Thursday, 30 November 2023
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Annual Climate Change Statement
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by me today relating to climate change.
I asked the representing minister about a statement, an annual statement on climate change, that was delivered by Minister Bowen in the House today. We've just had this 12-monthly report. Minister Bowen gave quite a lengthy and fairly detailed speech but left out one key fact, which is that in the last 12 months emissions have gone up by 3.6 million tonnes. I would think that should have been the headline on an annual climate statement, but I can understand why the government wanted to bury that embarrassing fact.
I asked Senator Wong, in her capacity as representing Minister Bowen: given that emissions are going up, when are you going to stop approving new coal and gas? It is not rocket science that if you want to try to bring emissions down you need to stop approving things that will increase pollution and emissions. I'm afraid Minister Wong did not, in my opinion, answer my question. What she did tell the chamber was that Labor's targets were ambitious. Apparently, that's why it's hard to meet them. It's not because they keep approving coal and gas but because their targets are allegedly ambitious. I'd like to see some actual ambition out of this government—ambition that's based on science and what the scientists say we need to do to our emissions trajectory to keep us all safe and to protect our agricultural sector and nature.
We're told their targets are ambitious. Maybe it's hard to meet them because they keep approving new coal and gas. I asked why and was not able to get a response—or, rather, I was not given a response. Perhaps it's because of the inconvenient truth that the fossil fuel industry is not only very generous in political donations to both sides of politics but also very generous in the proffering of overpaid lobbying jobs when politicians leave this chamber or the other place. Maybe that's got something to do with it, but certainly Minister Wong didn't give us any hint of what's driving their lack of ambition.
I then asked about Minister Bowen's characterisation of the climate crisis as a national security crisis. We think that's right. It's perfectly clear that the climate crisis not only is threatening our way of life but will make our future less secure and heighten national security risks. I asked Minister Wong: given that you accept that the climate crisis is in fact a national security crisis, why are you making it worse by opening up new coal and gas? Spoiler alert—you might be sensing a bit of a theme here—we don't think that either big party should be opening up new coal and gas in a climate crisis, particularly not when they acknowledge that this is worsening the national threat to our nation and our region.
I lastly asked the minister about the really disappointing statement by Minister Bowen today when he ruled out supporting the Climate Change Authority's recommendation that the feds do something about not connecting new homes to gas, and that they help transition homes off their existing gas connections. That can cost a bit of money, and the feds should be kicking in to make that transition, in our opinion. I asked Minister Wong: why is the government, at every turn, propping up the gas industry, refusing to consider a very sensible recommendation by the Climate Change Authority which says: don't automatically connect new homes to gas; make sure they're on the grid, which ideally we can transition to a hundred per cent renewables as quickly as possible; don't lock in expensive fossil fuels that mean we are seeing household bills rise whilst the climate cooks. I do not understand why Minister Bowen refused to engage with that very sensible recommendation, and, I'm afraid, Minister Wong shed absolutely no light on why the government immediately ruled it out. We know that Victoria and the ACT have already moved to stop new builds having gas connections. That's the direction that the federal government should be assisting all the states and territories to go in.
We have an annual climate statement where emissions are going up, and we have a government which continues to approve new coal, oil and gas. There are 10 coal and gas projects on Minister Plibersek's desk, and they would create 10 times more pollution than what this government's emissions reductions targets would save! With every turn they're undermining their own climate policies by backing new coal and gas. Stop approving new coal and gas!
Question agreed to.