Monday, 7 December 2020
Matters of Urgency
I inform the Senate that at 8.30 am today 23 proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator McKim:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice today that I propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for the Morrison Government to take to the upcoming global Climate Ambition Summit a pledge to increase its 2030 emissions reduction targets in line with the science, noting that the UK has announced a target of 68% emissions reduction by 2030."
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need for the Morrison Government to take to the upcoming global Climate Ambition Summit a pledge to increase its 2030 emissions reduction targets in line with the science, noting that the UK has announced a target of 68% emissions reduction by 2030.
Folk might not recall how pathetically weak Australia's targets are, if you can even call them targets—a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. In less 'jargonistic' terms, Australia is currently the highest per capita polluter on the planet. If, by some miracle or by the dodgy accounting tricks that I'll talk about in a minute, we meet those targets Australia will still be the highest per capita emitter on the planet. These targets are pathetic. They are not strong enough. They are not based on science. They are written by the fossil fuel industry that donates to this government and to the opposition. They are writing the death warrant for the Great Barrier Reef, for our agriculture sector and for so many lives and for so much human misery as natural disasters just increase.
The United Kingdom recently recommended that their targets be increased by 68 per cent. Their government actually listened to their scientific advisers and increased its 2030 target by that amount. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson is making more sense than your own Prime Minister, you know you're in trouble; it's the one thing on which we'd like Prime Minister Scott Morrison to listen to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But, as I mentioned, our two big political parties are completely in the pockets of the oil, coal and gas political donors, who also offer them very well-paid lobbyist jobs once they leave parliament. And I think all of Australia knows that.
The Bureau of Meteorology has some very sobering news. It says Australia is not on track to keep global warming to the two degrees that we signed up to as a citizen of this world; in fact, we're on track for 4.4 degrees of warming over our landmass. That's goodbye to the reef, that's goodbye to most of our productive agriculture and that's hello to an awful lot of devastation that is an entirely unnecessary, because we have the skills, the nous and the resources to transition to 100 per cent clean energy as soon as possible. But we're not seeing any of that from this government. On the reef, we just had the final warning bell sounded by the IUCN, with their three yearly World Heritage Outlook, which was released last week, now saying that the Great Barrier Reef is 'critical'. It is the strongest listing that can be given to a World Heritage site, but it's not surprising because we've lost 50 per cent of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef in five years with three severe bleaching episodes. We're meant to be heading into a La Nina, but there's concern that there will be yet another bleaching. This is the last warning that this government is going to get before UNESCO decides whether or not to list the reef as World Heritage in Danger. That would be factually accurate, but it would decimate the tourism industry.
What we need the government to do is to adopt strong 2030 emissions reductions targets. This is the critical decade, but today they want a pat on the back because they've said they're not going to cheat on their homework. They've said they're not going to use the Kyoto carryover credits and they expect some kind of praise, when it was five years ago that most other nations voluntarily said they wouldn't use their carryover credits and when Australia was in fact the only nation that in that initial climate agreement in Kyoto was allowed to increase its pollution. The only reason we have carryover credits is that we were allowed to pollute even more, when all of the rest of the world decided to tighten their belt. So I'm sorry but we're not going to praise the Prime Minister for saying that he won't use dodgy accounting to somehow meet our targets.
The other dodgy accounting point is that they're now trying to claim that they're on track to meet our targets, because again we're relying on a provision about land use that no other country is relying on. If you take out that dodgy accounting, Australia is in fact polluting more than we were in 2005, which is meant to be the baseline year that we're meant to be 26 to 28 per cent better than by the end of this decade. We are not on a good trajectory. This is a critical decade, and we need the government and the opposition to stop taking the dirty money from coal, oil and gas and start listening to the science bodies. Stop defunding the science bodies and actually adopt some climate targets that we can amply meet, that will generate more jobs, that will protect our reef and our way of life and that will set us up for future economic prosperity. Stop putting your own personal interests ahead of the nation's.
In Senator Waters's contribution we really only heard Australia being compared to one country, the United Kingdom, and I'll come to that country in a second. But there was no comparison with any other country, so I for one at first thought maybe we'd gone back into some twilight zone where we were once again a colony of the United Kingdom and we were being told what to do by, according to Senator Waters, our colonial masters in London. Yes, our colonial masters in London would love us to cripple our own industry so they can continue to compete with us. They'd love us to impose huge costs on our own country in a way that many other nations are not doing. But I for one am proud of and cherish the independence that this nation has achieved since we threw off the colonial chains and became an independent country. So, no, I don't think we should slavishly follow what Mr Johnson in London wants us to do. Good luck to him. He's the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and he can decide what the policies are for the United Kingdom.
