Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Matters of Urgency

Climate Change

6:17 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight we are discussing the urgency motion put forward by the Greens and, indeed, I'm lending my voice to call on the government to act on the climate crisis that's clearly evident across the globe and here in Australia. It's not good enough in our nation that Minister Taylor and the Prime Minister simply continue to espouse rhetoric and do nothing about Australia's increasing carbon emissions. It seems pretty extraordinary to me that, somewhere in the Liberal Party's talking points about meeting commitments and emissions going down, they're actually not looking at their own data and their own statistics from their own agencies.

Even when our Pacific neighbours have called on the Australian government to take action on climate change, Minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Morrison have dismissed, denied and ignored the fact that there is indeed a climate emergency. As the motion says, we are facing an existential climate crisis. The word 'existential' might, for many, conjure up French philosophy, but when we are talking about our very existence on our planet it is clear the Liberal Party has not faced up, in any sense of the phrase, to the link between the policy settings of this nation and the future of our planet.

We have in the Morrison government an existential crisis of policies. I would add, though, that this existential crisis extends to the nature of debate in this place—and I look back at the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme being rejected in this place by the Greens. It is a deep shame that we have an existential policy crisis that rolls on and on and on. Meanwhile, there are global hurricanes and there are fires in Queensland.

We have to come to grips with our policy settings as a nation, as we are one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world—if not the most carbon intensive. But, with this government, we have seen so many ways to bury your head in the sand. The Liberal-National policy department did their best work in coming up with their strategies on dealing with climate change: bury your head in the sand; do nothing; nothing to see here. The government's ERF policies and the savings that they've made—handing over vast buckets of money to make those savings—do nothing to curtail and set targets on industry carbon emissions. Nothing to see here!

So, as well as a policy vacuum that's been frustrating our Pacific neighbours and doing nothing about climate change, we have the government's record before us where, since 2014 and the Abbott years, carbon emissions have been continuously rising. After coming down by more than 10 per cent during the last Labor government—the government that actually had a climate policy, and we did—the government's projections show that the Liberals and the Nationals will miss the 2020 Kyoto commitment of a five per cent cut on 2000 levels. That does not sound to me like—as the government has characterised it—'meeting that commitment in a canter'. I say to the government: if it was that easy to do it in a canter, and we are facing climate change risks, why would you simply do it in a canter? Why aren't you doing it at a gallop and setting some ambition for our economy to make a contribution to cutting global emissions and actually driving innovation in the Australian economy? No Australian would be surprised by the figures on climate change. (Time expired)

6:22 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to this matter of utmost urgency. The climate collapse our world is experiencing is a threat like no other. The Australian government's inaction in the face of this is nothing short of criminal. A little more than a week into spring, unprecedented fires are raging in New South Wales and Queensland, destroying our rainforests, habitats and homes. Inaction on this climate crisis has put one million of the world's species at risk of extinction. In Australia, the Murray-Darling is close to the brink of collapse.

Australians are extremely concerned about the droughts, the floods, the extinctions and the water shortages caused by climate change, and most people think that governments are just not doing enough to combat global warming. Emergency crews across the country are crying for help, calling these severe events an 'omen of things to come', and they are dead right. Every moment this government refuses to take this crisis seriously is a moment where it is putting us all at extreme risk.

The recent IPCC report on climate change and land use confirmed what we already know—that the impacts of climate meltdown are already affecting Australia, and this will only get worse. Even as we feel these effects, we know other countries across the globe—the Pacific and the global south–are already suffering immensely. And they will be hit even harder, creating generations of climate refugees. The UN Human Rights Council says the world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope.

The imperative of profit-making, sadly, has driven our planet and society to the edge of its exploitation of the environment and workers—and it must be abandoned. We cannot sustain a society predicated on planet-killing economic growth. We must build a socially and environmentally just world. We demand an end to new coal, oil and gas. Let's transform our approach to land use in industrial agribusiness. Let's invest in caring green jobs and 100 per cent renewable energy, and let's provide a just transition for workers to a post-carbon economy. This is well within our reach.

