Climate Change, Domestic and Family Violence, Multiculturalism


Peter Khalil: I’ve spoken numerous times in this place—all of us have—about climate change as a policy issue. It’s important to us. It’s important to me. It’s important to people in my electorate. When you break it down to the personal, I have two young children and I want to leave them a better world, and I’m sure that sentiment is shared across the aisle here, amongst all of us who want a better world and a better Australia. We must bequeath future generations a cleaner energy future.

Last week our Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, articulated federal Labor’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That’s not going to be an easy task, and some of the hysteria around it in the media and by the government does an injustice to that core belief, that core promise that we all have to future generations. Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will actually, despite all the hysteria, despite all the scaremongering, be a boon for the national economy, for this nation and, of course, for the environment that we all share.

Unfortunately the focus of the government and much of the media has been—probably to no-one’s surprise—on the same whipping-up of hysteria, the same old hackneyed scare tactics around the cost of policy, and wild and unsubstantiated claims about job losses, industries collapsing and basically the sky falling in on us. But there has been nothing about the cost of inaction—what it would cost not to act. There has been nothing about the cost of ignoring the science that is before us. The fact is that the cost of not reaching net zero emissions and a carbon-neutral economy—the cost to our nation and to the planet—is enormous.

If we don’t meet our Paris obligations, there are estimates that it could cost Australia alone $2.7 trillion—just Australia. If we don’t work with other nations to keep global warming below two degrees and closer to 1.5 degrees, there is analysis that tells us that this will slash global economic output by between 15 and 25 per cent. That is a bigger hit than the Great Depression. There is economic analysis around the amount of stranded assets—$12 trillion by 2035—that would be a cost of inaction. To put it in perspective: what kicked off the global financial crisis and the bailouts was about $250 billion worth of stranded assets.

There hasn’t been any discussion from the government about what it would actually mean for new investments, new jobs and new industries if we were to take action towards net zero emissions. We are talking about some $26 trillion of input and investment into economies around the world. For Australia alone, that means around $435 billion. It means estimates of a million jobs or more in those new industries. Despite all the hysteria, despite all the scaremongering, we are talking about job growth in renewable energy sectors. We are talking about a healthier planet. We can reach net zero emissions. We can invest in renewables. We can lead a just transition for workers. And with all of this we can actually have the moral standing with this policy base to push the other big emitters globally to reduce their global emissions. We can and we should, and all we need to act is leadership and courage, something missing from this government. It’s a gaping hole, actually.

Closer to home, we’ve all been affected here in this place and around the country by the murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey. I would like to pay my respects to her family and friends. Hannah was the eighth woman in Australia killed by a partner in seven weeks. She was a former trampoline champion, a daughter, a business owner, a gymnastics coach and a loving mother, but she was also a woman killed by domestic violence. This is a story that’s, unfortunately, all too familiar. While we’re all sickened by these murders, family violence and violence against women—and we’ve talked about this—is a scourge on our society. How many more times will we find ourselves here, as a nation, in mourning again for women and children who’ve been murdered by a family member or murdered while simply walking home?

In December 2019 there was a brutal rape of a woman running along Merri Creek in my electorate. In January 2019 an international student, Aiia Maasarwe, a young woman, was murdered in the northern suburbs of Melbourne while going home. In May 2019 Courtney Herron, a young woman from my electorate, was murdered in Royal Park. In June 2018 Eurydice Dixon, a young woman, was murdered in Princes Park while walking home. Jill Meagher was murdered in Brunswick in my electorate back in 2012. And of course Vicki Cleary was murdered by her ex-partner in 1987. It led Phil Cleary, a former member for Wills, to lead a passionate cause for justice on her behalf. He continues that fight today with respect to changing the laws and making sure that governments do what they need to do to help fight this scourge.

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, so what to do about this scourge that we’ve been talking about? For our part, we will stand together with the government—this has got to be bipartisan; it’s got to be beyond politics—to do whatever it takes to end this violence. In May last year our leader, Anthony Albanese, called for a national summit on domestic violence. We think the nation’s leaders need to come together on this. No one policy will solve it. It needs a cultural attitude shift for the whole society and it starts with us, as men, teaching our sons, our brothers, our fathers and our male cousins respect for women. Start with that. That’s important. We are all responsible for changing those cultural attitudes from the very beginning.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the fact that there is the Labor Multicultural Engagement Taskforce, which I am chairing; the work of all the people who have submitted to this; and Labor’s commitment to multiculturalism. Obviously, since the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 we as a party have championed multicultural policy as a fundamental cornerstone of modern Australia and our social cohesion. It is about catapulting Australia forward economically, culturally and socially. It’s fundamentally about nation building. The story of migrants—our story—is one of aspiration for a better life for their children and their community. It is a story that is part of our national aspiration and forms the foundation of our national unity. That’s why we’ve launched the multicultural engagement task force to engage Australians, to help inform with as many voices as possible federal Labor’s policies and the role of multiculturalism in social cohesion and Australian identity.

My parents came to this country from Egypt some 50 years ago. Like many who have come before and after them, they came escaping a region of conflict and danger, leaving it behind to look for opportunity, prosperity and security. Through their hard work and sacrifice, like millions of Australians and millions of migrants, they’ve helped build this country. It is not just the buildings, the infrastructure, but the values inherent in what it means to be Australian, the essence of what it means to be Australian. It’s not a unique story. Millions of Australians, whatever their ethnic background or their socioeconomic status, have come here and have been given opportunities through policies that were based on fairness. They had a fair go. For my migrant family, it was affordable housing, Medicare and access to education which were all life changing.

Equality of opportunity is something that I, as a Labor member of this place, am committed to because of what it meant to so many millions of Australians in families such as mine. It gave them an opportunity to make a positive contribution to this country, to give something back to Australia. The task force that I lead will continue to build on that great Labor tradition of nation-building policies that allowed people like me, and so many others, to succeed. We will listen to people’s input and their submissions and we will lead. We want people to talk to us about their experiences, because migration to Australia is a constantly evolving journey.