Senator Watt interjecting—
Here in Australia we should decide what we want to do. Australian elected officials, including the Australian Prime Minister, should decide. Senator Watt was asking if I was a republican. I'm not a republican; I'm a constitutional monarchist, and that does give us independence here in this parliament. I was surprised to hear Senator Waters be not just a monarchist but an absolute monarchist. I think Prince Charles and Prince Harry want us to do these things as well.
Well, Senator Waters, start acting like one. Don't just adopt the policies of another country. A proud republican would actually want to cherish our independence and chart our course through the world.
I want to come to the other countries as well. Senator Waters only mentioned the United Kingdom, but when you look around the world you see that New Zealand, our cousins and good friends, are not meeting their Kyoto targets. The Kyoto targets come due this year, 2020, so New Zealand has about three weeks to meet its Kyoto targets that it is failing to meet right now. It has only reduced emissions by just under three per cent when it promised to reduce them by five per cent. As much as Jacinda Ardern wants to go around the world spruiking that she is committed to net zero emissions by 2050, the fact remains that her country has not met the commitments it made just 10 or 15 years ago, so how can it be trusted to do something in 30 years time?
Likewise, Canada has barely changed its emissions. It is not meeting its Kyoto targets. Japan is not meeting its Kyoto targets. Almost every other country in the world is not meeting its targets. Then of course countries like China and India don't even have any real targets to meet under Kyoto, or Paris for that matter. But we are. Senator Waters thinks it's through dodgy accounting, which I'll come to. We are one of the few countries that are actually meeting their targets.
The other main problem I have with the implication in this motion that we should follow the United Kingdom and reduce our emissions in the order of 68 per cent by 2030 is that that will actually do nothing for the environment unless we consume less stuff. I didn't hear from the Greens—and we never hear this from the Greens—that we should not buy as many solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars from overseas. All of these things are made using coal and often in countries with much worse environmental records than we have.
Every time we put up a wind turbine it takes about 900 tonnes of steel. It takes around 800 tonnes of coking coal to make one tonne of steel. If you times 800 by 900, you see that there is a lot of coking coal embodied in those turbines. Every time you build a wind turbine there are 2,500 tonnes of concrete. Making concrete typically uses a lot of coal too in heating the lime in the kilns. That also has a huge carbon emissions impact. Again, we don't hear from the Greens in this chamber about the need for fewer wind turbines. Of course Bob Brown and Christine Milne are doing great work opposing wind turbines in Tasmania, and all power to them. This mob in here are cheering on the extra carbon emissions we would get from wind turbines.
Almost all of our solar panels are imported from China. Where does China get the energy to power its factories to produce these cheap solar panels? Coal—and a lot of it used to be our coal. They use coal to produce cheap solar panels that we then happily import. I say to the renewable energy industry, 'If we really want to save the planet, let's make the solar panels here.' I'd support that. I'm not against solar panels and renewable energy, but let's make them here rather than make them in dirty factories in China. Why don't we make the solar panels here? Why do we allow these companies to take government subsidies all the time and then import solar panels from other countries where the jobs are created? Let's make them here in this country in at least a cleaner fashion.
Of course, if we were to reduce our emissions by 60 or 70 per cent, even if we were to reduce them by 100 per cent—if we were to get rid of our carbon emissions tomorrow—in the words of Dr Alan Finkel, that would do 'virtually nothing' for the environment, because Australia only accounts for roughly 1.3 per cent of the world's emissions. So, even if Australia were to get rid of all of its carbon emissions tomorrow, it would not make a single difference to the world; it would not change the temperature. That was confirmed by our Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, when a good mate of mine, former Senator Ian Macdonald, asked Dr Alan Finkel at Senate estimates what the impact would be of reducing the world's emissions by 1.3 per cent. Dr Alan Finkel replied, 'Virtually nothing.' And he's absolutely right; it would do virtually nothing for the planet. But apparently we want to push on and continue down this path where we self-flagellate for no actual environmental outcome; we cost jobs in this country but don't help the environment at all. The latest absurdity here is this push to give up our Kyoto credits and give up the fact that we've overachieved on carbon emissions. We have to do that, yet there is never a call from the Greens to penalise those countries who have underachieved. Why is all the criticism of our country? Why isn't there any criticism of other countries? It's because the Greens don't really like Australia. They don't like our country; they don't stand up for it, and they certainly don't want to put Australia first. There's never any criticism of other countries for not meeting their Kyoto commitments.
