Senator Waters: My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis,
I refer to the teaching letter, or encyclical, from Pope Francis which calls for an urgent moral response to the scientific reality of global warming, rampant environmental destruction and extreme poverty and condemns indifference, denialism and obstructionism.
Forty-two per cent the Abbott cabinet is Catholic including the Prime Minister who, of course, once trained to be a Catholic priest. This government has rolled back our effective price on carbon pollution….
National Senator Barry O’Sullivan interjected: “Are you married?”
Senator: Waters: No, I’m not married and that’s an irrelevant question. My marital status is nothing to do with this chamber.
This government has rolled back our effective price on carbon pollution and today in the Senate you are slashing our clean energy target. The PM has failed to listen to scientists, will now he listen to the leader of his own Church and abandon his attack on clean energy?
Senator Brandis: I think Senator Waters for you to reflect upon the religious beliefs of any member of this Parliament – whether they be members of this government or they occupy any other office in this Parliament, is disgusting.
Senator Waters: Point of order – on relevance. I did not seek to refer to the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs in a disparaging manner. I merely referred to the fact and asked whether they would respond to the Pope’s encyclical. I would like an answer to that question please.
Thanks Mr President. The Pope said we cannot solve the climate crisis without addressing the interconnected problem of extreme poverty. Rising seas and more extreme drought will hit the world’s poorest hardest. Does the government still believe that “coal is good for humanity” and would they be willing to repeat this directly to the low-lying islands of Tuvalu and Kiribati at the global climate negotiations in Paris?
Senator Brandis: Well Senator Waters, I believe coal is very good for humanity indeed - and it’s particularly good for this country because it’s our cheapest source of energy which enables people who would otherwise enjoy a much lower standard of living than they do, to enjoy a higher standard of living than they do through paying lower electricity prices.
The Government is obviously aware that there has been a very active debate about climate policy going on around the world for years if not decades now. And His Holiness the Pope, as the leader of one of the world’s largest faiths, is perfectly at liberty to contribute to that debate and we will consider respectfully what His Holiness has had to say as we will consider all points of view.
Senator Waters: The Pope’s encyclical said: "We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world..."
Today in this building faith leaders representing Australia’s Buddhist, Anglican, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Catholic communities have endorsed Pope Francis’ call to action. Will the government set its global climate goals in accordance with the science or continue to shirk our global responsibilities and continue to be a climate pariah.
Senator Brandis: Well I’ll tell you what we will be doing Senator Waters, we will be setting our priorities and making our policy decisions in accordance with science and good public policy not in accordance with theology.