Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Matters of Urgency
I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 this morning, 10 proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate the following letter has been received from Senator Waters:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today I propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
We are facing an existential climate crisis that threatens human civilisation and the government needs to act, starting by supporting the global climate strike on 20 September."
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.
On Friday 20 September, millions of people right across the world will be striking together in solidarity to demand a safe and stable climate. Many of them will be school students and their brothers, their sisters, their mums, their dads and their grandparents; there will be tradies and CEOs; there will be young people and old people, and all shades in between—all demanding an end to fossil fuels, and climate justice. I hope my two kids are with me when I march, because, when I took on this job, in my first speech I made it clear to them that I was doing it for their generation so that their generation could enjoy all of the wonderful, precious biodiversity that we coexist with on this fragile little blue planet of ours: the temperate rainforests, the wild rivers and forests and the precious biodiversity that they support. So in every major city right across the world people will be gathering to demand a secure future for themselves. It is going to be the biggest get-together on any single issue that the world has seen. And it has got to be, because we are in the biggest single crisis that humanity has ever confronted.
At a time of great despair comes great hope. Watching the next generation mobilise and become active gives me hope. What an inspiration to see their passion and their activism to build a better world—a passion that is not clouded by cynicism or compromise; a passion that is dedicated to the pursuit of truth. We are in a parliament where so many people are doing things for themselves, for their political donors or for political expediency. And it is young people today who are showing us what it means to act in pursuit of something that makes the world a better and fairer place.
We are on track for our generation to be the first in human history to hand on worse living conditions—a planet in great disrepair. That is what we are on track for: worse living conditions than we enjoyed. And that's why we'll be standing with the climate strikers in their demands: for no new coal, oil or gas projects, because we don't have a moment to lose; for 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030; and for funding for a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers, because action on climate change is justice. We'll be campaigning for the hundreds of thousands of new jobs, long-term jobs, for communities, to build a sustainable future for everyone. We'll be standing with those brave people who understand, right now, that we do not have a moment to lose.
I have to say it's pretty galling as a Tasmanian to be lectured by the Greens about an existential crisis and the need to act urgently on climate change today, while, at the same time, this same party is actively campaigning against a massive renewable energy development in my home state. Tasmania, of course, is the nation's leader when it comes to renewable energy. For decades, our primary energy source has been the clean, reliable, renewable hydro energy from our hydro-electric dams. It was these very dams that the Greens, who have raised this matter of public urgency today, opposed the construction of. Indeed, Bob Brown famously said that Tasmania shouldn't be building dams; we should be building—wait for it—coal-fired power stations. And now what's the latest thing that Bob Brown and the Greens are opposed to in Tasmania? A wind farm!
This is not just any wind farm, but the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. This wind farm, at Robbins Island in the far north-west corner of our state, would create major employment in the north-west of Tasmania and complement the abundance of baseload hydro-energy generation in Australia, to lower electricity prices and increase energy security. Perhaps counterintuitively, given their constant rhetoric on climate change, like what we are discussing today, the Greens at both a state and federal level have fallen in behind their former leader and confirmed they also don't support the Robbins Island wind farm.
Why don't they support $1.6 billion in renewable energy in a project in regional Tasmania? I will quote Bob Brown directly. Dr Brown said that the Robbins Island plan was, visually, a step too far:
Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50 kms out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from great distances on land. Its eye-catchiness will divert from every coastal scene on the western Bass Strait coastline.
Just so I've got my head straight on this, what we are discussing here today in this matter of urgency brought on by the Greens is an existential crisis which we must deal with urgently—unless, of course, the solution is something that might ruin the view. I have never heard such contradiction and hypocrisy in my life.
The Greens are virtually salivating over the prospect of campaigning against and trying to block this project, the Robbins Island wind farm in north-west Tasmania. Bob Brown has indeed described it as 'the next Franklin Dam'. What a great comparison! Forty years ago the Greens campaigned against and stopped a major renewable energy and job creation project in Tasmania. Four decades later they're setting up to do it all again.
This motion says:
… the government needs to act, starting by supporting the global climate strike on 20 September 2019.
Here's an idea: how about we act by supporting a $1.6 billion renewable energy project?