He referred to the Greens as a party, which is no different to you referring to the Labor and Liberal parties and making inferences about their motivations. Under the standing orders and conventions, referring to a party as a whole does not infringe the standing orders. There is no point of order. Senator Canavan.
I've certainly touched a nerve today. The Greens don't put Australia first, because they never criticise other countries. If we are going to have to give up our Kyoto credits, why shouldn't other countries be allocated Kyoto debits? Why shouldn't other countries get Kyoto debits for all the underachievement they have presided over during last 10 or 15 years? That seems pretty logical to me. So, if we are to give up these Kyoto credits, we should make other countries do more in the next period to catch up—New Zealand, Canada, Japan and many other countries around the world.
The final point I want to make is that I don't think we should give these things up. I agree with one part of what Senator Waters said. She rightly said that the reason that we have these Kyoto credits and that we have got around 400 million tonnes of credits—it's all a bit 'funny money'—and that we reduced our emissions by 400 million tonnes more on the carbon accounting than we budgeted for or we promised to under Kyoto is that we stopped farmers being able to develop their own land. Over the last 30 years—
Yes, the Greens certainly can give it, but they can't take it. Senator Waters was right; we've stopped farmers developing their own land. We've stripped them of their property rights and provided them no compensation. We've told them, 'That little part of your block over there that you bought, that you might have wanted to develop in the future and grow food on—you can't touch that anymore.' We've got this ridiculous situation where that is apparently a carbon credit and that lets us spruik to the world and say how good we are. If we have a surplus of these good intentions or good outcomes, why don't we give them back to farmers? Why are we giving them to the world? Why don't we give those 400 million tonnes back to our nation's farmers so that they can grow more food? That seems like a good idea. If we have locked up too much land—
(Quorum formed) As I was saying, we should put our country first and our farmers first. That's the simple proposition I have. If we have somehow got this surplus of credits, let's give our farmers a break. They've been doing it pretty tough over the last couple of decades with drought, in some cases suffering from floods and, on top of that, having their property rights stripped away from them. Let's give them some of those rights back so they can do something for our nation that we should all be proud of—that is, grow high-quality food that we all enjoy. Some of it will be exported, but we benefit from it too. Let's give our farmers a break, put our country first and reject this silly motion.
Here we are, some 11 years since the Greens sided with the National Party and voted down the CPRS. It's really frustrating that we're here again today, debating this urgency motion, without a pathway forward for how we as a country and as a parliament are going to deal with the very urgent case of combating climate change. We had this debate this time last year, a decade after opposition to the CPRS triggered what has become known colloquially as the climate wars in this country, and still there isn't a pathway forward. Still people come into this chamber and bicker and point and say, 'We're going to be better than you guys,' and, 'You're not doing enough.' I think the people of Australia deserve more leadership from politicians in this place. Communities are worried about what's happening to our climate. People are worried about what it means for their jobs. Our kids are worried about what it means for their future. And yet here we are, 11 years on, having pretty much the same discussion. That's the depressing nature of this.
The Greens come in here holier than thou on this subject, but you are complicit too. You come in here and point the finger and vote things down, as you did 11 years ago, and look where we are now.
Look where we are now. It's very easy for parties in this place to project the blame onto others rather than look at what role they have played, and no-one has been perfect. But the answer to how we're going to deal with climate change and the impact of a warming planet on people's lives—what it means for people's health, for their jobs and for the way they conduct their lives—is only going to happen when we all come together, realise the magnitude of the problem and work together, despite our differences, to map out a pathway forward. That isn't the approach the Greens political party have taken in this place. When they were given the opportunity to work with the more progressive side of politics, they chose another way out, only to then change two years later and vote for a scheme that wasn't as good. That's what they did. Here we are, 11 years on, and we haven't made any progress. We've got a government that should be held to account that has been woefully inadequate in the way that it has dealt with climate change. We've had a decade—
Order! Senator Gallagher, please resume your seat. Senator McKim, I remind you of standing order 197. Interjections are disorderly. Your leader was given the courtesy of being heard in silence. I ask that you extend the same courtesy to other senators in this place.
Those of us in this place who do believe in climate change want to see stronger action and a pathway to secure jobs to support communities that will be affected by this transition. We want to make sure that people have good, high-paying jobs and that they aren't concerned about what's going to happen to their community and their kids. We want to make sure we are able to support that. Where people work together, we can actually deliver a reasonable outcome. But, again, the political imperative of the Greens is to attack Labor electorates and make sure Labor is blamed for everything, instead of focusing wholly on the inadequacy of this government.
