Monday, 27 October 2014
Run with the Wind, Climate Change
As a keen runner, it was a great pleasure for me yesterday to say a few words at the third annual Run with the Wind community fun run at Woodlawn wind farm near Tarago, New South Wales. Situated between Tarago and Bungendore, the Woodlawn wind farm comprises 23 wind turbines and has been operating since October 2011. The fun run was hosted by the owner and operator of the wind farm, Infigen Energy, and organised by a sports and athlete management firm, Elite Energy. In the latter case, it is mere coincidence that the term 'energy' appears in the name.
The fun run is aimed at serving two main purposes: firstly, to encourage people to get fit and stay fit by completing a five- or a 10-kilometre run and, hopefully, the organisers tell me, in the future maybe even a half marathon; and, secondly, to raise awareness of the important role that wind power will have in Australia's future. Contrary to the Treasurer, who finds wind farms 'utterly offensive' and 'appalling' and has said that they are ruining the landscape, many of those in attendance beg to differ. In fact, the sight of Infigen's wind turbines serving as a backdrop to the many fit Canberrans and New South Wales residents who hit the run yesterday was a sight to behold.
I pay tribute to Frank Boland and Miles George, from Infigen Energy, for their support for the Run with the Wind. It is, as I mentioned to the runners at the start of the race, very much Australia's future, because we know that in the future Australians need to be fitter. We have to bring down those rising obesity and overweight rates, and we need to produce more of our energy using clean, green methods. And that is exactly what wind farms are doing. If the Treasurer would like to join us at the next fun run, I am sure he would be more than welcome to enjoy the aesthetic, sporting and environmental benefits of the wind farm.
This run comes at a time in which Australia is sadly slipping backwards on international rankings for tackling climate change. The Global Green Economy Index, prepared by the US consultancy Dual Citizen has Australia's performance ranked 37th out of 60 countries for actions that support clean energy and combat climate change. In contrast, in 2012 Australia was ranked 4th on the same index.
As shadow minister for climate change Mark Butler said:
Where Australia was once leading the world, developing countries such as Kenya and Rwanda are now taking more meaningful action against climate change.
In the 'Leadership' section, Australia ranks dead last. That is, on the Global Green Economy Index. This comes after the prominent New Republic magazine categorised Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper as Earth's greatest 'climate villains'. It reflects the deep concern around the globe at the Direct Action policy, which, frankly, everyone in this place knows to be a joke. The attempts to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Prime Minister's continued tolerance of anti-science rhetoric are not surprising in a government that lacks a science minister.
The Abbott government's latest moves on climate have been to attack the renewable energy target, suggesting that the renewable energy target should be set at 26,000 gigawatt-hours rather than at 41,000 gigawatt-hours. The renewable energy target has always been set in terms of gigawatt-hours rather than as a share of production. One can hardly imagine that if energy demand had been increasing rather than decreasing there would be claims that the RET ought to be increased to be a so-called real 20 per cent. What a so-called real 20 per cent claim means is that effectively there will be a 40 per cent cut in the renewable energy target. That comes off the back of clear evidence that jobs in the sector have tripled. There has been $18 billion in investment, and the number of homes with solar panels have increased to 1.3 million.
In September 2013, Australia was ranked in the top four most attractive places to invest in renewable energy, with the US, China and Germany. But, since the Abbott government's political interference with the renewable energy target, since its establishment of a renewable energy target review, headed by a prominent climate sceptic, we have fallen down to 10th. Even that review, headed by a climate sceptic, found that the renewable energy target would drive down power prices over the medium term. So the Abbott government is seeking to wind back the renewable energy target, a policy we know to be reducing emissions and putting downward pressure on power prices.
Labor is working to restore the bipartisanship that has existed for a decade over the renewable energy target, and that frankly could continue to exist if Mr Abbott would stick to his election promise not to touch the RET, and his commitment to 41,000 gigawatt-hours.