Is there anything that sums up the Greens better than preferring to mount a public protest rather than supporting a $1.6 billion project designed to tackle exactly the problem they're claiming today to be so concerned about? Actually, I can do one better: despite the existential crisis of climate change, in the last quarter of this year alone Greens members and senators spent more than $66,000 on domestic flights. The Leader of the Greens took 29 flights and spent almost $19,300 on Comcars. There was an additional $158,000 in travel for Greens staffers. So while climate change might be an existential crisis, it shouldn't get in the way of Greens members flying and driving around as much as they like.
The coalition government has a strong track record of meeting and beating our emissions targets while keeping our economy strong. We are on track to overachieve on our 2020 target of 367 million tonnes. This is a turnaround from the emissions debt we inherited when we took office. Through our $3½ billion Climate Solutions Package, we've mapped out, down to the last tonne, how we are going to meet the 328 tonnes of abatement needed to meet our Paris target. We have laid out how we will deliver our 2030 target 11 years ahead of time to the last tonne. Central to this is our $3½ billion Climate Solutions Package. This package will support farmers, businesses and the Indigenous community to reduce greenhouse gases through the Climate Solutions Fund, building on the success of the ERF which has purchased 192 million tonnes of emissions reductions since 2015. We're bringing new electricity generation projects online, such as Tasmania's Battery of the Nation and the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme—projects in my own home state that I'm particularly passionate about and which, of course, link into the Robbins Island wind farm development that I discussed earlier. And we're supporting households and businesses to improve energy efficiency and to lower energy bills.
We're seeing record levels of renewable investment. Last year alone we had more than double the per capita investment of comparable countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Not only are we going to meet our international commitments but we are also making a substantial contribution to reducing global emissions through our export sectors. For example, we are helping to lower emissions elsewhere in the world through our LNG exports. This has been confirmed by key players, including the CEO of Global Shell, who, when asked if Australia was doing enough on emissions reductions, recently said: 'Well, an area where it's definitely doing enough is bringing natural gas to market. I think it is massively helping in that respect.'
The Morrison coalition government is committed to emissions reduction while growing our economy and keeping electricity prices down. Those are the policies we took to the election, and they are the policies we will be delivering upon in this parliament. By contrast, the Labor Party and their good friends the Greens have a plan that will only destroy industry and agriculture and will impose these taxes on hardworking Australians. As I have outlined today, this hypocrisy is unimaginable. We see a party that today has moved a matter of public urgency regarding climate change but is actively opposing any policy initiatives or investment in my own home state of Tasmania which might actually help achieve the outcomes they are talking about.
So I urge my colleagues in the Greens to have a think about their rhetoric and about the policies that we in the government are pursuing nationally, but specifically in my home state of Tasmania. I think if they stop and have a think about these policies, they might consider that this government is not the big scary government that doesn't want to do anything about this important issue. We certainly are committed to doing that and we took that policy to the election, and that was endorsed by the Australian people.
In my state of Tasmania, our plan for Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link was backed by the Tasmanian people. These are projects that Tasmanians are very excited about. As I have outlined today, we have a proud history of renewable energy in Tasmania, dating back to our hydro scheme, and we are looking to diversify that proud history further by branching into wind farms, as we already have done in some areas of the state and as we have proposed to do at Robbins Island and other areas, including through the central highlands of Tasmania. There are future projects that are being examined at the moment that I think will certainly go some way to addressing this existential climate crisis that the Greens are discussing today and that they seem to think is so pressing for us to be debating and addressing.
In summary, the Morrison coalition government, as I have said, are absolutely committed to reducing emissions, and we see the key way of doing this is to simultaneously grow our economy and keep electricity prices down. These don't have to be mutually exclusive. We believe we can do both at once, and that is certainly what we are doing by charging up our energy grid through renewable energy in my own state of Tasmania. Only the coalition government have planned down to the last tonne how we will meet our emissions targets, and we remain confident that we will meet them. For the reasons I have outlined today, I am very confident that the plan that we have set out and that we took to the Australian people will be delivered, and that is what comes from good, responsible government.
I rise to speak on this urgency motion. It would be inappropriate for me to begin to speak on this topic, though, without first acknowledging the catastrophic fires currently burning across regional Queensland. I acknowledge the large number of Queenslanders in the gallery today, eagerly awaiting some first speeches. I want to update them that currently there are more than 70 fires burning across Queensland, from the Gold Coast to Stanthorpe, the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Rockingham, and all the way up to the coast and Lockhart River near Cape York, near Cairns, near my home.