When we were last in government, emissions came down by more than 15 per cent. Under this government, in the last seven years, they've flatlined and have reduced by only one per cent. The Paris commitment from Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison is for a 26 per cent emissions cut by 2030.
The Paris commitment from Mr Abbott and the Prime Minister is for a 26 per cent emissions cut by 2030, and the government are nowhere near being on track to meet that. Their own projections show that, on current policy settings, we'll reduce our emissions by only four per cent over the course of the decade. We are becoming increasingly isolated on the world stage, with over 70 per cent of our trading partners committing to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. We've had all the peak groups—whether they be the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Industry Group or the Business Council—all of the peak community organisations and the ACTU commit to net zero emissions by 2050, but we haven't had that commitment from our government. Part of the reason we haven't is that people remain so divided on the right thing to do, and that problem is partly because those on our side continue to bicker. Why wouldn't those who believe in climate change and want to see greater action on it come together and work out what we're after, instead of coming in here and trying to blame each other? The Greens point at us and tell us how it's all Labor's fault. There is no commitment to working together.
Look at what happened in the ACT when those on the progressive side of politics worked together. The ACT is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. Why is that? Because the progressive side of politics put aside their differences and worked out a way to deliver a good public policy outcome. I know, because I sat in that room, that it wasn't because the Greens political party forced our hand but because we both wanted the right outcome for our community.
(Quorum formed) I think those little procedural stunts just amplify the argument that I'm making, which is that the Greens are not interested in actually delivering the outcome here. What they are interested in is getting their social media video out, pointing the finger at the major parties and making themselves out as those who are without fault. The minute someone draws attention to their tactics and the way they're operating, and the fact that we are going nowhere with placing pressure on this government about its woeful record on climate change—this is part of the problem. You didn't come in here seeking to resolve it. You don't seek to compromise, you don't seek to collaborate, you don't seek to—
Thank you. The Greens don't seek to do anything that's actually constructive or that might deliver the outcome they say they seek. This urgency motion is a classic example. The motion makes it seem that the 68 per cent target by the UK—what you don't say is that it's based on 1990 levels. You're using the UK target—
Senator McKim is serial offender on the interjection front. The urgency motion notes 'that the UK has announced a 68 per cent emissions reduction by 2030'. But what is not explained there is that you're not measuring like with like in terms of current debate in Australia about mid-2030 emissions reduction targets, because the UK target is based on 1990 levels. Because of that, this motion is misleading, and the opposition won't be supporting it. However, if you had been factually correct, if you hadn't been seeking to mislead—
We won't be supporting the motion because it is misleading in the way that it has been written, and I think that was probably deliberate. I look forward to the day—given that the Greens and the Labor Party have a shared view that stronger action needs to be taken on climate change and that we should be asking and requiring more of the Morrison government when it comes to action on climate change—when they come to us with a motion that is factually correct and when they collaborate and cooperate with us so that we are in a position to support it.
I'm reminded of when grandma and grandpa dropped the kids off after they'd filled them with sugar. I think what they've done today is drive the kids to the Senate chamber!
In terms of this debate, and noting that I come to this place from an engineering background, I'm almost a little bit amused at the way there's this arbitrary declaration of what the emission target ought to be, as if we're able to sit here and make a statement that it should be this amount by this time and then someone else wants to kick the ball a bit further or have some other tactic. What we really need to do is understand that what we're trying to do is have energy that is clean, reliable and affordable. That's what I think everyone is trying to achieve.
Instead of just throwing out targets of one sort and then having someone else come back with a different target and then, a few months later, having a different target called for, we should actually approach this in an engineering manner. We should actually be developing a long-term national strategy for emissions reduction. Whilst it's okay to go into such an endeavour with some sort of requirement in mind, we actually need to work through and determine how that might be achieved and, in the execution of that plan, what the cost is, what the outcome is and all the things that are necessary to achieve a particular aim—and, indeed, whether the aim is, in actual fact, possible. That's the process that we should be taking, and it doesn't seem to happen here. We just have politicians standing up and saying, 'This is the new number that I want to declare today as the answer.'
