Attorney-General George Brandis has questioned the science of climate change, saying he’s not “at all” convinced it is settled.
Labor has seized on comments by the senior Turnbull government minister that there were a number of views about the cause of climate change, arguing it proves the deep climate scepticism in the coalition.
“It doesn’t seem to me that the science is settled at all,” Senator Brandis told parliament on Tuesday during debate on the tabling of documents relating to the CSIRO.
The attorney-general was addressing a recent CSIRO restructure – undertaken internally – which will move the focus away from collecting climate data.
About 200 jobs are at risk, however the overall head count is expected to return to current levels within two years.
Senator Brandis said he wasn’t embarking on the climate debate himself, but challenging the illogical position of the Labor party.
“But I’m not a scientist, and I’m agnostic really on that question.”
Senator Brandis said, if the science was settled – like Labor claims – why would Australia need climate researchers.
CSIRO head Larry Marshall said in an email to staff when announcing the restructure that the question of climate change had been proved and it was time to refocus on solutions to it.
However, scientists say without continuous data collection – some of which is undertaken by the CSIRO in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology – huge gaps could form that could never be recovered.
Labor said the attorney-general’s comments were breathtaking.
“The commitment of Senator Brandis to addressing the impacts of climate change is so shallow, he hasn’t made up his mind whether it actually exists yet,” environment spokesman Mark Butler and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in a statement.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership in 2009 in part due to his commitment to climate change and an emissions trading scheme.
As a backbencher, he heavily criticised the coalition’s direct action climate policy.
Senator Brandis’ office referred AAP to an interview conducted in 2014 in which the attorney-general told a reporter he was “on the side of those who believed in anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming and who believed something ought to be done about it.”