Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 August 2021


Climate Change

7:55 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Every person in this country should be absolutely ashamed that the so-called Prime Minister of this country—a man absolutely committed to not doing his job—today refused to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that First Nations knowledge is a vital tool in the struggle for climate justice. First Nations people have cared for and protected our lands and waters, including our totems, for tens of thousands of years. Recent breakdowns of ecological systems and harms to biodiversity have been linked to a disregard for traditional forms of land management and their displacement by imported and harmful practices. The IPCC report acknowledges the contribution of First Nations people and First Nations scientists in helping record historical as well as current observations of a changing climate.

The year before last, we watched this country burn as we experienced one of the worst bushfire seasons in our recorded history, and what did the so-called Prime Minister do? He took a holiday to Hawaii! He doesn't hold a hose, mate. He went missing when it was time to get this country vaccinated. What—and he doesn't hold a needle, mate? Today, when the IPCC recommended urgent action, he's gone missing again. Where is he? Get him out from under that desk! He just has no idea, mate.

We need to get rid of the Morrison government. We can kick the Liberals out and put the Greens in, with the balance of power. Greens with the balance of power would mean that the Greens and our advocacy for black justice and climate justice in the parliament could not be ignored. It would mean that our people-powered movement would need to be consulted on all laws before this place. Imagine that! Look at the Greens' policies and see what we stand for. We leave the rest for dead. This way we can make laws that are good for the people and for the country. With the balance of power, the Greens will push the next government to go harder and faster on climate change. If we get a Labor government—they don't even know what their target is and they're still getting donations from the fossil fuel industry—they're going to need a true party that will hold them to account, and the only way we're going to do that is with the balance of power. The last time the Greens and Labor were in shared power, we passed laws to bring down pollution. Yes, we did. Coal and gas are causing the greatest damage to people, country and communities because Labor and the Liberals are being bought off by the coal and gas corporations. Seriously, you guys, stop taking their money, because when you take their money you have to do their work.

The Greens don't take dirty donations, so, with the balance of power, we will make big corporations and billionaires finally contribute their fair share of tax so that we can all live a better life. Right now, we live in a society where a nurse pays more tax than a multibillion-dollar corporation. What the hell? My politics—green politics—is the politics of hope. We dare to plant a seed and make these big, bold, visionary plans come true. Right now, we have a chance to build a country that works for everyone, not just the chosen few. My promise to the people of Victoria is that only the Greens will fight for your future.

8:00 pm

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

'A code red for humanity' and on the edge of an 'irreversible disaster' if we don't act—they were the exact words from the IPCC AR6 report on climate, their sixth assessment, released last night. That science has been like a lighthouse guiding us through a decades-long smokescreen put up by the fossil fuel industry and their lackeys in governments all around the world. It's been a tough day for the many people who care about our planet and care about future generations, following the release of that report. The reality is hitting home. The report is from some of the world's best scientists, over 200 of them, a very conservative bunch who used consensus decision-making to provide their report. The reality of this hitting home has been difficult for many people to comprehend, because for so long now—indeed, for decades—so many people have been campaigning for climate action, and yet here we are in 2021 having the same debates. It's been especially frustrating for people today witnessing the government's continued indifference to the climate emergency.

I had thought it was a tough day for me until I got a message tonight from Helen Taylor. She is the mother of one very special young Australian who I'd like to acknowledge tonight in the Australian Senate—a young fella, a climate activist who had a firecracker for a heart, who dedicated his short life to taking action on our climate crisis. He was riding his bike around the country to raise awareness of the need for climate action—another young person galvanised, riding and having conversations with anyone and everyone to change the world. His name was Leif Justham. He popped in to meet me in my electorate office in Launceston this summer, but, sadly, I was away. I heard he had a fantastic meeting with some of my staff, who, of course, were blown away by the energy and commitment of this young fella. He died only a few months ago, riding his bike across the Nullarbor. Leif was just 21—the same age as my son—when he was, tragically, hit by a truck. At his funeral, his family said Leif was a passionate lover of the planet and all life that came from it.

I'd like to dedicate this speech to Leif and his mum, Helen Taylor, who reached out to me today. She wanted to thank me and my colleagues for the work that we'd done on fighting for climate action for so long. She told me it was Leif's birthday this weekend and he would appreciate the work that we do and everything we fight for. If people want to know more about Leif, they can go to There's a collection of information there about his life work. Or you could check out 'Change Your Super', which was one of the many causes that Leif was campaigning on, to get people to use their investments and try to channel that into climate action.

I wanted to do a few things tonight. I wanted to start, after acknowledging Leif and his mum Helen, by also acknowledging the many climate scientists—indeed, all our scientists, but especially climate scientists tonight—on this day that we've received the IPCC report. It can't be easy being a climate scientist; it really can't be. They spend so much of their time looking at a subject that is so difficult for many people to comprehend and that delivers so much bad news. As reported in The Canberra Times recently, dozens of Australian scientists have also been targeted by vicious, unrelenting campaigns because of their work. They're often ignored, they're censored and they are politicised. According to a survey conducted in 2020, more than half of the environmental scientists working for the Australian federal government and state governments reported having been prohibited from communicating scientific information. Some respondents said that they had suffered negative health impacts after having their work suppressed and others reported that their career advancement was stifled.

I'd like to thank those scientists for all the work they've done—not just the hundreds that contributed to this report with the IPCC, but all the scientists out there that do this work. We can go home to our families and to our lives, but they have to see this every day. They've committed their life to giving us a better understanding of what we need to do as decision-makers, as leaders, in a place like this where we have a platform and a privilege to change things. I wanted to honour them tonight for all the hard work that they've done.

I think it's well and truly justified to say that this IPCC report is the most important report in our time. It has laid out the facts: that in just 5½ years time the world collectively will have spent its carbon budget; that in 5½ years time we will be on track to exceed 1.5 degree warming; and that, by 2030, we will have reached a tipping point 10 years earlier than our best climate models had previously forecasted. If that is the case, and that is what the best scientists tell us, then we have got 5½ years to turn this ship around. That means that we simply cannot afford to have a government in power in this country or anywhere else that continues to ignore the science and that puts the environment and future generations of this country at risk. I would argue that, if this is one of the most important reports in human history, this next federal election is, without a doubt, the most important federal election in our nation's history.

I'd say to all those Australians out there today who are despairing, who are angry, who are frustrated and who are anxious: action is the best antidote to despair. There are lots of things you can do to take action. You could be like Leif and decide that you're going to do something with your life to change the world. You can do small things. You can change the way you live. You can electrify your transport. You can get renewables for your home power. You can do lots of things to reduce your carbon footprint. That all matters. But, at the end of the day, we have to change a broken system, a broken political system, a broken economic system—that nexus between political donations and special interests that keeps us locked into this cynical, death spiral that this planet is in now.

The most important action that any Australian can take is to vote for change. Vote for the change you want to see in the world. Your vote is powerful. Do not believe that your vote isn't powerful. Voting for change is the most important thing you can do, because one of the only things politicians will listen to is votes. Vote for the change you want to see in the world. I am proud to be in a party that has, for 40 years now in this place, campaigned for climate action. We have never relented, nor will we ever. The Greens could hold the balance of power in this government in the 47th Parliament. Vote for it. (Time expired)