House debates

Monday, 21 October 2019

Private Members' Business

Climate Change

10:26 am

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

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) climate change is a significant threat to our economy, natural environment, farming communities and national security;

(b) Australia’s annual emissions have been rising in recent years;

(c) as a global problem, the solution to climate change requires concerted international cooperation to limit the production of greenhouse gases;

(d) as the only global agreement designed to address climate change, the Paris Accords must play a central role in addressing climate change;

(e)the Paris Accords require signatory countries to deliver actions consistent with keeping the global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius;

(f) based on the latest scientific advice, the world is currently on track for warming of above 3 degrees, and efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions need to be strengthened to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts; and

(g) as a result of the threat posed by climate change, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Portugal, Argentina and the Republic of Ireland have declared a climate emergency; and

(2) therefore, affirms that:

(a) Australia remains committed to delivering on its obligations under the Paris Accords;

(b) failing to meet the goals of the Paris Accords would have unprecedented and devastating environmental, economic, societal and health impacts for Australia; and

(c) the threat posed by climate change on the future prosperity and security of Australia and the globe constitutes a climate change emergency.

This motion responds to the calls from more than 370,000 Australians who have participated in the largest ever e-petition to this parliament, calling for this parliament to recognise climate change as an emergency. It also follows the example of the UK, Canadian, Irish and other parliaments, not to mention literally dozens and dozens of councils here in Australia and across the world, who have made a similar declaration. Since October last year, in just the past 12 months, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, the world's leading climate scientists, have issued three reports, each more urgent than the last. In essence, those reports tell us that the window is closing on our generation's ability to discharge our responsibilities set out in the Paris climate agreement—namely, to ensure that global warming is kept well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Those reports, particularly the report issued 12 months ago by the world's leading climate scientists, tell us that substantial cuts in emissions are going to be necessary over the course of the 2020s if we are to have any reasonable hope of keeping to those important thresholds.

Earlier this month, here in Australia, the Australian Medical Association, the AMA, followed the lead of its British and American counterparts in also declaring that climate change is a health emergency, because we've received advice after advice over many years of the health impacts we're already seeing through climate change but will only get worse over time if we don't meet those Paris commitments. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum, which surveys the world's leading global business leaders, found that, of the 10 leading global risks identified by those leaders, the top three were extreme weather events, a failure to mitigate climate change, and natural disasters, reflecting advice from the Reserve Bank earlier this month about the risks to the global financial system that are posed by climate change and the legal responsibilities that company directors are now recognised as having, as identified by APRA, ASIC and economic regulators across the world.

The world is currently on track to exceed three degrees of global warming, which would be utterly catastrophic for the planet and for humanity. There is a dangerous level of complacency that has crept into the public debate, and particularly the parliamentary debate on climate change here in Australia. We're told by the Prime Minister and leading media figures that we're going to meet our Paris commitments in a canter and everything is going fine. Well, Australia's Paris targets are consistent with more than three degrees of global warming and we frankly are just not on track to meet those. Our Kyoto commitment is to cut, by next year, our carbon emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels, but only in the last several weeks the government has released projections showing that in 2020 carbon emissions will actually be higher than they were in 2000, not five per cent below. Carbon emissions are projected by the government's own department to continue rising all the way to 2030. So, at best, we'll be seven per cent below 2005 levels by that year, not the 26 to 28 per cent below that the government signed up to in the Paris agreement.

All of this means that we are failing our children, our grandchildren and generations beyond that, because it is within the power of this generation to ensure that global warming is kept well below two degrees and that we pursue efforts around 1.5, recognising that two degrees is not a safe threshold. According to the world's leading climate scientists, even two degrees of global warming will mean that more than 99 per cent of the world's coral reefs are lost. According to the World Bank, it will mean that by the middle of the century global cereal production will have reduced by 20 per cent and by as much as 50 per cent in the continent of Africa. This complacency also means that Australia is missing out on very serious investment and job opportunities. For example, according to Bloomberg, renewable energy investment has been slashed by 50 per cent already in just the first six months of this year. This motion is a chance for the parliament to change course. It's not a substantive motion in policy terms but it is an attempt to have the parliament recognise the gravity of this challenge.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:31 am

