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Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Page: 3991


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (1:46 PM) —I rise to speak to the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and indicate my disappointment with the approach the Rudd government has taken, particularly when we have seen 12 years of disastrous inaction from the coalition, who continue to ignore the need for urgent action and in some cases continue to espouse climate change scepticism.

The Greens cannot and will not support a scheme that is environmentally ineffective and economically inefficient. What we are prepared to support is an unconditional commitment to a 25 per cent target, the bare mini-mum that is required by science and the global community and which would go some way towards repairing the damage of years of inaction, ignorance and cynicism that we have inflicted on our planet and future generations. Sadly, the government is not listening to the science or the community, continuing to promote its five per cent target as the most ideal and economically responsible model to combat climate change. Clearly it is not. My colleague Senator Christine Milne has highlighted on a number of occasions that committing to a minimum five per cent target is worse than useless when 25 per cent is the bare minimum required by science and the global community. This legislation, with its pathetic five per cent target, is locking us in to fail: we are failing to take action that is needed, failing to clean up the mess that has been created and failing to commit to a leading role in assisting those communities and countries hardest hit by the effects of climate change in terms of water and food security, sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Given we are already seeing the effects of climate change on our Pacific neighbours, with the people of Tuvalu and Kiribati already facing sea level rise and the prospect of being forced to migrate as their homelands become unhabitable, when will the Australian government stop thinking about the profits of the big polluters and start focusing on the social, economic and environmental costs to the global community? Our Pacific island neighbours have made virtually no contribution to greenhouse pollution yet they are now faced with becoming the first victims of climate change, with the Stern report estimating that close to 200 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050. We must be doing more. If the British government can produce a map of regions likely to be at risk from floods due to increased sea level rise from climate change then surely the Australian government must follow suit, particularly given we are seeing the islands in the Pacific sinking before our eyes. Predictions of flooding and erosion of our coastal towns and cities as a result of sea level rise leave little to be desired for Australia families living on the eastern seaboard and in my home town of Adelaide.

As I said in my inaugural speech in this place almost a year ago, we must see an end to the mantra of business as usual. We need decisive and immediate action to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions and we must see a greater commitment to reducing emissions and setting realistic targets that will go some way towards reducing the extent and severity of the impacts of climate change. Surely the thinking people on all sides of politics would be of the same opinion, that the world we are currently living in just is not sustainable. We need a transformation and a willingness to do things differently and we must listen to the concerns and views of our young people, who have inherited a planet much less fortunate than the one inherited by many of those who sit in this place and who will be the ones who are forced to sweep up the mess of inaction and ineffective policy.

It is always most interesting to find that the biggest climate change sceptics and critics out there are the ones who will not be around to deal with the consequences of ineffective policy. It is the future of our young Australians that is at stake. As the youngest member of this chamber, I stand here today voicing my concerns for the young people I am here to represent. I am standing up to say, ‘Let’s challenge “business as usual”; let’s recognise that Australia can make the transition from a resource dependent economy to a clean, green and clever economy, to a new way of thinking that puts respect for each other and respect for the environment at the centre of politics.’ The Greens recognise that if we get the action right we can seize tremendous opportunities to make Australia a better, fairer, healthier and happier place to live.

Climate change will impact significantly on the poorest and most disadvantaged in our communities, particularly those living in developing countries and regions. The most vulnerable to the effect of climate change are women and children. They are most likely to be displaced, to suffer from a lack of food and water security and to be caught in the crossfire of conflict as the fight over the world’s precious resources intensifies. But in communities right around the world and here in Australia, women and young people are leading the way in helping to organise their communities to mitigate climate change, to change their daily lives to become more energy efficient and to educate each other in the best ways forward to protect the future of their own children and future generations. When we hear stories of women and children working to alleviate the effects of climate change in their individual communities, it is utterly astonishing to think that the government, which is already giving $7.4 billion in compensation to Australia’s biggest polluters, just wants to give them even more. Every dollar that compensates polluters is a dollar less for the community and a dollar less for fighting the real effects of climate change.

The Rudd government was elected in 2007 on the back of a promise to take real action on climate change by transforming and transitioning Australia into a low-carbon economy. Yet what we see before us today is a flawed policy and a policy that the Greens simply cannot accept. As a mother and a young woman, I have many years ahead of me and I feel a deep obligation to work for a cleaner, greener and more secure planet than was left for me. I have no other choice but to ensure that I work as hard as I possibly can to help my local community and my global community work towards being a safer, fairer and more prosperous place for my daughter and the generations to come. Australia can no longer afford to delay real action on climate change. The future of our children, our grandchildren and their children is at stake, and committing to a half-hearted attempt to reduce the effects of climate change is simply not good enough.

In 2050 I will be 69 and my daughter will be 43, and I shudder to think what type of planet we will be living on if we do not make the deep cuts to emissions we know are needed now. For those of us participating in this historic debate this week, knowing the facts, the science and the need for action, we must take responsibility and make the changes necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. As representatives of our community, we cannot claim after the fact that we did not know. We have been warned, and the failure to act is the failure that this government will carry for years to come. I for one will ensure that my daughter knows that I am trying to do everything that I can and that hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers around the country are doing just the same. We all want to help protect the future of our children and the future of young Australians. This legislation is only halfway there.

Debate (on motion by Senator Chris Evans) adjourned.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 1.55 pm to 2.00 pm