House debates

Wednesday, 22 March 2023


Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

5:48 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

We got a very clear message at the last election from the Australian people. They want climate action. What did we see at the last election? We saw the vote for Labor go backwards and the vote for the coalition go backwards. What do they have in common? They both wanted more coal and gas. Whose vote went up? The Greens and Independents who said, 'It's time to stop opening coal and gas mines.' That should send this parliament a very clear message that taking action on climate means dealing with the question of coal and gas, not just saying it can all be offset but actually ensuring that pollution in this country does not go up.

As I've said, pollution from coal and gas is forecast to go up under this. There's no guarantee that the entities covered by the safeguard will actually cut their pollution at all. It could all be offset. We've invited any evidence to be put forward to show it'll be different, and there's none. It's why this scheme has been called by some 'a cap-and-trade scheme without a cap'—because pollution can go up, and is forecast to go up, from coal and gas.

The Australian people were very, very clear, though. They said, 'Take action on climate.' The opposition have said no. The opposition have said they're going to continue with their approach. That's not the approach the Greens are taking. The Greens are saying, 'We are prepared to work with the government but to develop a scheme that actually sees pollution go down and that tackles the question of coal and gas.' We can't keep infinitely opening up new coal and gas mines and think we'll meet our climate targets, because we won't.

We have been very clear that we will work with the government and continue to work with the government to see if we can find a way to pass climate laws in this country that will actually start cutting pollution and that will deal with this question of coal and gas. We have put on the table a very, very clear offer that, when you poll pretty much any electorate in this country—on the government side or the crossbench side—people back. We've said very simply to the government: 'Stop making the problem worse. Stop opening new coal and gas mines, and we'll pass this in full.' What could be the objection to that, unless you wanted to open new coal and gas mines? We've said we'll pass it in full. Just stop opening new coal and gas mines, because you can't put the fire out while you're pouring petrol on it. The first step to fixing a problem is to stop making the problem worse.

The message has been received from the government, loud and clear, that they want to keep opening coal and gas mines, and that is distressing. That is distressing for everyone who wants climate action, especially in a week where we've heard the IPCC say so clearly to countries like Australia that we can't keep opening up coal and gas mines. To hear Labor keep saying, 'Even if we get our scheme passed in full, we want to keep opening coal and gas mines,' is incredibly distressing to people right around the country who want climate action. But, all right, Labor wants to keep opening coal and gas mines. We will continue to have good faith discussions with the government to see if we can arrive at a position where we can pass laws where pollution actually starts to come down, not just through offsets for tree-planting permits or getting paid because you say that, because trees grew on your property, somehow you had something to do with it and so you should get some money for it. We know there are lots of dodgy schemes out there. We know that because of the review—the review told us that there have been a lot of dodgy schemes out there. Actually starting to bring down pollution in this country is something that I think the Australian people want to see. But at the moment this addiction to new coal and gas from the government, with the full-throated backing of the opposition, is getting in the way of real climate progress.

We've been put here with a record number of people voting for the Greens for the first time. There are a record number of members in this parliament that come from neither the opposition nor the government. We now have a situation in this country where less than a third of the country votes for the government—about a third votes for the opposition; about a third votes for someone else. And in this parliament, where the Australian people have said, 'We want climate action and we don't want anyone to have a whole majority'—no-one has got a majority in both houses of parliament—and where there are a record number of third voices, everyone is going to have to shift a bit if we are to pass laws that will see climate pollution cut.

The opposition have dealt themselves out. They've said they're not interested in any moves. We in the Greens will continue to have those discussions with the government, but as we do that we are going to be informed by the International Energy Agency, who have said that, to meet even the government's weak 'net zero by mid-century' goals, there can't be any new coal, oil or gas projects developed; by the world's scientists and the UN Secretary-General, who have just told us again in the loudest possible terms, in a final warning, this week that there can be no new coal and gas; and by our Pacific island neighbours, who come regularly and say, 'Please stop opening coal and gas mines, Australia, because it is an existential threat to our homes'. Even the Pope is on board with this.

We have got the science on our side and the people on our side. A majority of people know, because you learn it in primary school—every primary school student knows—that it's coal and gas that are causing global warming. If you wanted to tackle global warming, you would put less coal and gas pollution into the atmosphere. You wouldn't put more in there and then say you hope a few trees planted on the other side of the country cancel it out. You'd put less in. The message is being delivered to us in the clearest possible terms: stop opening new coal and gas mines if we want to have a decent chance of giving our kids a safer climate.

We are now on track to hit 1.5 degrees potentially as soon as 2030 or 2035, we've been told this week. That means game over for living in many parts of the world, because those areas will become uninhabitable. If we hit two degrees, we say goodbye to the Great Barrier Reef, and large parts of this country are going to be very difficult places to live in. That is what is facing us, and that's why serious action means tackling the causes of the climate crisis, which means tackling coal and gas. This government should just stop opening new coal and gas projects.


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