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak against the motion moved by the member for Hindmarsh. It is clear that with this motion Labor is simply jumping on sensationalist, populist sentiment. They prefer to put forward this grand symbolic gesture rather than actually committing to policies that will reintroduce carbon emissions. In contrast, our government has a plan, one that we took to the Australian people. Part of this plan is to effectively act on climate change and meet our emissions reduction target for 2020, as agreed in Kyoto. We also have a plan to meet our emissions reduction target for 2030, as detailed in the Paris accord global agreement. We can do this in a balanced and responsible way. We can work with our global partners to deliver a healthy environment for future generations, whilst keeping our economy strong. This is why we have invested $3.5 billion into our Climate Solutions Package, which will deliver the 328 million tonnes of abatement needed to reach our Paris targets. The Climate Solutions Fund is a great program, one that brings to $4.55 billion our support for businesses, landholders, farmers and Indigenous Australians, through practical climate solutions. The Climate Solutions Fund gives Australians the incentive to adopt smarter practices and technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and, at the same time, earn additional revenue.

The Tambua Regeneration Project is a great example of what is being delivered through the fund. Tambua station is a farm located near Cobar in New South Wales. The Evans family owns the property and recently celebrated 100 years and five generations on the land. Over the years, the family has overcome a number of challenges that often occur with farming, including drought and bushfires. The Evans family, supported by an Emissions Reduction Fund contract over 10 years, is establishing permanent native forests on the property. They've been growing these forests from seed on land that was previously cleared and on which regrowth has been suppressed for 10 years. These new forests will effectively become carbon sinks, helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This is a great example of responsible stewardship. This is one example of thousands that's being implemented without great fanfare and sensationalism.

There are also projects being delivered in my electorate of Cowper. Through the Emissions Reductions Fund, we have invested $1 million to help Biomass Solutions in Coffs Harbour to produce compost from the organic waste collected in three neighbouring local government areas. We will be investing a further $2 million in this project in the near future. The fund also has enabled the New South Wales office of environment, energy and science to plant $800,000 worth of new native trees on land that had previously been cleared for agriculture.

We are making the investment necessary to bring about change. In fact, in 2018, Australia led the world in clean energy investment, with more than double the per capita investment of other leading nations like France and the United Kingdom. We are, therefore, doing more per capita than any of these countries who saw fit to declare a climate emergency, highlighting the redundant nature of this motion by Labor.

Rather than being reactive, we have announced some proactive steps to mitigate the current climate change and drought in Australia. Drought is debilitating for regional communities like those in my electorate of Cowper. But, rather than offer redundant, symbolic gestures, like this motion, we have acted decisively to invest $3.5 billion in water infrastructure to fast-track the construction of new dams, weirs and pipelines. This will guarantee new and affordable water for regional Australia into the future and unlock the economic potential for new and expanded agricultural production. We have also been proactive by investing in renewable energy projects like Snowy 2.0 and the Battery of the Nation in Tasmania. We are getting on with the job of delivering our plan to make Australia stronger.

10:36 am

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I note that the last speaker, who rejected the science, couldn't even go the full five minutes on this very important topic, which yet again demonstrates the lack of seriousness the government has on climate change. I want to start with a few facts—something foreign to those opposite. The IPCC has already found that the world has warmed by one degree Celsius, compared to preindustrial times. Since 1998, we've had five mass bleachings of the Great Barrier Reef, and the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were the warmest years on record. In fact, we have the highest greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in 800,000 years.

Climate change is occurring, and it poses probably the greatest security threat to the planet and certainly to Australia. That was set out in a seminal speech by the Chief of the Defence Force a couple of months ago, where he highlighted the fact that natural disasters are increasing in number, severity and range. For example, Cook Islands, once considered outside the main cyclone belt, experienced five cyclones in one month. Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are on the rise in PNG. We are seeing an increase in sea temperatures and winds pushing tuna stocks westward, stocks which are critical to the economic livelihood of many Pacific nations. The greatest example was around the Syrian civil war, where the great drought between 2006 and 2011—which was caused by climate change, according to scientists—pushed 1.5 million Syrians into cities, ramping up pressure on an already precarious political system. In the next 10 years, scientists think that we'll see another half a degree of global warming, which will lead to food scarcity, displaced populations, disease spreading, a doubling of species extinctions and sea levels half a metre higher. In fact, the CDF highlighted the fact that 81 million people will be negatively affected by changes to crop yields, several hundred million people will be driven into poverty and a quarter of a billion people will not have access to adequate drinking water. All this is obviously a catastrophe for the planet and will lead to an increase in conflict. This is especially relevant in Australia, given that we live in the most disaster-prone region in the world. The waters of the central Pacific are currently rising four times faster than the global average and this is obviously causing more flooding, erosion, inundation of living areas and contamination of aquifers and arable land. Again, most of these statistics are not drawn from some environmental group; these stats are drawn from a speech by the Chief of the Defence Force—a Chief of the Defence Force held in the highest esteem by both sides of politics.

