Senate debates

Thursday, 4 February 2021


Climate Change

5:47 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

After the challenges of 2020, with the pandemic and the disasters across our country, you would have thought that governments would have woken up to the massive threat that climate change poses to our future, to the future of the planet and to its habitants. Federal and state governments continue to support, invest in and encourage the fossil fuel industry. They want a gas led recovery, they keep on approving fossil fuel developments and they are not even enforcing the weak environmental conditions on projects.

The immediate risks that climate change poses to our health and wellbeing are getting worse every year. As global temperatures rise, extreme weather events like bushfires, droughts, cyclones and floods are becoming more frequent and severe. As Professor Will Steffen said:

No developed country has more to lose from climate change-fuelled extreme weather, or more to gain as the world transforms to a zero-carbon economy, than Australia does.

My home state of Western Australia, particularly the South West, was always predicted to be severely affected by climate change and, unfortunately, so it turns out to be. Tragically, right now, we are seeing bushfires in the Perth metropolitan area and in the hills, posing risks to lives, and the loss of homes. My heart goes out to all of those affected by these fires and to the emergency services providers that are battling these fires.

A report by a new group called the Climate Targets Panel, a group of some of the most senior climate scientists in the country and, in fact, John Hewson, found the Morrison government should be setting a 2030 emissions reduction target of between 50 and 74 per cent if Australia is to comply with a goal of limiting global heating to two degrees or 1.5 degrees. But we can do better than just going for two degrees. We must aim for 1.5 degrees, which means a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

The biggest contributor to emissions here in Australia are fossil fuels and the companies that produce them. This week we have heard about those companies' political donations. Nationally, over the last three years, the Liberals have accepted $2,365,250, Labor have accepted $1,108,528 and the Nationals have accepted $221,787 from fossil fuel companies. That's almost $3.7 million of dirty money that influences politicians' judgement when debating critical issues like the climate crisis and clean energy. The greatest tragedy of the climate crisis is that 7½ billion people must pay the price, and the price is a degraded planet where their future is in jeopardy so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits, and can continue to pump dirty fossil fuel emissions and carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It is a great moral failing of our political system that this is allowed to continue to happen.

In my home state of Western Australia, a state that had a budget surplus in 2020, the big polluters also jumped on the opportunity bandwagon to buy political influence. Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals took in $283,340 from Woodside, which is currently seeking approval from the WA Labor government for a gas project in the state's north-west. If approved, it will become the nation's biggest polluter. Oil and gas giant Chevron, which operates two of the biggest polluting facilities in WA, donated $124,685 to Labor, the Libs and the Nationals. Our system enables individuals and corporations with greater wealth to have an undue influence on elections. These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency we face, and have collectively delayed national and global action for decades. We need caps on emissions, we need caps on election expenditure and donations, and we need real-time disclosure laws—and we need them now. The Australian public deserves to know who's putting money into political parties. It will bring transparency and integrity back into decision-making and policies, especially when it comes to this climate emergency. (Time expired)