May 31, 2007

Adjournment – Climate Change

Adjournment – Climate Change

31 May 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (4.50 p.m.)—This has been the fortnight of sitting in which the deniers of climate change have become the deniers of their climate change advertising campaign. In the past, the Prime Minister would have managed important political and policy matters much more effectively. The Prime Minister is a clever politician but lately he has not been too clever—cunning perhaps, but certainly not clever. He certainly would not have allowed the embarrassing climate change advertising issue to drag on for a week.

In answers to 16 questions over four days in this parliament, the Prime Minister misled the parliament about this advertising campaign. On Wednesday, 23 May, we asked whether a taxpayer funded, full-colour brochure with a personal covering letter was being sent out. The Prime Minister responded:

No such decision has been made by me or, to my knowledge, by the government.

To the second question, when we asked whether it had been market-tested, the Prime Minister said:

I was very careful in the answer I gave. Everything that I have said was absolutely true.

On Thursday, 24 May, we asked whether $176,000 had been allocated for market research by Blue Moon, and the Prime Minister said:

… the government has not decided on any campaign.

We asked whether the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications, which the minister at the table, the Special Minister of State, chairs and on which Tony Nutt sits as his representative had approved the market research. The Prime Minister said:

I have not, my department has not and my office has not.

We asked again whether a contract had been entered into—yes or no. The Prime Minister just referred to his previous answer.

On Monday we asked about the detail in the ads and whether one of them included an elderly lady talking about practical responses to climate change while she is boiling the kettle. The Prime Minister said:

I can only repeat what I said: no campaign has been approved.

We then asked whether these advertisements had in fact been filmed prior to us asking questions on the previous Wednesday or Thursday. The Prime Minister said:

I direct the Leader of the Opposition to exactly what I said last Wednesday or Thursday, and I stand by it.

We then asked whether the government had signed a contract with a government relations firm. The Prime Minister just referred to other answers. When we asked whether the theme of the campaign was ‘climate clever’, again we got obfuscation from the Prime Minister. Then we asked whether he had misled the parliament. In our sixth question that day, we asked whether taxpayers will have the existence of the campaign confirmed when they receive the letter and start seeing the ads. The Prime Minister did not answer the question.

On Tuesday we asked the Prime Minister to confirm that the theme of the campaign had been changed from ‘climate clever’. The Prime Minister simply spoke about the $741 million of new measures to address climate change. We then asked whether the climate change advertising campaign had not commenced despite the fact that taxpayers’ funds have already been spent. The Prime Minister refused to answer that question. The Leader of the Opposition then asked whether the Prime Minister had said, ‘Until something is approved by a minister, it has not been approved.’ The Prime Minister again obfuscated. We then asked, ‘How much taxpayers’ money had already been spent on the TV advertising campaign in the filming and booking of ads?’ Again, the Prime Minister did not answer. We then asked the Prime Minister whether he had misled the parliament over the last four days. The Prime Minister invited a censure motion. During that censure motion, the Prime Minister said:

Of course the government has set aside money for an information campaign in relation to climate change—

thereby confirming our motion. After four days of the government’s denial of this campaign, this is what Michelle Grattan had to say in the Age yesterday:

It was the day that John Howard looked panicked rather than prime ministerial.

She continued:

Howard had got himself into an absurd and unnecessary position by trying to deny the existence of planned climate change advertising on the ground it does not exist until it gets the ministerial tick. He simply sounds devious, stubborn and slightly crazy. He has, over several parliamentary days, created a bigger problem than he needed to have.

The real problem for the government is that this government, the Bush administration and the government of Kazakhstan are the only governments that are not part of the global effort to tackle climate change through the Kyoto protocol.

We asked the government today whether the polling that was provided to media companies had been the basis of the change in the government’s position in 2006 for their advertising campaign. The Prime Minister said that he would get back to the parliament. But, of course, he has not—and there is only five minutes to go. It is little wonder that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that, if you do not act on climate change: ‘Your political base will melt away as surely as the polar ice caps.’ (Time expired)