Speech: Increase aid to Pakistan


I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wong) to questions without notice I asked today relating to the floods in Pakistan.

The scale of the floods in Pakistan is difficult to grasp. As Fahad Saeed, a climate impact scientist in Islamabad, recently said, words like 'colossal', 'mammoth' and 'gigantic' don't do justice to the situation. There are 33 million people who are affected. That is more than the population of Australia. Perhaps that gives you some idea of the enormity of this disaster. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Those who have seen the pictures coming out of Pakistan have seen the deadly face of this climate catastrophe. I speak to my ammi and relatives back in Pakistan every night. They are beside themselves at the death and destruction, with one-third of the country under water and so many lives, livelihoods, homes and infrastructure lost. My heart, my thoughts and my duas are with those who are suffering.

I have been meeting with the Pakistani Australian community here, who have come together so quickly to raise funds to support the relief and reconstruction efforts. The Pakistani community are known for their generosity and, wherever they are, they are opening up their hearts and their wallets. I cannot say the same for the Australian government. The $2 million of aid they have committed to is in fact insulting. It is nowhere near our fair share. Australia needs to do more.

The floods in Pakistan were caused by monsoon rains 10 times more severe than normal. Global warming is melting glaciers, which is worsening the floods. This is a climate fuelled disaster. The harsh reality is that disasters like this will happen again and again unless there is strong and urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. Pakistan is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world but has contributed little to the climate emergency. The people of Pakistan are paying with their lives and livelihoods for a crisis knowingly created and exacerbated by the global north. Despite multiple warnings from experts and the scientific consensus about the causes of the climate crisis, rich countries like Australia refuse to do what is necessary and stop digging up coal and gas. At the core of the crisis is the global north's rampant extractive capitalism and pursuit of incessant economic growth whatever the cost. The cost of this greed is being paid by countries like Pakistan and their people.

The extreme greed is mirrored by an extreme stinginess when it comes to the consequences of that crisis. Rich countries promise finance to help poorer countries deal with climate change as a recognition of their responsibility for historic carbon emissions, but the promise of $100 billion of climate finance by 2020 has never been met. I call on the government to face the global injustice of this climate crisis and act to tackle it. This means providing urgent aid to Pakistan, not just a mere $2 million but a much bigger amount commensurate with Australia's historic and ongoing responsibility for the climate crisis and equivalent to the scale of the disaster.

This is an issue of global justice. Aid funding and climate finance is about compensation and a debt owed for the terrible legacy of colonialism. It is not charity. It is about righting historic wrongs. Given Australia's dirty hands in producing climate-changing emissions, we have a special responsibility to do everything we can for climate justice. Of course, the government must take strong, meaningful action on climate. This means signing the global methane pledge and ruling out new coal and gas projects. It is untenable to keep pouring fuel on the fire, to keep sacrificing the lives and livelihoods of those in poorer countries to maintain the profit margins of fossil fuel conglomerates, many of whom fill political donation buckets of both the big parties.

This disaster is deeply painful and deeply personal for me. I was made in Pakistan. It's where I grew up. It's where my elders instilled in me the spirit to stand up not just for myself but for my community and to never stay silent in the face of injustice and unfairness. There is no greater unfairness and no greater injustice than the climate crisis.

Question agreed to.