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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8198


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (19:55): This weekend I am very proud to be taking part in the Australian Greens' contribution to Australia's Largest Doorknock. Greens members will be joining other members of the community to get the word out and build more and more community awareness about why we need to stand together to prevent the impacts of climate change. On Saturday, 14 November Western Australians will knock on doors all across Perth and ask their neighbours to tell the Prime Minister and Julie Bishop that we want strong action on climate change and invite them to join the People's Climate March at the end of November. We know that our great strength is our ability to reach out to people and have face-to-face conversations with them about issues that are of great concern to Australians and people all around the world. We want to make sure the government knows that climate change is an issue our community cares about. We need to make sure it is on the agenda for next year's federal election and that this country takes the right measures to Paris. I hope the people of Perth will join me and other members to get this important message out and undertake this important activity.

The community are not the only ones who are worried about the impacts and effects of climate change. We have seen a real shift with our global leaders starting to take climate change seriously. Australia must join in or we are going to be left behind. We know that the time to take action is now—as do a lot of members of our community. Unfortunately, we have reached a terrifying milestone in the impacts that humanity is having on our climate. There was information in the news today that, according to the UK Met Office, the world temperature has moved by more than one degree since pre-industrial times. The national October mean temperature was 2.89 degrees Celsius above the long-term mean and the highest on record for any month of the year, surpassing the record of 2.75 degrees Celsius set in September 2013. We also know that records were set in October this year as well.

The effects of climate change are all around us. In my home state of Western Australia you can see it everywhere. There is decreasing rainfall in the south-west. People just talk about it and acknowledge it. Managing the impacts of that decreasing rainfall and changing climate is now part of the work they have to do. We have seen increases in extreme weather events and especially in our oceans. Our oceans, as I have articulated in this place many times, have unique marine species that are found nowhere else in the world. But right around the country our oceans are under threat. It is very concerning that rising sea temperatures are threatening coral reefs. By the beginning of next year 38 per cent of the world's reefs will be affected by coral bleaching and five per cent will die forever. And part of that coral dies every time we have a coral bleaching event. In my home state of Western Australia the Kimberley is particularly at risk. In 2011, a marine heat wave in WA resulted in waters being more than three degrees warmer than the average during the autumn months, and it was associated with algal mortality, coral bleaching and fish kills. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly called NOAA, forecasts of coral bleaching due to sea temperatures through to February 2016 have delivered the highest possible warming—and, therefore, warning for the impact of coral bleaching—for the coral reefs off the Kimberley coast. Coral bleaching will be far worse for the north-west of Australia due to climate change. This looks like it is set to be, unfortunately, another global record. The Kimberley reef warming in 2011 was the worst on record, and the Kimberley still has not recovered. Now, it is going to have the net wave of coral bleaching due to global warming.

Warming of the reef is not helped by the way our oceans are able to cope and rebound. Unfortunately, worse is to come for our reefs. This summer is likely to be the worst on record and the impact is likely to be the worst that our reefs have seen. This highlights, yet again, the importance of ensuring that we protect areas of our marine environment. Protecting areas from other impacts helps ensure that they are more resilient and gives our reefs a fighting chance. We must improve the protections that ensure our oceans have the best chance of survival under these increasingly dire circumstances.

We want our marine protected areas back. Please, Mr Turnbull, give our world-leading marine reserves back. Undo the damage that Mr Abbott did not long after he came into power when he abandoned our world-leading system of marine reserves. When Mr Abbott became Prime Minister, he scrapped the management plans for our world-leading network of marine protected areas—effectively scrapping our marine reserves. We want them back. The government is now reviewing our marine protected areas and management plans, despite the fact that they were based literally on decades of work. The Prime Minister should abandon this review and reinstate this system of reserves. Unfortunately, if Mr Turnbull surrenders on marine protection, our oceans will remain more vulnerable to pollution, overfishing, oil and gas extraction and climate change. Early action and investment in mitigation plans, adaptation strategies and fisheries management need to be part of our efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change on our oceans. The immediate course has to be the reinstatement of our marine reserves. Please, give them back to us.

The Greens have supported the call for a global treaty limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Given the nature of the challenge, you would think that the government would be acting ambitiously and decisively on this issue. However, Mr Turnbull has followed in Mr Abbott's weak footsteps in regard to addressing climate change. It is imperative that we are ambitious and take strong action. The Greens voted unanimously at our national conference last weekend to back efforts to stabilise global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. It is clear that every temperature rise above 1.5 degrees is very dangerous. We have to listen to the science on this and act boldly and quickly. What is terrifying is that two degrees of average warming would wipe out almost 100 per cent of our coral reefs—coral reefs which are so fundamentally a part of our marine environment, particularly the Australian marine environment. We are known globally for our Great Barrier Reef on one side of the continent and the Ningaloo Reef on the other side of the continent. It is one of the world's best fringing reef systems. The beauty of Ningaloo, as you would know, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, is that you can literally reach it from the shore—unlike our other marvel, the Great Barrier Reef.

Time is running out. It is absolutely imperative that we get strong action out of Paris next month. I will be joining the greatest doorknock this weekend so that we can send a very strong message to the Prime Minister, to Minister Bishop and also to the world that there are Australians who do care about climate change and the impact that Australia is having and that we are sorry that our government are such laggards in this regard. Time is running out to take action. It is absolutely imperative that we take action now. I encourage Australians to join the greatest doorknock, to engage in conversations about climate change and to send a clear message to our government that we want them to represent us and take action on climate change.