Speech: Climate Change


'Get your hands off it, Prime Minister.' That was the banner that Greenpeace tied to the flagpoles in front of this very building this week, calling on Australia's latest Prime Minister to break his addiction to coal. We remember well Scott Morrison, the then Treasurer, entering the House of Representatives jovially waving around a lump of coal. But, Prime Minister, this is no joke. Our planet is cooking, and we have a Prime Minister who is not willing to take any concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This government's new climate policy is a bet each way and treats us all as mugs. The Prime Minister says he will meet our Paris climate commitments but hasn't outlined at all how this will happen without an emissions reduction program. It's a policy that reeks of political opportunism in attempting to shore up his own job—mention the term 'climate change', to appease the moderates, but make no real commitments, in order to appease the neo-conservatives.

But there is no satisfying the climate change Neanderthals in the Liberal and National parties. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull found this out the hard way. Even when he weakened his emissions policy to the point where it was not even worth the paper it was written on, they moved to swiftly dispatch him. Alex Turnbull, his son, let the cat out of the bag when he told the ABC that people who own a lot of coal in the Galilee Basin were exercising undue influence on Liberal Party policies. They have assets they probably regret purchasing that don't make a lot of sense any more and they are trying to engineer an outcome that makes those projects economic. This is nothing less than irrational exuberance. In a nutshell, there are big corporations out there with very deep pockets always pushing to get public subsidies for fossil fuels or for coal mining, which pollutes our land, pollutes our water and poisons people and which we know is a disaster for the climate.

Fresh from getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister Morrison was quick to reassure the same coal and climate criminals. He has appointed a former deputy CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia to be his chief of staff, appointed a former coal industry lawyer to be the new environment minister, and appointed an anti-renewable-energy campaigner as the energy minister.

But if Mr Morrison thinks that Australians are going to stay quiet and suck it up, he is going to be sorely disappointed. Just yesterday, Farmers for Climate Action were outside parliament calling out his hypocrisy on his crocodile tears about the drought while refusing to acknowledge the role of climate change. One hundred per cent of my state of New South Wales is in drought, and farmers and regional Australians are on the front line. They want more than prayers for rain. They want concrete action. They want the agricultural and drought policies to focus on building resilience. They want a meaningful emissions trading scheme and they want action on global warming.

A few days earlier, thousands of Australians joined more than 50 actions around the country. I took part in the Coal Out of Politics snap rally in the Prime Minister's electorate with hundreds of other people. They were all demanding something that is quite within our reach—to wean ourselves off coal, stop digging it up and stop burning it for electricity, whether it's here in Australia or elsewhere. They were demanding a move to 100 per cent renewable energy with a just transition for workers. They were demanding an energy transformation. They were demanding an economic transformation.

We can keep the lights on, we can create tens of thousands of jobs and we can save the planet. This is affordable, it is possible and it is absolutely necessary. It is sad that we are still having arguments here in Australia about whether climate change is real or not and that the very small minority of well-placed conservatives continue to frustrate progress. With this Prime Minister, who brought a lump of coal to parliament, we do have a battle on our hands. So let's kick this coal-loving mob out.