As at 2 pm today, a fast-moving fire is travelling in a north-north-westerly direction from Peregian Beach towards the south end of Lake Weyba. The fire is expected to have significant impact on the community. Evacuation centres are open and people are encouraged to travel north. Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing. The fire may pose a threat to lives directly in its path. The loss of property and homes has been significant. So far it has been reported that in Queensland 17 houses have been destroyed and 24 others have received varying degrees of damage. A number of other buildings and commercial properties have also been impacted.
I join with the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese; and Senator Watt in expressing deep concern for residents affected by the bushfires. I commend the efforts of fire and emergency services personnel and the many volunteers who have assisted in fighting fires in these dangerous conditions. I also commend the residents of bushfire affected regions for their cooperation with authorities.
I want to acknowledge the work of Queensland Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, a fellow Far North Queenslander, Craig Crawford. He is my local member and was in a previous life an ambulance officer, so I know more than most that he does not send emergency services personnel into harm's way without understanding and weighing up the potential risk and consequences. We express our very sincere sympathies to those who have lost their properties and will do what we can to support recovery efforts. I encourage all residents to follow the directions of authorities. We will, as we have done many times before, stand by you in this time of loss, and we will help you rebuild.
Drought, unseasonably high temperatures and high winds have combined to wreak havoc on bushland in Queensland. It is a concern to all that bushfires of this severity are occurring so early in the year, and this should prompt further thought by all in this place. Climate change is affecting the severity of natural disasters in Queensland. I acknowledge the school climate strike on 20 September, and, as I said in my first speech, I encourage young people who care about issues that are important and dear to their heart and who are passionate about making change to use their voice, to stand up and to speak out. But I also want to say this to the young people who care about climate change: it has been incredibly disappointing this week to see the Greens political party seize on the loss of residences in regional Queensland for their own political purposes. It has almost become too predictable. Every time there is a natural disaster in regional Queensland, the first thing that Senator Waters does from her office in Brisbane is jump on Twitter to take advantage of people's losses. Of course she acknowledges their loss first, but it is not too long before she starts to attack. And the leader of the Greens, who lives in Melbourne, has used question time this week to supposedly stand up for regional Queenslanders affected by this tragedy. But we know that these stunts and rants aren't really about helping regional Queensland. It's not about standing up for young people or finding solutions to address climate change. What they seek to do more than anything is to win votes in inner city seats in Melbourne, Sydney and south Brisbane.
But that's the Greens for you. On the outside, they're all rage and principled positions, but on the inside, they're concerned with themselves and protecting their niche self-importance. The Greens don't care about regional Queensland and they don't care about Queenslanders. And they certainly don't care about solving the challenges facing regional Queensland when it comes to climate change. They were in regional Queensland during the federal election. They flew up to Cairns to stand in front of cameras and make nice statements about what they were going to do to help the Cairns economy and the reef, but then they got right back on their plane and left, never to be seen again. They accepted in Leichhardt, at least, the preferences of the member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch. We all know, of course, that the Greens from southern states—not from Queensland—spent plenty of time in Central Queensland on their convoy. There has never been a more self-serving, disgraceful campaign tactic than driving up to Queensland to tell people that they didn't have the same right to jobs and security as people living in cities.
Honourable senators interjecting—
But I'm standing on this side of the chamber, while they're sitting there shouting down young women. Senator Chandler and I don't agree on much, but in the eyes of the Greens, we're just the same. I understand that people in Queensland have deep concerns about climate change, about renewable energy and about the ferocity and frequency of natural disasters. But if you want to make change, taking advantage of a natural disaster and sticking your finger in the eye of struggling communities is not the way to do it. To achieve real change you have to bring people with you. You need to bring communities with you. Nothing has been achieved by this form of grandstanding and finger-pointing. If that's how this debate is going to be played out, we won't win and we won't make any changes, because it means that they win. The conservatives and the right-wing think tanks wring their hands with delight every time the Greens come to Queensland.
Regional Queensland jobs rely on the environment and the reef. The Great Barrier Reef contributes $6.4 billion towards the national economy and creates 64,000 jobs. It is the economy in Cairns, although we do have other industries—which I'm happy to speak about at any length, at any opportunity that the Greens would like to submit a motion on jobs in regional Queensland. But in Cairns the reef is central to the success of the city. It is the same for regional towns all the way down the coast and along the reef. That is why it was incredibly disappointing that the long-term outlook for the reef was downgraded from poor to very poor. It was devastating news for the environment and for local business operators that rely on the reef. The Great Barrier Reef outlook report 2019 by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority further highlights that the Morrison government reef policy is in crisis.
