I suppose it’s not a surprise that the opposition has decided to try and use the loss-and-damage fund agreed to at COP27 as a scare campaign, but it is a new low. It is clearly out of step with where the Australian people are, who clearly demonstrated in May this year that they wanted a government that is serious about climate change and its challenges—something this Labor government is and will continue to be.
The Australian people have made it clear that they don’t want a government like the previous Liberal-National one that put their head in the sand, actively denied and tried to pretend that climate change wasn’t happening. And if May wasn’t enough for them, let’s look at Saturday in Victoria. Another clear message to those opposite that their dog whistling and their climate denial is out of step with where Australians are. I stood at booths across my electorate over the weekend—in Greensborough, in Eltham, in Ivanhoe—and nobody said to me, ‘Gee, I don’t think we should do anything on climate change.’ Nobody said to me: ‘We should slow down on climate change. It’s not a critical issue.’ Everyone I spoke to said to me climate change was one of the top issues in their minds, and one of the top issues they expected their governments to be dealing with. Once again, with this motion, what we see is an opposition that is out of step, that is out of touch, that is actively working against our country’s and our communities’ interests. It is just not good enough.
The loss-and-damage fund is in Australia’s national interest. Its focus is simple: it will help developing countries to adapt and to respond to climate change. That is in our interest; it is in the interests of developing countries; it is in our entire planet’s interests. It recognises what everyone knows, with the exception of those opposite it seems: that climate change is truly a global challenge. We do all need to be working together to maximise the efforts that we have to put in to combat climate change. As part of this we do have to recognise that while climate change impacts every country, the impacts are much larger in developing countries. A lot of this hits developing countries when we see changing weather patterns and natural disasters. While we are seeing natural disasters occur here in Australia more frequently, this is also happening across the world. Since the 1980s, natural disasters are up more than 80 per cent and almost half the population of our planet live in areas that are highly vulnerable to climate change.
Many of those people live in developing nations. These are people whose lives are being turned over, almost consistently, by floods and by famine. This is a global problem. It is a problem that it is in Australia’s interest to support efforts to fix and to mitigate, and that is what our government is doing with its support of this fund. We’re not putting our heads in the sand. We’re not pretending that this is something that Australia can go it alone on. We are saying that we are part of the world in finding this solution and we recognise that we have a responsibility to developing countries. We recognise that we are in a neighbourhood made up of many developing countries and we have a responsibility to support our neighbours, to act as a friend to our neighbours and to do what the previous government failed to do.
The previous government tried to lecture our neighbours and wasn’t there to support them. We are here to support their efforts and to support people’s efforts to live in their countries while they’re facing the increasing effect of climate change and climate induced disasters. After all, we know it was the Leader of the Opposition who, as a senior member of the previous government, said about the Pacific islands: ‘Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.’ This is the sort of commentary that demonstrates the complete lack of interest in or understanding of the seriousness of the challenges being faced. People’s lives and livelihoods were tossed away by the Leader of the Opposition with a toss-away comment that he thought wouldn’t be heard.
Well, it was heard and it was noted, and what we see now—now that we have a Labor government that is prepared to genuinely engage in the Pacific—is that we are able to have strong relations with our neighbours. This is in their interests, but it is very much in our interests as Australians to have strong relations with our neighbours and with the rest of the world and to be in those international talks that we were locked out of because we were climate deniers. This government is getting on with it. The opposition is still stuck behind.