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Christine Milne: Why did the Intergenerational Report ignore climate change?'

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Christine Milne 5 Mar 2015

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, uses Question Time in the senate to ask why the Intergenerational Report did not acknowledge the impact of global warming on economic stability.

Senator MILNE: My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. Given that the 2010Intergenerational report stated that as we move towards 2050 climate change 'represents one of the most significant challenges to our economic sustainability' and given that the dollar-cost impacts of extreme weather events in the last five years have been considerable, why is there no acknowledged or costed impact of global warming on economic sustainability out to 2055 in the Intergenerational report?

Senator CORMANN: I would say firstly that we do cover climate change in the Intergenerational report, and the point that we make is that we are taking effective action on climate change. I will read it out to you: 'Australia will meet its Kyoto target for 2020'-without a carbon tax! We are meeting it without a carbon tax. And we will join with the international community to establish post-2020 targets-

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock.

Senator Milne: Mr President, a point of order: the minister is insulting our intelligence. I asked for the cost on economic sustainability.

The PRESIDENT: Your question was a little bit more broad than that, and the minister has been addressing the content of your question.

Senator CORMANN: The reality is this: Senator Milne and I will never agree on the right way to deal with climate change. Those of us on this side believe in strong economic outcomes and strong environmental outcomes, and we believe that those objective are actually complementary, not contradictory. That is what we are working on. We are taking effective action, through the Direct Action policy, which was generously endorsed by this Senate. We are very confident that we will be meeting the bipartisan emissions reduction target by 2020 and, in an orderly and methodical fashion, Ministers Bishop and Hunt will engage with our international partners in Paris later this year, and there will be a conversation about the best way forward beyond 2020. That is the right way to go about it.

Senator Milne interjecting-

Senator Cameron: 'Orderly and methodical'-what a joke.

Senator CORMANN: We did deal with the issue in the Intergenerational report. By the looks of it, and listening to the interjection, it appears that we did not deal with it to Senator Milne's satisfaction. But I suspect there is nothing we could have done responsibly-focusing on the national interest and focusing on what needs to be done to keep the economy strong and growing-to satisfy Senator Milne's aspirations. To be frank-given that Senator Milne is the leader of the Greens who stands for lower taxes on fuel and windfall gains for big oil producers and importers; given her record-she has no credibility on this anyway. (Time expired)

Senator MILNE: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the bulk of the text on global warming to 2055 in the Intergenerational report is occupied with reiterating the government's Emissions Reduction Fund policy, why is modelling of this policy's hugely-growing drag on the budget not factored into the forecasts? The longer you pay polluters, more expensive reducing pollution becomes; where is the modelling of the impact of your policy in this document?

Senator CORMANN: Senator Milne asks me about a drag on the budget. I can tell you what is a drag on the budget, and that is the Greens position to oppose regular indexation of the fuel excise-a $2.2 billion drag over the forward estimates. This is the position of the leader of the Greens. The leader of the Greens would rather big oil manufacturers and importers have $2.2 billion to play with, rather than to ensure that it helps us put our budget on a sustainable trajectory for the future. Here we have a leader of the Greens who is trying to talk about sustainability and drags on the budget-

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. You have a point of order, Senator Whish-Wilson.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question, specifically, was: where is the modelling of this policy in the document?

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Whish-Wilson. Minister, I will remind you of the question; you have 24 seconds in which to answer.

Senator CORMANN: Senator Milne asks me about elements that are causing a drag on the budget and have environmental relevance. I would have thought that Senator Milne's current policy of fighting for regular reductions in the real value of the excise on fuel is a drag on both the environment and the budget. Surely, if Senator Milne really believed what she was saying, she would join with the coalition in passing that measure. (Time expired)

Senator MILNE: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. There is no modelling on the Emission Reduction Fund. Why is there no modelling of the cost impact of global warming on public health, emergency services, agricultural profitability, infrastructure, housing, insurance and defence out to 2055? Where is the modelling in relation to those costs and economic sustainability out to 2055?

Senator CORMANN: As I have indicated in my previous answers, we are taking effective action on climate change-unlike the Labor-Greens carbon tax which was not only going to hit families, not only going to hit pensioners, not only going to hit small business and bigger businesses but to do so without doing anything to help reduce emissions in Australia. We are taking action that is actually making a difference to the environment in a way that is economically responsible.

We can go round and round in circles on this. I would actually be concerned if Senator Milne was supportive of our approach to the economy and the environment because it just would not be responsible for us to agree with Senator Milne and the Greens about the best way forward when it comes to economic growth-

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Senator Rice, on a point of order.

Senator Rice: Mr President, I rise on a point of order: relevance. The question was about where the economic modelling of the impacts of climate change on various sectors of our economy is.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Rice. Again, I remind the minister of the question. You have 18 seconds in which to answer.

Senator CORMANN: The government has conducted all of the relevant and appropriate economic modelling for the purposes of this exercise. We stand by that. Of course, what this report shows is the need to continue to implement our plan for a stronger, more prosperous economy and more jobs.


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