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, 28 October 2009
Page: 11421


Mr MURPHY (4:28 PM) —I am delighted to speak to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate: the time to act is now. I want to begin by congratulating the chair of the committee, Ms Jennie George, the member for Throsby, who did an outstanding job. She showed real leadership in leading a bipartisan parliamentary committee. She was very ably supported by the member for Moore, Dr Mal Washer. In fact, all members, including my colleague the member for Fowler, worked very hard in the true spirit of bipartisanship. The subject of the committee’s inquiry concerns all of us.

I pay tribute to the committee secretariat for doing such an excellent job. No-one could have asked for a better inquiry secretary than Dr Kate Sullivan, who is a true professional. So, too, is our committee secretary, Ms Julia Morris, as well as research officers Ms Sophie Nicolle and Ms Adrienne Batts, and administrative officers Ms Kane Moir and Ms Jazmine Rakic. I thank all of them for doing such an excellent job.

As you know, we were charged with inquiring into issues related to climate change and environmental pressures experienced by the Australian coastal areas, particularly in the context of coastal population growth, having regard to:

  • existing policies and programs related to coastal zone management, taking in the catchment-coast-ocean continuum
  • the environmental impacts of coastal population growth and mechanisms to promote sustainable use of coastal resources
  • the impact of climate change on coastal areas and strategies to deal with climate change adaptation, particularly in response to projected sea level rise
  • mechanisms to promote sustainable coastal communities
  • governance and institutional arrangements for the coastal zone.

You can see the breadth of the terms of reference. The committee did such a good job over 18 months. It is noteworthy that there were more than 100 written submissions and something like 180 exhibits in this inquiry. In the public hearings that I have participated in since I became a member of this committee I have been truly impressed with the sincerity of all the witnesses, who clearly understood the issues and challenges that face us as a nation in addressing climate change. It is true that national leadership, as the chair of the committee, Ms George, has pointed out, is required to address climate change, and that is why the Rudd government, as we speak, is anxious to get the CPRS legislation through the parliament before the Copenhagen conference in December.

This is indeed a great report. I like to refer to it as the George report because the chair of the committee put her stamp on it—


Mrs Irwin —Hear, hear!


Mr MURPHY —as the member for Fowler knows so well. If you do not believe me, you can look at the tremendous media interest that has been generated following the tabling of this report on Monday evening. It is quite extraordinary. I begin by highlighting the Sydney Morning Herald from yesterday. Full marks to Marian Wilkinson, the environmental editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, who did such an excellent job in reporting extensively on page 1. If you go over to page 7 and look under the headlines, you see ‘Councils “damned” on coastal plans’, ‘Beachfront properties may not get cover’, ‘Coalmine canaries face extinction in fatal trap’, ‘Another sting in the tail of mosquito-borne viruses’ and ‘Flood risk multiplies as the seas rise’. Full marks to Fairfax and the Sydney Morning Herald for doing such a great job in reporting it to those of us who come from Sydney and New South Wales.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—I am sure the honourable member does not intend that to be a prop!


Mr MURPHY —It is not intended to be a prop, but I will give credit where credit is due. On page 1 again, this time of the Age—Fairfax again. I have never seen anything like this. This really points to the substance of the report: ‘$2bn threat from rising oceans’ by Adam Morton and Peter Ker. The report warns of Western Port damage. If you turn to page 6 you get substance: ‘Running the rule over risk’, ‘Rising to the challenge: sea level rise impacts in Victoria’, ‘Councils at risk over coastal projects’, ‘Emission cuts “well short of a safe result”‘, ‘Exotic disease risk rises’ and ‘Call to set new deadline for treaty’. This is fantastic media coverage and will go a long way to educating the public.

It does not stop there. I have to give credit to News Ltd. On page 1 of the Australian


Mrs Irwin —There are more?


Mr MURPHY —Yes, there are more! In ‘Beachfront blitz to curb development’ Andrew Fraser starts off by sending a very powerful message across Australia:

A Federal parliamentary report has flagged new powers that would allow Canberra to block what it sees as inappropriate beachfront developments.

You have only to look at the photo in this newspaper to get some idea, as in the Fairfax press, how serious this is. It goes on to say:

The report, tabled yesterday in parliament, says national guidelines should be drawn up for development in sensitive coastal regions, and calls for local councils to operate within these guidelines.

It goes on and on. There is some very good reading there too.

It does not stop there. I have to give the Canberra Times a commercial, too, because they pick up on the title of our report—”‘Time to act is now’ on coastal climate risks”. David McLennan gives a very comprehensive report into the report of the committee.

This report is quite something. If I go to the substance of the report, which is contained in the recommendations—and there are some 47 of them—you will get some idea of the extent and breadth of this report and why it is important to act now. The recommendations are calling on the Australian government to:

… commission a study on international coastal zone governance arrangements, policies and programs for addressing coastal climate change impacts, and adaptation strategies. The completed study should be made public.

