House debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023


Lunar New Year, Steffen, Emeritus Professor William Lee (Will)

7:54 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I have two quite separate matters to briefly address in the adjournment debate tonight. First, many Australians, over recent weeks, have been celebrating lunar new year, which is something that I'm sure many honourable members participated in. The Year of the Rabbit received a lot of attention, but I want to focus tonight on the Year of the Cat. The Year of the Cat did not receive as much attention in the media for reasons I understand. Of course, many people would not know that we even have a Year of the Cat, but, at midnight on 21 January, I had the great pleasure of attending the Phuoc Hue Temple in my electorate which is literally around the corner from my house to welcome in the Year of the Cat which is the Lunar New Year celebrated by the people of Vietnam. \

I very much thank the Phuoc Hue Temple for the celebration that they put on, as they always do. The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, Senior Venerable Thich Phuoc Vien, Senior Venerable Thich Ahn Chi , Venerable Thich Phuoc Quang and Henry Dang, the president of the association. It was a wonderful night, as it always is, with lots of celebration. There were big crowds out at midnight celebrating the Year of the Cat. Just as, quite rightly, we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, I want to put on record my celebration of the Year of the Cat. I do note that, on social media, when I celebrated the Year of the Cat, some people were quick to say that I was wrong and that there is no Year of the Cat. Sometimes it pays to check cultural issues and sensitivities before making that comment because, in fact, the Year of the Cat is very much celebrated by many Australians of Vietnamese heritage, as the member for Gellibrand very well knows.

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Chuc mung nam moi!

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

He participates and wishes his constituents chuc mung nam moi, as much as I do my constituents. Quite separately and differently, it is appropriate that we take a moment in the House to mark the passing of Mr Will Steffen. Will Steffen was a first-class climate scientist and a world-class communicator of the climate crisis. I know that the Australian broad climate family—if I could use that term—is mourning his passing very deeply. He served as a climate adviser to the Australian government in the Climate Commission, and was then a founding member of the Climate Council after the abolition of the Climate Commission. He was a renowned professor and the inaugural director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU. I know the member for Fenner knew Will Steffen well, and he has corresponded with me about his tragic passing.

Professor Steffen was a contributor—and this is no small thing—to five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, assessment reports. It is a serious undertaking for the scientists who contribute to the IPCC reports. It's a massive commitment of time, energy, and, frankly, scientists who contribute lay themselves open to all sorts of personal attacks and conspiracy theories that somehow they're in it for themselves. We've all heard those tropes; we've heard them all too often. I want to pay tribute to Professor Will Steffen. His passionate advocacy to advance action on climate change and his narrative as a skilled scientist and equally skilled communicator are sorely missed in Australia. He was dedicated to fighting for better climate action and he kept his life's work up until almost the very end.

I know that Professor Steffen mentored many people throughout the climate movement, which is probably one of the reasons why he is so missed and so mourned. He took people under his wing and talked to them about the challenges of communicating action on climate change. I know that many people in the Public Service in many different organisations were mentored by him. He was a pioneering advocate of the concept of the Anthropocene and planetary boundaries—no small concepts, I know, but ones which are important contributions to the debate, and they are well-understood concepts now around the world.

We can be very grateful that Will Steffen made Australia his home for a number of years. He contributed so much to the climate debate, working with governments and with non-government organisations. He is sorely missed, and I give my condolences to all who knew him, his colleagues and his family. May he rest in peace.. His was a life very well lived.

House adjourned at 19:58