We need to develop a strategy that is mindful of those goals that I talked about and of the need to create job opportunities along the way, to grow the economy, to maximise the benefits and minimise the cost, and to do so in a manner that is without risk. We want to make sure that when we do that it is a national strategy whereby we have the federal government working hand in glove with the state governments and also with local councils. We can't do that if we're playing this emission reduction target football, as we are. I would encourage all to perhaps pick up a book on system engineering and look at how you might approach a complex problem like this. Perhaps the government needs to very seriously look at the national plan that I talked about, a long-term strategy on emission targets, and have it open for everyone to look at and criticise. That's the only way we're going to get a sensible outcome, not by shouting and trying to outcompete each other in this chamber.
It's great to be in here to speak on this matter of urgency, and I thank Senator McKim for it. It's like a dorothy dixer session for us on this side. No doubt he'll try another one of his tricks through this, which I'll welcome, because then I get to have a drink of water. I've got a bit of a rough dose of hay fever today.
The Morrison Liberal government takes climate change seriously, and we are serious about delivering real outcomes, because it is outcomes and action that matter, not motions in the Senate and not grand declarations of targets without a plan to achieve them. We on this side of the chamber are ambitious to reduce our emissions but, unlike those opposite, we actually have a plan. Those opposite come into this place, beat their chests and jump up and down calling for greater action, but, when you ask how they would achieve that, what do you hear? You hear crickets. It is clear that those opposite, and especially those at the end of the chamber, are all talk and no action. They are all bluster and tokenism, positioning and politics. We in the Morrison Liberal government are not playing politics on this issue. While those at that end of the chamber are talking the talk, we are getting on with walking the walk.
Let's talk about the facts. Climate change is a global issue, and Australia, as part of the global community, is taking action. We are 100 per cent committed to a strong and practical global action in response to climate change. We are 100 per cent committed to the Paris Agreement. It was, after all, a Liberal government that signed the Paris Agreement. It was a Liberal government that adopted a 2030 target. It was a Liberal government that adopted a clear plan to meet and beat our 2030 targets. It was a Liberal government that remained committed to the Kyoto Protocol when others wavered. It was the Liberal government that beat our 2020 target by 459 million tonnes, and it will be a Liberal government that will meet and beat our 2030 target.
Why? Because with the Liberal government being in charge we've been able to set ambitious targets and then reach them, all without increases to taxes on everyday Australians and especially small businesses. When in government, those at that end of the chamber and opposite decided the only way to achieve emissions reductions was through the highly hurtful and harsh carbon tax. When Labor left government in 2012, their forecast was that emissions in this year, in 2020, would be 637 million tonnes, and that was with a carbon tax. Last week we learnt that our emissions are 513 million tonnes—20 per cent lower than what those opposite forecast that we would achieve. Guess what else? We got rid of the carbon tax.
When you compare our track record with the track record of those opposite, we've done far better. When you compare our track record with similar economies, we've done far better. Australia's emissions fell faster than the OECD average—faster than Canada, faster than New Zealand, faster than Japan and faster than the United States. Canada is not on track to meet its 2020 target. Canada's emissions are virtually unchanged since 2005. New Zealand expect that they will only achieve their 2020 target with the use of carryover. New Zealand's emissions are down by only one per cent since 2005. As of 2018, well before COVID-19, our emissions were down more than 13 per cent, and the latest data has Australia's emissions down by 16.6 per cent on 2005 levels. For those opposite to come in here and say we're not doing enough shows how little they care about facts, actions or outcomes. This Liberal government is getting on with the job.
The pathway to meaningful reductions in global emissions is through the development and deployment of new technologies. We're investing in future energy technologies that will support jobs, strengthen our economy, cut energy costs and reduce emissions. We are doing this without compromising the affordable, reliable power that Australians rely on. Our Technology Investment Roadmap is focused on reducing the cost of energy, not raising it. It is about making sure that there are more jobs and more investment, not less. Getting these technologies right will support 130,000 new jobs by 2030, many of those in regional Australia, and they will maintain Australia's position as a world-leading exporter of food, fibre, minerals and energy—all at the same time as reducing our emissions. The widespread global deployment of these technologies could substantially reduce or eliminate emissions in sectors responsible for 90 per cent of the world's emissions.
We want customers to choose lower emitting technologies because they make sense for them, for their household or for their business. This is not about a government telling businesses or households what they should do. Instead, it's about making sure that those lower emitting alternatives are there and at as low a cost as possible. This is a policy built on Liberal philosophy, a philosophy that has worked well for Australia for decades. Our plan is to reduce the cost of new technologies, not raise the cost of existing ones. In the budget, we also announced our $1.9 billion investment package to create jobs and bring new technologies into play.
