Thursday, 5 December 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator McKenzie, representing the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management. The greater Sydney region has been choking on bushfire smoke for days, the fires along the east coast have been burning for weeks and conditions in Queensland are worsening today. Yesterday, the United Firefighters Union of Australia passed a unanimous resolution at its national council calling for the '"urgent phase-out of coal, oil, and gas" because they are "driving more dangerous and intense fires"'. Minister, can you tell us why the very people who are putting their lives on the line to keep us safe are wrong?
On behalf of the minister for emergency services, Mr Littleproud, our focus as a government, and his focus as the minister responsible, has been on ensuring that state governments that are dealing with the early onset of a horrific bushfire season have the resources and the focus that we can supply as a federal government. That has come in a raft of areas. We want to make sure that these fires are managed and put out as soon as possible; that people and property are protected; and that we work with state governments and don't get in the way—that we actually have disaster relief on the ground for these communities and for individuals.
We've prosecuted this several times, Senator Di Natale. I don't know what you're actually trying to ask me to do—solar panels on firetrucks? I'm not sure. I'm actually not sure what you want here. I can tell you that the people who are facing these fires—who are trying to protect stock and trying to protect family and households—actually don't need to hear this trite, glib politicisation of an emergency situation. We are focused on the right things. We're trying to focus on keeping people and properties safe and secure and supporting them to get back on their feet post bushfire.
If we're going to resources: the firefighters have also demanded a national approach to firefighting to improve the compatibility of different state and territory services and boost the number of professional firefighters. Minister, that means an increase in resources by two-thirds over the decade. If you're so concerned about making sure they have the resources they need, will you commit to that figure?
Senator Di Natale, we're doing a lot to coordinate a national response to deal with disasters. We've developed a National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework to guide national action to address existing disaster risks and to minimise new risks. We've invested $130 million over the next five years to deliver disaster risk reduction initiatives at the national, state and local level. We've also established the emergency response fund to provide a sustainable way to fund disaster risk reduction efforts. We've also invested over $6.2 million on the next generation of the Australian fire danger rating system to deliver more accurate and local risk messaging, providing $2 million to ensure that the Commonwealth's component of the national telephone based warning system, Emergency Alert, is available. We've also invested $1.9 million towards the development of a public safety mobile broadband capability. We're also helping communities recover from disasters—
Minister, the firefighters have also said that now is, absolutely, the time to talk about climate change and the ever more intense fires being fought by their members, despite the fact that fires are currently burning. Minister, can you tell us why the people who are risking their lives to keep us safe are wrong and why you're right?
Senator Di Natale, we'll say it again: our government accepts the science of climate change. We are working very, very hard, along with industry, state governments and the like, to reduce the emissions in this country to meet our international obligations. We've also got a suite of practical environmental measures, aside from emissions reduction: a $3.5 billion climate reduction fund, which is going to help small businesses to move towards lower emission technologies. So to stand up and say we're not talking or doing anything about reducing our emissions and acting on climate change is an absolute misnomer, and you really have to re-read the Hansard. We've done this dance five times over the last five months. It's the same answer, Senator Di Natale, because you refuse to accept the fact that our government is taking tough action on climate change and supporting bushfire communities.