House debates

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Grievance Debate

Climate Change

4:31 pm

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Climate change is testing our democracy, just as it is testing our planet. This parliament has failed the test of reconciling the science with our policy settings. My goals in this place are pretty simple: secure jobs, stronger communities, and making sure we plan for the future. We can't deliver on our aspirations for our country without a path to a low carbon future. If you believe in a stronger, safer Australia, you should believe in acting on climate change.

I love Western Australia: walking through Kings Park in summer, going to Cottesloe Beach, having a few too many wines in the Swan Valley, taking a holiday in Yallingup and living in the most beautiful and biodiverse place anywhere on the earth. I want to make sure that magic is there for the next generation—and the generation after that—so they can walk through the Valley of the Giants, go for a swim or a splash in the Swan River or meet a quokka for the first time. My constituents want action on climate change to protect their lifestyle, to ensure we hand over a healthier planet to the next generation and to afford them the economic opportunities that we have all had access to.

Australia is an energy exporter. We have a unique set of skills, enterprise and resources. As the world transitions to an electrified and hydrogen economy, Australia can maintain its position as an exporter of energy. Major employers in my electorate—Fortescue, Rio Tinto, BHP, South32 and even Bunnings—are committed to net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier. If Australia gets this transition right, we will live in an even more secure world. We'll have even more secure, higher-quality jobs, and people will be able to continue to pursue those jobs that they've loved in the mining, resources and energy sector, such as being an engineer, a site supervisor or a programmer.

If we get it wrong, we will face consequences. Main Roads Western Australia have released a report showing that Langley Park, the front doorstep to the Perth CBD, disappears, and that Perth city, in parts, floods if we do not prevent our oceans from rising. The Water Corporation of Western Australia has stated very bluntly:

Already one of the most fire-prone regions in the world, Western Australia's fire risk has increased over the past 4 decades due to climate change …

The Water Corporation says:

Due to climate change, the average 20% decline in rainfall throughout the South West has seen streamflow reduce by over 80%.

This, as we know, leads to a higher reliance on desalination and other energy-intensive ways of providing safe, clean drinking water.

These scenarios are real. The Bureau of Meteorology has told us—told every single member of this parliament:

In Australia, the climate has warmed on average by 1.44 °C since national records began in 1910. The last ten years 2011-2020 were the hottest on record.

In Australia's hottest decade on record, the Liberal Party and the National Party members turned on one another—a decade of leadership turmoil in the Liberal and National parties, all because of climate change.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who was sworn in this morning, has described the push for renewable energy as 'insane'. He's described the push for renewable energy as 'lemming-like'. He refuses to accept the responsibility to lead and to act. When we are elected, that comes with responsibility: that you will take difficult decisions and lead people to places that will make sure that their prosperity is protected. There's a model for this. Bob Hawke showed Australia that model. You can transform the economy. You can modernise the economy. You can liberate the economy and protect Australia's environment. The reality is that's the only path to sustainable prosperity. Bob Hawke's granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price noted at his state funeral:

He saw it as a collective failure of our nation that we have traded short-term interests over intergenerational equality.

Short-term thinking will always give us long-term pain.

What we saw from the G7 meeting in Cornwall was strong commitment to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees, to reach net zero no later than 2050 and to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of our land and oceans by 2030. It's clear, if it wasn't before, that Australia needs a plan to fit into that global commitment—one where we all benefit. As the Leader of the Opposition said in Perth at his Kings Park vision statement:

…Australia can not only continue to be an energy exporting superpower, we can also enjoy a new manufacturing boom. This means jobs.

The Business Council of Australia has noted, 'A net zero emissions future will also create new jobs.' The Investor Group on Climate Change has stated:

Climate change poses a systemic risk to the jobs and growth of the Australian economy.

In a major report by Deloitte, they noted that failing to act on climate change will cost Australia $3.4 trillion and will mean 880,000 fewer jobs in just the next 50 years. But there is an alternative vision where we can gain 250,000 jobs and grow the economy by $680 billion. That's the choice in front of us. That is the choice that we can make in this building in the actions we make today and every day. It is in our hands.

We are a big country. Our electricity system includes more than 1,000 separate networks. In 2001, there were just 118 Australian households with rooftop solar. That was 20 years ago. Now more than 2.8 million Australian households have solar panels on their roofs. What do we have to thank for that phenomenon? We have government to thank. Indeed, we have John Howard to thank for that transformation, acknowledging that government can take small, practical steps towards reducing our reliance on traditional sources of energy to more sustainable and, indeed, cheaper sources of energy.

Australian households remain desperate to do their bit to address climate change. When it comes to global investment in renewable power, we saw approximately US$300 billion invested in 2018 alone. The world is ready to cooperate and ready to act, just as the US, Japan, South Korea and the European Union have done. But, if we fail to act on climate change, we will miss out on opportunities. Australia produces seven times our share of the world's energy. We export more than three-quarters of it. This contributes nearly $80 billion to our economy. If we seize the opportunities of renewable energy, that could be even more. Labor wants to seize those opportunities, protect the Australian way of life and protect our lifestyle in a way that means we don't live against the environment but live with it. Indeed, here in the bush capital we live with our environment.

Renewable energy presents many opportunities for Australians, including jobs. It employs 25,000 people locally, and projects already on the books could deliver another 29,000 new full-time equivalent jobs. Labor recognises this opportunity. That's why we've committed to create 10,000 new energy apprenticeships, giving the next generation the opportunity to build a career in renewable energy and energy generation. We also know that we have to transform our energy grids. We are lucky to live in this big, diverse, sprawling land, Australia, but, if we are to move energy where Australians need it, we need an electrical grid built for this century. That's why Labor has committed to a $20 billion plan to rewire the nation. Keep the lights on; keep Australians employed.

That's what we need right now. We need connection, not division, not working to turn ourselves against one another—but, unfortunately, that's what we continue to see from this government. No plan for a new energy future; instead, a plan for a new Deputy Prime Minister. No plan on reducing emissions; just a list of people who have been emitted from cabinet. We need to act on climate change, and to do that we need a government change.