Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2019; In Committee

1:28 pm

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

Fellow senators—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: You don't have the call, Senator Whish-Wilson. I've already put it. I said, 'The motion is that the amendments be agreed to,' well before you stood up.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting—

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: I can do it. I will do it as an accommodation but, Senator Whish-Wilson, keep it parliamentary, please.

Thank you. I appreciate that, Chair. I just wanted to appeal to my fellow senators today. This legislation is nothing but a Trojan horse to support the coal industry. This amendment being put forward by the Greens that we are now debating removes the ability for this government to fund—using public funds—a coal-fired power station because it suits their politics. I can't say it suits their policy on energy or climate, because they don't have one. But it certainly suits their politics.

Let's put this whole thing into context. Ever since I have been here—I witnessed in my first two years as a senator the Liberal and National parties in opposition doing everything they could to undermine the clean energy package, which had been brought in by the Greens and Labor, that raises the world's gold standard legislation package to tackle the rising emissions that have led to global warmings and the climate emergency that we find ourselves in today. There has been relentless, cynical, ruthless campaigning to remove action on climate.

Let me tell you a little story, Chair. I remember Senator Christine Milne, when she was here, sitting in that chair across there, after campaigning her entire career inside and outside of this parliament to get action on climate. She wasn't the first Greens to be campaigning on action on climate change in this place. Ex-Senator Bob Brown raised it in his first speech, in 1996—over 20 years ago—the imperative for us to act on the biggest challenge to our society and our economy.

I remember when the last bit of legislation to rip up the clean energy package came before the Senate. This is after, in the other place, members of parliament had stood up and done their 'ring a rosie'—Mr Greg Hunt, Mrs Kelly O'Dwyer and so on and so forth—celebrating and destroying the only parliamentary action we've seen in a decade on climate change. I remember seeing that. And I remember seeing Senator Milne in the last moments of the debate, just before it went to a vote, and this is after nearly 14 hours of us sitting in this chamber, listening to the nauseating climate-denial politics of the opposition. Those who know former Senator Milne know she's a hard woman, but I saw her hand tremble as she packed up her files, as the vote went through, as the people were patting themselves on the back. I saw her hand trembling when she saw her life's work go down the drain. I followed her outside this chamber, in that room out there, and I witnessed something I never thought I'd see: Senator Milne breaking down in tears. But, being the person she was, rather than having me distressed, she said: 'Don't worry, Peter. We're still going to win this fight.' And we have never given up fighting for action on climate change. That's why we've raised this amendment today. That's why we consistently highlight the need for action.

I'm going to get my chance a little bit later to talk about the events we are witnessing around this country—the catastrophic events that CSIRO warned us about in 2006. I've fought hard with my colleagues to make sure this government hasn't cut funding to the exact agencies that monitor and manage the risks that it is so necessary for us to understand and prepare for in this climate emergency. We have consistently raised that the No. 1 issue for a government is to protect its citizens and that we are facing, from changing weather patterns, the greatest threat to our nation, to its economy, to its communities and to its ecosystems and its environment. In 2006 CSIRO warned us that by 2020 we would see the exact conditions that we have seen in New South Wales and Queensland. And it's not just New South Wales and Queensland; some of the changes we're seeing right around this country are off the charts. We have to do everything we can to act on reducing emissions and taking the strongest possible action, and this big-stick legislation today—and I commend my colleague Adam Bandt in the other place for his leadership in highlighting this—is just a Trojan horse to support the coal industry, which shouldn't surprise anyone who understands the modus operandi of this government. It is in the pocket of big business, doing the bidding of those who donate to its coffers to keep it in power.

I've got another theory for you, Chair and fellow senators. It's not just political donations. It's not just this broken democratic system that allows vested interests to buy influence in this place. It's also this mob here: One Nation. They are the biggest electoral threat to the LNP and especially to the National Party. In New South Wales and Queensland, the major parties haemorrhage votes to One Nation and, sadly, rather than standing up for principles like fighting for action on climate change, transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy and spending money on the emergency services we need to tackle climate emergencies, they would rather pander to the antiscience, climate denial politics of One Nation. They have become One Nation in an attempt to hang on to power. That's what the cynical politics of this debate is now.

This bill is designed to be hung out there so that the Nationals and the Liberal Party can go out to these marginal seats and say, 'Hey, look what we've done: we're supporting coal and we're supporting employment in your region,' regardless of the fact that, as leaders who make the decisions that affect real people's lives, they could be putting in place a transition plan away from coal to renewables and the industries of the future while at the same time reducing emissions and taking the strongest possible action on climate change. That's what leadership looks like, that's what the Greens do in this place and that is what this amendment is. This is leadership on climate.

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