The Denial of Climate Change


Peter Khalil: I’m a bit flustered, I have to admit. We’ve just seen a demonstration of what I could only describe as peak denial. We’ve got to a point now where the Australian federal Minister for the Environment is in peak denial. We’ve got a government in which we know there has been political failure. We’ve seen their abject failure in trying to get a policy of climate change through this parliament and implement it for this country and have the responsibility of implementing an actual climate change policy. They’ve failed politically, but I think it’s more than that.

We, on this side, have tried. We’ve tried rational argument, we’ve tried scientific data and we’ve tried logic, but none of this seems to work. We’ve been confused for years here. We had thought: ‘It’s just a political failure. They’re tearing each other apart and they’re unable to get four different policies through their own party room.’ But I was sitting there thinking and listening to the minister, trying to understand what she was saying, when it dawned on me that it’s not just political failure; there’s a failure of imagination on the other side by this government. There’s an absolute failure to take responsibility for not just this generation but future generations in a policy area which is existential. It is about the future for our kids and our grandchildren and also the future of this planet, and they have failed miserably to actually implement any type of policy. This is something that we can argue about and we can do the politics around, but it’s deeply saddening.

The member for Port Adelaide quite rightly pointed out the children and the young kids that protested over the last couple of days’ strike on climate change. I was there at the Treasury building in Melbourne, Victoria, where there were thousands of kids speaking up for their future, asking us as politicians to do something about their future and the future of the planet. A lot of people on the other side said, ‘They shouldn’t leave school,’ and all the rest of it. Do you know what I tell kids when I visit schools? I say: ‘Even though you can’t vote, you’re part of this democracy. You’re participants. You have a right and you have a voice in our democracy. And you have every right to advocate for issues that have an impact on your lives and the lives of your families and your friends and your communities.’ So I take my hat off to these kids, who fundamentally understand what this issue is about. It’s about their future and the future of the planet. I think they’re just as confused about why this place, this parliament, and this government can’t actually implement a policy.

This issue is so important for so many in my electorate and across Australia. People are screaming out for a plan to be put in place—something sensible that does something. The minister over there pointed out that we didn’t have a policy. That’s just not true. We know what our policy is. We’ve announced it. The member for Port Adelaide, our leader, our frontbench team—all of us on this side—have talked about what we are planning to do if we win government. It’s pretty clear-cut. We’ve got a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. We’ve got a target of 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. And we have a commitment to inject billions of dollars of additional capital into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $5 million into the Energy Security and Modernisation Fund. They’re big figures. It’s about making sure that we invest in renewable energy and renewable energy infrastructure. That’s what we need to build in order to utilise the renewable energy that is so abundant in this country.

We have the imagination to take that step and do something for the future. That’s what we’re about. There are important details around this, and I won’t go into all of them. But we do have a very strong policy on climate change. We’ve seen this government try four times—help me out here, member for Port Adelaide, because I’m losing count—in putting forward an energy policy. I’m trying to remember. There was a clean energy target, which then Prime Minister Turnbull tried to put up, and it collapsed. Then there was the emissions intensity scheme. They tried to put that up, and it collapsed. What was the next one?

Ms Madeleine King: The NEG.

Peter Khalil: The NEG. I forgot about the NEG! It got put up, but it was an absolute failure. They couldn’t get it through the party room. It shows the abject, absolute failure of this government to do what is right by the people of Australia and the world and for the future of the kids who protested last week. We’re going to do better. We’re going to have a climate change policy that makes a difference to future generations and to this country.