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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8628


Senator WATERS (QueenslandCo-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (15:44): 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 climate change.

I rise to take note of the answer given by Senator Brandis, in relation to my question about the Paris climate conference. I found it hard to take Senator Brandis seriously—unfortunately, it is not a problem he suffers from, himself—because I asked him: 'How can you, in all seriousness, claim to commit to reducing global warming and keep it within that two-degree guardrail that the Prime Minister has said, "That's what we want to do in Paris," and yet approve the Southern Hemisphere's largest coal mine?'

I asked him how that could possibly add up. We have added it up and we have done the figures. The emissions from that one mine, the Adani Carmichael coalmine proposed for Central Queensland—if anyone will finance them, which no-one will as yet; 15 banks have said they will not touch it—if it were to go ahead, would produce 100 times the carbon pollution that this government spent half a billion dollars abating with the second Direct Action option. They have just wiped out half a billion dollars worth of the abatement, 100 times over, by approving this coalmine. I do not understand. They have also produced the same amount of carbon pollution that the entire European Union does, in one year, by approving this coalmine.

If you look at the figures another way, they have wiped out three times over, each year, their pathetic five per cent carbon pollution reduction target. Hence my question: how on earth could you possibly conceive of entering those climate discussions with any credibility after having just approved the Southern Hemisphere's largest coal mine? I got the usual lecture from Senator Brandis. We have had this exchange several times now. He continues to not address the facts. He said, 'This is going to create up to 10,000 jobs,' when the company themselves have admitted, in court: 'We kind of exaggerated. Actually, it is only going to be 1,464—soz.' Perhaps that has not reached Senator Brandis yet, despite the fact that I have mentioned it to him a few times and it is on the court transcripts.

He then claimed that this coal will reduce energy poverty in India. Again, he neglected to mention the fact that 80 per cent of rural India does not have an electricity grid. They could not access the electricity from this coal even if they could afford it. He failed to mention Australian coal was the most expensive domestic Indian energy option. He also neglected to mention that coal particulates are killing people in India in vast numbers. No, we are to accept that he is incredibly concerned about energy poverty, with a solution that will not help people and will kill them.

What he also fails to realise is that what is required—and what is already happening in India—is that fantastic transition to local distributed renewable energy, solar. In Senator Brandis's world there is only a choice between cow poo and coal. He seems to have neglected to realise that the sun rises every morning and there are a plethora of other clean energy options for rural India—and for Australia, for that matter. I asked him, given that the laws of physics show that burning coal is not really good for people's health and is not so great for the climate, how on earth he is the continuing—as the Prime Minister did at the weekend in his discussions with China—to lobby and spruik Australia's coal to be fast-tracked through China's new coal energy standards.

I got the same rant about our coal being so much cleaner—never mind the fact that it is still killing people, it is massively dirty, it is expensive, they cannot access this energy and renewables are the answer, which we could be helping with. He is so concerned about energy poverty that when I asked him: 'Are you going to cough up the money, now that we are the co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, and stump up Australia's fair share of what developing nations need to both mitigate and adapt to the climate impacts that are locked into the system? If you are that concerned about energy poverty, surely you are going to increase the contribution,' the answer was 'No, of course not.' It is all just rhetoric.

There is not going to be any additional money, according to Senator Brandis, despite the fact that Australia's fair share would be about $400 million a year, over the next four years, to help our Pacific Island neighbours not go under water. No, that is too much for Senator Brandis. He is going to stick with the $200 million that we proffered at the Lima climate talks, when nobody would talk to us until we put some money on the table. My favourite quote from Senator Brandis is: 'Adani's coalmine will cut pollution.' There you have it. Opening up the Southern Hemisphere's largest coalmine, in the minds of the government, will cut carbon pollution. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.