The discussion about climate change is occurring in a context in which other nations are realising the threat and taking sensible action. A recent report by the Pentagon has noted that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risk from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortage. The US Department of Defense will soon begin integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, including war games and strategic military planning. When recently speaking to a meeting of defence secretaries in Peru, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said:
The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline and trigger waves of mass migration.
The time for childish things has passed. It is vital that all of us in this place recognise the danger of unchecked climate change and commit to policies that will deal with it.
A new declaration, signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses has called for a global price on carbon. The declaration, released in September, was signed by China, Shell, Dow Chemical and Coca Cola. It calls on all nations to enact laws encouraging carbon pricing in order to check carbon pollution. As World Bank vice president for sustainability, Rachel Kyte,has said:
The most powerful move that a government can make in the flight against climate change is to put a price on carbon.
Now there are around 40 countries that have implemented carbon pricing, while there are dozens more which are exploring it. As Robert Stavins of Harvard has noted:
There is increasing recognition that approaches that have been taken in the past haven't worked, and that the only way one can affect the hundreds of millions of decisions is through price signals.
It is ironic that in nominally communist China there are seven pilot cap-and-trade programs operating in provinces covering millions of people. Yet the nominally free market Liberal and National parties in this country continue to oppose a market based approach to climate change. The danger is real, and when I see parliamentarians in this place attacking the Bureau of Meteorology and putting their cheap political point-scoring ahead of good evidence based approaches to tackling climate change, I hang my head. The coalition must accept that a Direct Action plan which raises taxes on households in order to give money to polluters is a shadow carbon tax. The way in which it operates is that it achieves abatement by taxing households. But it achieves abatement in a highly inefficient manner. If the work were done—and of course no cost-benefit study has been done on Direct Action—it would likely reveal that, for every tonne of carbon pollution abated through Direct Action, the effective tax on Australian households is hundreds of dollars. Direct Action is a dog of a plan. I call on this government to support the international consensus on the dangers of climate change and the need for a market based mechanism to tackle it.
Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network
I would like to pay tribute to the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, which is an organisation located in Sydney Olympic Park inside my electorate. They are a wonderful organisation that do great work all year round. However, on Friday they had their first ever FUSE summit, 'FUSE' not being an acronym but meaning 'fuse'—bring together. They brought multicultural youth from right around Australia to Sydney Olympic Park to the GWS Learning Life Centre. I would like to thank GWS for making their facility available, which I know that Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, MYAN, is going to take more advantage of.
The three-day summit was a wonderful opportunity. I speak in this place a lot about multiculturalism, and I have been blessed to grow up in a multicultural area, but a lot of different parts of Australia have become multicultural of late. Whilst what we take for granted in Reid—the networks of support and advocacy—are well-founded and well-functioning, in other parts of Australia that is not the case.
MYAN had the vision to bring together our youth, the next generation of leaders, from right around Australia to spend three days talking about what we do in Western Sydney and ways that these young people could become advocates. It was a train-the-trainer, I guess, where they could go back to their different parts of Australia—and there were people from every state and territory there—and start advocating and working on setting up the migrant infrastructure that I know the member for Greenway and I have the benefit of leaning on when we need to and that the community, more importantly, have the benefit of leaning on.
I joined a panel with Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells; the Hon. Matt Kean, who is the state parliamentary secretary to Dominello, the Minister for Citizenship and Communities; Megan Mitchell, the National Children's Commissioner; and me. We were given five presentations and at the end of each presentation there was a question-and-answer session. Topics included things like education and employment for multicultural youth; ESL teaching—something I spoke about in my maiden speech—and the need to do it better as the core building block on which we can build; perceptions in the media, obviously very topical at the moment; being inclusive as a society, once again very topical; and, lastly, asylum seekers, once again very topical.
It was refreshing to see such a great gathering of such great people, our youth. They are the hope of the side—I say that so often. They do not look at each other and identify by race, skin colour or religion. They just see fellow Australians. In the opening words of a song which was written in 1987 to reflect on our past but is just as relevant today and, I hope, reflects so strongly our future:
We are one
But we are many
And from all the lands on Earth we come
I looked around the room. It was no different to what Michelle and I see daily in our electorates—something we take for granted. I hope that the passion in that room spreads like a flame across all the different parts represented in that room and that different societies that do not have the background we have can come to know it better. Well done, to MYAN and the GWS Giants.
