Climate Emergency

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (16:50): In September 2019 the Prime Minister warned against fuelling needless anxiety among Australian children about the danger of climate change. He said:

And I think it's important that we give them … confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in but they'll also have an economy they can live in as well.

He then said:

… the worst thing I would impose on any child is needless anxiety—

on any Australian child, and yet Australian children were then rescued by the Navy off the beaches of Mallacoota in Black Summer in some of the worst bushfires, which had driven them out of their own town. Australian children were hospitalised in record numbers because of asthma and respiratory illness and heat stroke as a result of those environmental conditions from that same Black Summer. It is Australian children who have had to sue their own government to prove that they are owed a duty of care. They sued the Morrison government, and they won.

In May the Federal Court found there was a new duty, a duty it has never found before, that the environment minister owes a duty of care to Australian young people not to cause them physical harm in the form of personal injury from climate change. The court warned in its written judgement:

It is difficult to characterise in a single phrase the devastation that the plausible evidence presented in this proceeding forecasts for the Children … The physical environment will be harsher, far more extreme and devastatingly brutal when angry. As for the human experience—quality of life, opportunities to partake in nature’s treasures, the capacity to grow and prosper—all will be greatly diminished. Lives will be cut short. Trauma will be far more common and good health harder to hold and maintain. None of this will be the fault of nature itself. It will largely be inflicted by the inaction of this generation of adults, in what might fairly be described as the greatest inter-generational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans upon the next.

To say that children are vulnerable is to vastly underestimate their predicament. Clearly there are worse things that a PM can impose than needless anxiety, because, after all of that, and after today's IPCC report, the Prime Minister has chosen to dig in—the Prime Minister who always talks about the cost of others, but never talks about the cost of his own inaction, of his own failure to act on climate change domestically, not just in dealing with extreme weather events but also in the cost of tariffs that other countries are now considering imposing upon us.

Our constituents are crying out for this parliament to act. Constituents like John and Chris and Clive have already written to me today about the IPCC report urging us to act. My high-school geography teacher, Mr Fitz, who has now sadly passed away, used to teach me to think globally but act locally. We need to back technologies like offshore wind, hydrogen, green steel and others not only to get the energy we need to keep the lights on but to create a jobs boom in new industries, in local supply chains and in export. In Lilley we have a proud local manufacturing history that we could reinvigorate with Labor's policies like Rewiring the Nation and Power to the People. The cost of climate change will come to every Australian neighbourhood, if it hasn't already.

I said in my first speech that many big debates are not right versus left. They are short term versus long term, and we cannot prioritise one at the expense of the other—even at a time when the news cycle, the electoral cycle or the bills coming in all draw us to short termism. It must never be beyond us in this place to get the long term right too. But for eight long years it has been beyond this place to get the long term right. Under the Morrison government, it seems well beyond us and, Prime Minister, that is on your watch. That is your complacency. That is your failure to pull the levers of power because of your party room. Perhaps the scariest thing of all is your delusion that you are doing an adequate job. Now you are the cause of our anxiety!