October 21, 2019 Josh Burns MP

Labor declares a climate emergency

Supporting the private members motion by Mark Butler

Mr BURNS (Macnamara) (10:56): We have heard a lot from those opposite this morning, but what we haven’t heard is one single thing, one single idea, about how Australia is going to reduce our emissions. Not one. The member for Goldstein walks out right now, and he needs to be very, very careful in this debate because Goldstein is the seat that borders Macnamara. I know those people in Goldstein care about the future of our planet. They care about how our emissions are going up. They will hold the member for Goldstein responsible along with this government which doesn’t have a plan to reduce our emissions.

Let’s start in this really important motion put forward by the member for Hindmarsh—and I commend the previous speakers on this side of the House, who have all made thoughtful contributions to this debate—with some facts on the table. Climate change is a man-made problem and it will continue to have devastating consequences for Australia and our Pacific neighbours. We need to reduce our carbon emissions as part of a concerted global effort to keep our temperature rises well below two degrees and towards 1.5 degrees, the pre-industrial levels. Another fact we have today is that our emissions are going up. They are going up, as they have done every year since 2014. This is part of the government’s own figures, which confirm it every time they are released.

The crazy thing about this debate is that climate change is a problem, but it also presents real opportunities. I was a young staffer here and I remember vividly the day that Joe Hockey goaded the car industry to leave this country. It was a devastating day, especially for the people in my electorate who, for years and years, worked in the factories in Fishermans Bend. It was a devastating day for the people of Geelong in the Ford factory. Yet they scoffed when we brought an electric vehicle policy to the last election. When they goaded the car industry to leave this country, they didn’t just end the jobs of manufacturing workers; they ended the jobs of high-skilled engineers, of scientists, of researchers, of developers and of all the subsidiary businesses. Yet they scoff at a policy that could potentially bring manufacturing back to our electorates.

They are more and more isolated. Across the states, we have seen the state governments move towards net zero emissions by the middle of the century, as well as bring in complementary policies. In the great state of Victoria, where we have seen a Labor government now re-elected—I had the privilege of working and playing a small part in it—policies include net zero emissions by 2050 and a renewable energy target. In that same Ford factory where those opposite goaded companies to leave our shores, they are now producing wind turbines. Manufacturing jobs are returning to our cities and to our towns on the back of renewable energy jobs. It’s exciting, yet the only people who have no plan, who don’t accept the science, who don’t want to take action, are those opposite. I know that there are a sprinkling of people over there who like to make platitudes, but they need to be very careful because platitudes simply aren’t going to cut it. They need a plan to reduce our carbon emissions. The last person to have an energy policy was Malcolm Turnbull, and we all know where that went.

To those opposite: I know the Prime Minister has a genuine affection for those in the Pacific region—I know he does; he talks about it often—but you cannot look our Pacific island friends in the eye when they come to us pleading with Australia to take climate change seriously, pleading with our government to do something to reduce emissions. Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, PNG—climate change is an existential threat to these countries, and the best our Prime Minister can do when he’s in New York, when the international climate change conference is on, is skip the conference.

Climate change is an opportunity for us to create jobs in this country, to create renewable energy jobs, to create a boom. There’s investment, but we can make it better. Climate change is our responsibility, as responsible global citizens and as friends to our Pacific neighbours, to take seriously. I commend the motion put forward by the member for Hindmarsh. We are in a climate emergency, and we need to take it seriously.


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Josh Burns MP respectfully acknowledges the past and present traditional owners of the land of the Indigenous people, the traditional custodians of this land, and respect their culture and identity which has been bound up with the land and sea for generations.