Meanwhile, reef envoy and local Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch does not seem to grasp the challenges currently facing the reef, after dismissively telling journalists that we don't need to save the reef. It's clear that Mr Entsch is not equipped to look after Australia's biggest tourism asset, which contributes so much to the Cairns economy. The member for Leichhardt's silence on the report shows that he's a protector of the Great Barrier Reef in name only. It's a fancy title, but he's shown that he's not up to the task of protecting the jobs that rely on the reef. The release of the report is further proof that the Liberal National government has not managed the threats facing the reef, including climate change and coral bleaching. This sort of anti-science, head-in-the-sand dismissiveness from Mr Entsch will hurt Far North Queensland communities and regional economies and impact on long-term job security. The reef is undoubtedly Australia's greatest natural icon, and this government needs to do much more to secure its health for the next generations.
Finally I want to say this: the school climate strike is an important opportunity for young people to raise their voices. Their voices will be heard by those on this side of the chamber, but what we won't do is politicise the very deep, sad, human loss that is occurring in my home state. We won't cop that from anyone. If they want to wedge Labor, they should knock on the Prime Minister's door. Meanwhile we will stand here with regional Queenslanders, hand in hand, to find a solution for the jobs that people rely on.
As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Has anyone heard the name Maurice Strong? He's the founder of these useful idiots' campaign. Maurice Strong was the first chairman of the Chicago Climate Exchange, which aimed to corner carbon trading. He is also the grandfather of the climate change claims. Maurice Strong had two self-admitted aims: to destroy western civilisation, to deindustrialise western civilisation; and to put in place an unelected socialist global governance. That's what these useful idiots are doing. Maurice Strong enabled the groundwork to be built in the 1992 Rio de Janeiro conference that he orchestrated. He built a groundswell there, and that led eventually to Paris. Maurice Strong died in exile in China, wanted by US police for his crimes, and he's also connected with the UN Oil-for-Food Program. That is what Maurice Strong's useful idiots are following.
Let's have a look at some facts—wouldn't that be wonderful! These guys think that pictures of colourful reef fish, cyclone devastation in the reef, a smiling dolphin or a colourful turtle is science. These people think that an orchestrated emotional anecdote is science. Never have we seen science from these useful idiots.
I accept your point. I ask the Greens to think about what happened on the weekend. Annastacia Palaszczuk, along with her experts and advisers, including the head of the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland, was giving an update on the fire crisis. The Bureau of Meteorology head came on and quite clearly said that the temperatures in the fire zone were not record temperatures, that it was nothing unusual. Annastacia Palaszczuk came on as Premier of Queensland within minutes of that man and said, 'This is due to climate change caused by us.' The distortion and the lies from politicians and some bureaucrats is the real crisis here.
What I ask the Greens to do is to present their evidence—facts, measured data—so that we can fact check it. I will gladly do that. I have publicly challenged Senator Larissa Waters twice to a debate. Both times she ran. I have never seen her move so quickly, because she can't confront a debate. I challenge Senator Di Natale, who dared challenge Senator McKenzie yesterday, to a public debate on the facts, the measured science and the empirical evidence that proves in a logical, causal framework—a scientific framework of cause and effect—that carbon dioxide from human activity is affecting the climate and needs to be cut. I challenge the Greens. Let's see how quickly they respond. Yet the Greens label people on the government side 'climate criminals'. I watched them yesterday do that. They label people liars and murderers for producing coal for producing electricity, which is what runs the place. This is insane, if that's what they're allowed to get away with.
They think that natural variation is an example of change. We see said quite often, 'the biggest flood in 50 years'. What does that tell us? It tells us that, 50 years ago, it was bigger. The warmest temperatures in Australia were recorded in the 1880s and 1890s. They were warmer than today. But don't take my word for it, because I challenged the CSIRO and, in their responses to me, they admitted that they have never said that our carbon dioxide is dangerous. They admitted that they never would say it. This was the CSIRO. They also said that they admitted that today's temperatures are not unprecedented, yet the lies being told by the Greens party and other politicians are inexcusable.
I want to point out that the United Nations has never provided any empirical evidence or logical framework tying our carbon dioxide to climate variability. Have a look. In each of the UN's reports, they have never produced that evidence. (Time expired)
In rising to speak, I again note that this is not my first speech, but I thank the Senate for providing me an opportunity to highlight what the Liberal-National coalition government is doing to meet and beat our emissions target and to protect and preserve Australia's iconic environment. Ladies and gentlemen, this issue is not about fearmongering. We have to get away from the fearmongering, otherwise we turn the community against us. What we have to focus on is taking real action to clean the air we breathe, to clean our oceans and waterways of polluted rubbish and to recycle and reduce waste. That is what we need to focus on.
