Real and Immediate Action on Climate Change Needed

I want to, first of all, record my thanks to my colleague the member for Moreton for putting this particular issue on the agenda. I just want to take a bit of time to go through the points that the member for Moreton has made in his motion to the House, and talk about why I think they are so significant. I also want to report to the House on some very significant activity in my own electorate on these very issues in the few weeks during which we have been away from this place.

The member for Moreton's motion, first of all, notes that the scientific consensus about climate change, and particularly the role of human activity in driving it, is undeniable. I find it extraordinary that we actually have to make such a statement in this place at this time. But, given some of the national debate that's going on, it is clear that we do still need to—sadly—reaffirm that climate change is real and that human activity is a significant contributor to it. I have been in this place for various iterations of this debate but I'm very conscious that at the end of the Howard government era we actually were moving towards a consensus in this country across the political spectrum about those two issues—that climate change was real and that humans were contributing to it.

Indeed, at the end of the Howard era, former Prime Minister Howard had moved to a position that said that, as a nation, we had an international responsibility to take action on climate change. Not only that, there was an agreement that there was great benefit to this country in moving towards more sustainable development and more sustainable energy options so that we, with the ingenuity and the natural resources that we had, would actually become world leaders in responding to climate change. Well, sadly, that bus has well and truly passed us. Now we are actually far behind the pack internationally in terms of these issues.

The member for Moreton's second point is that the case for real and immediate action on climate change has never been stronger. That is absolutely the case. As I report some of the conversations that happen in my community, members will see why I believe that is the case.

Thirdly, renewable energy, when combined with storage, is the most economical method of creating new and reliable power. What is really sad in this space—and it's where we find ourselves in the political debate at this point in time—is that we're actually led by a Prime Minister who used to have very deep and, we were led to believe, very sincere beliefs in the importance of this policy area.

The current Prime Minister wasn't the Prime Minister at the time, but he crossed the floor to support Labor in taking action on climate change. In fact, he made comments that he would never lead a government that wasn't dedicated to action on climate change. Now we see a government mired in indecision, floundering on the policy front and doing things like getting our Chief Scientist to go and do a report and then—apparently this week—being in convulsions about whether they are actually going to take action on it.

In my area, people care very deeply about these issues. I met with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition branch from Wollongong. They brought to me a petition that they had been collecting around the issue of the Adani coalmine. We had a talk about that. I made it very clear to them that Labor is very strongly of the view— and our position is—that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund should not be used to provide $1 billion to Adani. We are absolutely determined that that will be the case. Quite a group of young people came along to talk to me. I just want to acknowledge those young people, because they're very dedicated. They were Amy Fairall, Sarah Munelly, Mitch Grande, Liv Panozzo and Maddy Yerbury. I thank them for talking to me and for presenting their petition.

I thank them for talking to me and for presenting their petition. Last week, the Wollongong Climate Action Network had a forum on climate change organised by Tom Hunt and the team. Over 200 people attended that evening. We heard from a range of professors and doctors from the university across bushfires, marine biology, atmospheric science, urban planning, building and energy. All talked about the need to take action and to become a country that takes its responsibilities to the international community, as well as to our local community, on climate change seriously.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.