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Monday, 2 March 2020
Page: 2079


Mr BANDT (MelbourneLeader of the Australian Greens) (10:04): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Environmental collapse is here. Stopping a breakdown of the earth's delicate climate system is no longer about simply protecting future generations or saving impoverished communities farming on floodplains half a world away. Australia's last few months of megafires, drought, floods, hailstorms, heatwaves, toxic smoke covering cities and dust clouds swallowing up entire regional towns has shown us that global heating is now a direct and present threat to every aspect of our lives that we cherish and hold dear. We are in a climate emergency.

The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the air was at least 2.6 million years ago, before humans existed. Yet on this very day, the world is still producing more heat-trapping gases than we have ever produced before. Australia's pollution from coal, oil and gas at home and abroad has never been higher. If we keep polluting at our current rate, we could be at 1,000 parts per million by the end of the century. Last time that happened, dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Scientists say that all our countries' pledges under the Paris Agreement still have us on track for 3.4 degrees of global warming—up to 3.4 degrees of global warming, when we are meant to be constraining it to well below two. What this means, if we get this hot, is that humans can't live in the equatorial zone; northern Australia's oppressive humidity and frequent flooding only allows humans to live there for part of the year; mosquito-borne disease will head southward; one in six Australian species will be extinct; and vast tracts of the ocean will be dead zones with algal blooms sucking away all oxygen, like we've seen in the Menindee River. That is what awaits us between three to four degrees and that is the path the Prime Minister has us on at the moment. Unless we rapidly change course away from coal, oil and gas, then life as we have always known it will no longer exist. It is not scaremongering; it is hard physics. And we have just had a taste of it over the last summer.

We should refuse a future where children need to wear gas masks because their cities are full of smoke. We should not, as the Prime Minister asked us, just have to get used to and adapt to fires so massive that they create their own powerful storm tornados that can flip an eight-tonne truck and kill its passengers. We should honour the memory of Samuel McPaul, the volunteer firefighter this happened to, not by pretending that everything will be okay or that the government has it under control but by stopping this climate emergency in its tracks. People are angry and are anxious and are desperately looking for leadership. This bill will enable this parliament to show that leadership.

This legislation declares that we commit to secure a prosperous, jobs-rich future for ourselves and our children. This bill is an explicit acknowledgement of how much danger we are in. As US climate campaigner Margaret Klein Salamon wrote: 'Humans evaluate danger and risk by noticing how other people respond. When we see people in our community acting as though nothing is wrong, it is a cue to us and everyone else that everything is normal, but when we see people in our communities responding to an event as though it's an emergency we start to view the event as an emergency too. Telling the truth about climate and treating the climate crisis like the emergency it is is highly contagious.' That is especially the case for our political leaders. That is why 92 local councils have declared a climate emergency, from Mildura to Lismore to Launceston, and more keep signing up.

But this bill will be more than a declaration. All Public Service agencies will be responsible for acting in accordance with the declaration when developing, implementing, providing and evaluating policies. Agencies will be required to report on their compliance each reporting period. The bill will also establish a climate emergency war cabinet to guide the country through the rapid societywide and economywide response to the climate crisis.

When the Allies won World War II, it wasn't just because the US and other governments put their resources into it; the war was won because the government, industry and communities worked together to meet an unprecedented threat. In 1942 America, a spark plug factory produced machine guns, a merry-go-round factory made gun mounts, a pinball machine plant made armour-piercing shells and a toy company started making compasses. Now, at this stage, we don't need to militarise, but we need to decarbonise.

This bill enables the mobilisation of government resources to keep our citizens safe from danger. We have the technologies, the skills, the capital and the resources that we need. Nothing will stop scientists and engineers from solving these problems. We will get there eventually, but the problem is we don't have until eventually. We need to act superfast. If we only reach net zero by 2050 or 2060 or 2070, we will still confront disaster, and that is why the government and the whole of society must recognise we are in an emergency and take action at emergency speed, devoting all the resources we need to stop a threat that, if we don't do this, will become overwhelming.

So I commend this bill to the House and in my remaining time I invite the seconder for this motion and this bill to speak.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?