Monday, 9 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator McKenzie, the Minister for Agriculture, representing the minister for natural disaster and emergency management. This morning on Radio National the minister for natural disaster and emergency management, Minister Littleproud, was asked whether human-induced climate change was contributing to the unprecedented fires tearing apart Southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and he said that it was, 'irrelevant'. Minister, do you agree with the 23 emergency services chiefs from all states and territories—who have over 600 years of collective experience and who put their lives on the line—who have pleaded with your government to deal with the escalating human-induced climate crisis? Or do you agree with Minister Littleproud, who has dismissed their concerns as 'irrelevant'?
What I won't be doing, Senator Di Natale, is politicising bushfires which right now are affecting landholders, homes, environmental assets and farmers in communities in Queensland and north-east New South Wales. I will not do that while our state governments and we as a federal entity are dealing with the fallout that is occurring right now.
There's annual weather variability, and I've been very up-front in this chamber, as has Minister Littleproud, about the fact that the climate is changing. There is variability around the climate. That is why our government has been taking strong action on climate change, with our climate emergency fund, with our Climate Solutions Package, where farmers and small business people will be able to apply to us, with projects that will reduce emissions in the real term. Those are actual, practical, effective policy responses to climate change. You don't like to think that we may have a solution on the table that will assist in reducing emissions in this country—from farmers in these affected regions, from our food manufacturers and small businesses—but the fact is: we do have that on the table. They will be able to apply for technological responses that will assist their businesses to reduce their emissions and therefore assist us, as a nation, to meet our Paris targets—26 to 28 per cent on 2005. Again, you may not like to hear it, but we are, as a nation, going to solve that problem. We're going to meet those targets, where many, many nations across the world are not even coming close and haven't even signed up to the Paris Agreement. So, rather than ripping us down, let's work together to reduce emissions and meet our Paris Agreement targets.
Minister, when will you acknowledge that your government's stubborn inaction on reducing pollution and shameless spruiking of more coal, oil and gas projects mean that you are putting at risk the lives of emergency services workers, people who live in bushfire-prone communities, the loss of property and the terminal extinction of Australian species? When will you acknowledge that your inaction on climate change is responsible for putting the lives of Australians at risk?
That was all very dramatic, Senator Di Natale. I fundamentally reject the premise of your question. I've outlined just one of the measures that our government has on the table to address climate change and the reduction of emissions across our economy. You mightn't like it—it might not be your solution—but the reality is: it will reduce emissions and it will assist, with practical measures, our farmers and our small businesses to use technology to reduce emissions. But I'm very happy to go through other measures. We've funded improved seasonal forecasting tools to inform decision-making on farm so that our primary producers can make changes to how they produce our food in a way that is much more emissions sensitive; tax incentives, including depreciation arrangements, to encourage on-farm investment in preparedness for these sorts of issues; establishing and topping up the now $1 billion National Water Infrastructure Development Fund; investing over $1 billion in Landcare— (Time expired)
Minister, you've talked a lot about climate variability. I want to ask you a simple question. Do you accept that human-induced climate change is making bushfires worse and therefore puts at risk the lives of ordinary Australians?
Our government has made very clear that we take climate change seriously. We've got a suite of policy options on the table to practically assist our economy, our individuals and our businesses to adapt their practices and their way of life to ensure that we—
Mr President, I deliberately made that a very, very narrow question. I asked the minister whether she accepted that human-induced climate change would make bushfires worse and therefore put more Australians at risk. It was a very straightforward question, and she's refused to answer the substance of that question.
Senator Di Natale, you've reminded the minister of the question. It is not for me in the chair to direct a minister how to answer a question. That is for everyone else to judge, as long as the minister is being directly relevant to it—and, with the minister's answer, I do consider her to be directly relevant.
Senator Di Natale, I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to ensure that the stereotypical perspective of the National Party continues. The reality is: we're part of a government that is actually addressing climate change and that put practical measures on the table, across our budget last year, to actually address this.
I know the minister is steadfastly refusing to answer the question because she doesn't want to put on the table her position on whether she believes that humans are responsible for climate change. It's a very straightforward question, Minister.
Senator Di Natale, that was not a point of order. It's not an opportunity to follow up a question. I gave you the opportunity to remind the minister of the question you asked, but I cannot instruct the minister how to answer a question.