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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11521


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (18:00): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) the scientific evidence for both the existence of climate change and the anthropogenic factors that cause it is overwhelming and compelling and should no longer be held in doubt;

(b) climate change is projected to create serious risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth and that action on climate change is of critical importance to future generations of Australians;

(c) the Australian Institute's report entitled Climate of the Nation 2018 found that 73 per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change, up from 66 per cent in 2017, and that only 11 per cent of Australians do not think that climate change is occurring;

(d) in March 2007, the then Opposition Leader, the Hon Kevin Rudd, stated that 'Climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation.';

(e) in February 2010, the then Member for Wentworth, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, stated that 'Climate change policy...is an exercise in risk management and no reasonable person could regard the risk as being so low that no action was warranted.';

(f) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 special report entitled Global Warming of 1.5°C concluded that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels;

(g) that same report concludes with high confidence that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate;

(h) climate related risks are projected to substantially increase with global warming of 1.5°C and seriously increase with global warming of 2°C or higher; and

(i) serious Government action on climate change in Australia has badly stalled; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) maintain its commitment to the Paris Agreement and its targets; and

(b) take:

   (i) genuine and meaningful action to meet those targets; and

   (ii) significantly greater action to reduce Australia's greenhouse emissions, and as soon as possible.

The greatest policy failure of our current generation in Australian politics is climate change. Climate change policy captures the ultimate zeitgeist of the modern Australian political era. No other policy issue has been plagued by such partisan attacks, and no other policy issue has heralded the repeated fall of Australian prime ministers. Despite the heroic efforts of former Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Frydenberg when he was the environment minister, the government has reincarnated their unshakeable groundhog day commitment to maintaining a policy vacuum. Extreme elements from both sides of the political spectrum have frustrated moderate centrist climate change policies, policies which not only find their greatest foundation in science but also have the most chance of achieving lasting bipartisan consensus.

The failure of the political class has become Australia's failure. It is the people of Australia and the generations that follow that will bear the burden of this inaction, and I must stress that this is not a left-wing, right-wing issue. The scientific evidence for climate change is compelling. What is lacking is action. It is for this reason that, from today, I am seeking to launch the Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action with my co-chair to be, the member for Wentworth. Together, we will use the group to foster progress on climate change policy and action. It's action where we are failing here in the parliament.

Most sceptical and cynical Australians should think of action on climate change as an insurance policy—insurance against inconvenient truths, predictions of disaster and everything in between. My goodness, if Rupert Murdoch says that we should give climate the benefit of the doubt, surely you'd think most in government would listen. Thousands of experts act as reviewers, ensuring the reports of the IPCC reflect the full range of views of the scientific community, yet those reports have fallen on deaf ears in the parliament. Warming caused by human activity will persist for centuries, perhaps millennia, and will continue to cause further long-term changes to the climate system, including a rise in sea level.

To put it into perspective, we are in trouble. Rainfall patterns in Australia are shifting and the severity of floods and droughts has increased. The area roughly between Adelaide and Brisbane has already experienced a 15 per cent decline in late autumn and early winter rainfall over the past few decades, and across the Murray Darling Basin stream flows have declined by 41 per cent since the mid-1990s. Warmer atmospheres can hold more water vapour, increasing the risk of flash flooding. A hotter climate dries out vegetation, creating a tinderbox for bushfires. We are seeing this the world over.

My own electorate is already feeling the effects of more volatile rainfall, with flash flooding being a regular occurrence. Our communities on the Lower Lakes know only too well the devastation caused by drought. However, the lack of large-scale government support for long-term environmental rehabilitation and futureproofing means we are doomed to see the same story of agricultural and environmental distress repeat itself. My coastal communities are increasingly concerned and affected by king tides, severe storms, coastal erosion and sea-level rise. My coastal councils are desperate for assistance because this is a problem that local government simply doesn't have the financial capacity or expertise to address. I and the Australian Coastal Councils Association have repeatedly called for the federal government to take leadership on this countrywide issue. Eighty-five per cent of Australians live on the coast, but the federal government refuses to step up and plan for their future. It's almost as if we are in a climate change denial parliament.

The call for action is clear. Bipartisan consensus with scientifically based policy in the sensible centre is critical to this. We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That's why it is just astonishing that the government threw out a prime minister based on the NEG, which was a relatively benign policy with respect to energy. It's just astounding that you do this to yourselves and to the nation.

If Australia is to carry its share of the global burden to face down the challenges of climate change, we need bipartisan consensus. We need action from this government today. I call on all members listening to this speech, in this chamber and in other chambers: please join the parliamentary friends for climate action, because, if the government's not going to do it, it will be another thing that the parliament will have to address alone.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Gee ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Vamvakinou: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.