I have chosen to concentrate on this because anyone who professes to care about our national security should care about fighting climate change and should care about making sure Australia makes an appropriate contribution to the global fight on climate change. I would submit that, for all their professed interest in national security, those on the other side are betraying our national security, as well as betraying future generations, by their attitude to climate change evident in an inadequate target, which they won't even meet.

But it's not just about national security; it's also about economic opportunities. For example, the University of New South Wales's technology around solar PV cells is resident within 60 per cent of PV cells around the world. Yet we didn't get a single job out of that innovation because John Howard and his government were so anti renewable energy.

There is a massive opportunity here. We can be an energy exporting superpower through direct export of electricity to South Asia and South-East Asia and through the export of hydrogen to places like Japan and Korea. We have the highest solar radiation of any continent in the world and we've got great wind and wave resources. So, when the world transitions to renewable energy, which is inevitably occurring, we can again be the land of energy-intensive manufacturing. That's a great opportunity.

We also have a great opportunity around the key inputs to renewable energy. We're the second-largest producer of rare earths. We have the greatest reserves of iron and titanium. We've got the second greatest reserves of copper and lithium and the third greatest reserves of silver. These are great opportunities for our mining sector. In fact, it takes 200 tonnes of coking coal to make one wind turbine. So there are even good opportunities for our coking coal sector around the transition to renewable energy.

So, whether it is from a national security point of view or from an economic opportunity point of view, we need to declare a climate emergency and we need to take urgent action, unlike those opposite.

10:41 am

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In speaking on this motion, I'm going to start with some tongue-in-cheek comments. This issue is 'so important' to those opposite. Let us count how many there are here. Well, there were five but now there are four—one, two, three, four. I think there is one coming back. I am not sure whether the member is returning. We could get to five people on the other side. It is 'so important' to those opposite that they declare a climate emergency that they haven't even filled the opposite side of the chamber!

I note that Matt Killoran is up in the press gallery, and I also note his story on the Courier-Mail site today, talking about the former member for Herbert, Cathy O'Toole—who has managed to find her spine on this issue—and former Labor Party member and Mayor of Rockhampton, Margaret Strelow, who have come out and said that the Labor Party has got it wrong. Let me count the ways! Once again, I take this motion with a grain of salt, to be honest. If those opposite were serious, they would all be here—every single one of them would be in the chamber. So this is, at worst, a stunt and, at best, a way to fill some space in this morning's program.

If those opposite were serious about this, if it is a climate emergency, then everything should be on the table—everything—and we shouldn't just be ruling things in and out because we like them or we don't like them. That means that you should consider nuclear energy. That means that you should consider HELE coal. If a HELE coal power station can reduce emissions by 40 per cent, why wouldn't you use it? Why wouldn't we go to another country and take their biggest emitting industries and move them to Australia, cut them in half, improve the world's outcome and create more jobs? But it seems that's off the table, too.

I've got to say that I have missed one opposition member. There is an extra opposition member over here who I didn't count previously. There are six here in the chamber. So my apologies to the Labor Party; there are six here for this debate. So, if everything is on the table for the climate emergency, that's the end of snowmakers. There will be no more of those; they run on diesel. We'll certainly have to stop using aircraft. So we will have to move parliamentary sittings and come here for a longer period of time, as there will be no more aircraft. There will also be no more cars.

But, in all seriousness, if we are to look at this issue properly, we need to consider what our contribution is. That is what we on this side of the House, the government, have done. We have put forward a proportional response to our contribution. We have put up a balanced approach to what we are doing in terms of the environment. When we look at what happened in the last election, we know the outcome: the people agreed with us. The people agreed with us, because they were terrified of what the opposite side would do. Those opposite had a completely uncosted policy. This was identified by Jonathan Lee at a press conference, when the then Leader of the Opposition simply couldn't answer the question: 'How much will your policy cost, Mr Shorten?' If you cannot put forward a costed policy to the Australian people they will not support you. It is that straightforward.

