Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Climate Change

3:26 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, 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 Di Natale today relating to climate change.

Here we are, after the Christmas break, in the middle of summer, where we come on the back of a January where we have recorded the hottest-ever temperatures on record: 2018, again, was one of the hottest years on record and the last five years the hottest years on record since records were kept. Here we are on the back of those horrendous disasters: bushfires in Tasmania; parts of Tasmania that have never seen fire now being burnt; the shocking floods and torrential rains in Queensland, causing so much death and destruction; a Murray-Darling Basin that is in crisis and on the brink of collapse, with a million dead fish, including 70-year-old Murray cod that have survived countless droughts.

We know that these are not natural disasters. This is the result of a climate that is breaking down. We have to do something about it. Yet here we are, back in the parliament, with records tumbling and disasters across the country, and what has the coalition got? Nothing. More fear, more division within the community, beating up on innocent people seeking asylum, preventing them from getting the health care they need. Nothing to deal with the climate crisis that we're confronting right now. No plan to deal with coal. Eighty per cent of the coal that is dug up in this country ends up on a ship and is being burnt overseas. What is the government's plan? Indeed, what is the Labor Party's plan to deal with that coal, which is the single biggest contributor to the climate crisis we're confronting? We heard today from Minister Cormann. He gave us the drug dealer's defence: if we don't do it, someone else will. If we don't burn it, someone else will.

That's not good enough. We know that we have to do something about the coal that we're digging up and exporting and which is being burnt overseas. That's the challenge for us. We know we've got two big parties that are beholden to their corporate donors, to their big mates in the coal industry. They are hamstrung. They will not act in the national interest.

They say the economy needs it. Well, we have an economy that is transforming before our eyes. The Asian Renewable Energy Hub right now in the Pilbara has plans to export renewable energy—solar and wind—to parts of Asia. Japan and South Korea, two of our three biggest coal customers, have put out a global tender to be supplied with hydrogen. We could be supplying renewable hydrogen to the rest of the world rather than contributing to catastrophic climate damage. We need a plan to help manufacturers cut their emissions, to strengthen their bottom line. We've got a plan. The Greens have a plan to help households install more solar panels, to increase energy storage, to ensure we get the electrification of our transport networks and to get energy efficiency and energy productivity back on track, but this government needs to listen not just to the Greens but to the community that's screaming out for a plan. It needs to listen to the voices of those young people, the school strikers, who were out there campaigning for their future, which is being ripped away from them by a government too busy doing the bidding of their big fossil fuel donors. These incredible children right across the country were saying: 'We need leadership. We need you to act because you are damaging our prospects for living in a safe and healthy climate.'

The natural disasters that we are enduring this summer are not natural disasters. They are climate-induced disasters, and we are on the front line of these climate-induced disasters. We're both the canary and the coalmine. Minister, we need to act. We need to act now. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.