Monday, 22 October 2018
National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment (Timely Publication of Emissions) Bill 2018; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
It's been said that climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation and, by the other side of this House, that climate change policy is an exercise in risk management where no reasonable person could regard the risk as being so low that no action is warranted.
The foundation of good policy development is a solid and growing body of evidence that is accessible to both the public and the experts. For climate change policy, this means scientific data. The government currently collects estimates of Australia's national greenhouse gas inventory—more colloquially known as 'emissions data' or 'climate change data'—on a quarterly basis, but it refuses to release the data in a timely fashion.
In fact, not only does it delay the release of this critical data but it tries to bury interest in the data by releasing it on days like Christmas Eve or the eve of grand final weekend and similar shenanigans. This should not be. The Australian people, and Australian policymakers, deserve better.
My bill will require the timely publication of quarterly emissions data, including a sector-by-sector breakdown, requiring the minister to table the report containing the data to the parliament within 15 sitting days after receiving it from the department.
Further, the preparation of the report would be required to be in accordance with international guidelines as agreed at the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw 2013.
I was ever so pleased to learn that the Senate took note when I lodged my intention to present this private member's bill on the Notice Paperbecause, just one day later, the Senate finally took action and passed a motion for 'an order of continuing effect'. Preternaturally similar to my bill, this motion requires the government to table their greenhouse gas inventory figures within five months of the end of each quarter or provide an explanation for any delay.
The Senate motion continues to operate until it is repealed. I'm pleased that my bill has been such a positive catalyst for change on this important issue.
I commend the Senate—in particular, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young—for supporting the aims of my bill and for taking my idea and running with it. It is an excellent outcome for everyone who supports evidenced based policy, and surely that should be the catalyst for change in this place. It's a much-needed step to help refocus the government's attention on the increasingly desperate issue that is climate change. We need action now. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am going to speak only briefly on this bill, but I would like to give some of my remaining time to the member for Indi, who is seconding the bill.
I am pleased to second the motion for the second reading of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment (Timely Publication of Emissions) Bill 2018, and I congratulate my colleague the member for Mayo on bringing the bill forward.
I would also like to acknowledge the guests in the House today. It's lovely to have you here. Thank you for making the effort. I look forward to being part of the apology when it's issued, at 11 o'clock, but in the meantime: welcome to the private members' sector of parliamentary business, when any member of parliament can bring a topic and present it to the parliament. As you can see, today we're bringing to the parliament to be debated private members' business that has come from the very active and very stable crossbench.
Having said that, in seconding the motion can I say that one of the things that caused me to stand today was something that happened while I was watching with great interest the lead-up to the AFL grand final. I'm a Victorian member of parliament, and we had a holiday in Victoria the day before the grand final. It was a great day, and I was watching it because I was really interested in whether Collingwood would get up against Western Australia. I acknowledge the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, who is at the table. He also would have been interested. I was keeping a watchful eye on Twitter, as I do as a member of parliament because I get a lot of information on Twitter, and I saw that figures reporting greenhouse gas emissions and energy had been released. And I said: 'Whoa, what's happening? Why is this happening on a public holiday in Victoria?' It's a bit like the Melbourne Cup. I was so shocked. I thought: surely our government in Canberra knows that we've got a public holiday in Victoria and we're all watching this very important thing called footy? And then the Twitter reaction got underway, and people said: 'Yeah, yeah, it's a strategy to hide these really important statistics at the end of a Friday, on a public holiday, when we're very keen to find out the results of the football.' So when the member for Mayo brought this issue to my attention and said that she was bringing a private member's bill in, I was very happy to support it.
In my electorate of Indi, which is in north-east Victoria and includes the towns of Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla and the snowfields of Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buller and Lake Mountain, we watch climate change with great interest. We see the rain and snow falling. We see the drought we've got at the moment. And we farmers in rural communities really care about these statistics, because they give us the information we need. For government to hide that on a public holiday was very, very disappointing. In seconding this bill, I give a call-out to the government that we on the crossbench are looking for better governance. We're looking for more responsible reporting of the things that really matter to the people of north-east Victoria and, I know also, to the people of Wentworth.
In bringing these comments to a close, I call on the government to pay particular attention to this very, very important piece of legislation. The underlying message is: we're not fools; we can see what happens and we want our government to be better.