The Australian Institute Event
Good evening friends, I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Bunurong people of the Kulin nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I also want to take this moment to encourage you all to be active in the ‘Yes’ campaign for a Voice to Parliament.
This is a historic moment for our country, and we must take it.
Do not get distracted by media stories. It is the media's job to write stories to feed the daily news cycle.
It is our job to help write history. And to answer the Uluru Statement from the Heart through Voice, Treaty and Truth.
My thanks to the Australia Institute for organising this evening and for allowing me to say a few words.
I apologise for not being there in person.
As you gather this evening, I am on a plane, heading to the Solomon Islands, as part of my work as the Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Committee of the Parliament.
We are heading to the pacific to speak with our friends about the how Australia can support democratic institutions in our region.
One of the reasons for this, is to consider the challenge of regional governments in their capacity to respond to climate induced natural disasters.
Think of how difficult it has been for local communities in places like Lismore in New South Wales to adapt to the real and present threats of a warming world.
These people, these towns are extremely resilient. But recovery is slow, even with resources and support from all levels of government.
It also puts a real strain on the relationship and trust between communities and governments.
Now imagine how difficult the job is going to be for the Governments and communities in Kiributi, Tuvalu, The Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea just to name a few.
Climate change won't just pose huge challenges to our way of life, but it will put real pressure on the future of democracies in our region.
My role as the member for Macnamara and a member of the Labor government is one I take extremely seriously.
Everyone in our parliament knows that Macnamara is a community that wants ambitious climate policy. I’m proud to represent a community that looks to the future and wants to leave it in the best possible shape for generations to come.
I am the first to acknowledge that after 30 years of denialism and policy failure on climate, Australia has a long road ahead of us to meet our obligations in the global effort to prevent a climate catastrophe.
But I am pleased to be able to say that in just over a year that significant work has already happened to steer us away from fossil fuels and towards to a renewable future.
Here in Victoria, our electricity grid fluctuates between roughly 15% renewables – predominantly wind power – at night time and averaging over 30% during the day when the solar power comes online.
The rest of the time we are relying on brown coal and imported energy from the other states to power our homes, our hospitals and even our electric vehicles. This needs to change as quickly as possible.
It is an enormous task but one we are leading with urgency.
We have made the biggest investment Australia has ever put into renewable energy.
We have invested $20 billion to rebuild the transmission lines we need to handle the massive increase in renewable power.
We are installing over 400 community batteries, including the first one here in Macnamara in Southbank, allowing households and particularly renters to access community energy supply and utilise solar power that has been fed back into the grid.
We are investing in community energy hubs so that apartment blocks and community housing estates can also benefit from renewable energy without excessive costs.
We are developing massive offshore wind farms, including one in Gippsland.
We are supporting green hydrogen development for future industrial needs.
We have established government agencies to help communities that rely on fossil fuel mining to find alternatives, including in renewable energy projects.
We know the laws that currently govern our environmental approvals are simply inadequate. So, we are rewriting the EPBC Act to give more power the federal government to ensure our environmental laws are doing what they should be doing which is to protect our precious environment.
This is far from an exhaustive list of what our policy entails, and this only represents one year of progress, after a decade of shambolic inaction.
No doubt you will say there is more to be done, and I agree with you.
My job is to make sure that we are as ambitious and that we are acting with a sense of urgency.
And we are getting results.
One example I can give you is ending native logging in Victoria.
This decision by the Andrews government did not happen by accident.
It was the result of community activists working with me and other MPs to supplement the pivotal court cases that were fought to protect our beautiful natural forests and unique wildlife.
I’ve no doubt that your message to me if I was there in person is that Australia needs to do more and needs to do it urgently.
Even though I am in the air to the Solomons, I hear that message loud and clear.
So, I reiterate the message I have said to many of you over a cup of tea in my office. Civil society should be ahead of government. Keep pushing, keep being activists and I will continue to be a strong voice within government for climate action on behalf of our community in Macnamara.
My door is always open, and I look forward to making real progress in the future, together.
04 July 2023