Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018



4:41 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

We should be suspending standing orders, because Senator Waters deserved to move this motion. It doesn't deserve to have leave denied. This is one of the most important issues of our lifetime. If you want to talk about water, what about that body of water off the coastline called the ocean? We have had two back-to-back bleaching events. Our best climate science models predicted it wasn't possible to have back-to-back coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef before 2050, yet, in 2016 and 2017, we had the fourth bleaching event in 10 years, with back-to-back bleaching. It's official: half the reef is dead. Half the Great Barrier Reef is dead. And guess what? Sadly, we are on track for a third bleaching—a third bleaching in four years. That will spell the end of the Great Barrier Reef. If it is anything like the bleaching events that we saw in 2016, that reef will not recover—not in our lifetime. Think about that. This is critical. This motion deserves to be moved. Any senator who doesn't believe that this is one of the most important issues facing not just this chamber and this country but humanity needs to get their head checked. They need a reality check. I have gone up there and stuck my head under the water, and I suggest that every senator does the same thing. The Senate Environment and Communications Committee went up there. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef. We heard from the exporters. We know that there are 60,000 jobs at stake if that barrier reef continues to die on our watch. The only thing we can do is take every possible means to cut emissions, both here in this country and overseas. That means no more coalmines and no more coal exports. That's what this motion is about. This is not just about the damage that this mine is going to do to the watertable in a drought impacted Queensland, in a country totally in drought, in a country with catastrophic bushfires, once again breaking temperature records.

The sad thing is, Senator O'Sullivan, that it is not just about Queensland. In my state of Tasmania we have lost our giant kelp forests—an ecosystem 10,000 years old that stretched from north-east Tasmania right to the bottom of south-west Tasmania, and it is gone, through climate change, the impacts of invasive species, warming waters, ocean acidification and extreme storms. That ecosystem was the home to all our commercial fisheries. That is just the beginning of what's going on off the coast of my state because of climate change. This is an issue that affects every single one of us. It couldn't be more serious. And to have it denied formality by the Senate—we need to be having a debate, we need to be suspending standing orders, we need to see this motion moved.

As for the Labor Party, I swear I heard you during question time, reading from a young Australian who was here for the climate protests, asking Mr Morrison why he hugged coal. Well, I've just seen you hugging coal in here today as well. Seriously, you can't have your cake and eat it. This is so serious a matter. There is a line in the sand that we have to draw. We need no new coalmines. We need to take a very strong stand on this.


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