Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2188

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (18:42): The records for February 2016 indicate that it was the warmest month ever measured globally, at 1.35 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. Even more concerning, February 2016 was more than 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than January 2016, which held the previous monthly temperature record. Climate change is indeed the greatest challenge we face as a society. The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. In my own state of Queensland, some regions have been suffering the worst drought in their history. Drought conditions have affected farm production and incomes, leading to reductions in agricultural employment and a reduction in their standard of living. Currently, around 80 per cent of Queensland is drought declared, and the agricultural sector is in serious trouble. Worse still, these conditions impacting Queensland's agricultural industry are expected to be sustained by the current El Nino weather pattern. But it is not Mr Turnbull who worries about life in the bush; he does not have to live the struggle. It is the farmers who suffer—the very people who produce the grain for our bread and the sugar for our tea. They are the ones who live through climate change.

This issue does not stop with the agricultural sector. It trickles down and flows through the veins of the Australian landscape. Our Great Barrier Reef is also under threat. The reef alone contributes more than $5.6 billion to the Australian economy and provides employment for more than 70,000 people. Yet it is being destroyed as a result of climate change. Coral bleaching, rising sea levels, rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification are all a result of inaction. Does that mean nothing to the Prime Minister? Why does he want to continue down this path?

This is not just a problem for the future. We are already experiencing the extremes of climate change that threaten the future of every Australian. Given the scale and imminent threat that we face, I am alarmed that the Turnbull government continues to uphold its do-nothing stance on climate change. In the past two years the Abbott-Turnbull government has: abolished a price on pollution; abandoned an emissions trading scheme; slashed the Renewable Energy Target; cut funding to carbon capture and storage; tried to abolish the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation; and imposed massive cuts on CSIRO.

We all remember when Mr Turnbull was a champion of climate change and was prepared to join with Labor in a bipartisan approach to introducing an emissions trading scheme. But now we can see Mr Turnbull's true colours as a leader: rather than taking on one of the greatest challenges this country faces, Mr Turnbull has traded up for the cheap thrill of policy-free leadership.

This government has slashed CSIRO's budget by $115 million, with 350 CSIRO staff targeted for redundancy—it seems to be its entire climate-monitoring capacity. I am embarrassed to hear Mr Hockey trying to defend Australia's appalling and inadequate response to climate change in response to The New York Times editorial attacking these massive cuts to the CSIRO. And what did The New York Times editorial board have to say on 4 March this year? They said:

Certainly there are good reasons for research institutes like Csiro to cooperate with industry in the search for ways to adapt to a warming planet. But to do this at the expense of research and monitoring — undermining the search for commercially viable solutions that Csiro proposes to join — makes no sense.

Further on they said:

The cutbacks could also obstruct Australia's role in supporting the landmark climate agreement reached in Paris in December, which, among other things, calls on scientifically advanced countries like Australia to assist developing countries with advice and support.

Even Mary Robinson, special envoy to the United Nations, has made an appeal for Australia to rescind these cuts.

Labor is prepared to fix things. Only Labor has a policy to strengthen the renewable energy sector and to commit to more ambitious CO2 reduction targets. Cutting Australia's climate research capacity and reputation for quality science not only brings into question Mr Turnbull's commitment to innovation it is a blatant attempt to silence the work that holds the government to account on its climate change policies.