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Christine Milne: Abbott deceives world leaders on Australia's climate action

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Christine Milne 17 Nov 2014

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, responds to the answer provided by the Prime Minister's representative in the Senate.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (17:07): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to climate change policy.

Most Australians are aware that our Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, met with Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Sydney after the G20. It is very well-known that Germany takes a lead in addressing global warming. Germany has already made a target of an 80 per cent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the Europeans have set a target of 40 per cent over 1990 levels by 2030. Germany was one of the first countries to put money into the Green Climate Fund. That was the $1 billion that started it. Since then, we have had the United States pledge $3 billion, France pledged $1 billion dollars and Japan pledged $1.5 billion. Today, even the Prime Minister's best friend in the fossil fuel crowd-the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper-has said that Canada is going to put money into the Green Climate Fund. But it is not so for our Prime Minister. Australia continues to humiliate itself on the global stage by refusing to contribute to the Green Climate Fund.

The German Chancellor clearly took this up with our Prime Minister, who told the German Chancellor that we were directly funding climate change programs. One of the things he cited was the Clean Energy Finance Corporation: the $10 billion dollar fund for renewable energy that was set up by the Greens, working with the Labor Party, in the clean energy package in the last government. He actually had the hide to cite that to the German Chancellor as an excuse for not putting money into the climate fund, without telling her that he is an abolition bill for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation before this parliament.

What sort of duplicitous talk is that to another world leader? The German Chancellor is here for the G20 and the Prime Minister sits down with Angela Merkel and tells her, 'Yes, we are funding climate programs. We have got the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.' Then he does not tell her that he intends to abolish it. We know that the government intends to abolish it. We had Senator Cormann tell us that three times in a debate on direct action. That is, that he intended in the new year to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. How can other world leaders take our Prime Minister at his word when he sits down and has a meeting like that: citing three things the government is spending money on on climate and one of them he intends to abolish. He has condemned it from the start, wants to get rid of it and then goes and tells other world leaders, 'I can justify the money we are spending on the climate.'

He then went on, in the same conversation, to cite money that was being spent on overseas aid. He talked about money that was being spent particularly on climate programs in the Pacific, but he did not tell the German Chancellor that he has cut overseas aid, he has cut climate programs from the Pacific and he has destroyed and abolished the climate change department in the federal government. In fact, people who had climate change written on their business cards were virtually removed across the government. Yet he sits down with the German Chancellor and tells her about the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and foreign aid.

I will have to write to the German Chancellor and say, 'At the time that our Prime Minister met you and told you that, he failed to tell you that he intended to abolish it and he failed to tell you that he slashed foreign aid and climate programs in the Pacific. In fact, he should have been honest with other world leaders.' This is becoming a pattern. It is not only about what the impact is in terms of what other governments are going to think of us and other people around the world are going to think of Australia in the climate context but also about whether Australia can be taken at its word. In global dialogue, all we hear is about developing relationships and developing trust with other countries. Here we have our Prime Minister having told the German Chancellor something that was at best a half-truth, in the sense that he refused to acknowledge or did not tell her that this is something he intended to abolish and that he had already cut our foreign aid programs.

We have a situation now where the rest of the world is moving on climate finance and we are not. The fact is that we will not get a global agreement in Paris next year unless developed countries step up and put money into the Green Climate Fund. It is why other countries are now stepping up. Australia is going to be so conspicuous by its absence, because it says, 'A rich country-the highest per capita emitter of the world-is too selfish and greedy to put money up, particularly for Pacific Island and small island states that are already suffering from global warming.' It is actually a shame that the Prime Minister has bought on our country.

Question agreed to.


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