Tuesday, 30 November 2021
I seek leave to move a motion in relation to Australia's climate targets.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to Australia's climate targets.
Senator Waters, before you go on, I will point out that it is in the discretion of the chair to avoid multiple suspensions of standing orders if repeated suspensions are used to frustrate the business of the chamber. However, as per past practice, I will allow a second suspension. But there will be no third.
Thanks, Mr President. We'll come back to the procedural elements of your ruling another time. On this matter, the latest quarterly emissions data has just been released by the department this morning, and Australia's pollution is up two per cent in this quarter. These June quarter results are proof that, despite the short-term drop in emissions due to COVID that this government claimed as a great success, that was nothing but a road bump. It's a reminder that a global pandemic is not a climate policy. Today's report exposes that there is no structural change happening. We're driving off the climate cliff, with Liberals, Nationals and Labor pushing their feet on the accelerator heading into this election. In the approval pipeline, there are 116 new coal and gas projects that both parties want to see opened up. Yesterday Labor voted with the government to give $50 million to gas companies to start fracking the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, against the wishes of First Nations owners. Last week they voted together again, to give millions more to coal and gas companies for carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, there is no plan for transport pollution, no plan to help farmers reduce emissions, no plan for rolling out new renewables and no plan to stop the gridlock. There is expansion of methane-leaking coal and gas fields.
This is urgent. We have until the end of the decade to slash global pollution or we risk setting off an irreversible chain and we will be unable to stop the collapse of our climate system. Once that extreme-weather genie is out of the bottle, humans won't be able to put it back in. The science says that we need a 74 per cent reduction in emissions by the end of the decade, three times more than what the coalition has sentenced us to. Last month, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Albanese, said that he would respect the science when it comes to climate change. The Australian Greens will hold the opposition leader to those words when the opposition soon announce their climate targets. If you want to limit Australia to 1½ degrees of warming, which is what was just inserted into the Glasgow text, the science says that Australia's 2030 targets need to be 75 per cent. Any target that is a 2030 target that is less than 75 per cent is not science based.
In the two years since the 2019 election, the climate crisis has gotten worse, not better, so the opposition's targets need to be stronger and not weaker than they were at the last election. A 45 per cent reduction was once the barest minimum for two degrees of warming. Since the Climate Change Authority report in 2014, that's been revised up by the Climate Targets Panel to 50 per cent, but even a 50 per cent target would give us only a two-thirds chance of staying below two degrees. But two degrees is too high. The world recognised that at Glasgow, after they listened to the voices of Pacific islanders saying that their nations will not survive if warming reaches two degrees. The text of the Paris Agreement shifted in Glasgow. The goal is now 1½ degrees, and two degrees is not acceptable to the global community anymore.
We listen to medical scientists for our health advice. We listen to engineering science to build bridges and towers. We listen to aeronautical science, which delivers us safely around the world. We now have to listen to atmospheric science. If we don't let the science guide us through this critical decade, our generation will forever be known as the generation that handed down worse living conditions to those that followed us. That is not something that the Australian Greens will sit back and allow to happen.
Transforming our economy to create the jobs and the public infrastructure that we need to avert climate catastrophe is all upside. There's no downside—except, of course, for the coal and gas corporations that are plundering our planet and donating generously to both sides of parliament. Putting the Greens in the balance of power to kick out the Liberals and push the next government to go further and faster on the climate emergency will mean that our next parliament has to listen to voters and climate science, not fossil fuel donors. It is long past time that the coal and gas companies stopped writing this nation's climate policies. That is a dodgy pay-off for the donations that they make to both sides of politics.
If, as the opposition leader said last week, the opposition wants climate targets to be based on science, let's see some targets that are based on science. To stick with 1½ degrees, Australia's got to commit to a 75 per cent reduction by 2030. Otherwise, we are cooking the planet. We can create a tonne of jobs with renewable energy. We need science based targets, not coal donors running the show. (Time expired)
Labor won't be supporting this suspension this morning. It is important to put it on the record, because we're constantly accused by the Greens of not agreeing with them. We are not agreeing to this suspension today, firstly because we had, again, no notice of it. If the Greens were serious about trying to get Labor's support for a debate to be brought on urgently, as they are intending to do, they would engage with us prior to this being circulated in the chamber. I had no line of sight, as manager, that this was being done until I walked into the chamber this morning.
The second issue is that we will not agree to having our climate policy determined by the Greens political party through a suspension debate in this chamber. Labor has been very clear that we will be finalising our policy and the measures which underpin that policy within our caucus through the leadership of Mr Bowen and Mr Albanese. It will not be determined by an order from the Senate.
This is a very similar motion—almost identical, I think—to the one that was moved last week, and we didn't support that one either. If there was a genuine desire to find time for a debate around climate policy, I think we would have been able to do that, whether it be through general business or whether it be through MPIs or urgency motions. They are the avenues through which this debate could have been sought and could have been held. That would have given people the opportunity to have their say.
In conclusion, I would say: if you want serious action on climate, we are going to need a change of government. If you want the jobs that will come from having a serious policy on climate, you will have to change the government. If you want Australia to be a renewable energy superpower, you will have to change the government. If you want serious climate policy, you will have to change the government. And if you want to provide business with the incentives and the investment certainty that they have been desiring for the last eight years, then you will need to change the government. I don't think these motions do that.
These motions are politically inspired by the Greens political party, which is openly campaigning for Labor to lose seats. There are six Labor seats that you are targeting in the election. I don't know how that advances climate policy, frankly. You are openly campaigning against the party that wants to take serious action on climate. We need to call this out. It's not in your political interests to have a change of government. You are a party of protest and you like fighting Liberals on climate. That's what you like. All of your standard operating procedures are geared to having a government that you're opposed to.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senators on my left. The Senate works on the basis that people can come here and express their views and be heard in silence. If you want to have the rule of the loudest voice or the strongest, go to some nation that is an autocracy. This is a democracy where we have conventions and rules to allow people to express an opinion.
I will conclude on this point. Australia taking serious action on climate change and having the policies that underpin it and the economic opportunities that will come with that is not going to be progressed by the Greens moving motions like this. They are not serious about it. If they want to get serious about it, they should stop campaigning for the Labor Party to lose seats, be a bit more collaborative in here so they can reach agreement and actually work in the national interest, not their narrow political interests.