I'm proud to say that I will be marching with the millions of students and workers across the globe who are going on strike, on 20 September, to send a strong message to the lazy, coal-loving climate-denying politicians who are doing everything they can to block real action on climate change. The message is simple: the climate crisis is happening and we demand action.

6:25 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Only the most extreme climate denialist in this government could say that we do not face a significant existential problem based on climate change. There is no doubt that the climate change we are experiencing in Australia and across the world is something that requires immediate, strong action from government. In fact, we are seeing such action from many places around the world. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that from our government here in Australia. Instead, we have a government that remains committed to dismissing, denying and ignoring the severe climate change that we see all around us.

The Prime Minister, the Minister for Energy, Mr Taylor, and the coalition as a whole cannot continue to hide from their own data. The facts are that under this government carbon emissions continue to rise, contributing to the climate change that we see all around us. According to this government's own latest accounts, through the Department of the Environment and Energy, in the year to March 2019 Australia's carbon emissions rose by 0.6 per cent. It's no surprise given that this government's only plan is to waste an additional $2 billion on top of the $2.55 billion already allocated on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's failed climate policy.

Australians have come to expect this from a government that is not serious about taking real action on climate change. The record of the Liberals and Nationals on climate speaks for itself. Carbon emissions have been continuously rising since 2014, after coming down by more than 10 per cent during the last federal Labor government. The government's own projections show the Liberals will miss the 2020 Kyoto commitment of a five per cent cut on 2000 levels. The government's own projections also show that emissions will keep rising all the way to 2030, missing their already inadequate 2030 target by a huge margin.

So after six years in government the Liberals and Nationals have failed to deliver credible and effective climate change policy, have consistently undermined the transition to clean energy, have avoided implementing any credible policies to cut pollution in the industry, energy, transport or agriculture sectors, and have repeatedly dismissed domestic and international concerns about their lack of credible climate policies and ambition. This government's fundamental problem is that it is increasingly dominated by climate sceptics, who remain unconvinced that climate change is happening and caused by our own actions as humans. Even today we've had another government minister, being interviewed by the media, not wanting to talk about and not wanting to accept that climate change is caused by the activities of humans. While ever this government is dominated by climate sceptics, we will not see the action that is urgently required by our country and by the world as a whole to deal with climate change.

It is deeply unfortunate that, on the government side of this chamber, this debate is being increasingly hijacked by extremists who deny the existence of climate change let alone the need to act. On the other hand, we see the serial stunt makers from the Greens. I've said before in this chamber that all we ever see from the Greens—

Senator McKim interjecting

Here they go, winding up again with all their usual claptrap—the stunts from the Greens that we see over and over again. The Greens would have you believe that they have a monopoly on caring about climate change. We see their social media, we see their rallies, we see their antics and we see their advertisements as they try to prove themselves time and time again as the pious, sanctimonious protectors of the world that they like to position themselves as. The reality is actually quite different. There are many people in this chamber and, I dare say, even people in the government ranks who believe that climate change is a problem and that we need action. That's exactly why Labor went to the last federal election with a comprehensive plan to deal with climate change and to drive major reductions in Australia's emissions through a range of policies in almost every sector of the economy.

So don't believe the Greens when they want to position themselves as the only people who care about climate change. We're all sick of seeing the pious antics of these people who never actually have to face up to any of the communities who would be required to change their behaviour. I've never seen any of you out in Moranbah, in Rockhampton, in Middlemount or in any of those communities who face change. It's about time you started facing up to people. (Time expired)

6:30 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The selfishness, the ignorance and the cowardice that has been displayed tonight in this chamber by the major parties contributing to this debate have disgraced this place. Here is the truth of the moment. We are 10 days out from winter, yet communities across New South Wales and Queensland are burning. And, with each lost house, with each destroyed habitat, there is yet more truth. There is yet more urgency given to the realisation that climate change is putting at risk everything that we care about—our communities, our precious places, our very future. The smouldering remains of the family homes call us to urgent action, yet all we have seen is bickering. All we have seen is the same rehearsed talking points, and we know why. We know why the major parties won't act. It's because you are in the pockets of the coal barons and the gas merchants who are profiting from this destruction. You are bought and paid for. Your silence is their price.

