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Monday, 20 March 2017
Page: 1412


Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:01): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I take note of document No. 26, the Australia State of the Environment 2016. In summary, the state of the environment report shows that we have a dark stain of government mismanagement of our environment. It shows that over a period of time we have had state and federal governments, but particularly this federal government, continue to put the interests of donors and big polluters ahead of the public good and responsible environmental protection.

The state of the environment report shows that the trend continues to go down. Our environment is what we depend upon—our air, our water and our biodiversity. We need to reverse these trends. We need to improve the state of the environment. This state of the environment report puts the information on the table and shows that the trends are still going badly. We are experiencing record heatwaves. With regard to global warming, the report summarises the fact that our carbon emissions are continuing to rise, the fact that Australia has got the highest level of carbon emissions per person of any OECD country, and the fact that we have experienced our hottest year on record in Australia, and yet, we still have proposals for incredibly polluting developments like the Adani coalmine. We are experiencing record heatwaves. We are experiencing bushfires. We are experiencing coastal erosion. We are experiencing the impact of wheat yields, for example, already decreasing because of global warming. And yet, the response of this government is to come into the House of Representatives and wave lumps of coal around to try and convince us that clean coal is a reality when everyone knows that clean coal just does not exist. The evidence, rather than the rhetoric, is presented there very plainly and simply in the state of the environment report.

Moving on to biodiversity, we have a disastrous situation of ongoing extinctions. The poor state and declining trend of Australia's biodiversity is noted as a particular concern. The number of species that have been listed as threatened or endangered under the EPBC Act continues to rise. The state of the environment report notes that the number of species listed in the critically endangered category has increased by 31, and two species have been recorded as likely to be extinct. We know that this is happening all around the country. The list of nationally threatened species and ecological communities has increased, with the addition of 30 new ecological communities, 44 animal and five plant species listed as now being threatened. We have got land clearing continuing in Queensland. We have two more species reported as extinct: the Bramble Cay melomys and the Christmas Island Forest Skink.

What makes this very sad and what is very clear in the state of the environment report—which shows that the problem is not going away—is that we know in almost all of these instances what needs to happen. We know how to protect these species: it comes down to protecting habitat. It comes down to protecting species from feral animals. It comes down to doing things about invasive weed species and reducing the threats to these species. We know what to do. In the case of one of the species that has been declared critically endangered since this report came out, the Leadbeater's possums in Victoria's central highlands forests, we know what we need to do to protect the habitat of these possums and to send the trend the other way, to give the Leadbeater's possums a chance of survival. That is to stop the logging of their homes. Despite having this information, the state of the environment report shows a continuation of the trends that have been in place since these reports began to be produced. The bad news just keeps on coming, but instead of listening to that, instead of looking at it and instead of reading it and saying, 'It looks like we need to be changing the way we are doing things,' we have a government intent on continuing the pollution that causes global warming and on continuing the logging, the mining and the other extractive industries that are destroying the habitat. We have got a government that is intent on continuing to increase the amount of carbon pollution we are putting into our atmosphere.

The Greens have read of the state of the environment report, and we know that things need to change. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.