Parliament Updates

Seconding the Climate Change Emergency

2 March, 2020

TRANSCRIPT: I second the Climate Emergency Declaration Bill 2020. There is no doubt we are in the midst of a climate emergency. For six months Australia has been devastated by the worst bushfires in our nation's history. Communities have been wiped out; businesses irreparably impacted; cities blanketed by smog, forcing many indoors; our courageous volunteer services stretched to the limit; and our beautiful wildlife and landscape decimated. I'll never forget the images of Australian families being evacuated by the Royal Australian Navy or the first images of singed wildlife searching for water, all on the backdrop of blood-red skies and ashes eerily falling like snow.

The AMA has declared a climate emergency. The royal medical colleges have also done so. The Reserve Bank have recognised the threat; they are now factoring a worsening climate into their modelling and decision-making when it comes to managing our economy. Our financial regulators, APRA and ASIC, have guidelines on companies to report to shareholders on climate risks as it affects their businesses. Our Public Service and Defence Force chiefs have also been meeting for some time, planning for climate worst-case scenarios, some of which we are starting to see. All agree that Australia is especially vulnerable to climate change impacts and that this is having and will have an increasingly devastating impact on Australia's economy, our health system, our national security and our food system.

The Australian public also agree in October last year I presented to the parliament a historic petition of 404,538 signatures. These are signatures of ordinary Australians who call on their parliament to take urgent action on climate change. I urge my fellow MPs in this place to contemplate on that. Each of those names is an individual with a story, with a voice, with a network and with a vote. To confirm this sentiment to the parliament, several times the crossbench and the opposition have attempted to move motions to declare a climate emergency. However, so far the government has prevented any official declaration of emergency or any debate or discussion.

All three councils in Warringah have declared a climate emergency. They are but a few of over 90 who have now declared the same across Australia, representing a third of the country's population. At state level, the South Australian legislative assembly also declared a climate emergency. This bill will go to the heart of these requests by declaring a climate emergency and putting the climate emergency at the centre of policy decisions and decisions of this government made by the Public Service and this government.

Now, after a summer that devastated much of the country and left the rest blanketed in smoke, my fellow crossbencher presents a bill consistent with the voice of at least those 400,000 that signed the petition and the over 81 per cent in Australia who when surveyed indicate climate change action is one of their most pressing concerns. Yet the government does not seem to have heard these many voices and is intent on ignoring the science. Whilst the government has clearly accepted the science on the urgency of the coronavirus threat, we seem to be in a parallel universe when it comes to the impacts of climate change. In October 2018 the IPPCC warned that we need to take stronger action to restrict the warming to below 1.5 degrees. This government must accept the science of the urgency of the climate emergency.

As the 46th Parliament, we have a duty to the Australian people to go beyond partisan allegiance. It's time for us all to be accountable. Let's listen to the people and take meaningful action on climate change. I stand with the member for Melbourne and thank him for presenting this bill on behalf of Warringah and many other Australians. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.