Australia faces a crossroads when it comes to the escalating climate crisis. We know what this crisis looks like because Australians have already experienced it: drought so devastating that our hardened farmers are suiciding; floods so savage and rapid that people became trapped in the dark of night in their houses with only inches of air space below their ceiling, between life and death; and a world watching on in stunned horror at the extent and severity of our Black Summer bushfires. The UN Secretary General recently stated—and you can't say it any more clearly - that:
"The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. Leaders must lead. No more hesitancy, no more excuses."
Today, Ross Gittins said in an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald: "I fear they lack the 'ticker' to make the tough decisions."
The question for the leaders of this country, for our government, is simply this: do you have the courage to lead on climate action and the energy transition that is required for a viable future?—not for us, because we won't be here, but for our children and future generations. It is not about us. Currently we have what, at very best, can be described as modest targets in action on climate change, targets and policy that address only domestic and scope 1 emissions—hardly anything.
I would add that it increasingly appears that the Labor Government is pushing forward with the expansion of gas exportation on a massive scale: Beetaloo, Scarborough, Browse, Barossa and Liverpool Plains. I believe they are doing so in a way that is not open or transparent with the Australian people. It is devastating.
Last week in the media I called the Government's proposed Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023 a colossal attempt at greenwashing. But let's drill down on this a little bit further. We have seen $1.5 billion of investment going to the Middle Arm Hub. The Middle Arm Hub will, in practice, amongst other things, act as a massive methane gas export hub. However, the Government continues—as it has right from the start—to describe it as a 'renewable energy hub'. This is greenwashing on a colossal scale. Just be open and honest, please.
Just last week the Environment Minister brought a Bill to the House that will allow the import and export of carbon dioxide for carbon capture and storage—the Sea Dumping Bill. This Bill will enable the injection and sequestration of CO2 under the seabed. This is despite the experience of Norway and, with the Gorgon gas mine, Australia, which shows that this is failed technology and unreliable.
The Sea Dumping Bill was portrayed as a move to protect the marine environment. In reality, what the Bill will do is enable and give the green light to further carbon capture and storage projects, which will in turn allow the Government to approve new massive gas export projects in the future. Again, it is greenwashing on a colossal scale. The Australian people deserve a whole lot better. Already, huge swathes of our ocean floors have been opened up by the Minister for Resources for exploration for carbon capture and storage suitability. All the pieces of the chessboard are being slowly, methodically and surreptitiously moved into place, and the aim appears to be the expansion of gas exportation.
Additionally, today the Clean Air Task Force's report on methane was released. It revealed that Australia is lagging far behind many other countries in measuring, managing and reporting on methane leaks and intentional venting that occur in the gas industry across the country, and there are still over $11 billion in ongoing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
But Australians are not dumb. They see through the greenwashing. This week 80 doctors, other health professionals and parents from the Northern Territory and around the country came to Parliament to express their distress at the progress of the Middle Arm hub and the Beetaloo basin. The question they are asking is: why isn't the Government listening to science like it said it would do?
Yesterday, I was honoured to meet a delegation from the Tiwi Islands. They described to me the lack of respect and culturally inappropriate consultation still being done by Santos with their elders and the community regarding the Barossa gas mine. They also expressed their fear that the need for fossil fuel companies to consult with First Nations people on future projects will be watered down to favour large fossil fuel companies.