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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14484

Ms BANKS (Chisholm) (16:37): Climate change inaction has been the hallmark of both major political parties. It has underpinned chaos and political power plays for too long. For too long, words by both major parties have been just that: empty words, words they have used to pretend they care about climate action and policy, words which suddenly come to the fore with a pending election, words which find their way onto surveys, flyers and town hall robocalls, which are made at the taxpayer's expense.

In the seat of Flinders, there is a proposed project by AGL. The project is this: a floating gas import facility on Western Port Bay at Crib Point, a beautiful part of the world. Concerned locals formed the Save Westernport group. They have worked tirelessly, including consulting both the major parties, to stop this project to build a floating gas import terminal on Western Port Bay. This floating terminal will be capable of importing liquefied natural gas from ships in Western Port Bay. Every time a shipment is delivered, the process would mean taking in sea water from the bay. The water, equivalent to 180 Olympic swimming pools a day, would be chlorinated, chilled and discharged back into the sea seven degrees cooler.

An extension of this project is a 55-kilometre pipeline proposed from Crib Point Jetty. This pipeline would cut through internationally significant wetlands, private properties and Melbourne's food bowl. The Labor Party are supporting this and whilst their local candidate in the seat of Flinders sought permission from his party to say he doesn't like it, and he said this on a Facebook post, this is just that: words on a social media post that will probably find their way onto a few flyers. No way can he fight the major-party machine. He's just saying he doesn't like it. Nice try.

Worse than that is the local member for Flinders, also known as the Minister for Health—also, remarkably and staggeringly, previously known as the Minister for the Environment. He has suddenly also done some Facebook posts and handed out flyers saying he's done robocalls—and he's blaming Labor. 'Stop AGL's project,' he says. There have been town hall telephone calls and he's issued incredible numbers of documents, again, at taxpayers' expense. On the side, he has said quietly to the Save Westernport group—that care passionately about this issue—that there's no way the Save Westernport group are going to succeed here. Countless locals have said to me: 'We just don't believe anything the member for Flinders says any more. It doesn't matter if it's in a brochure or on a robocall.' Having worked with the Save Westernport group, I am so proud to support decisive action in the form of a formal petition that requests the federal government of the day to stop this development and to protect the Western Port site.

The Australian government of the day's specific role in wetland management and protection is established under the international Ramsar convention. The proposed AGL floating gas terminal in Crib Point is subject to federal government assessment and approval, which the state Labor Party have given support to, and processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The government of the day has the avenue to review this project and stop it under our international obligations of the Ramsar convention.

This formal petition was brought to Canberra this week and we will continue to accumulate signatures. This is effective, constructive action. The train has left the station, in many ways, because of the support of the Labor Party and the implicit support of the member for Flinders, and the government, by turning a blind eye. They ignored their obligations under the Ramsar convention in relation to Toondah Harbour in Queensland. This is an avenue. This Ramsar convention says we can take this real action to protect our environment.

As an Independent I believe in the power of the people, the local people, and this Save Westernport group have done an amazing job. They have done an amazing job. They don't want to see this floating gas facility destroy this beautiful part of the world where the sea is, where people swim, where people walk their dogs and where the flora and fauna of Australia are at their best. It would be a brutal blow to put a pipeline through marine wetlands of our beautiful country.

The people in the seat of Flinders tell me they've been taken for granted for too long and their concerns about local issues are being ignored. They are tired of the combative politics and game playing purely for self-promotion and getting votes for the major parties. They want change. They want a representative with experience and commitment who genuinely wants to get things done for their local community. This AGL project has the potential to cause serious air, light, noise and water pollution, present fire hazards, negatively impact on property values and risk marine life and aquaculture.

No-one I have spoken to in the local community across Flinders, particularly about this project, believes their local member anymore. Why should they? The member for Flinders, when he was the Minister for the Environment, is the man who approved Adani. The member for Flinders is the man who was a prime mover in ousting former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and deputy leader Julie Bishop. He's the man who felt that with the member for Dickson they would make a great duo of leadership. In fact, his role in destroying our environment, in not protecting our environment, as the minister for our environment has been incredible. He is the man who lied to the leaders of our country, who lied to his local community, and he's living a lie in relation to this issue.

The people of Flinders feel their voice has not been heard and they are sceptical about the meetings which have gone nowhere and the sudden flurry of costly, meaningless pre-election flyers and forms designed purely to data-harvest and obtain contact details. That is not a real petition. That is to do data harvesting and write and send more flyers to people. The government of the day cannot shirk this responsibility, nor can it deny that it has the power to put a stop to the AGL development which the petition calls for.

The Australian government's specific role in wetland management and protection is established under the Ramsar convention, and the proposed facility is subject to this assessment process. The petition gives the local community a voice in Canberra, a powerful voice to tell the government that they want effective action to stop this development.

As an independent I believe in the power of the people. Climate change action must happen. Climate change is not only real; it is happening. We've seen it in Flinders. We've seen it across our country. A strong independent will bring back the balance, stop the lies and stop the empty words.

Speaking of stop, we have to stop Adani. Australia does not have a social licence to go ahead with Adani, but both the major parties will pay lip service to that and say in one state they can't and in another state, yes, they will, depending on where the votes are. We have to support our children, the strike-for-climate leaders. They did an amazing job. These are the future generation. These are the people who we have to make sure we engage in climate change action now so we do not leave intergenerational debt in relation to our beautiful country and in relation to our climate and our planet. We need genuine action—no more words. I am so proud to support the local community and the broader Australian community on this critical issue of climate change action. The major parties have got to stop using it for sound bites in the press and to create their flyers come election time. We have to do real and serious action. We have to listen to the people. We have to listen to the stop Adani people. We have to listen to the strike-for-climate leaders. We have to listen to the students, to the younger generation. We have to listen to the save Western Port group. We have to save Western Port Bay. We have to stop AGL and companies such as this that are doing nothing more than wrecking our environment and absolutely fruitlessly destroying our environment for the sake of profits.

Save Western Port group, I thank you and I stand with you in relation to this issue. I say the same to any person in this country who is saying that they want to protect our climate for future generations and to meet our international obligations: renewables are the future and we need business certainty in relation to reducing our emissions. We cannot invest in new coal-fired power stations and we must take climate change action now and critically. Thank you.