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Speech: While politicians destroy the planet, the people are fighting back

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 1 Sep 2021

In another episode of 'We will do anything but tackle climate change', a bunch of Liberal and National MPs are jumping up and down and wanting more school chaplains so they can knock the very real fear of looming climate catastrophe out of the minds of young people. The problem isn't the kids' activism and recognition of climate emergencies. It is your inaction on the climate crisis that is the real problem. Schoolkids don't need religious chaplains. They need a government that embraces science and takes responsibility to protect their future. Here's an idea: if the coalition is so alarmed that young people are worried about climate change, maybe it should take their concerns seriously. Climate activism is not the source of anxiety for young people. The government's climate denialism is.

It's not just young people who are worried about the climate crisis. Australia's biggest climate poll was taken recently. The results are in, and they are unequivocal: voters in every single state in this country, in regions and in cities, want more action on climate change. They want renewable energy, not a senseless, gas-led recovery. The people of Australia are united in their ask. They are pleading for us to take stronger action to save the planet and humanity along with it. They are asking us to invest in renewable energy. They are telling us to keep coal in the hole and keep gas and oil in the soil. People know we are in deep shit. They know that, if strong and urgent action is not taken, there will be mass extinctions of animals and plants, and the very survival of humans will be in jeopardy.

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Senator Faruqi. A point of order, Senator Van?

Senator Van: I thought that language was very unparliamentary.

The PRESIDENT: I didn't hear the word. If there was something that was unparliamentary there, Senator Faruqi, I'll ask you to withdraw it, or I'll have to review the Hansard and come back to the chamber. If there was something unparliamentary, it is easier to withdraw it. I didn't hear the word in question.

Senator FARUQI: Sure. I withdraw, if there was something unparliamentary.

The PRESIDENT: You either withdraw or you don't, Senator Faruqi. If you don't, I'll review the Hansard and come back to the chamber tomorrow, but I'm asking you if you do. If you don't, I'll review the Hansard.

Senator FARUQI: Thanks, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Alright. I'll review the Hansard and come back tomorrow.

Senator FARUQI: The problem we have is that the two big parties, Liberal and Labor, are also united in an opposite quest. Driven by their donors in the fossil fuel industry, they refuse to break ties with outdated, redundant and dirty energy sources. It really does boggle the mind that in a climate crisis, when a majority of people are demanding action, both Liberal and Labor want more coal and gas. They don't want to clean up the influence of money in politics, because it would ruin their business model. The road to Glasgow should be paved with solar panels, but I fear, with Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce at the helm of our government, this is a pipedream. Crowing about emissions reductions during COVID-19 when the country is shut down and at a standstill is as ridiculous as it is misleading. A pandemic is not a climate strategy.

I can tell you this: political parties and politicians who ignore their communities and constituents do so at their own peril. People have had it up to here with career politicians whose only goal is to cling onto power by hook or by crook and who, in this pursuit, steamroll over the wishes of the community. People are tired of being taken for granted. More and more are waking up to the fact that politics is not just the domain of parliamentarians.

I meet these people every single day. Their activism and organising is what will get the action that we need. I met with them in Berrima, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, where their 10-year-long struggle has just blocked plans for a new coalmine. I've stood with them in Breeza, where their relentless 13-year campaign has ended with the cancellation of the Shenhua Watermark coalmine. I have joined them in Bentley, where their blockades saved their land and water from coal seam gas fracking. Even though the choice to destroy our planet is a political decision made time and time again by self-serving politicians and destructive corporations seeking endless power and profits, it gives me great hope to see communities forging ahead and winning, because, no matter how out of touch politicians in this place are, out there the people know change is possible when we fight for it. And, by God, people are fighting, and we are winning.


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