Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Governor-General's Speech


1:33 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

We want a government which says, 'We're dealing with the reality of climate change. Let's pull together and let's do something about it.' We are all in this together, Senator Ryan—I see my colleague nodding his head. The atmosphere and the oceans are everybody's problems. If we do not take collective action, not the Greens, not an individual like Tim Flannery, but the vast body of science right around the world—you know that thing called science, that tool we have for gaining knowledge and wisdom?—is telling us we have to act. The great tragedy is that it is not going to take much—only a small proportion of our GDP and a much smaller impact than the imposition of the GST. How is it that our politics have become so ossified that even this tiny little adjustment means we cannot take action? It is because the deniers are in charge. The climate deniers are in charge and are in an unholy alliance with the big end of town.

The community are confused at the moment; I understand that. We are at a very low ebb. We have seen the abolition of the Climate Commission. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been told to stop investing. The Climate Change Authority is being ignored. A body of expertise in the government is not able to act. We have the spectre of Greg Hunt, so committed to climate change, saying, 'I'm going to do my thesis on a price on carbon,' and then crawling back into his cave and saying, 'I don't think we'll send a minister off to the climate change talks in Poland.'

Regardless of whether this parliament acts, the earth is going to do its own campaigning with more droughts, more floods and more tropical storms, with more deaths and more disease. You cannot just sit in your ivory tower, in the words of the Philippine delegates to the UN climate change talks, and do nothing about it, because the earth will make its own statement very clearly. We need to act and we need to act quickly. We need the government to show courage and leadership and some direction on this issue. We do not need the government, with its buddies in the big end of town, to live in this state of denial and not be prepared to say, 'This is something we need to confront. Maybe we've got some things wrong. Maybe we need to redefine some of our notions of progress. Maybe we need to uncouple the idea of growth from fossil fuel development and exploitation.' If we were to do that, maybe we would create new jobs and have new industries. Maybe we would have a situation where people in parts of Victoria like Portland and Waubra can get jobs in high-tech, value-added industries—engineers, manufacturers and so on. There may be opportunities here which we can exploit. But no. The politics of fear won this election but soon the Australian community will truly fear what the future may bring in an environment where climate change is with us, where extreme weather gets worse and where our children's children will not enjoy the same quality of life we enjoy. When we get to that moment and the Australian community begin to acknowledge that what they have been sold for the past three years is a campaign of fear and ignorance, then we will begin to take the steps needed to truly address action on climate change.


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