Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Climate Change

3:29 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to climate change.

I asked about climate ambition, and I asked why there is all the fuss, squabbling over 2050—whether it's 'preferably' or not—between this Liberal government and its coalition partners in the National Party, when all of the science says that that is a distraction and an excuse for inaction and that delay is the new denial. The year 2030 is the year we should all be talking about. That's what the science says needs to happen. That's what most of the world is talking about. The G7 made recommendations last week about taking serious action in this coming decade, including phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and including, importantly, seriously increasing participant countries' 2030 targets. Many of them were doubled. Our government didn't double its pathetic 2030 targets, and the opposition doesn't even have any 2030 targets. This whole phoney war between the Liberals and the Nationals, as they squabble over the new division of ministerial responsibilities, with their new leader at the helm, is a massive distraction. It is letting down anyone who cares deeply about delivering a safe climate for current and future generations, and it is letting down anyone who cares about creating a prosperous economy with all of the jobs that will flow from a clean economy. Naturally, I didn't get an answer to that question. I certainly got a whole lot of words, but I don't think you could describe them as an answer to the question about 2050 and the fact that talk of delay is the new denial.

I then asked about the impact on farmers of the repeal of the carbon price. This government loves to champion the fact that it repealed the carbon price, but we've had the numbers crunched. As people would know, the carbon price was set to link to the EU scheme before it was repealed. If it hadn't been repealed, Australian farmers would be bringing in an absolute motza. They could be earning $80 a tonne, in today's prices, by storing carbon on the land. So the coalition has already lost Australian farmers $1.4 billion of export income, by getting rid of the price on pollution, and it's going to cost them another $11 billion by the end of the decade. Again, this is nonsense from the National Party, who used to claim to represent farmers but now clearly prioritise the interests of coal and gas companies over everybody else—and there's no denying that anymore. The National Party once represented the interests of Australian farmers, but they are actually denying farmers the opportunity of an additional revenue stream. Their continued denial and inaction on the climate is imperilling farmers' ability to keep producing food and fibre for us and for the rest of the world.

I don't understand how we can still have climate denial in a chamber of parliament in 2021, particularly from a party whose members often live in rural and regional Australia, and particularly when many farming groups keep saying to them: 'We can see the impacts of the climate crisis on our land and on our productivity. We want something done. We want the option to be paid for sequestering carbon on our land.' I don't understand why the government, particularly the National Party, aren't listening to the people they purport to represent. Again, I didn't get a real answer to that question. It was the usual talking-point stuff and a whole lot of new slogans, which the focus groups have said work. But rural and regional Australians are not going to be duped by this assemblage of word salad. They want action on the climate crisis. They can see what it's doing to their farms already and they can see the opportunities for international carbon markets, but they're not getting any representation from the Liberal and National parties.

The last point that I made was that, whilst this squabble is happening about who's going to be in charge of what ministry under the new leadership of Barnaby Joyce, most of our trading partners are taking serious action and making serious commitments to increase their carbon pollution reduction targets. Japan have announced that, by 2030, they want a 46 per cent reduction, and South Korea, who's our third-biggest energy customer, yesterday lifted their targets to 40 per cent. It's rumoured that the trade portfolio might go to the Nats, in some sort of deal to make them go quiet on 2050. Do you really want climate deniers holding the trade portfolio when our closest energy trading partners are taking this issue seriously and increasing their 2030 targets? It's not a game, folks. This isn't just about sloganeering and power-mongering. This is about the world's climate, agricultural productivity, the future of the reef and our nation's health. There is so much at stake here, and for this issue to continue to be politicised is absolutely woeful.

Question agreed to.