Climate Change - 19/09/2019

19 September 2019



I rise today to talk about the urgent need for the government to take decisive and meaningful action on climate change. Throughout the recent election campaign, there was one concern that electors in Canberra expressed to me ahead of all others, and that was the need to take action on climate change. Canberrans understand this is urgent. We need to take action now. The first action of the Abbott government was to dismantle the carbon price that Labor introduced, and we see the same denial and lack of action six years on. This is a government in denial and with no plan. My constituents continue to raise this concern with me. I want to highlight some of the meetings I've had with a diverse range of groups through the last sitting fortnight, in which the call for action on climate change has been a central theme. The government must also get these meeting requests, but they are ignoring the community as they are ignoring the science.

I met with two of the nine inspiring UNICEF Australia young ambassadors for 2019. Of all the things they wanted to talk about, climate change was at the top of the list. They brought a report that detailed the culmination of their year of consultation with young Australians from right around the country, and their report, titled A climate for change, provides a snapshot into the minds of young Australians. In the report, a couple of issues shone through as concerns, and the environment was among them. Around 60 per cent of young people in Australia identify climate change as the biggest threat to their safety, more than two-thirds want Australia to reduce its carbon emissions, and 84 per cent believe that climate change will affect the world a lot in the future. It's their future that we are shaping in this place right now, and I want to thank the UNICEF young ambassadors for their important work in giving this particular group of unheard Australians a voice.

Climate change is not a distant threat. It is very real and it is impacting the lives of millions of people around the world right now, nowhere more pressingly than our neighbours in the Pacific. One of the groups I met with this week was the Inter-Congregational Voice on Climate Change, a group of Catholic religious congregations working in the region. They spoke of the personnel that they have working around the Pacific, at the coalface of the climate change disaster—in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Papua New Guinea. The group spoke of firsthand experiences of the very real impacts that climate change is having on some of our nearest neighbours in the Pacific, including crops being unable to be grown because of salinity as the watertable rises. They also showed us pictures of people's front yards at different times of the day, regularly under water, with the ebbing and flowing of the tide. Of course, these houses weren't built under water; it's the coast and the high-water mark that are changing. They showed us pictures of a flooded maternity ward, a regular occurrence in a country where the highest geographic point is only a couple of metres. Another picture showed a very small breakwall that had been breached, flooding a road—the ocean lying ready to take everything they know.

These governments are having discussions about how they will deal with this crisis in the immediate future. They are talking about things like creating floating islands as a way of futureproofing their homes. They're buying land in neighbouring islands that have higher elevations. None of these options are sustainable, and, if we go through with them, in coming years we will fail and need to start again. These conversations are very real for people in these countries, and this is something that our country should not ignore. We need to take further action now and come up with permanent solutions. If Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, wants to be a leader in our region, we need to be leaders in this space.

Our Prime Minister needs to take responsibility, and not ignore the cries of the Australian people, and attend the UN climate conference when he visits the US this week. I'm calling on the Prime Minister to attend the UN Secretary-General's Climate Action Summit during his visit to the US this weekend, and not to boycott this important summit as his predecessor, Tony Abbott, did five years ago.

Tomorrow students from all around Australia will strike to call on our government to take action on climate change. We need to listen to these young people. They are some of the most engaged people in our community and they really care about their world. I'll be proud to be joining them in Canberra tomorrow, and I look forward to seeing you there.