Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Questions without Notice
My question's to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Today, a member of the government, Mr Barnaby Joyce, said, 'I acknowledge that the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Greens party, so I'm not going to start attacking them.' Do you support these vile comments? Is it now the government's position that it's not okay to talk about the climate crisis but it is okay to talk about people who burned alive in bushfires and how they might have voted? Will you offer an unconditional apology to the families of the victims, and will you take disciplinary action against Mr Barnaby Joyce?
The short answer to the initial question is: no, I don't think these were appropriate comments in the circumstances. That is because I believe, and we believe, that it is not an appropriate time to bring politics into this debate, when people have lost their lives and while these same fires continue to burn. Equally, the time to have policy discussions is not in the middle of an operational response. It is not in the middle of people literally fighting for their homes and fighting for their survival.
As the Prime Minister has stated, all of our attention as a government remains focused on supporting our firefighters and volunteers and on ensuring that people in fire affected communities are kept safe and continue to receive the support they need.
In April this year former fire chiefs and fire experts asked to talk with the government about the climate crisis and the lack of preparedness for catastrophic fire, but the Prime Minister didn't want to meet them. They asked again in September, but the Prime Minister didn't want to meet them. They have still not had a meeting. If the government didn't want to talk about the climate crisis and fires in April and didn't want to talk about it in September, and you still don't want to talk about it now, when is the right time to talk about how coal is making these fires worse?
I don't accept the premise of the question. A meeting was offered and that offer wasn't taken up. That is my advice. My advice is that a meeting was offered and the meeting offer was not taken up.
John Howard responded to the Port Arthur tragedy by quickly putting in place the National Firearms Agreement, which was supported across the parliament and across the country. Given the climate crisis that is fuelling catastrophic bushfires across the country, will your government now convene urgent cross-party talks to put in place a national agreement to phase out coal?