So, while Labor and the Greens come in here, beat their chests and put forward tokenistic motions, the Morrison government is getting on with it. We're dealing with the issues and we're getting great results—reducing emissions, achieving our targets, reducing the cost of electricity for all Australians. We are focusing on delivering on the outcomes that matter, not tokenism, positioning or politics. Australia should be proud of our achievements. We should be proud of the fact that we are a world leader in energy, including renewables. We should be proud of the fact that we are in a very small group of nations that have met all their international targets, and we will have achieved this while supporting our key domestic sectors like mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
It was interesting, in the report that Senator McKim quotes, that in the UK government's plan they talk about delivering part of their emissions reductions through the use of advanced nuclear power. Perhaps the senators at that end of the chamber could come in here and have a sensible debate about nuclear energy one day, if they're serious about bringing down emissions, as opposed to just propping up their mates who sell solar panels. So we celebrate Australia's—
On a point of order: that was an adverse reflection by the senator. It's actually their side of politics, down that side of the chamber, that takes money from vested interests, not the Australian Greens. I'd ask him to withdraw.
Scientists, businesses, parliamentarians and the Australian community have been calling for the government to take action on climate change. But over seven long years they have refused to listen, stubbornly indifferent to the consequences of inaction. Now the Australian government's failures have caught the attention of international leaders, who are calling on Mr Morrison to take action on climate change and to commit to strong emissions targets. Not that long ago five international leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, wrote a letter to Mr Morrison demanding that Australia make a bold new commitment at the Climate Ambition Summit. It couldn't be a clearer message. The world is looking to Australia for leadership, and this government fails the test.
Australia has already lost 10 years to baseless fear campaigns against climate action. We can't afford to lose another 10 years. When Labor was last in government emissions came down by more than 15 per cent. Under the Liberals and the Nationals we see no such progress. Eleven years ago, almost to the day, the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens voted down Labor's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Eleven years later, as a direct consequence of that shameful act, Australia is still waiting and is still missing an effective climate change policy that will see a reduction in our emissions.
Indeed, the Greens political party are touchy about this question, because it was a great mistake. It's a mistake for which they have refused to apologise, a mistake they cannot even acknowledge. The consequence of that is they continue to be completely unable to participate in constructing broad based support for climate action.
Labor will not be supporting the Greens urgency motion today, because, yet again, it is characterised by misleading information. I'm sure that the Greens will see that as no impediment to posting online a whole lot of information misrepresenting Labor's position on climate action, polluting the political debate with misinformation. But let's be really clear: Labor is the only party with a track record of legislating for climate action and is the only party with the capacity to build a broad based consensus to transition us to a carbon neutral future. Right now, under this government, nothing is happening, and that is by design. That will not change until we change the government.
According to recent research from the University of Melbourne, the cost to Australia of not delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement, a goal that requires net zero emissions by 2050, is a staggering $2.7 trillion.
(Quorum formed) Before the Greens called a quorum in this debate—a step that they've taken on multiple occasions for purposes that they're yet to explain—I was making the point that the costs of inaction are very significant for the Australian economy. At a time when we are looking for sources of growth, new sources of economic activity and new jobs, it is incredible that the government cannot see the opportunity that is staring them in the face. This is a goal that the CSIRO says will deliver higher wages, higher incomes and lower power costs. It's a goal that the University of Melbourne says will deliver 20 times greater benefits to the economy than any costs. The Business Council says getting to net zero by 2050 will mean $22 billion of new investment per year. All major Australian companies and the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Industry Group are committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Seventy-three countries, including the UK, Canada, France and Germany, have already adopted it as their goal. All states and territories in Australia have already promised to be carbon neutral by 2050, and the Australian and international communities are united in this commitment. But it's the Morrison government that refuses to accept the target and denies the science. It misleads and lies to the community and refuses to take action. These failures have a real-life impact. Our government should go to the Climate Ambition Summit with a plan for climate, energy and economic reform.
I want to take you back 40 years. I was 20, and I was studying meteorology at Melbourne university. I had just learnt about the science of the greenhouse effect and the likely resultant changes to the world's climate from the burning of coal, gas and oil. I was shocked, and I thought: 'This is serious. The world needs to be doing something.' That day changed my life. It made me realise that if the world needed to be taking action then so did I. I had a responsibility to do what I could to protect our planet, and that resolve has continued through to the current day. But 40 years of the world not taking action in line with climate science—with my country, Australia, leading the way in inaction over the last seven years, after the highlight of the Greens-Labor government, the Gillard government, from 2010 to 2013—has been demoralising because we know now that we have not done enough. Yet we've got a government and an opposition that are still trying to debate the physics and saying that what we are doing is going to be sufficient, with the Labor Party unwilling even to commit to a 2030 target.
