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Speech on Climate Bill 2022

Speech given on 3 August 2022 as part of the second reading debate for the Climate Change Bill 2022. 

In my first speech I said it was clear that big corporations and billionaires run parliament. Well, it has become clear over the course of these months negotiating with the government that Labor is so committed to a weak target, so committed to the profit margins of coal and gas corporations, it is willing to let its entire climate legislative agenda fail just to protect their profits. I've been thinking a lot about why that makes me so angry, apart from the obvious, and I think it has become clear over the course of today, watching the speeches, that the real disgrace is that the government and the opposition know. They know the consequences of their actions. They know the human environmental devastation wrought by climate change. They know that people have died and will continue to die in floods, heatwaves, droughts, terrible natural disasters and storms. They know the massive crop failures, the displacement of billions of people, the death of the Great Barrier Reef. They know the consequences of their actions. But, given the choice between ordinary everyday people and billionaires like Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, they chose the profit margins of billionaires.

What is really deeply distressing is that we know who will pay as a result of this. When the floods hit in Brisbane earlier this year, and we spent the week going from house to house to house with ordinary everyday people, volunteers, cleaning out people's flood-ravaged homes, time and again it was poor, working-class renters—people who had almost nothing—whose possessions we dragged from under their house. Time and again, we knew that the reason we were dragging their stuff from under their house, the reason they didn't have enough money to replace their basic possessions, the reason they knew they'd be sleeping on a friend's couch for the next three weeks because they didn't have another home to move into was that, time and again, is that the profit margins of fossil fuel corporations are chosen over the lives of ordinary people. We know there are gas corporations in this country right now who are making billions of dollars in profit and not paying a single cent in tax—not a single cent! There are workers who work for those corporations who pay more tax than the CEOs and the owners of those corporations.

We know that the only reason this bill has anything of substance in it is the nearly two million people who voted for the Greens at this election—the thousands of people who knocked on doors, delivered leaflets in letterboxes, helped clean up after the floods, staffed polling booths and built this Greens movement. My message to you is, while this is still not enough, clearly, your power is not yet fully realised. We know we've got a long way to go. We know that we'll manage to ensure that this bill is Dutton proofed. We know now that 43 per cent is just a minimum target. We know there is the potential to ratchet it up over time. We know now that we've made it harder for coal and gas projects to be approved, now that we've included some government agencies in the target. We know there'll be greater transparency. And we know that, finally, the government's at least willing to talk to us about supporting coal and gas communities. That our negotiations had to include the need to talk about supporting coal and gas communities with a transition authority is all you need to know about the contents of those negotiations.

We've improved a weak bill, but, of course, when you're fighting the coal and gas industry and their political representatives, you don't win overnight. Australia remains the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world, and, with 114 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline, it's only going to get worse. Indeed, just one of these new coal and gas projects could wipe out the very small reductions achieved by this bill. As the member for Melbourne said, the government's position is completely untenable, even within the realms and terms of their own debate. Let's be very clear: one of the biggest lies in Australian politics, as I've said again and again, is that the major parties support new coal and gas because they care about workers. If that was the case, if they really cared about workers, they wouldn't be also passing the stage 3 tax cuts that will cost $224 billion. If they cared about workers, they wouldn't be allowing gas corporations to walk off with our wealth and take it overseas to the shareholders in Switzerland and France and wherever else these billionaires and shareholders live. If they really cared, a coal and gas worker wouldn't be paying more tax than the multinationals they work for. If that were the case, the government wouldn't be arriving to a budget in one of the worst cost-of-living crises in our history, where people are being evicted onto the street because there's no home to move into because the government hasn't built enough homes either at a state or federal level for decades now—and they wouldn't be about to spend billions of dollars on the subsidies for the coal and gas corporations who happen to also be destroying our lives. I am sick—already!—after two weeks of being in this place, of being told again and again that we have to be reasonable. 'Come on, tone it down a little bit'—as if I have to be calm and reasonable when I think about the millions of lives that will be destroyed as a result of decisions that are too often made in this place. God, I'm already so sick of it.

What we know is that there is an alternative: massive investment in publicly owned renewable energy; massive investment in new industries; and taxing those coal and gas operations as they phase out over the next 10 years and using that to invest in public schools, hospitals and infrastructure like public pools, new public parks and beautifully designed public housing. The wealth in this country exists to make sure that we can not only phase out coal and gas but ensure that everyone has a chance to be alive in the sunshine.

I'd like to finish on this. If there was one thing this election demonstrated it is that when ordinary people work together, knock on people's doors, organise in their communities and offer that alternative vision of making sure that everyday people are put first, we win. The results in Griffith, Brisbane and Ryan and the member for Melbourne's seat of Melbourne demonstrate that, when we get organised on that platform, we win. That is a line in the sand. That is a message sent to every member in this House: if you continue on this path, we will run campaigns in your seats like we did in those seats, and we will win. Even if it takes those few extra years, we're going to keep organising and we're going to keep fighting. Because, as I've said again and again, we don't fight for self-interest and we don't fight for corporate donors; we fight for each other. Time and again in history, the power of collective action, the power of ordinary people working together, has won. I truly believe that over the next few years it can win again.

Watch my speech on Youtube 



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