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Tonight I am rising to talk about climate change and the action our government is taking to urgently address this pressing issue. It feels particularly important that I rise to talk about this tonight, because it does indeed still seem shocking that, despite the fact that we are in 2023 and our government is in fact taking urgent action to address climate change, those opposite seem to still be stuck in denial and in the past. I could in fact say that they seem to be stuck in the Dark Ages, but research seems to suggest and academics have noted that even during the Dark Ages there were steps forward—there was some progress. We do not seem to be seeing that progress when it comes to climate change from those opposite.

Perhaps it might be more apt to compare their position with that of the dinosaurs—prehistoric—and I do hope it’s an attitude that will soon be dying out, because climate change is real. It is happening right now and we are seeing the effects here in this country and right around the world. We have seen a European summer of floods and fires. We have seen massive fires across Canada. We have seen the warnings about the upcoming season that we are likely to face here in Australia. Our government has started work to make sure that we are addressing the climate crisis, off the back of the very clear and loud voices from communities like mine, who made it very clear that they were tired of the previous government and their inaction on climate change.

We do know, as a government now a year into our term and a government a year into trying to address this critical, crucial problem, that we are coming from behind. We are not at the point in the transition in our country, economy and industries that we should be at because of the inaction of the previous coalition government. So it is important that the previous government and the coalition are called out not for what they’ve done but, in fact, for what they haven’t done. There is a responsibility that comes with being in government in this country. It’s a responsibility to the future, to those of us here now, to our children and to their children. It’s a responsibility to act and, in this case, a responsibility to protect people from the impacts of climate change. In the nine, long years of government by those opposite, we did not see that responsibility being fulfilled. We saw a complete failure by the Liberal Party and the Nationals to treat the challenges of climate change with the seriousness they needed to. As I’ve said, because of that failure, we are starting from behind where we should be.

I think it is important to look back on some of the history that got us to this point because, if we don’t understand the values of the past, we can’t do better in the future. We did see the likes of former PM Tony Abbott, who, it seemed, was booted out of this place by his electorate in large part because of his refusal to accept the realities of climate change—and yet he did lead those opposite for six years. Following him, Malcolm Turnbull became PM, and I think we saw some indications that, as Prime Minister he did want to do better. He certainly wasn’t a denier. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any action on climate change as a result of that. He knew, I think, that in order to have the backing of the dinosaurs, he had to take a stance that climate change didn’t need action. He did that until he was torn down by the member for Cook. The member for Cook, of course, when he was Treasurer, famously brought a lump of coal into question time, so we know what his stance was.

Some of the other people who, I think, led to this climate denial during the nine, long years are still in this place and are quite relevant to what seems to be the current stance of those opposite. The member for New England, who, in the last few days, has sought to tear down the opposition’s position on net zero—sought to say that there should not be a target for net zero by 2050. The member for New England put that position on the weekend. I was pleased to see that he wasn’t successful, but it was certainly the position he put. Obviously, the member has been the Leader of the Nationals, and still, I would presume, has some influence over the stance of the party, more broadly.

Let’s consider other members. We have Senator Canavan, who, in the lead-up to the 2022 election said ‘the net zero thing is all sort of dead anyway’. There is Senator Rennick, who has called climate change ‘junk science’ and the member for Flynn, who said, during the election campaign, that the previous government’s net zero policy had some ‘wiggle room’. None of these are at all statements or stances that give you any consolation that those opposite understand the urgency of what’s before us; that they understand and are prepared to step up and support the efforts that this country needs to make to transition to being a renewable energy superpower and transition to the future that we all need. When we look at those opposite we see dinosaurs. We see climate deniers here, there and everywhere. It is disappointing that, even in opposition, they don’t seem to have been able to revisit that thinking and to realise the urgency of what has to happen now.

We also have the member for Fairfax opposite. In fact, the member for Fairfax is now the shadow minister for climate change and energy. His fixation is nuclear energy. Again, interestingly, as he pushes nuclear energy he seems to be getting some of the facts around it wrong. He has claimed that Canada gets 60 per cent of its electricity from nuclear. In fact, Canada gets 60 per cent of its electricity from renewable hydroelectric power. Canada gets just 15 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power. Again, all the experts tell us that nuclear is not the way forward for Australia. It is the most expensive and least efficient option for us in this country. We can be a renewable energy superpower. That is the track our government is working us towards—not the nuclear path.

The approach our government has been taking to addressing climate change could not be more different from the approach of those opposite. We do recognise that this is a crisis that Australia and the rest of the world must act on, and we are acting urgently. We have legislated our emissions reduction targets: 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. We put these in law because we know how important it is that this government works towards them for the future of our country and for the future of the planet. In legislating these targets, we demonstrated how seriously we take climate change and the need to provide the certainty that comes with that for that transition.

We’re committed to a national renewable electricity target of 82 per cent by 2030, and we’ve committed more than $40 billion to make this happen. We know that communities, businesses and industry want to make the switch to renewables, and so many already have, and the work now is to transition further. With this government, businesses, industries and communities have a partner that shares their drive and wants to see real action on climate change. We will continue to work to boost investment in renewables and clean energy technology. As I’ve said a number of times, our future is as a renewable energy superpower. There will be good jobs and a good future for Australia, and our government is guiding us towards that.

We have put in place our safeguard mechanism, which will see our country’s biggest emitters making a proportionate contribution in working to meet our emissions reduction targets. In the mechanism is a credits program for offsets and, with it, an incentive for those businesses that go over and above in their emissions reduction. This will spur onwards new innovations in how we can utilise clean technology as we tackle emissions.

Our government is charging ahead with making it easier for people to switch to an electric vehicle. I know in my community that so many people are keen to do this. I have seen, as I’m driving around, more and more electric vehicles on the road. Our electric car discount policy has provided a fringe benefits tax exemption that has encouraged greater take-up of EVs. We’re rolling out 117 EV fast chargers along national highways, helping to close those existing gaps in the network. I am pleased to see more and more EVs on the road, and I know the number will continue to grow.

Our communities want to be part of the change. They know that the future is renewable. They know that we have to put our country on track for a sustainable future. Climate change is real, and it has to be addressed. They want a sensible, grown-up government that is taking this urgent problem seriously. That is what they’ve got under the Albanese Labor government, a government that understands that climate change is real; a government that understands climate change needs to be addressed urgently.

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