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Christine Milne: Abbott is the 'the great blunder from down under' on climate change

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Christine Milne 17 Nov 2014

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, addresses the Senate on a Matter of Public Importance relating to the embarrassment caused by the Abbott Government to Australia on the global stage by the Prime Minister's climate denial and refusal to commit funds to the UN Green Climate Fund.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (17:32): How embarrassed are most Australians when they pick up, after the G20 finishes, the Los Angeles Times, or The New York Times and see the Australian Prime Minister being referred to as 'the great blunder from down under'! That is how he is being referred to throughout the world. And it is not surprising. He was humiliated by his complete ignorance and failure to recognise that all his talk of climate denial is so ideologically driven. His denial of the science and his continual chanting of his three-word slogans is so out of touch with the rest of the world.

Suddenly the Prime Minister got a wake-up check. Basically, the other countries in the G20 said to our Australian Prime Minister, 'We want to discuss climate change at the G20, because climate change is an economic issue.' Climate change will have a major impact on food security and physical security, because there will be food shortages and displacement of people. There are extreme weather events occurring all of the time around the world now. People are recognising we live in a climate emergency, and the major world economies recognise that unless they change and decouple economic growth from the use of fossil fuels and the use of non-renewable resources we will not have a liveable planet. That is the fundamental basis on which the energy and the whole economic system needs to be restructured.

Everyone gets it except Australia. Even Prime Minister Abbott's very best friend in the fossil fuel stakes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Canada, has today come out and said that the Canadians will pledge money to the Green Climate Fund-but not so our Prime Minister. What must the small island states and developing countries think about a rich country like Australia refusing to stump up the money to put into a fund to assist them not only to mitigate against things getting worse but to adapt to what they are already suffering-salt-water incursion into their fresh-water systems, loss of land, inability to irrigate their crops.

Whole island states are now in fear that they will have to move. Kiribati has bought land in Fiji to try to prepare to relocate their people. In Tuvalu people are pleading with Australia and other countries to help them, as they live in fear of the next storm surge-but not so our Prime Minister. No, he determined that he was going to somehow stare down other countries and claim that because he was the host of the G20 he could get away with stopping the world talking about what the world wanted to talk about-that is, the overwhelming challenge of our time: global warming. So he was upstaged, blind-sided, rolled straight over the top of, as China and the United States announced, ahead of the G20, their climate deal.

Their climate deal is very significant. It is significant because it is the first time you have had a developing country commit to a binding target. China did that by saying that it would ensure that its emissions peaked by 2030. The United States committed to a 26 to 28 per cent reduction by 2025 on 2005 levels. It is significant because the big thing that had not been able to be gotten through in Copenhagen was the fact that the developing countries were saying that they would not commit to binding targets until developed countries did so. This was a significant breakthrough.

What was the Prime Minister's response? It was pretty typical of a climate denier-of someone who does not realise how out of his depth he is in a global conversation. He said that he was not going to talk about the China deal because it is what might happen in 16 years time. Wrong, Prime Minister

If you had read the small print you would have seen this amazing figure from the Chinese. They intend to double their level of renewable energy between now and 2030-double it so that it is 20 per cent of energy, in China, from renewable sources. They intend to build 1,000 gigawatts of energy by 2030.

That is the equivalent, if you want to compare it with nuclear industries around the world, of a large nuclear power station every week. That is the kind of scale they are talking about, rolling out renewable energy to 2030. They are also saying in their 12th five-year plan, which ends in 2016-so we will be going into their 13th five-year plan-that they have identified seven strategic industries for China: electric vehicles, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Is it starting to click, in Australia, where this is going? This means that the United States, the European Union and China are going to be signed up for the biggest and best investment around the world in renewable energy, in the best and brightest minds that we have on the planet, to get there and recruit them and build industries and jobs and sustainability into the future. What do we have in Australia? We have a Prime Minister who says, 'I'm not even going to think about that, because it's not for 16 years.'

In order to get where the Chinese need to get, in 16 years, they will roll out a megaplan. More particularly, the Chinese are fairly conservative in what they are saying. They said they want their emissions to peak by 2030. In fact, if they get underway in the manner they are talking about, they are likely to peak a lot sooner than that. They are saying they want their coal emissions to peak by 2020, and that is very bad news.

Here in Australia we have the utter and absolutely blind stupidity of the Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, saying today that he is prepared to sell-off assets in Queensland and subsidise the building of coal infrastructure in Queensland, which will be stranded assets. You cannot believe the ideological stupidity we are seeing in this country. The private sector will not fund it. Why won't Campbell Newman answer the question? If the private sector does not think there is a future in coal infrastructure, why would you waste money? Why would you sell public assets to give the private sector a leg-up in an industry that is failing? It is a decaying industry. It is beyond belief that this is happening.

We also have a situation where the Europeans are very strongly committing to the Green Climate Fund. It is Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister, who blocked the Green Climate Fund being in the communique from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. He is so isolated. Our country is now totally isolated on the global stage when it comes to addressing global warning warming. That means we are isolated on the global stage in terms of where economic business and stimulation and excitement are going to be. We are the rust bucket. We will be the quarry. Only that-the best brains will have gone to recognising that this is the century in which we get the low-carbon economy. This is the century in which we roll out electric vehicles. This is the century in which we have fantastic public-transport systems to give great amenity to our cities. This is the century where we develop new building materials, where we have energy-efficient buildings, where we have renewable energy rolling out jobs and investment throughout Australia, as we are already seeing.

That is why we have to keep not only carbon pricing but also clean energy investment and the Renewable Energy Agency, yet here we have our Prime Minister standing up in front of the world and bragging about getting rid of the carbon price-unbelievable-when everybody else sitting around the table is working out how to introduce one. He is looking at what Australia did with our clean energy package and recognising its template legislation, that the International Energy Agency saw it as template legislation, as what developed countries need to do.

Our Prime Minister is so out of touch that he thought it was a bragging point to go with his 'axe the tax'. He looked around the table and suddenly found no-one thought that was a good idea. Then he reverted to talking about his $7 co-payment that he cannot get through the Senate. As TheNew York Times and TheLos Angeles Times said, he looked like an adolescent. He looked like a pimple faced adolescent on the global stage. How embarrassing for our country. How embarrassing for Australians. We all want to think that when our Prime Minister gets up- (Time expired)


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