I could not agree more with that. At recommendation 2:

The Committee notes the importance of mitigation measures in addressing climate change impacts and accordingly recommends that the Australian Government continue to take urgent action to ensure that Australia can best contribute to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

I must applaud Dr Mal Washer, the member for Moore, who has really put his back into this report in getting a message through to our political opponents. I am sure he is playing a very important educational role, because it would be wonderful if we could get a bipartisan result to our CPRS legislation—which, as I referred to earlier, is being debated in the chamber as I speak—before we go to Copenhagen.


Mr Robert —We are working on it.


Mr MURPHY —I am very grateful to the member who says that they are working on it, because the science is in no doubt. For those odd members in the other place who are just very selective in looking at the temperatures of the globe over the last decade instead of looking at what has happened over the last 100 years against a background of the rising CO2 emissions, this is so disingenuous and clearly has no support from the rational scientists. The committee’s recommendations go on to make it clear that the government has to increase its investment in coastal based climate change research. Recommendation 4 states:

The Committee recommends that the coastal zone component of the National Climate Change Science Framework and proposed National Climate Change Science strategy be clearly identified by the proposed high level coordination group and involve key coastal stakeholders.

In recommendation 5 the committee goes on to recommend that the Department of Climate Change continue to fund research, which is so important, to establish the wave climate around the coasts so as to identify those locations most at risk from wave erosion and to examine how the wave climate nationally interacts with the varying landform types. The committee recommends at recommendation 6:

… that the Australian Government continue funding under the Climate Change Adaptation Skills for Professionals Program. In addition, the Australian Government should liaise with tertiary institutions to ensure an adequate supply of appropriately skilled coastal planners and engineers.

The committee recommends that the government establish a coastal zone research network with the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, and that it complete a coastal zone research plan. Further, the committee recommended that the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government:

… undertake a study into the human and resourcing needs of local governments to effectively plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

And that:

this study be carried out in conjunction with the Australian Local Government Association and the National Sea Change Taskforce.

This is terribly important. I do not really think that the local governments around our country understand the magnitude and the implications for them. At recommendation 11, the committee recommends:

… that the Australian Government establish a National Coastal Zone Database to improve access to and consistency of information relevant to coastal zone adaptation.

The report goes on with further very important recommendations. At recommendation 17:

The Committee recommends that the Department of Climate Change, in collaboration with the Queensland Government, CSIRO and Indigenous communities in the Torres Strait, undertake a major study into the vulnerability of the Torres Strait to the impacts of climate change and provide assistance in the development of an adaptation plan.

The committee, at recommendation 19, further recommends:

that the Australian Government request the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into the projected impacts of climate change and related insurance matters, with a particular focus on:

and this is terribly important—

  • insurance coverage of coastal properties, given the concentration of Australia’s population and infrastructure along the coast
  • estimates of the value of properties potentially exposed to this risk
  • insurance affordability, availability and uptake
  • existing and emerging gaps in insurance coverage …
  • the need for a clear definition of the circumstances under which an insurance claim is payable due to storm surge/inundation, landslip/erosion and sea level rise, as well as due to permanent submersion of some or all of the land …

This is a very substantial recommendation, and the Productivity Commission will certainly have its work cut out dealing with all that.

There is a further recommendation that requires the Building Code of Australia to employ cyclone building codes and revise them with the objective of increasing resilience to climate change. The report further states:

Noting the gap in research on legal issues and climate change impacts on the coastal zone, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government request that the Australian Law Reform Commission undertake an urgent inquiry into this area, with particular focus on—

the clarification of liability issues. And it goes on. Recommendation 26 states:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government:

  • expand the list of national priority areas identified under the Caring for our Country program to include climate change impacts on biodiversity

Recommendation 29 recommends that the Australian government:

  • continue working with the Queensland Government and local councils under the existing Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement to improve land use planning in the catchment

And further, very importantly:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government urgently commission a detailed climate change vulnerability assessment for Kakadu National Park, in consultation with the park’s traditional owners and other stakeholders and drawing on the results of the ‘first pass’ National Coastal Vulnerability Assessment of the park.

Importantly, the committee recommends that the government:

… work through the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council and in consultation with Birds Australia and other stakeholders to implement a National Shorebirds Protection Strategy.

And further, that the government also:

… work with the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council and other stakeholders to develop an action plan to:

  • ensure that coastal buffers, coastal habitat corridors and high ecological value areas are identified and included in Commonwealth, state and local government management processes

Time, the enemy, is going to beat me here. But I encourage anyone who is taking an interest in this to go through the whole 47 recommendations, because they are ample testament to how serious and important this issue is. As it says on page 1 of this report, ‘The time to act is now.’ This is a most important challenge facing our government and, indeed, the world.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—I thank the honourable member for Lowe. Before calling the member for Dunkley, I would just remind all honourable members of the provisions of standing order 64, which provide that no member is to be referred to by his or her name.