31 August 2020

I rise to speak on the motion moved by my colleague the member for Griffith, and I do so acknowledging that I am on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations. I would like to congratulate the member for holding this government to account so well. She has summed up their disregard for the protection of our environment perfectly.

But, if I'm being honest, it isn't all that hard for us on this side of the House to list the failures of this Liberal government when it comes to the protection of our environment. The Auditor-General has done that for us. Their report tells the story of a government whose cuts and neglect have caught up to them. It's estimated that they have cut funding to the environment department by 40 per cent. It's no wonder, then, that decisions under the EPBC Act are so chronically delayed or that 79 per cent of the approvals that the Auditor-General assessed were noncompliant or contained errors. This is blatant mismanagement at a time when the Samuel review's interim record is telling us environmental protection has experienced a steady decline over the past 20 years, leaving a trail of destruction. This is a federal government that, under this Prime Minister, takes no responsibility for its actions and its appalling outcomes. We see time and time again that they engage in blame shifting and responsibility dodging. Just look at the tragedy that is aged care.

I am proud to stand here as the member for Cooper. My community know we are facing a climate emergency. They know we are facing extinction crises. They know that the Morrison government is failing when it comes to protecting natural resources, our wildlife, our waterways, our forests and our future. There are those who shrug off calls for environmental protection as cries of the privileged or dismiss the issues as elitist. They tell us that we cannot have action on climate change or action to protect our environment whilst creating jobs and supporting livelihoods. This is rubbish. In my electorate of Cooper I have people from all walks of life, from factory workers, tradies and coffee roasters in Reservoir to retail workers and university protesters in Northcote, all telling me the same thing: we are living in the time of a climate crisis. We want action. We need action. It is not a privileged viewpoint to say that we need a strong regulator with adequate resources to do their job. It's not a privileged viewpoint to say degradation of the environment is worth properly monitoring and halting. It is not a privileged viewpoint to want this Liberal government to do its job, because, in fact, we see by these latest reports that it is doing the opposite of protecting our beautiful natural heritage: it is wilfully destroying it.

Each week I get hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from constituents right across my electorate, and indeed the country, across industries and across all political parties who can see the realities of climate change and environmental neglect by this Liberal government. They are exhausted by what they're seeing and the effort to make change. But they won't give up and neither will I. We can see the increasing intensity of bushfires and the health impacts of the climate emergency. We're horrified by coral bleaching and the potential for the extinction of koalas in the wild—indeed, the extinction of the natural habitats of many of our native species.

We need a government that is prepared to make Australia a global leader in climate action, a country which preserves and protects its beautiful environmental assets and benefits from the thousands of jobs real action on these issues would create. Only people with their heads in the sand—fast-disappearing sand dunes in some cases—cannot see the abundance of potential in a fast-tracked sustainable future with jobs, jobs, jobs in industries of the future, with our natural environs intact. This is not a pipedream. Other countries are beating us to it. Other countries with the guts and foresight are going to reap the benefits of the global shift to renewables. We will be left behind if this government has its way. For this shift to happen, the Liberal government will need to start listening to the experts and the Australian people, whether they be in inner-city electorates or in regional and rural communities, who are demanding change.

But, sadly, it's becoming clearer and clearer that the government simply aren't up to the task. They're more interested in playing the politics of division than protecting our environment and creating jobs. The Leader of the Opposition and our side have offered to work collaboratively. It's time for the Prime Minister to step up; protect our environment, which is being destroyed; create the jobs of the future; and ensure a decent future for all Australians. It's not too much to ask them to do their job.