House debates

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

4:22 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

This catastrophic summer has thrown into stark relief the character of this government and has shown with greater clarity the true colours of the man who sits at its top. At a time when Australians have been crying out for national leadership, our Prime Minister was reduced to nothing but a hashtag—ScottyfromMarketing—falling back on his core skills of spin, obfuscation and outright misinformation. This is a government that has shamefully argued that black is white, rather than apologising to the Australian people for its lack of leadership and appalling behaviour. This is a government that has no limits when it comes to shamelessly exploiting situations for its own political ends.

It's almost hard to believe that, at the height of the fires, the Morrison government was instead focusing its energy on producing a Liberal Party ad about the crisis. Unbelievable! But this tawdry episode tells you everything you need to know about our Prime Minister and the government he leads. It's a government that has failed its leadership test in every area: on the economy, on ministerial standards, on the proper management of public money, on environmental protection and on integrity.

But nowhere is this government's glaring, belligerent refusal to act in the national interest more obvious than in the areas of climate change and energy policy. For six years this Liberal government has waged a savage war on climate change and renewable energy. They've defunded or abolished important agencies like the Climate Change Authority, the Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Commission. They've supported inquiries attacking renewable energy and they have actively refused to listen to or deliver on legislation to drive down carbon emissions. Their climate policy was ranked dead last—that's worse than Tony Abbott's best efforts, and it's even worse than Trump's America. Of course, they've absolutely failed to deliver on a national energy policy that's going to be critical to slashing emissions, driving down power prices and meeting Australia's Paris targets. Indeed, they've launched 18 energy policies—every single one a failure.

The Morrison government likes to say that the reason it can't act on climate change is that it wants to deliver cheaper power, but of course that's utter nonsense. Indeed, the very opposite is true. It's renewable energies that will drive down the cost of energy in Australia. All the Morrison government has delivered is sky-high energy bills, climbing emissions and a dramatic collapse in renewable energy investment and jobs.

You'd think that the unspeakable catastrophes that we have seen in recent months, coupled with the palpable anger of the Australian people, might have led this government to an about-face on its climate denial, but, sadly, you'd be wrong. This was confirmed today with the announcement that the member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, has been promoted to the influential position of Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia. This is a deeply concerning appointment, as is the conflation of resources and water in the one portfolio. Not only has Mr Pitt been a longstanding opponent of climate action; he's also one of the government's most strident champions of nuclear energy. Given that this government often touts the Newcastle and Hunter region as a potential location for a nuclear power plant, this appointment concerns me and my community greatly.

On any measure, be it cost, timing, energy needs, waste, environmental and health risks, or non-proliferation, nuclear power is to be found wanting. My fears are compounded by the fact that a Liberal-controlled parliamentary committee gave the green light to nuclear power only two months ago. This government's openness to nuclear power is madness. Even if we manage to sort out all the profound issues with nuclear power, we're still left with the unavoidable reality that it's even more expensive than renewables. The appointment of the member for Hinkler to this important ministerial position demonstrates that the Morrison government remains, as always, resolutely opposed to real action on climate change. But now people in my community also have to worry about what nuclear energy plans the Morrison government has up its sleeve.

It's time for the Morrison government to come clean with the Australian public about what it really has planned for nuclear energy and which communities are in its crosshairs.

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