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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1972

Ms BURKE (Chisholm) (11:13): I rise today to explain why I am very pessimistic about my children's future. This week we saw the release of the CSIRO's third State of the climate report, but did not see the Prime Minister or his Minister for the Environment respond to its serious findings. Instead, we had the Prime Minister declare that we need to cut down more trees and we saw the continued ideological drive to remove a climate change policy which has actually led to a decrease in our emissions. We have also seen the government move to close down the only body that gives independent climate change advice to the government—the Climate Change Authority. We saw the unveiling of a welcome drought package, but when this was done the government was adamant that the drought was a natural disaster—there was no mention of climate change. Indeed, in the government's white paper on agriculture, climate change is not mentioned once.

What action have we actually seen on climate change from this government—an issue they say they believe in and they say is important? They have spruiked their 15,000-strong Green Army, who are going to be planting 20 million trees. That is why I am incredibly pessimistic about my children's future and the future of the planet we inhabit.

What did the climate report tell us? It says:

Australia’s climate has warmed by 0.9°C—

nearly one degree—

since 1910, and the frequency of extreme weather has changed, with more extreme heat and fewer cool extremes.

Rainfall averaged across Australia has slightly increased since 1900, with the largest increases in the northwest since 1970.

Rainfall has declined since 1970 in the southwest, dominated by reduced winter rainfall. Autumn and early winter rainfall has mostly been below average in the southeast since 1990.

Extreme fire weather has increased …

Global mean temperature has risen by 0.85°C from 1880 to 2012.

The amount of heat stored in the global oceans has increased, and global mean sea level has risen by 225 mm …

Annual average global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reached 395 parts per million … in 2013 and concentrations of the other major greenhouse gases are at their highest levels for at least 800 000 years.

Australian temperatures are projected to continue to increase, with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days.

Average rainfall in southern Australia is projected to decrease, and heavy rainfall is projected to increase over most parts of Australia.

Sea-level rise and ocean acidification are projected to continue.

It is a most alarming report. Nobody has talked about it. If you go to the Liberal Party website, there is not even a policy on climate change there. What they talk about is their Direct Action policy. They say that they are committed to a five per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. They say:

We will establish an Emissions Reduction Fund of $3 billion to allocate money in response to emission …

What have they done? They have put out a paper for discussion—no action—and they will establish the 15,000-strong Green Army.

There has been alarm within the academic community and the media over the report from CSIRO, but nothing from government. 'Rising temperatures are inevitable,' say the experts. 'Brace yourself for more,' were the screaming headlines. I quote from The Sydney Morning Herald:

The Abbott government has vowed to scrap the carbon price and replace it with a so-called direct action plan to pay polluters to curb emissions. Whether the program can succeed in cutting Australia's total emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020 remains in doubt as emissions continue to rise, deforestation rates increase and the mining industry prepares for a major expansion of coalmining and liquefied natural gas production.

We have this alarming report, and what do we have? The Prime Minister goes to an event on Monday night. I quote from The Guardian of 5 March:

In what amounts to Abbott’s most in-depth comments about the environment since forming government, the prime minister outlined a philosophy based largely on what people can derive from natural resources.

"When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists," he said.

He talks about man working in concert with the environment. He says Australia is 'open for business for the forestry industry'. He says:

We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.

The best thing we can do for our environment is to lock up more forest. Every report and expert tells us this, yet the Prime Minister wants to unlock the forest and, at the same time, plant 20 million trees. At what point is someone going to care about the future of this planet? (Time expired)