Speeches

Matters of Public Importance - Climate Change

December 04, 2018

I rise to speak on the disaster that is this government's climate change policy. While the rest of the world—including those in the electorate of Wentworth—has accepted that we are experiencing a climate emergency, it is clear that this is not a priority for the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. Those who sit opposite are collectively burying their heads in the sand with no desire or political courage to start to repair the damage that global warming is inflicting on our planet. Recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a multinational panel comprising the world's top climate and environmental scientists, released a report on the impacts of global warming. The report calls for drastic action to reverse global warming. It warns of current and further damage to coral reefs and warns that there will be more extreme hot days and more extreme droughts. The IPCC also warns of the consequences of climate related risks to our health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and, of course, economic growth. This change will disproportionately affect people living in the developing world and the Pacific.

The IPCC is not some radical body. International bodies like the IPCC are, by their nature, more likely to be conservative because of the consensus required from a vastly diverse membership—and still the warnings are stark. The earth is already too hot, and urgent action is required now if we are going to even begin to mitigate the already devastating effects of climate change. And what was our government's response? It was to dismiss it entirely. Climate change denial and dismissal, which the government is indulging in, is a convenient front to mask their completely ideological refusal to deal with, let alone lead, the climate emergency.

Unlike those who sit opposite, my electorate of Batman is bursting with a community of activists who dedicate their time to acting on the climate emergency, including the young schoolchildren who came to see me whilst on climate strike. That's why I am so proud that Labor has started us on this journey with policies that fit the bill: subsidised solar batteries for 100,000 homes; neighbourhood renewable programs that will assist renters and social housing residents to access renewable energy; a just transition authority, a vital part of the social infrastructure we need to assist families affected by the change; and a $10 million retraining fund for workers in the coal-fired power sector, because we need to transition away from coal based energy but we can't leave those workers in the lurch. A Shorten Labor government will make taking action on climate change a priority. It is our promise to future generations. Australians deserve a Shorten Labor government that will take action on climate and reduce carbon pollution in line with our 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and our target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Of course, these policies are not all we will do to ensure that we start cooling the planet. The member for Port Adelaide and the Leader of the Opposition have made that clear. My community, like me, are concerned about new coalmines. They are concerned about the rising cost of electricity, which can be contained with large-scale investment in renewables. I note the report in the media this week that quotes the energy consultants Green Energy Markets. They say that the current rate of installation means we are on track to see renewables provide almost 80 per cent of the energy market by 2030 and that renewables are now cheaper to build and run than any other form of new-build power over a 40-year life span. But that is not enough.

Despite the dire warnings from the IPCC and others, I stand committed to the cause of hope, which is made possible by climate action: hope for a just world, a fair world and a sustainable planet and in the reshaping of our economies to meet its challenges. We know that the way we produce cars, our homes, energy, food and all of our systems of production, distribution and exchange need to change to meet the climate threat. It's sometimes only once in a generation that a great moment in time opens itself out just enough so that the organised movement of working people can unfurl a banner for structural societal change and can pin the brightness of its cause to its chest and thunder on through. We have reached the point of lethal stakes and dire opportunity. The planet is burning; the sea levels are rising. We can veer towards change at the greatest speed or permit this government's alternative of inaction that is as inept and incapable as it is unconscionable.

Let me end with what I read in the newspaper this morning, which my colleague before quoted. This is from the wonderful David Attenborough:

"Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands".

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