You do not represent working people anymore. That is the reality of where we are at. If we look at what happened in Queensland, rusted-on Labor voters walked away from the opposition in droves. They know that it happened. I know that it happened. We know the outcome. We know what happened in terms of the election. But, to be honest, I think it's a great shame—I really do—because the Labor Party used to be the party of working people. They are now the party of slogans. Where do you go from the climate emergency? Does it become a climate crisis? Do we wind it back and say, 'It's not quite as bad as we thought it was, so we'll wind it back a little bit more'? Once again we find ourselves here talking about another stunt around the climate emergency. As I said during this speech previously, I haven't seen a single member come in. I don't see the Labor Party tearing in to support their colleagues on the PMB. I don't see any of those things.

Once again, if you are out there representing working people, stop telling them you'll take away their jobs, because that is exactly what they are concerned about. They are concerned about losing the roles that they have now. Their priority is to pay their bills, be employed, ensure they can send their kids to school and work their way through what they do in life. On this side of the parliament, we are representing them. We are here in their interests, not those on the other side. We hear a lot of noise and a lot of sloganeering and we see lots of people with stunts and who are holding up traffic and, once again, I'd say to those in Extinction Rebellion: there will be no glue for you if there it's a climate emergency; we simply can't produce any. Every single time we bring forward stunts like this, you depreciate the value of your position. If you really want to support climate change work and what we are doing around the environment, put forward a practical approach. Tell us what it is.

10:46 am

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Skills) Share this | | Hansard source

I am proud to be standing here today speaking on this motion put by my colleague the member for Hindmarsh to declare a climate emergency. It is a mark of Labor's commitment to future generations. As he said, we owe it to our kids and our grandkids to stand up for their future and to fight for real action on climate change. As one of my staunch Cooper activists Jane Morton said, 'Declaring the emergency is not just a matter of token words; it is the start of a whole new frame of mind.' From young kids in Northcote to grandmas in Reservoir to doctors, nurses, tradies and scientists, our community knows our earth is experiencing a climate emergency, and they want something done about it now. Unfortunately, while the rest of the world has accepted that global warming is perfectly clear, it is not a priority for all of us in this place. Those who sit opposite are collectively burying their heads in the sand, with no desire or political courage to start to repair the damage that global warming is inflicting on our planet.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report calls for drastic action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees of warming this century. The report starkly and graphically outlines the world we face, with the prospect of exceeding a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise by 2040—and that is not too far away. At 1.5 degrees, we lose between 70 and 90 per cent of the world's warm coral reefs on top of what we've lost to date. There will be more extreme hot weather, more extreme droughts. At 1.5 degrees, we will see the consequences of climate related risks to our health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, national security and economic growth. This change will disproportionately affect those living in developing countries and those in the Pacific, our neighbours.

The IPCC is not some radical body. Their most recent report was written by 91 climate experts and cites 6,000 peer-reviewed papers. They are often considered to be too conservative in their warnings. As the member for Hindmarsh said, none of us should fall for the idea that is often spouted by commentators and, unfortunately, some on the other side of the House that what Australia does doesn't matter in this debate. Yes, we are a small nation. We don't even rate in the top 50 of the world's nations in population, but we rate in the top 15 in the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted. We are a wealthy nation that has, along with other members of the OECD, grown wealthy on the back of long-term industrialisation. We are the highest per capita producer of greenhouse gases. If Australia won't act to take responsible, strong action on climate change, which nation on the face of the planet should be expected to act?

If this government had a plan, a real plan, Australia could be leading the way to mitigate this climate emergency. With certainty instead of chaos, we could be encouraging clean energy production, sustainable industries and investment in jobs and the growing renewable economy. This has been Labor's mantra for a long time. We are committed to tackling climate change and transitioning our economy, and to still support all communities by providing decent, secure work. I stand with the millions of Australians who are committed to the cause of hope which is made possible by climate action. Hope for a just world, a fair world, a sustainable planet and the reshaping of our economy to meet its challenges.

