House debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Climate Change

3:50 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

It is self-evident to any sensible person that we are genuinely in the midst of a climate emergency. It is simply undeniable that the drought that grips this country right now is at least made much more worse by the fact that our climate is changing, and changing quickly. It is equally undeniable that the terrible bushfires in South-East Queensland and northern New South Wales at the moment are at least much worse on account of our changing climate. And of course they are, because it is an undeniable fact that Australia has warmed by more than one degree since 1910 and is still getting warmer. In fact, last summer was the hottest summer on record. Nine of the last 10 years have been hotter than the average for summer.

Doing nothing is unfathomable and unconscionable. Either the members of the government know that the climate is changing and it is slowly destroying the country as we know it and they choose to do nothing—and that is unconscionable and unfathomable—or they are wilfully ignorant, which I suggest is just as bad. This already is and will continue to be the most shocking act of intergenerational social injustice this country has ever seen.

Don't we care about our children? I do! And at the end of my days I want to be known by my children as someone who tried to do something, along with my colleagues on the crossbench. How members of the government will face their children and can think about their children, and their children's children, just beggars belief. It is shocking intergenerational social injustice. Don't we care about representing our community? It is another undeniable fact that the vast majority of Australians want everyone in this place, and in particular the government, to respond effectively to climate change. By one recently released measure, something like 80 per cent or more of Australians want us to do something about climate change. How can a government—any government—treat four out of five Australians with such utter and complete contempt? It beggars belief. Don't we worry that Australia has become a climate pariah? Something like 900 national, state and local government jurisdictions have now declared a climate emergency, yet we struggle in this place to get any interest in such a motion. I wish the member for Melbourne the best of luck as he seeks to move his own climate emergency motion through this place.

Don't we understand that an effective government that cares about our country, cares about our future, cares about our children, cares about the environment and cares about public opinion would come to its senses and put this country on a genuine pathway to net zero carbon emissions, put this country on a pathway to 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy? That would be a sensible thing to do and it would be in our nation's self-interest. Heavens, we could be the global powerhouse of renewable energy. We could be 100 per cent reliant, not just on wind or solar, but geothermal, hot rocks, tidal, wave, and we could become a centre of excellence in the globe for such technologies. We could create massive employment and massive wealth by not just inventing these technologies but manufacturing these technologies, selling these technologies and installing these technologies right around the world. Not only would that be good for the climate, it would be good for our economy. Heavens, wouldn't you think a conservative government would give two hoots about our economy?

I call on the government to finally wake up to itself, to acknowledge that the climate is changing. I was horrified by recent comments by ministers still throwing doubt on whether or not climate change is relevant to the drought and to the bushfires. I call on the government to grow up, to read the evidence, read the public mood, based in large part on a massive shift to renewable energy, and finally do something about climate change. Because I tell you what, the alternative doesn't bear thinking about. Storms and droughts, climate refugees, water wars, disease: the downside of climate change does not bear thinking about. It's beyond time for this government to grow up, read the signs and do something about it.

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