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Second reading speech: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation

I rise to speak to the Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation, and indicate my disappointment in the model and approach that the Rudd Government has taken, particularly when we have seen 12 years of disastrous inaction from the coalition who continue to ignore the need for urgent action and some who continue to espouse climate change scepticism.

The Greens cannot and will not support a scheme that is environmentally ineffective and economically inefficient.

What we are prepared to support, is the unconditional commitment to a 25% target – the bare minimum required by science and the global community – which would go some way in repairing the damage that years of inaction, ignorance and cynicism we have inflicted on our planet and future generations.

Sadly the Government is not listening to the science or to the community on this one, continuing to promote its 5% target as the most ideal and economically responsible model to combat climate change.

As my colleague, Senator Christine Milne has highlighted on a number if occasions, committing to a minimum 5% target is worse than useless when 25% is the bare minimum required by science and the global community.

It is locking us in to fail.

Failure to take the action that is needed.

Failure to clean up the mess that has been created.

And a failure to commit to a leading role in assisting those countries hardest hit by the effects of climate change in terms of water and food security, sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Given we are already seeing the affects of climate change on our Pacific neighbours, with Tuvalu and Kiribati already facing rising sea levels and the prospect of being forced to migrate as their homelands become unhabitable, when will the Australian Government stop thinking about profits for the big polluters and start focussing on the social, economic and environmental costs to the global community?

The fact that our Pacific Island neighbours have made virtually no contribution to greenhouse pollution, yet are now faced with becoming the first victims of climate change, with the Stern Report estimating that close to 200 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050, we must do more.

If the British Government can produce a map of regions likely to be at risk from floods due to the increase in sea levels from climate change, then surely the Australian Government should be following suit, particularly given we are seeing the islands in the Pacific sinking before our eyes.

Predictions of flooding and erosions of our coastal towns and cities as a result of sea level rise leaves little to be desired for families currently living on the eastern seaboard and even in my home town of Adelaide. 

As I said in my inaugural speech in this place almost a year ago, we must see an end to the mantra of business as usual.  We need decisive and immediate action to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions, and we must see a commitment to greater emission reduction targets that will go in some way to reduce the extent and severity of the impacts of climate change.

Surely we are all of the same opinion that this world we are currently living in, is just not sustainable? We need a transformation and a willingness to do things differently, and we must listen to the concerns and views of our youth, who have inherited a planet much less fortunate than many in this place, and who will be the ones who are forced to sweep up the mess of inaction and ineffective policy.

It is always most interesting to find that the biggest climate change skeptics and critics out there, are the ones that won’t have to deal with the consequences of inaction and ineffective policy.  It is the future of our young Australians that is at stake, and it is time for those on my right, to stand up and acknowledge the need for action, action to protect our future generations.

As the youngest woman ever elected to this place and the youngest person elected in almost a century, I stand here today, voicing the concerns of the young people of Australia. I am standing up to say: let's challenge ‘business as usual' to recognise that Australia can make the transition from a resource-dependent economy to a clean, green and clever economy that puts respect for each other and respect for the environment at the centre of politics.

The Greens recognise that, if we get that action right, we can seize tremendous opportunities to make Australia a better, fairer, healthier and happier place to live.

Climate change will impact most significantly on the poorest and most disadvantaged in our communities, particularly those living in developing countries and regions.  The most vulnerable to the effect of climate change are women and children.  They are the most likely to be displaced, suffer from a lack of food and water security, and be caught in the cross-fire of conflict as the fight over the world’s precious resources intensifies. 

But in communities right around the world, and here in Australia, women and young people are leading the way in helping organise their communities to mitigate climate change, change their daily lives to become more energy efficient, and educate each other in the best way forward to protect the future of their own children and the future generations. 

When we hear stories of women and young people working to alleviate the effects of climate change in their individual communities, it is utterly astounding to think that the Government, who is already giving $7.4 billion in compensation to Australia’s biggest polluters, wants to give them even more.

Every dollar that compensates polluters is a dollar less for the community, and a dollar less for fighting the effects of climate change.

The Rudd Labor Government was elected in 2007 off the back of a promise to deliver real action on climate change in transitioning Australia into a low carbon economy.  Yet what we have before us here today is a flawed policy that the Greens cannot and will not support in its current form.

As a Mother, and a young woman, who has many years ahead, I feel a deep obligation that I continue to work for a cleaner, greener and more secure planet than was left for me.  I have no other choice but to ensure that I work as hard as I can to help make my local community and my global community a safer, fairer and prosperous place, for my daughter and the many generations that are to come.

Australia cannot afford to delay any longer on emissions trading. The future of our children, grandchildren and their children is at stake, and committing to a half-hearted attempt at reducing the effects of climate change is simply not good enough.

In 2050, I will be 69 and my daughter will be 43, and I shudder to think what type of planet we will be living on if we don’t make the deep cuts to emissions we know is needed now. 

For those of us participating in this historic debate today, knowing the facts, the science and the need for action, we must take responsibility and make the changes necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. 

As representatives of our community, we cannot claim after the fact that we did not know.  We have been warned, and a failure to act, is a failure that this Government will carry for years to come.   

I for one will ensure my daughter knows that I have done everything I can, and will continue to, to protect her future, and the future of our young Australians.

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