Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Galilee Basin (Coal Prohibition) Bill 2018; Second Reading

3:48 pm

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

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


Climate change is destroying people's lives and livelihoods, through ever worsening and increasingly frequent heat waves, floods and droughts. Climate change is pushing many of our most vulnerable species and ecosystems to the brink of extinction. It will change the way we live our lives. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released in October of this year, once again reiterates that we must keep coal in the ground if we are to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Staying under 1.5 degrees does not require new technologies to be developed to replace coal fired power - those technologies already exist. It does not require waiting for the cost of renewable energy to be comparable to the cost of coal fired energy - we're already there. Keeping warming to within 1.5 degrees is now just a matter of political will and leadership.

This Galilee Basin (Coal Prohibition) Bill 2018 seeks to do exactly what the science is telling us is necessary - keep coal in the ground. This bill will prohibit all mining of thermal coal in Queensland's Galilee basin. This bill will prevent the disastrous Adani Carmichael mine from going ahead, as well as the eight other mega coal mines planned for the Galilee Basin. We know that if the entire Galilee Basin is developed it has the potential to add more than 700 million tonnes carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere each year. Australia currently emits around 400 million tonnes per year. If the Galilee Basin were a country, it would be the seventh highest CO2 emitter in the world, sitting just behind Germany and well above Canada and the UK. Allowing this basin to be opened up is both socially and environmentally negligent. The Galilee Basin is a giant carbon bomb. Over the lifetime of these projects, the coal that is mined would produce enough emissions to consume 7% of the world's remaining carbon budget. This drastic addition to global emissions has the potential to single-handedly derail efforts to avoid runaway climate change.

We haven't opened a coal basin in 50 years, and we shouldn't do so now. The Great Barrier Reef has just suffered repeated years of mass coral bleaching, which has led to 50% of the coral cover dying. This natural wonder of the world is at extreme risk from climate change, as are the 64,000 people who rely upon it for their livelihoods. As Professor Terry Hughes has said, we must choose between new coal or the Reef, we cannot have both.

The Labor Party could stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine today by supporting this bill to end thermal coal mining in the Galilee Basin. We could have the numbers in the Parliament to immediately stop Adani and keep all the Galilee coal in the ground , but only if Labor has the guts to back our bill.

The real reason both major parties refuse to stop Adani is because of the millions in donations that they take from big fossil fuel companies in order to make sure that their decisions put their interests before yours. Labor, the Liberal and National parties have accepted $3.7 million in donations from the fossil fuel sector since 2013.

The Labor party has recently claimed they cannot stop the Adani mine due to sovereign risk. This is a misplaced argument that the Labor Party invented to make it seem like acting would be too difficult. In fact the greatest sovereign risk to Australia is the risk of climate change. The cost of the climate crisis to our safety, our communities, nature, and our economy will already be immense and both the climate impacts and the costs would be turbo-charged by mines like Adani and others in the other Galilee Basin.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bill Shorten won't show leadership because he's more worried about an attack from the coal mining companies and the Coalition than protecting our climate. And his party, like the Coalition, is hooked on the donations from coal mining and other resources companies.

Digging up and burning coal is the single greatest contributor to dangerous climate change in the world. Just because these emissions will be on the books of whatever country we sell it to, this doesn't mean these emissions won't affect the climate just the same as if we burnt it here in Australia.

The Government could stop Adani by voting for this bill or by committing to a review of Adani's Carmichael mine approvals on the basis of new information about the company's conduct, and the state of the world's climate, that's come about since the approvals were granted.

Governments pass laws all the time that outlaw the mining or production of hazardous materials. This isn't reinventing the wheel. We didn't pay compensation when asbestos was outlawed. We didn't pay compensation to tobacco companies when we instituted plain packaging. We don't need to pay compensation if coal mining in the Galilee Basin is outlawed.

This debate isn't happening in a vacuum - all around the world countries are moving away from coal because of the scientific consensus that we need to stop digging up and burning coal if we're going to prevent catastrophic climate change. The coal that Australia exports overseas is responsible for at least twice as much emissions as the coal we burn at home.

The human and environmental impacts of climate change are too high a price to pay so that a few companies can keep making billions of dollars in profits. Over the last few years we have seen unprecedented extreme weather events in Australia. Queensland is still battling over 100 bushfires sparked by the catastrophic heatwave conditions of last week. Bushfires aren't the only danger that heatwaves cause. Heatwaves in recent years around Australia have resulted in increased hospital admissions for kidney disease, acute renal failure and heart attacks, and in death. During severe heatwaves in January 2009, Melbourne experienced three consecutive days at or above 43°C. The death rate for that period was 374 above the average for that time of year, an increase of 62%. This is just one example of the human impacts of climate change - we're not just talking about just a few extra hot days a year or the jacarandas in my hometown flowering a few weeks early. We're talking about people losing their lives because of the vacuum of leadership on climate change in this country. We must keep coal in the ground; this bill is one way to achieve that outcome.

Debate adjourned.