Thursday, 21 October 2021
by leave—Pursuant to contingent notice standing in the name of Senator Waters, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Cox moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely, a motion to provide that a motion in relation to opening of new gas fields and emission reductions may be moved immediately, determined without amendment and take precedence over all business for 30 minutes.
In the Northern Territory, approval for Empire Energy Group to frack the Beetaloo was recklessly stitched up yesterday afternoon. Today is the last sitting day for the Senate before the PM goes to Glasgow and embarrasses Australia on the world stage by not only refusing to lift 2030 targets but by expanding coal and gas fields. Yesterday, on the eve of world leaders descending on Glasgow to lift the 2030 targets, the Northern Territory Labor government approved fracking and to open the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory.
This is urgent; there is nothing more urgent or more important for this Senate to debate today. The federal government, with the support of the opposition, voted to give $50 million to gas companies and donors so that mining interests could take precedence over traditional owners' rights to their land and safe groundwater. In August of this year, the Ngandji, Yanuwa, Garawa, Jingili, Mudburra and Alawa nations came to this place to vent their fury to the federal government for the fast-tracking of gas fracking on their country instead of helping Indigenous people.
The Beetaloo basin is important in the climate fight, because the basin is so massive. It would cause the single biggest jump in Australia's pollution, and the Northern Territory government has said it will blow Australia's emissions up by a staggering six per cent a year. We need to suspend standing orders right now and debate this motion today, our last sitting day, because we need to hold this government to account. Gas is as dirty as coal, and the Beetaloo gas project will be worse for the climate—worse than the Adani coalmine, which itself is a climate bomb. Our climate crisis is the most existential threat to our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of all life on this planet.
This new Labor climate bomb threatens our chance of stopping global warming. Scientists say no more coal and gas, but Labor isn't listening. We have been drawing attention to our climate crisis all week but still haven't got any sense out of this government about how on earth they can justify going to Glasgow without a commitment to slash our carbon pollution by 2030. After this announcement, it's clear that the only way we'll get climate action is to kick the Liberals out and put the Greens in the balance of power, where we'll push the next government to actually take this climate crisis seriously.
Australia's carbon emissions could increase as much as 23 per cent from this project, which is a slap in the face for all Australians who are fighting every day for the climate. This is urgent because, you know what, the government can't justify their climate denialism. After the Juukan Gorge disaster, you would have thought that the government, in this place, would listen to traditional owners. But we see, time and time again, Labor siding with their mates in the coalition. Traditional owners fear that chemicals used in the processes could contaminate their ground water. This comes directly from the traditional owners, who have told us in inquiries this is what's going to happen. These are the skies, the water and the land that must be protected.
Scott Morrison gifted the Beetaloo exploration drilling grants in March to help speed up gas production in this region, while here we are in the middle of a climate crisis. Shame. The basin is one of five gas fields the Commonwealth government plans to develop for the gas-led recovery of the COVID-19 crisis, which I don't know how they could even justify. The government said that the money would be better spent on housing, education, health and opportunities to lift Aboriginal people out of the grinding poverty inflicted on many of them. Beetaloo traditional owner Johnny Wilson told a Senate inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production, 'I still live in a tin shack. My floor is bare ground. When will I get money for housing? When do I get a house?' He said that many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory were struggling to access basic services in their communities. All week, the Greens have been calling to debate the carbon targets that our Prime Minister is taking on our behalf to Glasgow in just 10 days' time.
This is the fourth time we've had a suspension motion moved by the Greens, and Labor has supported the suspension on each of those occasions. The motion before the Senate that the Greens seek to debate today is just another demonstration of the desire of the Greens to keep the climate wars going in their political interest, as opposed to actually doing something in the national interest. The Greens political party, as a protest movement, have made it clear that they want to stoke division on every side—they want to have a go at them; they want to have a go at us. The actions they took 10 years ago to vote down an ETS, they have not learned a thing from. In 2019, when they did their convoy and picked fights wherever they went, that worked so well, didn't it? That worked really well. That delivered the outcome. And in a week where we have this government fighting itself, tearing itself apart—the chaos, the disunity—the Senate should be putting pressure on this government to actually get a position to take to Glasgow on behalf of the nation, but the Greens political party come in here and want to pick a fight with everybody, all for their social media. This is not about an outcome, not about the national interest, nothing like that. Labor will support the suspension so that this chamber can debate a matter of national importance that is front of and centre of every member of this chamber's mind. We do agree with that. What we disagree with, fundamentally, is the way that the Greens conduct themselves around this debate. It's all about their political interest, all about continuing the fights, not resolving everything, not having a position, not bringing people together, not having a consensus view, not putting the pressure on the government; it's all about trying to pick a fight with the Labor Party. Again, as I said yesterday, it didn't work so well in 2013, it didn't work in 2016, it didn't work in 2019, so how about the Greens reflect on the way they conduct yourselves and actually work in the national interest, as opposed to their narrow political interest. It hasn't worked. Picking a fight with people who want to deliver real action on climate change is not going to work. The Greens membership might endorse this approach, but they need to think a bit more broadly about the matters of this nation. Do their membership need the Greens picking a fight with the Labor Party every morning at the beginning of the sitting week?
I would submit that that is not the most constructive way to pursue this matter.
What I would say is that the division, the disunity and the chaos of the government in its inability and Mr Morrison's inability to lead his government and resolve his position two weeks out from climate should be the focus of this chamber. The single focus should be on having a government that actually can represent the Australian people in two weeks time. At the moment we don't have that. That should be the matter that this chamber is trying to resolve, not trying to blow up everything and pick a fight with everybody and run a political campaign in your narrow political interests, because that is what you're doing. We support the suspension. We support the ability of the chamber to discuss the matters raised around net zero by 2050 and the position that the government should be taking to Glasgow, so we do support that. We do not support the way the Greens conduct this debate or the divisive motions they move in this chamber at the beginning of business every single morning. It's tired, it's lazy, and it won't get you anywhere.