I want to finish by giving a big shout-out to the many activists in Cooper who have been pushing for a climate emergency declaration for so long: all the Cooper students and protesters who marched at the climate rallies; the kids who sign and send me petitions and beautiful pictures every day; DCAN, Darebin Climate Action Now, for asking the member for Hindmarsh the hard questions at the many climate forums we've had; and CAHA, Darebin City Council, Newlands Parents for Climate Action, the Darebin ACF, Cooper GetUp!, Newlands Friends of the Forest, Doctors for the Environment, beyond zero emissions; and so many hundreds of individuals who have written, called and stopped me in the street to talk about this important issue. We are standing here today because of your hard work. This is your achievement. My commitment to all of you is to keep up the fight for climate action. We stand here to deliver the strongest possible targets for a real response to tackling the climate emergency. These are not just words; these are not token words. It is about changing the trajectory of this planet and keeping it sustainable to have a sustainable future.

10:51 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is extremely important to debate this motion in this chamber, because it reflects a fundamental discussion the Australian community is having about the future of our natural environment, our care and concern for it, and how this government is take sensible, proportionate, practical measures to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions with the sanction and support of the Australian people, consistent with the proposition that we took to the election.

Ultimately, because we're talking about a transition of the economy—a transition that will occur—to reduce our CO2 footprint and equivalent greenhouse gases, and the fact that there are trade-offs, it is fundamentally a discussion about how we're going to take Australians forward and not leave people behind. More critically, it is a discussion about trust—trust that governments will honour the positions they take to the public at election. The objective of this motion is to break that trust by declaring something, and if it's serious—and Labor and other members present who support this motion are serious—re-orientate the entirety of the Australian economy and society towards a singular purpose. We do do this from time to time. We do it in times of war. We do it when the threat posed is so immediate and extreme that every single other concern goes out the window. If Labor are not honestly putting forward that proposition and backing it up with policy, then it's a dishonest motion. So, no matter which way you deal with it, it's an issue around trust.

If we support this motion, we are turning on the Australian people and showing contempt for them and their concerns, for their livelihood, their jobs and their interests. We face a situation where the Australian Labor Party are showing contempt for the voters of Australia—and they do so because, at every point, the opposition has sought to do one thing on the issue of climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, which is to trade on the trust from the Australian people and make ridiculous allegations about what is and isn't being done. Of course, we know full well that trust is not an issue that the opposition cares much for. After all, we do remember where the 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' ended up, and they're continuing to do that in the way they approach this issue, because we've seen that their rhetoric does not match their action. Only last week, the International Monetary Fund released a report saying that even if we were to go down the path that the Labor Party or the Greens want us to, you would need a carbon tax in excess of US$75, more than A$111. Let them get up here now and argue that that's what they want and that that's what they will support in this chamber right now. Of course, we know they won't, because this is a dishonest motion. We know they won't, because it doesn't enjoy the support of the Australian people. We know they won't, because it's actually not sustainable policy—by the way, that was the start, not the end. We know it won't actually deliver the sustainable transition for the Australian economy that this nation needs.

Instead, we, the government, took clear policy proposals to the last election. Twice we have gone to an election saying we will support and honour our targets under the Paris agreement to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 per cent, and we are doing so. We have massive investment in major new base load energy generation in this country, whether it's the extension of the Snowy Hydro project or connecting more of the surplus wasted energy provided over to the Australian mainland. To take lectures from the Greens—let's not forget who the Greens are: a political party founded on opposing investment in renewable energy in Tasmania. We are doing everything we can with the trust of the Australian people. What the Labor Party and the Greens want us to do is break that trust. (Time expired)

10:56 am

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have heard a lot from those opposite this morning, but what we haven't heard is one single thing, one single idea, about how Australia is going to reduce our emissions. Not one. The member for Goldstein walks out right now, and he needs to be very, very careful in this debate because Goldstein is the seat that borders Macnamara. I know those people in Goldstein care about the future of our planet. They care about how our emissions are going up. They will hold the member for Goldstein responsible along with this government which doesn't have a plan to reduce our emissions.

Let's start in this really important motion put forward by the member for Hindmarsh—and I commend the previous speakers on this side of the House, who have all made thoughtful contributions to this debate—with some facts on the table. Climate change is a man-made problem and it will continue to have devastating consequences for Australia and our Pacific neighbours. We need to reduce our carbon emissions as part of a concerted global effort to keep our temperature rises well below two degrees and towards 1.5 degrees, the pre-industrial levels. Another fact that we have today is that our emissions are going up. They are going up, as they have done every year since 2014. This is part of the government's own figures, which confirm it every time they are released.