We know that there are really damaging effects of the climate crisis already baked in. We are living with the bleaching of our coral reefs, with the largest living organism on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef, having lost half of its corals in the last 25 years. We are living with the places we love being destroyed by fire. Our World Heritage Gondwanan rainforests, living time capsules that survived a continental break-up and a planetary mass extinction event, are being destroyed by the worst fires in thousands and thousands of years. We are living with the deaths of three billion animals. If we named each one of those animals, if we read out their names at a rate of one per second, it would take us 96 years to finish paying respect to them. We are living with millions of people every year being forced to move due to natural disasters, with global heating causing more frequent and more intense disasters and nearly one billion people living in areas of high or very high climate exposure. And we are living with the intense grief of knowing that we are all part of the web of life on this planet and feeling the pain and the trauma of that loss and the reality that life is going to be more difficult, more dangerous and less safe for our children and grandchildren than it has been for us. The denialism from the government and the Labor Party, pretending that they're doing enough and playing with figures, compounds our grief. In refusing to commit to shifting away from the mining, export and burning of coal, gas and oil at the speed and scale that are required, they create despair and disillusion, especially among young people, who know they are the ones who are going to be living through this crisis.
So, 40 years on, sadly, I no longer have optimism that we will act in time to turn this crisis around, but I continue to have hope that the world will see sense and at some stage take the urgent action that's required to shift to a zero-carbon economy at emergency speed. I'm no longer optimistic that Australia will be a leader, but I have hope that we will be dragged along as a laggard, and my hope is kindled when I see the UK government committing to reduce its emissions by 68 per cent by 2030. I know that Australia could do likewise. So on behalf of every person and every creature on this planet, on behalf of future generations, I urge the government and the Labor Party to build hope and dispel despair by similarly committing to ambitious carbon reduction targets in line with the science.
There we have it—emotion and hyperbole but not one bit of science. In serving the people of Queensland and Australia, I want to firstly point out that the Greens last week wanted to declare a climate emergency because New Zealand did—not because of the science but because New Zealand did. The Greens wanted to declare a climate emergency because Japan did, yet Japan is building coal-fired power stations hand over fist. Now the Greens want to pledge to increase 2030 targets in line with the science. Listen to what the CSIRO has divulged. I asked them: where's the danger? They said they have never said there is any danger due to the human production of carbon dioxide—never—and they said they never would. If so, why the policy? Why the Greens rants?
Secondly, the CSIRO admitted that today's temperatures are not unprecedented. That means we didn't cause the mild warming, that cyclical natural warming that ended in 1995—and it's been flat since. Ultimately the CSIRO relied not on empirical scientific data; it relied on climate models—invalidated and already proven wrong. What's more, the reliance on models means that they have got no empirical scientific evidence.
What's more, in the last few months, we have made videos and consulted with 17 eminent scientists, including those who have worked with NASA's data, worked at senior levels of the USA administration or been contributors and lead authors to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including renowned climatologists, world experts in their fields; experts on sea levels; experts on atmospheric gases; atmospheric physicists; mathematicians; former senior Bureau of Meteorology meteorologists; geologists with international awards; a former CSIRO senior researcher; the first and only auditor of the Global Historical Climatology Network; and the climate modellists.
This is not a matter of urgency; it is a matter of integrity. It defines the Greens as the deniers of science. (Quorum formed) So where's the science?
I asked the Greens that on Monday 9 September 2019. It's been 445 days since I asked them to provide the empirical evidence proving that carbon dioxide from human activity affects climate—445 days of zero, 445 days since I challenged them to debate me. It was Senator Waters and Senator Di Natale at the time—zero. It's been 10 years since I first challenged Senator Waters in public, in Brisbane on 7 October 2010, to debate me on the science and on the corruption of science—zero. It's been almost five years since I did it again in June 2016.
There's no science from the Greens, and they rely on a motion and rants because this is not a matter of urgency; it is a matter lacking integrity. It defines the Greens as deniers of science. Why? All because Maurice Strong pushed this nonsense. The fundamental cause for propagating the lies about science is due to human weakness, gutless politicians afraid of differing from a false majority. Here's how he did it. In 1972 the United Nations environmental program started, with Maurice Strong as leader. In 1976 there was a ban on DDT. In 2006 the World Health Organization reinstated DDT's use. Forty to 50 million people died because of Maurice Strong. In 1980, Villach, Austria; in 1985, Villach, Austria again. These are the times when Maurice Strong hand-picked—
Acting Deputy President, a point of order on relevance: I know you allow a fair bit of latitude in these debates, but Senator Roberts talking about DDT on a motion about climate change is, I feel, not relevant to this debate.
