Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Statements by Senators
Takayna/Tarkine, in the north-west of my home state of lutruwita truwana Tasmania, is stolen land. It was never ceded by Aboriginal people, and it still belongs to them. It is also one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's a place of peaceful rivers, of rugged mountains, of majestic forests. It's a place of the most striking rocky coastlines and sweeping beaches that are pounded by the westerly and south-westerly swells that sweep in from the Southern Ocean. It's also home to some of the cleanest air in the world, which travels three-quarters of the way around our globe before it strikes those coastlines. It's globally recognised for its link to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland, and the forests in takayna/Tarkine are an incredibly important carbon sink. It contains a massive tract of Gondwanan cool temperate rainforest. Those forests, mountains, coastlines and rivers of takayna/Tarkine are worthy of protection, and they're not worthy of the exploitation they are facing at the moment. What we should be doing is listing takayna/Tarkine as part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, we should be making it a national park and we should be returning it to the people under whose stewardship it existed for many tens of thousands of years, the takayna people.
In that area there is a company, MMG, a Chinese state-owned mining giant. MMG has a plan to destroy nearly 300 hectares of this precious place—of that precious, carbon-rich, threatened species rich rainforest—in order to build a toxic tailings dam at their mine site near Rosebery. They've made an application to do this under the EPBC Act, and the decision now as we sit here today rests with the relatively new Minister for the Environment and Water, Ms Plibersek. This minister is now the seventh consecutive environment minister to ignore the Australian Heritage Council's findings that takayna/Tarkine holds outstanding heritage values and has a high probability of meeting the criteria for World Heritage listing and the Australian Heritage Council's recommendation that the area be listed on our country's National Heritage List. That's what the minister should be doing: listing this beautiful place on the National Heritage List, as recommended by the Australian Heritage Council and nominating it for inclusion in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. But instead the minister is now considering MMG's application for a toxic tailings dam. It's important that folks understand that MMG has an alternative solution for its tailings, and that is what the company should be pursuing.
In recent times thanks to a massive citizen science project, the Bob Brown Foundation took many hundreds of recordings of masked owls, a listed endangered species, on the very site of the proposed tailings dam, and those recordings included breeding calls and chattering calls, which indicate that juvenile owls live in that forest. It's not just the masked owl, a magnificent and striking predator bird, an endemic species to Tasmania, that is going to have its home destroyed by this proposed tailings dam; we've got the spotted-tail quoll, the wedge-tailed eagle and the Tasmanian devil all resident in this area.
Successive governments and successive ministers have failed in their duty to protect takayna/Tarkine and failed in their duty to nominate that area for inclusion in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, despite the International Union for the Conservation of Nature having twice requested that the nomination be brought forward. So to Minister Plibersek, I say: do the right thing. Protect takayna / Tarkine on behalf of the people of Tasmania, the people of Australia and the people of the globe. Do it for people alive now and for people who are not yet born, and do it as soon as you possibly can. As part of that, please reject this application from MMG for a toxic tailings dam. That is an unacceptable imposition on one of the most beautiful, important carbon-rich places in the world.
It is not a coincidence that, as the fight to protect nature and climate gets ever more desperate, governments around this country are doing more and more to protect big corporations from ordinary people who are fighting back, and that includes not only folks involved with the Bob Brown Foundation down in my home state of Tasmania but it also includes people all around this country who are fighting to defend nature, who are fighting for real climate action by putting their bodies on the line. Good on them and more power to them for doing it. We have seen in Tasmania and in other states governments smashing freedom of speech and freedom of action, and passing Draconian antiprotest laws. It is a pattern we are seeing repeated around the country, and it is being done because they are trying to arrest their way out of that citizen rebellion, which is growing by the day in this country. They will soon find that they haven't got jails big enough for us all. That is what they will find.
On the one side, you have the big corporations run by psychopathic CEOs and senior managers who are determined to strip as much profit as they can out of this late-stage disaster capitalist system that we are living under, while burning the planet just as quickly as they can. Then they have their agents, those psychopaths in this place—politicians from the major parties—who come in here and do their bidding. That is on one side. On the other side are the real climate wars I'm talking about, not Mr Albanese's confected kind of wars. On the other side are those brave, heroic people who are standing up against those massive corporations, putting their bodies on the line to defend nature, to defend our climate and to call for real climate action and real action to protect biodiversity.
We know which side of the fight we are on. I invite other folks in this chamber to think about which side of the fight they find themselves on. Some of us are prepared to stand up and to take the fight directly to those psychopathic operations and to their agents in this place, those people who are purchased by those massive corporate donations, the institutionalised bribes that flow so rapidly and at such size around this building. At the behest of their big, polluting corporate donors, Liberal and Labor governments are trying to arrest people and put them in prison when the only thing they have done is try to stand up for a liveable planet and stand up for a sustainable future for their children and grandchildren.
Silencing people will not work. No amount of antidemocratic, Draconian legislation is going to protect big corporations from the consequences of their actions. The people of Australia want nature protected. They want real climate action, not the facade being offered by this government, and they want a safe, inhabitable climate for them and their children.