The crazy thing about this debate is that climate change is a problem, but it also presents real opportunities. I was a young staffer here and I remember vividly the day that Joe Hockey goaded the car industry to leave this country. It was a devastating day, especially for the people in my electorate who, for years and years, worked in the factories in Fishermans Bend. It was a devastating day for the people of Geelong in the Ford factory. Yet they scoffed when we brought an electric vehicle policy to the last election. When they goaded the car industry to leave this country, they didn't just end the jobs of manufacturing workers; they ended the jobs of high-skilled engineers, of scientists, of researchers, of developers and of all the subsidiary businesses. Yet they scoff at a policy that could potentially bring manufacturing back to our electorates.

They are more and more isolated. Across the states, we have seen the state governments move towards net zero emissions by the middle of the century, as well as bring in complementary policies. In the great state of Victoria, where we have seen a Labor government now re-elected—I had the privilege of working and playing a small part in it—policies include net zero emissions by 2050 and a renewable energy target. In that same Ford factory where those opposite goaded companies to leave our shores, they are now producing wind turbines. Manufacturing jobs are returning to our cities and to our towns on the back of renewable energy jobs. It's exciting, yet the only people who have no plan, who don't accept the science, who don't want to take action, are those opposite. I know that there are a sprinkling of people over there who like to make platitudes, but they need to be very careful because platitudes simply aren't going to cut it. They need a plan to reduce our carbon emissions. The last person to have an energy policy was Malcolm Turnbull, and we all know where that went.

To those opposite: I know the Prime Minister has a genuine affection for those in the Pacific region—I know he does; he talks about it often—but you cannot look our Pacific island friends in the eye when they come to us pleading with Australia to take climate change seriously, pleading with our government to do something to reduce emissions. Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, PNG—climate change is an existential threat to these countries, and the best our Prime Minister can do when he's in New York, when the international climate change conference is on, is skip the conference.

Climate change is an opportunity for us to create jobs in this country, to create renewable energy jobs, to create a boom. There's investment, but we can make it better. Climate change is our responsibility, as responsible global citizens and as friends to our Pacific neighbours, to take seriously. I commend the motion put forward by the member for Hindmarsh. We are in a climate emergency, and we need to take it seriously.

11:01 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was very interesting to listen to the member for Macnamara's contribution. It reflects many of the others on that side over the past half hour or so; once again, high on rhetoric but with no solutions. The important thing is it's actually this government that is taking this seriously. It is this government that has made it very clear, in the recent election on 18 May, that it is going to honour its international commitments with respect to reducing emissions and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate.

It is important that we do take this seriously for any number of reasons, least of all the impact on our economy if we don't take seriously the impacts of the changing climate. This is what the government is actually doing. We're working across the community and across the various levels of government to put in place practical solutions to manage these risks. We're working towards developing and implementing through investments: an investment of some $24 million over the six years from 2014-15 to the National Environmental Science Program and Climate Change Hub; some $255 million over the 10 years from 2015-16 to enhance Australia's Antarctic capabilities; another $6.1 million over the three years from 2018-19 to provide the electricity sector with improved climate and extreme weather information; and another $25 million in 2019-20 towards the establishment of the National Centre for Coasts, Environment and Climate at Point Nepean. It is these investments that are the key to ensuring that we manage the impacts of a changing climate.

More locally, I have seen the benefits of work that has been done over many years through planting additional trees and revegetating our local communities—improvements in water quality and improvements in the built environment. It is these practical solutions that we believe are going to help achieve the goals that we need to achieve. We all agree in this place that we need to leave the planet and the environment in a better place than when we found it. In addition, we can look at the investments in clean energy across the country not just at a national level but from some of the state governments as well. In 2018, an estimated $13.2 billion was invested in clean energy technologies in Australia, and this builds on the estimated $10 billion invested in 2017.

As I go around my electorate, there are a number of businesses—and the number increases by the day—whose focus is on recycling and improving how we use our waste—that we don't just dump it into landfills, that we're able to recycle that waste and reuse it. Doing that ensures that we don't deplete our natural resources as much as we otherwise would. It is these practical outcomes that we are seeing every day in electorates right across this country. Recently we announced a $6 million investment with Logan City Council in one of our waste water treatment facilities to treat solid waste by burning it at high temperatures to create biochar. It is a range of those examples that we're implementing, as well as meeting our emissions reduction targets, as we've committed to through the Paris Agreement, and they will deliver on our commitments to manage the impacts of a changing climate.

