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Five months since Paris

Question
Larissa Waters 19 Apr 2016

Senator WATERS

My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. It has been five months since the Prime Minister promised the world at the Paris climate conference that Australia would do our fair share to tackle dangerous global warming. Since then we have seen the worst ever coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. We have seen fires burning in parts of Tasmania's ancient forests that have not burned for centuries, and we have seen pollution continue to rise. When will you admit that Mr Tony Abbott's pollution targets are ridiculously weak?

Senator BRANDIS

This is not the first time that you have asked me about our emissions targets. You must not have been listening, Senator Waters, because, as I have pointed out to you many times, and as I will continue to point out to you, Australian has one of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the world. I understand, Senator Waters, that you and your colleagues from the Greens party would wish to have even more ambitious emissions reduction targets—unrealistically ambitious emissions reduction targets. But our emissions per capita will, under the targets that the Turnbull government has announced, fall by 50 to 52 per cent per capita by 2030, which is greater than the decrease in emissions by the United States, the European Union, Japan, Korea or Canada. We have announced that, through to 2030, we will have among the most ambitious emissions targets in the world.

Senator Waters, those are the facts. Those are the commitments that Australia made in Paris. I know that you think that we should be even more heroic in our targets than we have been. But, if we are leading the world, as we now are in our per capita emissions targets, I do not think, Senator Waters, that you can ask for more than that.

Senator WATERS

We would still be the largest per capita polluter in the world after the implementation of those targets, if they can even be implemented. Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Paris agreement will be signed this week. Yet, instead of strong action, Minister, your government has approved the Adani coalmine. Your government has overseen 100 climate science jobs axed from CSIRO and has cut $1.3 billion from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Do you understand that it is your policies that are cooking the Great Barrier Reef?

Senator BRANDIS

What I know, Senator Waters—because, like you, not being a scientist—is that there is a debate in the scientific community about the cause of coral bleaching. Senator Waters, it is possible to do both. It is possible to cut emissions while, at the same time, developing our coal industry, and we are doing both. We are cutting emissions by 50 to 52 per cent per capita up to 2030. At the same time, we are very proud to be encouraging the development of our great mining industry, including our coal industry. Senator Waters, you obviously do not spend any time in Central Queensland; I do, Senator Waters. If you spent any time in Central Queensland, you would know how offensive to those people your suggestion that their great economic prospect on the horizon should be closed down must sound.

Senator WATERS

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Australians could be forgiven for thinking that the reason there has not been strong action to cut pollution and build clean energy is the $3.7 million in donations from fossil fuel companies made to the coalition and Labor since 2013. Will you support the Greens' legislation to ban fossil fuel donations, and will you rule out accepting money from big polluters this election?

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Waters, people watching this broadcast and hearing you ask that question would be very surprised to learn that you represent the political party that accepted the largest single corporate donation in Australian political history—$1.6 million in one donation from the corporation Wotif. So please—

The PRESIDENT

Pause the clock.

Senator Waters

Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The senator is misleading the chamber. The donation was from an individual, not a corporation. Our party does not accept corporate donations.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT

Order! Senator Waters, that was not a point of order; that was a debating point. I call the Attorney-General.

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Waters, when you are the recipient—when you are the beneficiary of the largest single corporate donation in Australian history, it lies ill with you to be—

The PRESIDENT

Pause the clock.

Senator Waters

Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I ask the minister to withdraw the misleading statement he has twice now put to the chamber. It was not a corporate donation.

The PRESIDENT

No, there is no point of order.

Senator Waters

It is a misleading statement; he should withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT

That is no point of order. There are ways to rectify that outside of question time.

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Waters, when you are the beneficiary and recipient of the largest single corporate donation in Australian political history, it lies ill for you to be criticising any other political party, quite frankly, for accepting donations from respectable Australian companies which provide jobs and prosperity to other Australians.

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