Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Climate Change

4:23 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to climate change.

Of all the untruths, of all the deception, of all the spin—in fact, if I could use some pub vernacular, Deputy President—of all the bullshit we hear in this place from the coalition about climate change, perhaps the biggest mistruth of all is that, somehow, there's a trade-off between the economy and action on climate change. There isn't. Action on climate change is important for the economy. It's not just an important opportunity to create new industries, new innovation, new jobs and solve an environmental problem. It's important because there is no bigger cost to our economy than climate change. There is no bigger threat to our national security than climate change.

How often do we think about the extreme weather events that cause the outages in power, that cause the problems we heard today at question time about a stable, reliable, low-cost energy source? Most of the problems in our grid are caused by heatwaves and cold snaps caused by our changing climate. There is the damage caused by prolonged droughts to our rural and regional areas—the lack of rainfall, the mental health issues—and there is the disruption to essential services and essential assets from cyclones, from floods, from heatwaves, from storms. We've all seen it. We've all experienced it. We're all giving this speech in Canberra, in the Australian Senate.

Just one summer ago, the summer leading into 2020, we experienced the most extraordinary period of extreme weather events and disruptions to the community, to the economy, to the areas in southern New South Wales all the way to the North Coast, down to Tasmania and across Victoria. We had Australian citizens being evacuated from beaches by the Australian Navy and the loss of millions of animals. The construction costs to communities to rebuild—that's just the tangible cost of what it costs to rebuild their houses and their infrastructure and their facilities. You can't even begin to estimate the cost and damage to their lives, to the fabric of their communities. But we ignore that in this place in our short-term, self-interested debates that we have on climate action. Somehow a technology that we've been talking about for 20 years is going to mysteriously solve our problems by creating lower emissions and a reliable, safe power source. I don't know if that's a pig that's flying over the Senate right now, but I tell you what: I'm fed up with this government's excuses and distractions from real climate change, and I know most Australians are as well.

Senator Hanson-Young mentioned today that this government has put up just 50c in every $100 that it's spent in this budget towards the environment and towards climate action. If there's anyone in this place, if there's any senator or any member of parliament, that can't say that the biggest challenge our nation faces—the biggest economic challenge, the biggest social challenge, the biggest environmental challenge, the biggest political challenge—is climate change, then they are quite simply in denial. They have their head in the sand. And, if that is the case, why has it had so little attention from this government? Indeed, why has this government thrown fuel on the fire by funding fossil fuels? Shamefully, we just saw that in the Senate this afternoon with legislation gagged to provide public funds for fossil-fuel projects. The public expect a lot better from us, and the Greens will deliver on that for the Australian public at the next election.

Question agreed to.