Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Future Drought Fund Bill 2019, Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019; In Committee
What is the point of Labor, one might ask, when for the whole debate on this bill they were saying that they were opposed to this bill because it withdrew funds from the Building Australia Fund? Yet we just had a vote where the Labor Party could have supported us but voted against our amendment that would have stopped ripping money out of the Building Australia Fund.
Labor had every opportunity to vote with the Greens. In fact, the numbers in this Senate mean that if Labor had voted with the Greens we would have had the potential to actually change the legislation, to have achieved something. We would've had the potential to make sure that this drought fund didn't rip money out of infrastructure. The numbers very well could have been there in this Senate, because the fact that it was ripping money out of transport infrastructure was a very important aspect of this bill; it was what Labor had been rabbiting on about for the last fortnight. They had the opportunity to join with us to actually change what was in the legislation—to achieve results and actually improve the legislation. That is what we do in the Senate: we consider legislation and we move amendments to it. And we could've successfully moved that amendment—but no.
For whatever reason, Labor have decided that they're cuddling up to the government, not being an opposition; they're rolling over and having their tummies tickled. It is just so distressing! I mean, there are the numbers in this Senate to achieve good things. The government does not have the control of this Senate. There was the opportunity here to improve this bill, and Labor squibbed it.
But here we go: I'm presenting you with another opportunity. I'm presenting it to the government as well. But, then again, given that the government don't accept that we're in a climate crisis—they're in total climate denial—sadly, I'm not expecting them to support it. This goes to the fact that we're setting up a fund that's going to have $5 billion in it. This fund is going to be invested. What's critically important is that this fund is not investing in fossil fuels—the very things that are causing our climate crisis. We know why we're in a climate crisis. It's because we continue to burn coal and gas and oil. And, to tackle our climate crisis, we need to be rapidly reducing the coal and gas and oil that we are burning.
One way—a powerful way—that governments have of sending a message to say that we want to be rapidly reducing the amount of coal and gas and oil we burn is to not invest in them and to say: 'We, as a government, accept the reality of climate change. We accept that we need to be getting out of the mining and burning of coal and gas and oil. Therefore, we're not going to invest in them.' Given that this is a drought fund and given that the reason we are in severe drought is because of our climate crisis, I would've thought that was a very prudent thing to do.
It is the height of cynicism, the height of hypocrisy, to have a fund that's dealing with drought while at the same time saying: 'Let the climate crisis rip. Let's just keep on keeping on with the burning of coal and gas and oil.' We can't do that. It is absolutely abrogating our responsibility to future generations to create a safe climate for our children and grandchildren and to actually have a healthy environment that we can all feel positive about and can be working towards. It's an abrogation of that responsibility to continue to invest in the very thing that is causing our climate crisis and the very thing that is causing the droughts that, as the minister said in his opening statement, are with us and just ongoing. Yes, they are. It's because of climate change. Yes, we've always had droughts in this country, but the droughts are getting worse; they are getting longer; they are getting more intense. The Bureau of Meteorology, our experts on our climate, have said that the drought that we are currently experiencing is the worst in Australia's history and it is affected by climate change. It is only the worst because of the impacts of climate change.
It is up to all of us here to be doing something about that. These amendments are a very significant way of doing something about that—of actually making sure that the drought fund that is going to be repairing the impacts of climate change is not, at the same time, investing in the very things that are causing it. These amendments on sheet 8704 would mean that the drought fund would not invest in coal and gas and oil. Furthermore, that would then be included in the investment mandate for this fund, and furthermore these amendments say that this fund should again be a disallowable instrument, to make sure that the investment mandate is as it should be—that it is taking the reality of our climate catastrophe into account. These aren't extreme measures; they aren't unthought of. They're the sort of things that governments all around the world are doing. It's good governance in this age of our climate crisis. These are the very things that good governments do. If they are serious about tackling climate change then they need to be serious, and we need to be serious, about not investing in the very things that are causing it.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendments (1) to (5) on sheet 8704 be agreed to.