It is not a point of order, because it goes to the heart of the UN. It is a corrupt, antihuman organisation. It is in line because it is not a matter of urgency; it is a matter lacking integrity. It defines the Greens. Their action, in line with the science, means: do nothing.
To state the utterly bleeding obvious, our climate is breaking down around us. Stop and think about what that actually means for a minute. It means that the life support systems of this planet are failing. And what do we get in debates from the major parties in this place while the climate is breaking down around us? We get denial and obfuscation from the government benches, and somehow what we're getting from Labor is, 'It's all the Greens fault.' Let me remind Senator McAllister: it is not the Greens but the Labor Party that still supports the Carmichael coalmine. It is not the Greens but the Labor Party that supports fracking the Beetaloo Basin. It is not the Greens but the Labor Party that supports fracking the Galilee Basin. It is not the Greens but the Labor Party, along with the Liberal Party, that still supports the tens of billions of dollars worth of direct public subsidies going straight into the pockets of the fossil fuel polluters in this country. But somehow, from Senator McAllister and Labor, it is all the Greens fault.
What I've noticed in this debate as it's evolved over the years and the decades is that the rhetoric of climate denialism is shifting. It's shifting away from challenging the science—and I exclude Senator Roberts here, for obvious reasons. The mainstream climate deniers in this place have shifted away from trying to dispute the science, because the science is overwhelming. So what they do now is work on delay. One of the primary ways that political parties work on delay is by setting targets off in the never-never. And the party most culpable for doing that in this place is the Australian Labor Party, who have got a 2050 target. Fine; have a 2050 target—no problems there—but stop using it as cover for not having a 2030 target. The science is abundantly clear: we've got a decade or less left to take serious, significant and—yes, I will say it—radical action to save the life support systems on our planet, to fix the climate breakdown. Any political party that does not have a 2030 target might as well be a party of climate deniers.
Every day the majors refuse to set a 2030 target in line with the science, they are deciding that the millions of dollars that they get from their deep-pocketed fossil fuel donors are more important than the lives of ordinary Australians and ultimately the climate that sustains all life on this planet. Every day they fail to have a 2030 emissions reduction target in line with the science, they condemn our country to more summers like the one that we just suffered through, they condemn the Great Barrier Reef to death and they condemn millions of animal species around this planet to extinction. What have they sold out all those things for? A few dirty dollars from their fossil fuel donors.
I speak to this urgency motion as a young person and as a member of the generation who are staring down the barrel of a climate crisis and whose future looms as one defined by drought, hunger, fire and flood. Decade after decade we, the young people of Australia, have been demanding action from this parliament and yet all we hear in return is the same nonsense, the same robotic talking points delivered by one side of the chamber and the other. From one side of the chamber you get excuses and the literal talking points of the fossil fuel industry flowing forth into this place. From the other side, where the opposition sit, you see nothing but spinelessness and cowardice in the face of the greatest crisis ever to face the human species.
In my state of Western Australia we have a state Labor government that is flush with hundreds of thousands of dollars funnelled to it by Chevron and Woodside Petroleum. At their behest, the government is selling our future down a gas poisoned river and is fracking the Kimberley. On the eve of our state election it dares to bring forth a so-called climate policy that does not retain within it an emissions reduction target and does not retain within it a renewable energy target. On the eve of a season of weather in our state that proves to be one of the most damaging in our history and at a moment in time in the history of our state when we as a community have come together like never before to keep ourselves safe from COVID and are now united in our desire to rebuild in a way that enables us to tackle the climate crisis, the McGowan government is making things worse. It is opening up our state to the wholesale selling of massive tracts of our land—massive tracts of country that has been sung and stewarded for tens of thousands of years—to the gas giants that are lining the government's pockets.
It is one of the greatest acts of intergenerational theft in Australian political history. It is a condemnation of this place that right now there are children across the country organising strikes and marches at a time when their focus should be on their education, their mental health and planning what they want to do with their lives. They are putting all that aside to plan demonstrations to plead with this place, to grab it by the scruff of the neck and to say: 'Please act. Our future is at stake.' It is a shame that that should be required of my generation. (Time expired)