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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11851

Mr CHEESEMAN (9:19 PM) —I rise today to talk about an issue that I campaigned extensively on in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election. I am referring to the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, the path that the previous government set us on and the inevitable impact which was sea level rise.

In 2007 I put together a comprehensive report to my electorate of Corangamite, spelling out the consequences of a one-metre sea level rise along with a one-metre storm surge. That report indicated that coastal community after coastal community along the more than 200 kilometres of coastline within the electorate of Corangamite would be inundated as a result of a rise in the sea level if we did not get on top of our greenhouse gas emissions. It was very pleasing that, through the course of 2007 and through the engagement I had with my electorate, community after community accepted that sea level rise is a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions and that my community wanted its strong view about the consequences taken to Canberra.

Corangamite is like many other coastal electorates. We have many thousands of dwellings within a few kilometres of the coastline. Many thousands of families live there and have done so for a significant period of time. Sea level rise is something they are particularly concerned about, not only in terms of potential inundation of their properties but also in terms of the fabulous coastline that the Great Ocean Road borders and the consequences on the environment—the ecosystem and bird and plant life along that coastline.

It was very pleasing that, over the weekend, the government released a comprehensive report identifying the Australian coastal areas most vulnerable to sea level rise. It was a report that built very strongly on the work of a parliamentary committee, chaired by Jennie George, the member for Throsby. It was a very substantial report that contributed to our understanding of climate change and the risks of sea level rise along our coastline.

Mrs Irwin —And it was bipartisan.

Mr CHEESEMAN —Absolutely; it was a bipartisan report. We had agreement from both sides. It was an absolutely fantastic report.

The report that I am now referring to, the report that was released over the weekend which modelled a sea level rise of 1.1 metres, strongly reinforced the effort that I put in in 2007 in my electorate, identifying the substantial risks to my community. That report identified clearly that about 6,600 properties would be under threat if this scenario came to reality and that if we did not get on top of our greenhouse gas emissions this would be an inevitable consequence. Community after community along the coastline of Corangamite would be inundated. The report identified that somewhere between 157,000 and 247,600 existing residential buildings along the Great Ocean Road would be subject to inundation. My seat includes large parts of the city of Greater Geelong along with the Borough of Queenscliffe, the Surf Coast and the Colac Otway Shire, all of which have substantial parts of their economy derived from tourism. Tourism drives our part of the Australian economy. Community after community there would be subjected to climate change.

As part of my effort, in 2007 the federal government was able to secure $100,000 for the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to start that detailed analysis of what sea level rise might mean for coastal communities along the Great Ocean Road. In due course I look forward to the outcome of that. Over the weekend I worked very closely with the media to ensure the very clear message got out to my community about the consequences of sea level rise and what it might mean for my communities. Not surprisingly, I have had email after email and phone call after phone call raising the level of concern with where things are at and the hard work that will need to be undertaken by this parliament to get on top of a very daunting and very challenging issue within my electorate.

Very clearly, this parliament has a responsibility to act on greenhouse gas emissions. We have absolutely fabulous coastline. We have fabulous coastal ecosystems, fabulous beaches and fabulous salt marshes. We need to take meaningful steps in responding to this great challenge of climate change. We need to ensure that we protect what it is that makes Australia Australia and we need to act in a meaningful and very decisive way.

I will continue to campaign hard on this issue. I will continue to work hard on behalf of my constituency to ensure that we take the necessary and meaningful steps in response to this great challenge. I note the announcements made over the weekend by Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water, that the government in good faith as a part of the bargaining process will omit agriculture from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. But very clearly the view of this government is that agriculture can play a decisive role in this great challenge. Agriculture can play a positive role in locking up carbon. Our farming communities can take advantage of their agricultural output by planting trees and by selling the carbon permits on the open market that they are able to generate from their properties. This will be a great outcome for my farming community and a great outcome for the Australian farming community. I note the NFF’s comments praising the government for such strong leadership on this matter. In conclusion, we have a lot of work still to do on this question and I wish the minister all the best with her negotiations in the Senate and look forward to a very strong and decisive outcome that can be taken to Copenhagen later this year.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The time for the grievance debate has expired. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192B. The debate is adjourned, and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.