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The hottest year on record

Question
Larissa Waters 18 Mar 2016

Senator WATERS

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Twenty fourteen was the hottest year on record, and then 2015 trumped it. Now 2016 is looking to smash that, with NASA finding that February 2016 was the hottest month on record. Eminent scientists have rightly called this news completely unprecedented and have labelled it a climate emergency. Using the government's own data, RepuTex this week forecast that Australia's emissions will continue to rise, debunking Minister Hunt's claims that emissions had peaked in 2005. Do you agree with your own Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, who says that we are losing the battle against runaway global warming?

Senator BRANDIS

Well, Senator Waters, you flatter me. You flatter me in thinking that I would be in a position to express a specialist opinion about this issue, because I am not. I am aware that the Chief Scientist has made that observation. I was watching him on the television during the interview which he gave. I am aware that the Chief Scientist's view is one among many on the issue of climate change. I am also aware, not being a scientist myself, that the preponderant view of most scientists is that global climate is rising and ought to be dealt with. That is why the Australian government at the Paris Climate Change Conference committed to the second most ambitious per capita targets of any G20 nation in terms of per capita emissions reduction, so that we will see emissions reduction of 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030. That is why we have adopted that policy—because we take this problem seriously. Unlike you, Senator Waters, our achievements are real achievements. They are not rhetorical flourishes; they are not achievements of rhetoric; they are achievements in terms of real outcomes.

Senator Wong

Pollution going up is a real achievement!

Senator BRANDIS

No, Senator Wong, not pollution going up; pollution going down 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, which puts Australia at the very forefront of the nations of the world addressing this problem.

Senator WATERS

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Global warming driven by burning coal, oil and gas is threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Studies this week showed that coral bleaching is almost at 20 per cent in all surveys. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has raised its coral bleaching warnings to alert level 2. Climate Professor Terry Hughes has said that the government must choose between coal and the Great Barrier Reef; it cannot have both. Which do you choose?

Senator BRANDIS

I am not familiar with Professor Terry Hughes. I have never heard of Professor Terry Hughes, but I would venture to say that Professor Terry Hughes is not the only scientist who has expressed a view on this matter. As I said to you, Senator Waters, in answer to your primary question, there are a variety of views. There are a variety of views about this issue across the entire scientific community, and you have selectively quoted one. I have no doubt at all that Professor Terry Hughes holds his view in good faith, but the binary proposition that you quote Professor Hughes as expressing—that is, we have to choose between coal and the Great Barrier Reef—I would venture to suggest to you is wrong. You of all people, a Queensland senator, should be supporting the great coal industry of Queensland, because that is what the people of Queensland are expecting you to do.

Senator WATERS

I beg to differ. Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Moody's has said that coal is in structural decline and has downgraded Abbot Point to one level above junk status. Coal giant Peabody is near bankruptcy, and 15 banks and financiers have ruled out funding the Adani coalmine. Will you now overturn the federal approvals for Adani's mega coalmine and the Abbot Point coal port expansion?

Senator BRANDIS

No, Senator, we will not. Nor will we take delight or joy, as you seem to be doing, in seeing Australian businesses producing Australian jobs suffering. We will not enjoy the sight, we will not enjoy the thought, of the great Australian coalmining industry suffering economic disadvantage—no, we will not.

Like the Queensland Labor government, we the federal coalition government support the Adani mine. We support the jobs that it will create, we support the safeguards and measures that have been put in place by the federal Minister for the Environment, Mr Hunt, and we will always support the Australian mining industry. For the people particularly of central Queensland, this is not an academic question. This is not an academic question to be discussed at inner city cafes. This is about their livelihoods, this is about their jobs, and you should treat those people with a bit more respect.

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