Tuesday, 20 March 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Leader of the Government, representing the Prime Minister. Minister, my heart goes out to the many people who have been affected by the bushfires in Tathra and in south-western Victoria. They have suffered terrible losses and we must all come together to help them rebuild. I have spoken to many who have lost their homes after previous bushfires—including some of my own neighbours. Like them, they have asked me—in fact, pleaded with me—to bring up the link between climate change and bushfires. They say that treating the symptoms and not the cause is putting them at risk. Minister, you say that now is not the right time to talk about climate change. What do you say to those many people who have called on us to say that right now is precisely the time to be talking about climate change and the impact it is having on them in their lives?
We do talk about climate change, and the government is taking effective action against climate change, consistent with commitments we have made internationally. No amount of Greens posturing would have prevented the sad events that we have witnessed in recent days. I think it reflects very poorly on the Greens in general and on Senator Di Natale in particular that he is making this link in this way on this occasion.
Minister, why is your position any different to that of the NRA in America, who, whenever there is a shooting of innocent people, claim it is not the right time to talk about gun control. Why is your position any different?
Honourable senators interjecting—
In due deference to and out of the great respect we have for the many people affected by the tragedies in New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory, I will resist providing a political answer, except to say that if you listen carefully to what I said in response to the primary question, I made the point that not only are we talking about climate change; our government is taking effective action against climate change. As such, the premise of your question is false, and if you had listened more carefully to the answer to the primary question, you would have adjusted your supplementary question accordingly.
Minister, it's true that you talk about climate change, but you talk about it to deny it. How is supporting the Adani coalmine helping people to mitigate bushfires? How is reducing the Renewable Energy Target supporting action on climate change? How is bringing a lump of coal into the Australian parliament and waving it around doing anything to advance the action we need to take when it comes to dangerous climate change?
This government believes Australia is in a great position to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, including by contributing our cleaner coal into markets around the world where it would displace dirtier coal which would otherwise lead to higher global greenhouse gas emissions. Australia has a unique contribution to make to the world by exporting our gas and cleaner coal, and we are able to develop our economy, create jobs and achieve better environmental outcomes at the same time. We believe that is our responsibility to the Australian people.