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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 972

Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (13:56): I rise today to speak about climate change, because I am angry. I am angry about the way that this government persists in treating climate change like a joke. Images of the Treasurer laughing as the frontbench pass around a lump of coal will show up in the history books. They will be in the history books when our future generations look back and wonder about the failure of this generation of politicians, of members in our chamber, to take meaningful action on one of the greatest threats of our time.

The very, very sad development this year is that the coalition are no longer content with being ineffective on emissions reduction policy. The coalition actually seem to want to emit more carbon just to prove a point and to throw some red meat back to the political base in their party room. Now we are talking about plans for new coal-fired generators. The government seems to want to go beyond being simply useless—which I guess we may have been able to live with for a short period—to being deliberately harmful. I do not know if this is just cynicism—cynicism of the highest order—or wilful blindness. But, either way, I want to put this on the record: ignoring climate change is more than just a failure of public policy; it is an ethical failure. It is a betrayal of future generations. What makes this all the worse is that this is not about policy; this is about retail politics. It is a cheap shot in the culture wars.

The government would like to paint climate change as an elite preoccupation—and we hear that all the time—but it is in fact ordinary people who bear the cost of climate change. And there is a sad irony here, because in the past two weeks Australia has suffered heatwaves and bushfires. There has been record-breaking heat on the east coast. Not every hot day is a result of climate change but climate change means we will be having more and more hot days.

It was 46 degrees in Penrith last Saturday, but it was just in the pleasant mid-30s in Point Piper. What is the mean income in Wentworth? It is $109,000 a year and it compares very favourably with the mean income in Lindsay, which is just $54,000. That $54,000 gap is going to make quite a big difference to your ability to cope with a 46-degree day, because if you live in a wealthy suburb and have a lot of money you can insulate your house and you can put on the air conditioning, but if you live in the western suburbs, if you live in western New South Wales or in the country, you cannot afford to do anything about the heat that is being caused by these hopeless policies, these ineffective policies, on climate change. (Time expired)