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Tuesday, 4 December 2018
Page: 9370


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (17:47): Sometimes when I look at the agenda for these debates, and I see the matter of urgency, I get excited. Then, all too quickly, my excitement fades because what happens is, rather than having a genuine discussion looking at a matter of genuine importance and trying to share knowledge and experience, it degenerates into what we often see whenever the issue is around coal or energy: a position where people have already made up their minds. They determine what they believe is right regardless of what other arguments they hear and regardless of what people are asking for in the wider community, which is some genuine understanding and acceptance that people, while they may have different views, have a common goal.

On this particular argument, as we always see, it is not coming together to try and find out how we genuinely look at protecting our planet, understanding that we are global citizens. It doesn't matter whether we live here, whether we live in the Pacific islands, whether we live in Europe or whether we live in Antarctica: we are global citizens. The issues around climate change do continue to be debated in this place, because there do continue to be people who think that we have no role to play in this debate. They think that we can close our eyes, curl up in a ball in the southern part of the world and pretend, as we've just heard Senator Macdonald say, that there is nothing we can do to impact change, and that, therefore, we should just go ahead and ignore any of the evidence that's come forward that actually points to the fact that there are issues around our use of energy, that there are issues in the way that we celebrate, in some parts of this chamber, and that there is no alternative to the use and continued mining of coal with no limitations, with no restrictions and with a complete focus on our energy production and usage around coal in every sense.

This afternoon we've heard people taking widely different positions, and that will continue because there doesn't seem to be any willingness to listen. People have already determined that either there is a problem and we're part of it or there could be a problem and we're no part of it, and that absolutely none of that problem relates to the use of coal and the continued mining of coal not just at the current levels but at ever increasing levels.

What we hear from the people who do support, in this strange way, doing things in the same way is that it's not enough that already—the international evidence is that while Australia doesn't feature in the top 50 nations by population we are one of the top 20 economies, proven by our engagement in the G20, and we are one of the top 15 nations in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions. There is not an argument about that. That's fact. There may well be argument, as I've heard from the other side, consistently, about what causes greenhouse emissions. But in terms of the fact that they are real, I do not believe that there is an outstanding argument on that issue.

The IPCC's recent report that came down caused great concern in some parts of the world. It caused great concern in parts of our country as well. I know that Senator Faruqi quoted extensively from comments made by David Attenborough at the current conference in Europe, and I know other people in this debate have quoted from that too. It is extraordinarily concerning reading. You see across the world a group of experts, in the area of science, with no vested interest. The people gathered at this international conference do not have any particular ownership in saying that our situation has reached crisis. That benefits no-one.

The evidence we have before us talks about the gap in the way countries and individuals across the world are looking at the issues and taking measures for change. The gap that is occurring is leading to an urgency and a crisis across the world that may see significant changes in temperatures, our geography and the likelihood of the Arctic Ocean being free of sea ice in summer. The proportion of the global population exposed to global warming-induced water shortages will be up 50 per cent if we don't make change. Our coral reefs would, basically, cease to exist at the current level. And the indications go on. In terms of the fear that it engenders, it seems that it's selective. People are able to disassociate themselves from this situation, disassociate themselves from the concerns that have been raised. Indeed, as we've heard from Senator Macdonald, it does not seem to be a problem. Most specifically, it does not seem to be 'our' problem.

I think that's where the arguments diverge. You accept that there are serious issues around climate change. You accept that there are a range of factors causing these issues, and that does include coal production and coal use for energy. It is not the only cause. And that's another issue. In our enthusiasm to find individual reasons that we can blame, very often people find one or two things and think they are the only causes. That's not true. There are a range of causes. There are a range of issues that we have to address. First of all, we have to identify, share and accept that there is a problem and that we're part of it.

Last week in this place I had the joy of listening to a group of schoolchildren. These were not the schoolchildren to whom Senator Macdonald referred—who were ignorant, who were taking information from others, who were brainwashed—these were young people who were given the opportunity to do their own research. These were 11- and 12-year-olds. This is at a time when their brains are seeking information. What they did was research sustainable development goals. Amidst that, they accepted that we are part of the world and that we have shared responsibilities and that there are issues around climate change and energy. Some of the children decided that this was the area on which they would concentrate.

Using the research they had available to them, they looked at the way we use energy, the way we generate energy, in our country and looked at the desperate need to find renewable ways to have energy in our lives and how we can best use that. They were not running away from the issues. They did not see that, somehow, if you lived in Australia, you were not part of a global problem. They didn't see that they could be removed from any responsibility and they accepted that there would be impacts on their lives, on their family's lives and on their communities if we didn't take action.

So I think it is important that we do consider what is described as a matter of urgency. But I do think it would be useful if, in this process, there was a degree of listening rather than just running the same arguments that we hold dear and attacking those who don't share those beliefs. I think that we had the opportunity to look at the international science evidence and also the significant evidence that has been produced locally by our scientists and by the researchers that work in the space in our communities here. I know Senator Macdonald quoted one statement from the Chief Scientist. If you look at the work that the Chief Scientist produced when he was doing his research across the country a few years ago, in building up to what was then the National Energy Guarantee, you can see that significant comments were made in that report about the need for us to look at alternate means of getting energy in our country and looking at the importance of renewables and looking at the importance of each of us taking responsibility in this space.

There are opportunities. We need to ensure that we look at and understand what the realities are in our community and that we accept that we need to take action. One of those actions, one of the many actions, is looking at how we can have alternate ways of using and finding energy in our country. That's already on the agenda. But Australia, and my own state of Queensland, is not immune from the international impacts of climate change, and we must be part of any solution, any action, to make our country's response stronger and to keep not just current generations safe, not just our current geography safe, but our world and our families into the future.