I would like to talk about an event, called Walk Together, I attended with the member for Greenway and the member for Blaxland on Saturday afternoon. I congratulate Brad Chilcott and his team at Welcome to Australia. We marched for a harmonious and inclusive Australia. It is a common theme and very topical, with what we confront right now on the world stage and the implications that has for our local communities. I was particularly pleased to see a team from St Patrick's College at Strathfield. It is my old school and that of the member for Watson. My father went to the school also. It is a school that is run by Christian Brothers, and where there are Christian Brothers there is Catholic social justice. As someone who was raised by them it was so refreshing to see that, one generation on, the Christian Brothers, who have been instilling social justice since the early 1800s, are still doing such a wonderful job. It was a real thrill to walk down George Street. I have only ever had the opportunity to cross George Street; I have never had the chance to have traffic stop and walk down it. There would have been a crowd of 1,000 walking. The walk ended at Darling Harbour, where we listened to a great variety of speakers passing on the message 'Welcome to Australia'. I say a lot that this is a country that has been and will be built on the back of migration. We should not falter at this stage in our country's history because of events halfway around the world which scare all of us, irrespective of where we come from or what we believe. Well done, to Brad and all his team.
I had the opportunity on Saturday night to join my local Hindu community at Diwali, the festival of lights. The Sri Mandir temple in Auburn is Australia's first. I was invited to spend some time with the community. Diwali is a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to a large gathering of people, to say how fitting it was—although I am not Hindu; I gave away earlier that I am Catholic—how topical that theory is. I spoke about world events at the moment and about how pleasing it was to be celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I got a rousing reception. There was great camaraderie from Dr Rajeev Spada and all of the board, who put in time and time again at the temple. It was a precursor of what I often refer to as migrant infrastructure of the spiritual kind. The temple was build in the 1970s and has grown into something fantastic. Traffic arrangements did have their moments, but they run such a great show. There was a feed afterwards, great hospitality and great camaraderie. To all at the Sri Mandir temple, thank you, once again—I have been there many times—for making me so welcome.
I had the chance on Saturday morning to catch up with the recently convened Navy cadet unit based at Lidcombe depot. I joined the Royal Australian Navy Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs, Captain Mona Shindy, and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett. This is a Navy cadet unit with a difference. Its members are Muslim. It is a great initiative from the Australian Navy.
We were there to launch a boat that was being donated by a generous benefactor and the Navy, and the Navy had the foresight to invite Sheikh Douish to christen the boat. He spoke that day with some 40 or 50 young boys and girls standing in front of him, some of them related to him; they were his grandchildren. He is a wonderful man. He spoke of the irony that, at a time when—he is a great moderate leader—he stands in his mosque and instils in his congregation the importance of being Australian and paying homage to your homeland, he was standing and talking to 50 or 60 young boys and girls who wanted to one day joint he Navy. They were starting their career with the hopes of one day standing in the front lines and defending this country, their country, our country. This 'us and them' just has to stop. When Sheikh Douish said this—and I get it because I battle to say it myself—he cracked up. He broke down. He cried. That made it even more powerful. It shows you strain that these communities are under. It shows you the strain that my friends and my neighbours are under. The preachers, the people who talk to their congregations on a daily basis, the people the congregation come to with stories of abuse—one mentioned in the main chamber today a girl in a hijab being pushed over and breaking her arm.
When you meet people like Sheikh Douish, when you see the next generation of Australians of Islamic background and all they want to do is be a member of the Australian Navy, it gives you a shot in the arm. My only drama is that I hope to get the media interested in this story because these are the stories that we need to tell. These are the stories that bring us together. We have too much discussion about things that divide us, not enough about things that bring us together.
It was an honour to join the Australian Navy cadets. Thank you to Chief of Navy Tim Barrett, all involved and, most importantly, the boys and girls, great young Australians, who will make a big difference.