Climate Change - Matter of Urgency Speech

Wednesday 5 December

In 2014, the warmest recorded year in human history, this government made Australia the first country to go backwards on climate change. Nothing has improved since. In fact, I would dare say things have got worse, as our emissions since 2011 have continued to rise. It has been made very clear by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in their annual report this year that Australia will require declining—not increasing, but declining—emissions in every sector of economic activity in order to achieve its Paris commitments at least cost. That, of course, means new investment in large-scale renewable wind and solar energy, not new investment in new coalmines.

What has been made very clear since the toppling of the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is that there are so many in government who simply do not believe in climate change, deny that it is happening, do not understand global warming perhaps or just want to at least reject the science. I say that based on information received just yesterday from the former Prime Minister himself. He said:

There is a significant percentage of the Coalition members who do not believe climate change is real, who think we should get out of Paris … who would rather the government, instead of building Snowy 2, built a new coal-fired power station.

There you have it from the horse's mouth. That's from the former Prime Minister. It shows exactly why we have no action on reducing our emissions.

In relation to this particular proposal put forward by the Adani company with another idea to build a new coalmine, admittedly a smaller sized one, I think we all need to be made aware, firstly, that global coal demand fell by two per cent only a couple of years ago and the year before that. The International Energy Agency finds that meeting the Paris climate targets means the coal trade will shrink 25 per cent by 2025 and that new coalmines are not needed. The Australia Institute has done a lot of work in this regard.

I made my position very clear very early on in relation to Adani's first proposal. I made clear my opposition to it. In doing that, I also met with various stakeholders. One of them was the Stop Adani Alliance. The Stop Adani Alliance, as we know, is made up of some 40 different organisations. Those different organisations include the Australian Conservation Foundation, who surveyed the Australian population. This was on 1 February this year. They found that nearly three-quarters of Australians, some 73 per cent of Australians, support a policy to halt the expansion of coalmining and to fast-track solar power and storage to reduce the threat of climate change. That shows you the position of the Australian community. That shows you what the Australian community are wanting.

In relation to the coalmine that Adani is now proposing, I still remain, as my colleagues on this side of the chamber do, very sceptical about this proposal. We have to look back at what this company's projections were in the past in relation to jobs. That shows clearly that what they were claiming was incredibly unrealistic. It was simply fake. It wasn't true. It was telling that there was not one bank that wanted to invest in this project. Not one business wanted to invest in this project. I think that is because banks, businesses and the business community understand that we have gone beyond peak demand for coal globally, as referred to in that International Energy Agency report. Most of them do understand we have gone beyond peak demand for coal. That is the economics. We know that the economics didn't stack up. We know that the jobs didn't stack up. On top of that, some of those stakeholders I met raised a number of outstanding environmental issues, particularly in relation to what happened in the past with this company's behaviour around water sampling.

This company doesn't have a great track record of behaviour. I'm sure many people in this place saw the Four Corners report into what occurred in India and what happened to the community and the people in India after a certain project by this exact same company. We have said all along that this has to stack up environmentally and economically, and I do not believe it does. Therefore, it remains a project that has very little support from me, from the community, from the business sector, from the banks—the list goes on.

I did want to highlight, though, that, when we're talking about this whole downturn in peak demand for coal, there is still a need for energy, there's still a need for electricity, there's still a need for all of that, but it has to be clean, and that is where Labor has such a fantastic policy. We have an energy policy. We have a climate change policy. We have a policy to deal with just transition. These are the things that this government has absolutely nothing of. Now, why do we have a just transition policy? We have a just transition policy because we care for workers, be they workers who are working in the coal industry or workers who will need jobs in that sector in the future. It is inevitable that there will be the closure of coal-fired power stations, because many of them are already operating beyond their original lifespan. Therefore, it is inevitable that we need a just transition for workers and communities to support those who will be affected when those coal-fired power stations close.

Seventy-five per cent of coal-fired power stations are already operating beyond their original design life. It is impossible for these to continue to stay open. They cannot stay open forever. Therefore, it's completely irresponsible for the government to play politics with this and to pretend otherwise. These coal-fired power stations are going to close. It is a fact. If those opposite want to bury their head in the sand and not understand climate change, not want to embrace the science, not want to accept the fact that these coal-fired power stations have to close, be it on their heads, because they are giving those workers in those communities no support in having that attitude. We must have a plan to help those workers and communities respond to those future closures and that is why we have a just transition plan.

As I said, this company, Adani, has made a lot of fake announcements and broken a lot of promises. Labor has a policy for real jobs in Queensland. We want to build critical jobs-creating infrastructure, like roads and port upgrades. I think it is really important that no government puts all of its eggs in one basket. There is no silver bullet when it comes to jobs. There needs to be a diversification of jobs, there needs to be a just transition plan, and there needs to be action on climate change and clean energy. That is why Labor backs investment in renewables, in solar, in wind, in hydro. We are setting a goal that, by 2030, 50 per cent of our energy mix should come from renewables. That's exactly why those students protested the other day—because that's what they want to see in a government. They don't want to see a government like we have currently—living in the dark ages, wanting to build new coalmines, thinking that there is no such thing as global warming. Wake up and get in the 21st century.