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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11457

Mr DANBY (7:16 PM) —I too am pleased to make some comments on this report of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts into climate change and its environmental impact on coastal communities. This committee was very ably chaired by my good friend the honourable member for Throsby. She is to be commended for this excellent report, which I think will make a real difference to the way Australians think about the possible impact of climate change on their everyday lives.

I too represent a coastal electorate, including the bayside communities of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Albert Park, St Kilda and Elwood. Must of the western part of my electorate is built on sand dunes. If you look at the old maps of Melbourne, you will see that much of my electorate was saltwater swamp before the seawalls were built. Over the generations, thousands of homes, ranging from workers’ cottages in Port Melbourne to the mansions of the wealthy in Beaconsfield Parade, have been built along the foreshore. These many coastal homes as well as beaches, foreshore parks, marinas, yacht clubs and many other amenities in my electorate will be put at risk if the sea level continues to rise as a result of the uncontrolled climate change brought about by human activity. Even a slight rise in average global temperatures causes the volumes of the oceans to rise as water expands when it gets warmer. This is felt in increased sea levels.

The report of the standing committee on climate change documents that the damage caused to Australia by rising sea levels will be far more serious than the loss of suburban amenities, although this is certainly important to the people of my electorate. It will cause grave and irreversible harm to some of our great national assets. These include the Great Barrier Reef, which will be put at risk if the surrounding waters get both warmer and deeper; Kakadu National Park, which is at risk of flooding with salt water; the Coorong and Lower Lakes of South Australia, already in serious trouble because of the drought, also risk salt water flooding; the beaches of the Gold Coast, and we saw that in all of the television coverage of this excellent report; the Sunshine Coast; the 90-mile beach in Gippsland; and the great suburban surf beaches of Sydney and Perth—

Ms Hall —And New South Wales.

Mr DANBY —Sorry, and Newcastle. They are all in danger of being washed away if sea levels rise. I am frankly astonished that members of the opposition continue to deny that this is a real problem and that they are continuing to obstruct our CPRS bill in the Senate. The Australian today too denies that this is a real problem. Its editorial commenting on the standing committee’s findings states that there is no need for the alarm inherent in this report. Both the Liberal Party and the Australian are at sea on this issue. There is almost no major country in the world in which a greater peril as a result of uncontrolled climate change exists than in Australia. We are already the driest inhabited continent. A rise in temperatures could devastate many of our inland agricultural areas, depriving our grazing lands of water as rivers dry up and kill off our irrigated farming industries. I hope members of the National Party, in particular, are ready to explain to their constituents why they are blocking the government’s efforts to do something to stop climate change before we reach that tipping point at which it becomes irreversible—which scientists warn us may not be too far off. Today’s Canberra Times acknowledged this excellent report and said, ‘Now is the time to act’. In an editorial entitled ‘Government must act on sea rise warning’, the Canberra Times argued that this report should not be dismissed and that the action against further climate change must begin now.

To be frank, a lot of the reports this parliament produces are a waste of paper, but this one is genuinely important. It demonstrates in plain, everyday terms what the effects of uncontrolled climate change will be for millions of Australians and how it will cause economic and social loss as well as environmental loss. Its significance was reported in the important British newspaper the Guardian in an article entitled ‘Climate change threatens Australia’s coastal lifestyle, report warns’. The article said:

With 80% of Australians living along the coastline, the report warns that “the time to act is now’’.

This report is a testament to the political wisdom of the member for Throsby and her colleagues on the committee. The member for Throsby’s independence of judgment generated the big ideas behind this report. It is her great legacy to the future of Australia. I hope all Australians get a chance to read this report. I am going to put it on my website for my constituents to read, and I hope all my colleagues do the same.