Senate debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

4:39 pm

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate:

(1) notes:

(a) Monday 2 December 2019 marks ten years since the Senate failed to pass legislation for a comprehensive economy wide climate change policy, the Rudd Labor government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS);

(b) that implementation of the CPRS would have resulted in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions being between 27 and 81 million tonnes lower in 2020 than currently projected, would have delivered additional cumulative abatement of between 63 and 218 million tonnes over the last 10 years, and would have placed Australian emissions on a sustained and long term downward trajectory;

(c) in addition to Labor senators, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills were supported by Liberal senators Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth;

(d) despite the constructive negotiations engaged in by Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Ian Macfarlane, the Liberals and Nationals opposed the bills under the leadership of Mr Tony Abbott;

(e) the Australian Greens joined with the Liberals and Nationals and also opposed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, guaranteeing its defeat;

(2) recognises the decision by the Liberals and Nationals and the Australian Greens to join together and oppose the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme precipitated:

(a) a breakdown in consensus on policy in Australia to address the challenges of climate change;

  (b) a decade of policy instability preventing necessary investment in energy infrastructure leading to increases in energy prices and increased emissions; and

(3) calls on all parties to end the political opportunism and work together to agree an enduring solution to the challenges of climate change.

This week marks 10 years since the coalition and the Greens voted down Labor's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and where do we find ourselves? Emissions are still going up, power prices are going up and the promises of the CPRS, which were lower emissions, better jobs for Australians and lower power prices have not been delivered. The implementation of the CPRS would have resulted in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions being between 27 and 81 million tonnes lower in 2020 than currently projected. The CPRS was supported by Liberal senators Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth. As printed in The Guardian today, my colleague Pat Conroy, the shadow minister assisting for climate change, gave a speech at the ANU. He is right when he said:

The Coalition and the Greens bear a heavy responsibility for the fact that, a decade later, Australia still does not have an effective policy to tackle climate change by reducing emissions.

The Greens' decision to side with the Liberal and National parties to defeat Labor's CPRS in the Senate in 2009 was a massive error of political judgement with far-reaching consequences. We are facing a climate change emergency in this country, and this is undisputed. There is widespread agreement among experts about the risk posed by climate change and about the policy responses needed to reduce Australia's carbon emissions at the lowest cost to our economy, and yet there is now a breakdown in consensus on climate-change policy in Australia.

In the Northern Territory, Darwin already has an average of 22.2 days per year over 35 degrees Celsius, up from 5.6 days a century ago. Without rapid cuts to greenhouse pollution, in 2030 Darwin is likely to have 132 days—that is, four months—over 35 degrees Celsius per year and 275 days, or eight months, over 35 degrees Celsius each year in 2070. We have a rich ecosystem of plants, animals and sea life in the Territory carefully cared for by First Nations rangers. First Nations people have been looking after this land over nearly 60,000 years.

I want to talk about my community in the Gulf country for the Yanyuwa, Garawa, Marra and Gurdanji peoples. The mangroves around the seabeds of the Yanyuwa sea lands are dying. Each time we go out on the water with the rangers, even when I took my family out there and when I took a group of school students out there, the dramatic change in just a few months and certainly over the last 12 months really frightens us. It certainly frightens the elders because we haven't seen anything like it. When I speak to some of the old people about what's going on there, there are lots of thoughts but we are really fearful for country. Urgency really is needed in many of our places but I speak particularly in this instance about the Anyuwar seabed and mangrove country.

Traditional owner Patsy Evans visited the site in the Gulf of Carpentaria recently as well and said: 'This is bad, worse, unbelievable. I can't even believe what is happening here.' She said she wanted policymakers to see how climate change was affecting the land near the Limmen river area, 750 kilometres south of Darwin. She said that we should go out and see what's happening, be aware, look at it and don't make decisions where you are. Here I am passing on her call—

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