Importantly, one of the things that we do need to do is ensure that we have a strong and robust economy so we have the funds to manage these impacts and pay for the new investments and new technologies that are going to be developed over the coming five, 10, 15 or 20 years that will help further mitigate and deal with these issues. But it is these practical outcomes, these practical investments right across our economy, that this government is undertaking because of its strong economic management and foresight to deal with the issues of a changing climate.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Forde. The question is that the motion be agreed to. I call the member for Canberra.

11:06 am

Photo of Alicia PayneAlicia Payne (Canberra, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In light of the Prime Minister belittling school students for striking for climate action, I thought I would bring the voice of one such student from my electorate to this place. Raechel McKinnon, a year 8 student from Merici College here in Canberra wrote this speech for me last week in Girls Takeover Parliament. If the government won't listen to the Labor Party, I call on them to listen to the next generation, whose future is at stake if we don't take action now. This is the speech Raechel wrote for me:

It is with great sorrow and disappointment that I am here again to talk about the impact of climate change and the importance of doing something about it.

As I said in my previous speech on climate change, electors in Canberra have vocalised their concerns—

on the lack of action—

on what the Australian government is doing to prevent our planet from dying.

Under the power of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, no difference is being made whatsoever. Australians are living under the power of an all talk, no action government.

The government is doing nothing to contribute to change the situation that we are in, despite of the public's needs and wants.

On the 20th of September, my Labor colleagues and I joined with 10,000 Canberrans in Glebe Park to strike for Climate as part of the—


movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

300,000 people gathered around Australia calling for action on climate change.

Out of 195 countries, Australia is the 20th richest country in the world and we are within the top 15 countries in terms of carbon emissions. We have the ability to reduce our carbon emissions and fossil fuels—

Moreover, we have a responsibility.

However, the federal government has chosen not to act.

It appears to me that the government is not comprehending how much of an issue climate change is. So let me lay out the facts for you.

The Great Barrier Reef is able to be seen from outer space, is visited by 2 million tourists every year and generates—

for us—

roughly 5-6 billion dollars per year in economic gains.

However, if we keep emitting carbon dioxide into the environment, the Great Barrier Reef is expected to die by 2050, and, according to scientists, half of the great barrier reef is already dead.

If a climate emergency is not announced, and we do not make a change, the Great Barrier Reef has no hope whatsoever. The Great Barrier Reef will die.

This is not just tragic because the Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,000 different species of living organisms; but we will also lose a lot of tourism in Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia. If the Great Barrier Reef dies, Australia will lose roughly 1.3 million tourists every year. Nobody wants to visit a dead reef; it would just be a painful reminder of how terribly we have treated this earth.

The reef has become vulnerable because of human activity and the pollution that has been emitted to the environment. Oceans absorb up to 25% of the carbon dioxide which citizens across the world produce every year.

The Australian government needs to take action on climate change. Climate change is not impacting on an environment that is somehow separate to our every day lives. It is our world that we are destroying, our home.

Our Prime Minister needs to step up and recognise the science, for current and future generations.

He must not settle for anything less than to declare urgent climate action, because it is with great regret that this has become an emergency.

The Australian government doesn't understand that climate change is a silent killer—it is staring them in the face, why won't they open their eyes and look at it?

Thank you, Raechel, for this great speech.

As her representative here in this place, I support climate action and the declaration of a climate emergency by this parliament. As you see, in spite of what the Prime Minister says, the youth of today are not relaxed and comfortable. They are engaged and informed, and they are anxious for action on climate change because they know our future depends on it. They know what is at stake. The Prime Minister will not make the facts go away by simply dismissing them. Australia must transform the way that we do things in order to stay below a two-degree increase in global temperatures and must make efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. To do this, we must get to zero emissions by 2050. It is incumbent on us in this place to take action now so that future generations might be given a fighting chance. Labor will continue to fight for real action on climate change from this government. I support this declaration today of a climate emergency. I am proud to represent the activists in my electorate, who will also keep up the fight because they understand what is at stake.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.