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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 1473

Dr PHELPS (Wentworth) (13:27): Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental, social, economic and political challenges of our time. If we don't get it right our children and grandchildren will be paying the price and we will be counting the costs for generations to come. Climate change and the environment are top-of-mind issues for the people in my electorate of Wentworth. They're also of great concern to Australians everywhere. This will be a climate change and environment election, and the time to act is now.

Just this morning, I met with Cassy Faux and Lauren McGrow, who were victims of the recent Tasmanian bushfires. When you consider there have been disastrous floods in Queensland, prolonged drought and storms, as well as a million dead fish in Menindee on the Darling River and a dramatic drop in temperature following a very long period of hot weather, it is clear we are seeing a rise in the prevalence of extreme weather events. I've spoken a number of times in this House about the need for urgent climate action. The cost of inaction will be significant.

Another important part of the climate argument is the impact on our environment, and today I would like to speak about the growing problem of ocean plastics. In the past fortnight, we saw a whale in the Philippines that starved to death after it ingested 40 kilograms of plastics. Forty kilograms is an enormous amount, and this was a wake-up call to all of us that we need to take action to limit the amount of plastic that is dumped into oceans and rivers worldwide. The global population is living, working and vacationing along the coasts, and coastal populations are in the front row for the greatest, most unprecedented plastic-waste tide ever faced. According to Boomerang Alliance, 275 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated globally each year. In 2016, over nine million tonnes of plastic entered the world's oceans. Ocean currents have formed five gigantic slow-moving whirlpools called gyres, where the plastic collects. Most of the plastic debris sinks or remains in the gyres, but a significant percentage of it is suspended in ocean water where it endangers sea life or washes onto our coastlines daily.

The CSIRO recently completed a survey which found that three-quarters of the rubbish along Australia's coast is plastic. Most of it comes from Australian sources, not the high seas, with the debris concentrated near cities. I was a volunteer this year in Clean Up Australia, and you couldn't miss the plastic debris.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.