Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, Senator McKenzie. Minister, following on from Minister Littleproud's comments that climate change is irrelevant, he said yesterday, 'I don't know if climate change is man-made.' Following on from those comments, the Minister for the Environment, Minister Ley, said yesterday, 'I don't know if the fires have anything to do with climate change.' Minister, do you agree with Minister Littleproud's comments and Minister Ley's comments, or do you believe that humans are causing climate change and that climate change increases the frequency and severity of wildfires, putting the lives of Australians at risk?
Well, I do apologise: I haven't been across the newspapers in the last couple of days. But I can answer the question. I believe in the science of climate change; I always have. I think the most important thing we need to focus on is ensuring that we take strong action on climate change. That is exactly what our government has been doing, with our Climate Solutions Fund and with a range of programs, across my own portfolio in agriculture and right across government, to assist lower emissions right across the economy so that we can meet our Paris targets and take strong action on climate change. That's what the Australian people voted for. That is what we as a government are taking very, very seriously.
But what I really struggle with, Senator Di Natale, at this point in time—and Senator Watt, I did have a chance to glance at Twitter over the last couple of days, and I saw you take Senator Di Natale to task on politicising the horrific bushfires that Queensland and New South Wales are going through right now, with volunteer firefighters, farmers, householders and business owners running for their livelihoods from the devastation these fires are wreaking—is that, rather than actually focusing on assisting that effort on the ground today, tomorrow and next week, you come in here day after day and waste your question on making cheap political points on whether our government takes climate change seriously. Well, we do. We signed up to the Paris Agreement. We have a whole suite of initiatives across every single portfolio to address it. (Time expired)
Well, Minister, let's talk about the firefighters who have said that you don't find a climate change denier at the end of a firehose. Firefighters are very clear about this. I want to know: do you agree—and you still haven't answered the question—with your cabinet colleagues who deny a link between humans causing climate change and climate change resulting in bushfires, or do you agree with firefighters? In the words of the Prime Minister, whose side are you on?
Oh, Senator Di Natale—another cheap, dramatic point. You'd think you'd actually have some sensible questions here on policy, but no. I don't know how often I can say it: I accept the science of climate change. I am a cabinet minister in a government that takes climate change seriously. We have a $3.5 billion climate reduction fund. We have set an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent to 28 per cent on 2005 levels through the Paris agreement, and right across the economy we've got a suite of initiatives to ensure that we meet that target.
We're committed to taking strong action, because things are changing. Farmers are dealing with a changing and variable climate each and every day. You can see that their seasons are changing. When they may have done silage at the end of November in Gippsland, the timing has now been moved. Lambing seasons have changed et cetera. So their practices are changing on farms. (Time expired)
Minister, it's the firefighters who are speaking up right now, because it's their lives on the line. Indeed, Lee Johnson, who was in charge of Queensland's fire service, has said that the weather conditions they're now facing are unheard of. He said: 'You can’t actually fight it. The heat generated means you can’t put people or equipment in front of these fires.' Minister, given that firefighters are speaking up right now, why did your government disband the Secretaries Group on Climate Risk, who were preparing for catastrophes just like this one?
Senator Di Natale: if we took your approach to addressing climate change, we'd shut everything down tomorrow and do you know what? The fires would still be going and the volunteers would still be having to find non-existent water from empty dams because of drought. So, despite your protestations, it's a flaccid argument—it really is; absolutely. The reality is that, if we took your approach and closed everything down, the fire would still be burning, the firefighters would still be in danger, as would our farms—
My point of order is on relevance again. The question was very clear. I asked why the government disbanded the Secretaries Group on Climate Risk, who were preparing for climate catastrophes like the one we're experiencing right now.
In terms of the secretaries group that you speak of, I'll have to take that aspect of the question on notice. But I can speak for my own secretary in the Department of Agriculture, who is absolutely focused on rolling out a suite of initiatives and programs throughout the Department of Agriculture's suite of programs to address and mitigate climate change.