Senate debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Australian Natural Disasters

3:32 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to climate change.

I pointed out the tragic fires that are burning across Queensland as we speak, and the minister refused to really even engage with the substance of my question. He did say some commendable words to support our emergency service personnel, which, I am sure, all of us in this chamber would support, and I myself have put that on record and will do so again. But he then completely refused to engage with the premise of my question, which is that climate scientists are telling us that these extreme weather events are going to get more damaging, they are going to get worse and they are going to get more frequent. Yet this government and, frankly, the opposition as well have been waving through every single coalmine that has gone over either of their desks. The environment minister has to tick off on those things, and, so far, we have not had a single environment minister at the Commonwealth level that has ever said no to a coalmine.

We have seen, this last week, that there is another coalmine in the Galilee Basin that now wants to try to steam ahead. In fact, just in the last half an hour we have seen an announcement by the offshore coalmining company Adani that it's going to put its hand in its own pocket to fund its own mine. I think that's supposed to be news, even though this is actually about the sixth time they've announced that they've got funding, and it's kind of not really surprising when a billionaire announces that they've got money to fund their own project! But I suppose they did have their hand out for taxpayer dollars the year before last. So who knows whether or not this announcement actually means anything or is just yet more PR spin.

What we do know is that that mine doesn't have all of its approvals yet, and, in particular, the groundwater management plan still needs to be ticked off on by the Queensland government and the federal government. So this is a final opportunity for both sides of politics—Labor at the Queensland level, and the coalition government at the federal level—to actually finally heed the very clear warnings of scientists and the desperate cries of Queenslanders who are watching their communities burn, and finally step in and refuse to make this problem worse by ticking off on new coal.

The link is perfectly clear. I don't know why people here still don't get it. You dig the coal; you burn it; you worsen climate change; the weather gets worse; people die; the reef dies. It's actually not that complicated. I think the only thing I've left out there is that the coalmining companies put the money into the pockets of the big parties. It's $2.4 million, in a three-year stretch, to both sides of politics. Is that really all it's worth? Is that really all it takes to buy off climate action? A few million in your re-election coffers, and you're happy to ignore climate science? It's an abomination.

I know there are many good people in this place who probably feel pretty uncomfortable about that situation and probably are equally saddened by what's happening in Queensland. Please listen to that inner voice and please speak to the folk in your party and please get them to change direction. It's not some big racket where the scientists just want more research funding. They're actually begging us to take notice and to not add more fossil fuels to the system.

The world's climate scientists have come together, and the latest IPCC report could not be clearer. And here we have half of Queensland on fire and Sydney in flood. This is not a joke. This is not something that is going to happen in the future. This is something that is affecting the safety of our communities now. It's not just affecting the safety of our environment, which obviously we Greens care a bit more about than the rest of you do. It is affecting communities and people, something that we're all meant to care about.

The minister didn't engage on that at all. I then asked him whether he would rule out giving taxpayer dollars to this latest coalmine. No, he doesn't accept the premise of that question; he isn't going to answer it at all. Great. We might be fighting another battle to say: not only should you not be approving these climate-destroying and lifestyle-destroying mines but you actually shouldn't be giving taxpayers' hard-earned money to them for free.

I mentioned the fact that insurance premiums have already increased and are verging on unaffordable for so many North Queenslanders already. The insurance industry, which has been at the forefront of climate science for many, many years now, has itself acknowledged that the difference in premiums between 1½ degrees and two degrees, which we are well on track for, is massive. They are saying that premiums will continue to go up. People's homes will be damaged. They won't be able to afford insurance. They're going to be left with nothing, all because this government and this opposition are in the pocket of the mining industry, take the dirty money and have absolutely no policy position. You need to step up and save our community.

Question agreed to.