Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Cormann. This summer's devastating bushfires have seen more than 20 per cent of Australia's mainland forests burnt. Research just published in Nature Climate Change shows that this massive proportion of the forest estate being burnt is unprecedented in any fire season, either in Australia or globally, in the last 20 years—over five times the average amount of forest burnt in other extreme seasons anywhere in the world—and the fires are still burning. What action is the government taking to make sure that our fires can recover and how will they make sure that our forests can recover, and how will they assure Australia's children that they are taking action to put the future of our forests, carbon stores and wildlife first?
Let me reassure Senator Rice and the Senate that our forests will recover. Through the history of Australia, over thousands and thousands of years, we have experienced bushfires before, and our beautiful continent has regenerated before and very, very strongly.
We have, of course, experienced a devastating bushfire season in this last couple of months—no question; devastating. A whole series of communities across rural and regional Australia, in particular, were terribly impacted. And we have provided significant support and continue to provide significant support, to support those communities with the post-bushfire recovery. As part of our $2 billion bushfire recovery fund, we are also investing in a series of environmental measures to help boost and facilitate that rapid regeneration, both in terms of our fauna and our flora. In terms of the broader issue that Senator Rice raises, of course we are doing everything we can to protect our environment, to help reduce global emissions and to do so in a way that is economically responsible, because we want to ensure that our children and grandchildren in the future can continue to enjoy the beautiful country that is ours but also can continue to pursue opportunities to have a job, to pursue a career, to have a better job and to build a life for themselves and their families into the future. That is what we will continue to do, and we will continue to do it responsibly and with great commitment and dedication.
The unprecedented burning that's occurred this fire season has been with only one degree of global heating, yet this government's feeble climate policy has us on track for 3.4 degrees of global heating by the end of the century. How does our government expect that our forests and, indeed, our timber plantations are going to survive that? What does a planet that is 3.4 degrees hotter mean for smoke choking our cities, water from forested catchments, endangered animals and, indeed, for the future— (Time expired)
I have made this point on a number of occasions now: our government is committed to effective action on climate change, but we also understand that, in order to address the challenge of climate change and in order to secure meaningful reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, we need a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What would not help the environment is if Australia took measures domestically to just shift emissions with jobs and economic activity overseas where the same level of economic output and emissions would be higher. That would actually leave the global environment worse off. We are not in favour of imposing sacrifice on the Australian people that not only makes no difference to the environment but actually makes the situation worse when it comes to addressing climate change and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. We will continue to pursue— (Time expired)
The government so far has been sticking to our last century's outdated logging laws, the regional forest agreements, which continue business as usual even though more than 20 per cent of our forests have been burnt this summer. How is the government taking into account the massive impact of this summer's fires on our native forests? How can any logging of our native forests be justified given the massive hit that our forests and wildlife have taken?
When it comes to this very important economic activity in our forests, we are guided by the science. We're guided by the science. We're not going to be guided by ideology. We're not going to be guided by religion. We're going to be guided by the science. We will continue to make decisions to protect our environment in a way that is economically responsible and, of course, regional forest agreements are a very important part of that framework based on science.