The government has previously acknowledged that emissions for this year to March 2019 are up by 0.6 per cent, but this increase is more than accounted for by an increase in our LNG production related emissions and LNG exports increase. But I also note that the use of LNG for power production is a far cleaner alternative than coal-fired power stations, and so we should be applauding and supporting our continued export of this alternative power source.
Importantly, emissions without expansion of LNG continue on a downward trajectory and, in each year since 2014, have been lower than they were under the former Labor government. Emissions per person continue to fall, and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy continues to fall. In fact, they are at their lowest levels in nearly three decades. We are on track to overachieve our 2020 emissions reduction target by 367 million tonnes. This is a turnaround from the emissions debt that we inherited in 2013.
This government is tackling climate change and reducing emissions not by shutting down industries, as some in this place would like us to do, and not by axing Australian jobs. Instead, we are doing this while growing our economy and keeping electricity prices down. Through our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package, the government have mapped out—down to the last tonne—how we intend to meet our Paris Agreement target. We have laid out how we will deliver our 2030 target 11 years ahead of time. Through this Climate Solutions Package we are also supporting farmers, businesses and Indigenous communities to reduce their greenhouse gases.
We are bringing new electricity generation projects online, such as clean hydro solutions Snowy 2.0 and the Tasmanian Battery of the Nation. We are supporting households and businesses to improve their energy efficiency and lower their energy bills. But we're not stopping there. Our Climate Solutions Package is just one part of the broader strategy to reduce emissions and protect and preserve Australia's iconic environment. The strategy is underpinned by a series of actions that are practical, meaningful and, importantly, can be implemented to achieve a cleaner environment.
Through our $167 million recycling investment plan, we're supporting increased recycling rates, tackling plastic waste and continuing action to halve food waste by 2030. We've established a $100 million Environment Restoration Fund to support major environmental projects that deliver lasting conservation benefits. And we're facilitating a Communities Environment Program, which is providing $150,000 to every federal electorate.
It's not pork-barrelling. It is going to every single federal electorate to support the delivery of community-led grassroots environment projects. These are projects identified by the communities as deliverable and things that will make a difference in their regions. While our government is getting on with the job of delivering this practical action, there are some in this place who are instead calling to invoke a so-called climate emergency—to shut down our mining industry and, particularly, our coal export sector, despite the fact that the coal produced in Australia is the cleanest-burning coal in the world.
While the government are working hard to address climate change and while we continue to meet and beat our emissions targets, we will not do so by selling out our jobs and our industries. Mining has for many years been an important industry in my home state of New South Wales, and it continues to this day to be an important industry for the Australian economy and for the rural and regional communities that I am very proud to represent. While only 0.1 per cent of land in New South Wales is used for mining, there are a range of minerals and natural resources—not just coal—including copper, gold, lead, silver, titanium, zircon and zinc. We need to realise that these minerals we mine are exactly what we need to transition to in the future. Without lithium, for example, you can't drive an electric car. And let's not talk about how many minerals go into our phones. We need mining in our country. We need mining for our future.
The mining industry makes a massive economic contribution. In New South Wales alone, mining royalties total $1.8 billion. But the importance of mining is not just about royalties and filling government coffers; it is about the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of workers in New South Wales and beyond, and the thousands of associated businesses that depend on and support the industry. Indeed, mines right across New South Wales, be they in the Hunter Valley, the central west, the far west, New England or the Illawarra, employ close to 25,000 workers. That's just in New South Wales. And they support more than 7,000 businesses.
Those in this industry are repeatedly and consistently looking for ways to innovate. They stay at the forefront of best practice so that they can continue to mine our natural resources in the smartest and most sustainable way possible while they continue to support jobs and businesses and rehabilitate their land, not just in my home state but right across Australia.
Climate change is a global issue, and it requires a global solution. This government is committed to Australia playing its part in that global solution to reduce emissions, and we will continue to do that while growing our economy and keeping our electricity prices down. Unlike some in this place, we will not do this by closing industries on which Australian workers and businesses depend, or by imposing new taxes on hardworking Australians and hardworking Australian businesses. Instead, we will continue to achieve our emissions reduction goals through pursuing practical and meaningful environmental outcomes.