Climate change affects all of us. It will take all of us to stop it. Now is the moment for radical, transformative, collective community action, and, on 20 September this year, young people will once again lead that effort. They will once again lead the Australian community out onto the streets to strike for climate justice, to strike a blow against the Adani coalmine, that disgrace upon the Australian landscape, to strike for 100 per cent renewable energy and to close every coalmine and say, 'No more in this nation.' Together we can and will stop climate change. Together we can and will make its perpetrators pay and create a community where everyone has what they need to live a good life. Together the Australian community will show that it is so much more than the craven cowards that sit in this place. (Time expired)

6:34 pm

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

I rise to speak about the fact that we are in a climate emergency and this parliament, this government, is doing absolutely bugger all about it except denying that we have a problem and debating whether or not climate change is even human induced. We're back to the 1980s, yet the science has moved on, clearly, and this mob just cannot get the memo. Areas of my state that have never burned before are on fire.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's not true. That is so not true.

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

I will take the interjection from Senator McGrath, who happens to be one of the strongest climate dinosaurs on that side of the chamber and who could do well to look at the history of bushfires in Queensland. We just had to create a new category for bushfires, 'catastrophic'. It got used last November. It's now being used again.

Laugh if you will. I can see the Liberal and Labor parties exchanging some hand signals and some giggles between each other. Well, the joke's on you, folks, because the community understand the need for climate action and they don't think it's fair that you both take dirty money from the polluters while their homes are burning. We've had 80 homes damaged now, with 17 completely lost, in areas where we have not seen burning before. We are now at these historic catastrophic levels, and still you take the money. Five million dollars over the last four years is all that it's taken to buy your complicity and your shoddy climate policy. Give the money back. Listen to the scientists rather than defunding them. Create those almost 50,000 renewable energy jobs that, in Queensland alone, could be created with a transition to 100 per cent renewables. Rather than criminalising protesters, demonising them and threatening to go back to the Joh era as my home state of Queensland's Labor administration is now doing, why don't you actually listen to them, address the problem and stop being so cosy with Adani that you're just falling over yourselves to give them free water, a royalty holiday, free money for their railway infrastructure and, of course, tax cuts to boot? Why don't you take a stand and start representing the people rather than your big coal industry donors? It is absolutely disgusting, and history will judge you all very poorly.

I particularly want to take issue with this one hour of parliamentary time being described as a stunt. Folks, we are here to do a job for the community. If you think that parliament is a stunt, why don't you just leave and go and work for the mining companies like all of your predecessors have? You'd do a far better job there than here.

6:37 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The first job of people in this place is to tell the truth, to be honest about reality, to be honest about the breakdown of our climate and to be honest about the extinction crisis that we have caused and that we are living through. That's what we owe the people of Australia, whom we represent in here; that's what we owe the people of the world; and that is what we owe people who are yet to be born, who will suffer the fullest brunt of our greed and our cowardice. We have to tell the truth. So here are a few truths. We are facing an existential threat. Our pursuit of greed and profit has led us to a place where the ecosystem that sustains not only our life but all life on earth is teetering on the brink. While, around the world, the Arctic is burning, the Amazon is burning, the glaciers are melting, the tundra is melting and the feedback loops are kicking in, here in Australia the major parties have been bought, lock, stock and smoking barrel by their political masters, the big polluting corporations that fill their coffers—big coal, big oil, big gas and big forestry. They are playing the music that the major party senators in this chamber are dancing to the tune of.

It's very easy with this reality and with this truth-telling to get despondent, but there actually is still hope. That hope is embodied more strongly than anywhere else by the young people who are standing up, who are refusing to stay silent, who are refusing to be bought out and who are organising, mobilising and standing up and saying, 'Now we must strike for climate action.' Well, good on them! Power to their arms. I've got a lot more respect for them than I do for any major party senator who sits in this chamber. I say to them that I'll be with them on 20 September. The Australian Greens will stand with them on 20 September.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the urgency motion be agreed to.