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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8121


Senator WATERS (QueenslandCo-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (15:31): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to coal mining subsidies provided by international economic organisations.

Why are we bucking the trend of some of our largest trading partners, including the US and Japan, who, in recent weeks, have announced that they have a proposal to reduce public subsidies for those dirtiest coal fired power stations? And yet, Australia is blocking that. I sought an explanation as to why on earth any person who had even a passing familiarity with the climate science or had even heard of the phrase climate change would take such a stance.

Sadly, Minister Brandis simply pressed the repeat button on his usual rhetorical flourish about the Liberals' obsession with coal. He started off by saying that Australia believes in the coal industry and then raved on about how great our coal is and how much he has bought the spin of the minerals council and the resources council that, somehow, it underpins our economic prosperity—when we know that 86 per cent of the profits flow offshore and it contributes only about two per cent of GDP, and that the global price has tanked so much that it clearly does not have a future. That is way too many facts for Senator Brandis. He would rather spout the coal industry rhetoric and continue to take the donations, as his party does, with aplomb.

I had no satisfactory explanation as to why Australia would be blocking those very sensible moves to get on board that transition to clean energy, which the rest of the world has long begun and which Australia is getting further and further behind on—despite the fact that we have such great potential in this nation, and globally, to contribute with our wonderful sunshine our wind, our wave, our tide and even our geothermal prospects. But no, that is all very inconvenient for the minister and the 'government for coal'.

I pointed out that coal fired power is, in fact, far from helping poor Indians, who Senator Brandis suddenly thinks he cares about—despite slashing the foreign aid budget to the lowest in living memory, and despite the fact that they do not have an electricity grid in 80 per cent of India so they will not even be able to use that coal. Again: details, details. I pointed out that those coal fired power stations actually worsen air quality and contaminate local water supplies, and there have been recent reports that have linked millions of deaths in India from burning coal. Again, Senator Brandis did not engage with the substance of that.

I pointed out the enormous inconsistency in Australia taking the position to continue to fund dirty energy whilst just being appointed as the co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, which is meant to be bankrolling the transition to clean energy and showing some global leadership in the context of the Paris climate talks that are coming up. Again, there was absolutely no engagement with the substance. Instead, I was rebuked for not facing Central Queenslanders who want an Indian coal mine to proceed. In fact, I was in Mackay last week talking about the transition plan, because people know that their jobs are on the line and they do not have a future. They want to know what the government is doing to plan for the fact that the coal price has thoroughly tanked and it looks like those much talked about jobs will not eventuate. So they were very interested to hear what we Greens had to say about us wanting to give them a long-term employment future and protect the climate at the same time. Thanks, Senator Brandis, for the opportunity to mention that I have, in fact, been doing that. It might be an idea for the government to do that too.

Lastly, I talked about why Prime Minister Turnbull was continuing with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's approach of playing that wrecker role in international climate negotiations of wanting to spoil deals, cease momentum, remove words from proposed deals and really go on the go-slow and try to slow down that global momentum. Sadly—in true form—I was not able to receive an actual response to that, but they continued on with the ranting that is the coal megaphone, also known as the current Australian government. We Greens will continue to advocate for the inevitable transition to clean energy, both domestically and internationally, that we know will safeguard our climate and protect beautiful places like the Great Barrier Reef, which are huge employers and which we know will generate the jobs of the future and underpin our economic prosperity. Anyone is welcome to join us.

Question agreed to.