinary as him deflecting questions to his climate-sell-out mentor—the assistant minister for resources, I think, is his formal title—the member for Flinders. He is his environmental mentor, because Greg Hunt, as we on this side of the House all know, and as he well knows, knows that the government's positioning is not just misguided; it is plain wrong.

The Prime Minister talks about his excitement about the future. But if he is serious about Australia's future prospects, he needs to be building a consensus around climate action. He needs, in the words of the member for Lyons, to be consistent. He needs to be credible. He needs to support an emissions trading scheme, as he well knows. But he has placed his personal ambition above all else. He has mortgaged our future to his ego—and doesn't he look pleased about that! The weasel words he loves employing dance around all the issues. He does not deal directly with them, but he continues to support policies that he knows are wrong. So I find myself agreeing with his climate mentor, the member for Flinders, the assistant minister for resources, on one thing. This is serious, but it is a tragedy because the minister is not serious about this and neither is the Prime Minister. Both know, unlike the member for Lyons, that there is a different way forward. Labor's approach is to listen to the science; to listen to the economy and to respect our future.


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