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Speech on Disaster Ready Fund

On 26 October 2022, I spoke to the government's Emergency Response Fund Amendment (Disaster Ready Fund) Bill 2022 as part of the second reading debate.

Australia is in the middle of shocking climate-fuelled natural disasters, in particular the terrible floods affecting so much of this country at the moment—indeed, floods that deeply affected my electorate of Griffith earlier this year. We know it's only going to get worse as the globe continues to heat up with the expansion of coal and gas that is driving this climate crisis. Of course, with more fires, floods and storms to come with ever greater frequency as a result of climate change, the Greens welcome any money spent on mitigation of natural disasters.

But let's put this into context. The Insurance Council of Australia has said that, just for coastal protection, we need an extra $30 billion of large-scale investment over the next 50 years. That's $600 million a year. Compare it to the $40 billion spent on fossil fuel subsidies in the budget or the fact there is literally extra in the budget to open up the Beetaloo gas basin, which will produce many more times the emissions of Adani, further driving the climate crisis. It actually includes an extra $1.9 billion to facilitate the export of that gas from the Northern Territory.

We know that the expansion of coal and gas mining is driving the climate disaster, so why is the government doling out billions of dollars that will literally accelerate the climate crisis while only giving $200 million to mitigate the consequences of that crisis? Let's be clear about the impacts of labour's plan to expand coal and gas mining. We know the scientists have told us that 95 per cent of Australia's coal has to stay in the ground to avoid dangerous global warming. Climate change means more of our rainfall coming the form of intense downpours, more moisture in the atmosphere and more energy for storms, all of which ramp up the risk of flooding.

Under 2½ degrees of warning, the most devastating cyclones are projected to occur twice as often as they are today. The number of people suffering extreme droughts across the world could double in less than 80 years. By 2030, fire seasons could be three months longer in areas already exposed to wildfires. In Western Australia, for example, this would add up to three months of days with high wildfire potential. In 2019 we saw what a devastating effect bushfires can have on Australia.

Australia will already experience—this is already locked in on the heating that's already going to happen—one-in-50-year storm surges every year by the year 2050 no matter what we do. The frustrating thing is that this bill provides no new money for dealing with natural disasters. It simply shuffles a little bit of extra cash into disaster preparations at the cost of funding for recovery. When the next flood, bushfire or cyclone hits, that clean-up money will have to come from somewhere else.

The $200 million for climate disaster mitigation and $40 billion to accelerate climate change really demonstrate the broken priorities of this budget. What's worse is that ultimately it will be ordinary people who will pay for the expansion of coal and gas, the fuelling of the climate crisis and the more frequent natural disasters that will follow, not the coal and gas corporations that are driving this crisis. It will be ordinary people who will pay through higher insurance premiums and higher grocery bills if floods disrupt food production and drive up prices. They will pay to clean up. They will pay through the emotional devastation that comes with the loss of homes, communities and sometimes, tragically, loved ones.

Indeed, I saw first-hand in Brisbane from the floods this year the devastating effect disasters can have on local communities. As we mobilised our volunteers to help clean up after the devastation, it struck me how deeply unfair it was that, while all this was happening, coal and gas corporations were reporting record profits. It was deeply frustrating in particular because I spoke to people like single mums who were having to sleep on couches because they couldn't afford the rent for a new place after their old place had flooded. Meanwhile, people like Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer were recording record profits. So many families who lost everything, families who did not have insurance, were forced to sleep on the couches of friends. They did it incredibly tough.

It really should be the coal and gas corporations that pay. If we properly tax coal and gas as we phase them out over the next 10 years, we could build a sovereign wealth fund of hundreds of billions of dollars. Norway—like other countries around the world—have properly taxed their resource industry and now have a sovereign wealth fund of over $1 trillion. Imagine what we could do. In that way we could mitigate natural disasters by finally tackling climate change, phasing out coal and gas and investing tens of billions of dollars in protecting our communities from the natural disasters we already know are to come.

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