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Adjournment - Climate Change - Response of Students

29 November 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, as more than 100 catastrophic 
fires burn across Queensland and as the UN has handed down a report that 
says we must treble our global emissions reduction within the next 10 
years if we are to have any hope of keeping global average temperatures 
below 1.5 degrees, we had some thousand students walk out of school today 
and strike on the lawns of Parliament House to call on their government, 
their politicians to listen to them on climate change.

I need to read into the House tonight a letter that was written to all 
members of parliament directed to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, from 
Imogen Viner, grade 10 in Woodbridge School, Tasmania. She was one of the 
speakers on the lawns today. There were so many children from pre-school, 
primary school, high school and Imogen said:

Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Congratulations on your recent appointment to this position but forgive me 
if I do not share in your celebrations. You see I am preoccupied at the 
moment. I have been thinking about the future, my future, the future of 
my classmates, my school friends and my community and how this differs 
from the one I would like to live. For what I am seeing on the news, what 
I am hearing from politicians is terrifying. 

What has especially caught my mind if your response to Adam Bandt's 
question on Monday 26 November regarding students going on school strikes. 
In your response you stated:

We do not support the idea of kids not going to school for things that can 
be dealt with out of school.

So Prime Minister Morrison what I and thousands of other students around 
Australia are protesting is the lack of action on climate change. We are 
protesting by leaving school because it has not been dealt with out of 
school. We are protesting in the only way we can because we cannot vote 
yet nor can we take up politics and fight our own cause. We are striking 
because we are terrified for our future.

Can I tell you a story, Prime Minister Morrison? When I was nine I was 
terrified of the news especially the stories of climate change. I was so 
terrified I would run from the room hiding under my doona until the story 
stopped. But despite running from the articles, the documentaries and 
more I still could not sleep at night. I could not see any way that my 
future would be anything but bleak. 

As I grew older my heart grew harder until I could at last be in the same 
room as the story but in the furthest recesses of my brain I was still 
terrified. I would attend protests with my parents but I would still 
block out the words and still think of anything but this. It was not 
until this year and I am 15, Mr Morrison, that I could bear to take a 
stand alone. This year I have become a member of the Australian Youth 
Climate Coalition and of the Student Climate Action Network and I have 
grown so much. 

Prime Minister Morrison, like more than half of Australia's population I 
have never known a year with temperatures classified as average. Indeed, 
you have known only for yourself. 

When I was born in 2003, average global surface temperature was 0.6, one 
degree above average and in 2016 it has reach 0.99 degrees celsius above 
average. 

Imogen goes on to say many other things but I do not have time to say all 
of them now. I just want to go to the end of her letter, which was 
addressed to the Premier and to all members of parliament and I hope he 
responds. She says:

Prime Minister Morrison, rest assured that in three years' time when I am 
18 I will not shirk my civic duty nor will thousands of students striking 
this week. We will vote and we will vote for a future worth living.

A child, Amelia Neylon, an award-winning slam poet and scared student 
from year 10 in Taroona High School astounded us all with a piece of 
poetry which must be shared with the Hansard. She said: 

Let's talk rainbows in blue skies over green grass and red earth and deep 
oceans on our little blue planet orbiting a red dwarf in a milky galaxy in 
a beige universe filled with so many silver stars and black holes. 

Let's talk rainbows that lead to pots of gold and a place where bluebirds 
sing and lemon drops fall from the clouds. Let's talk rainbows of grey 
colouring my grass grey, my earth grey, my ocean grey, my cloud so grey 
there is no room for a silver lining. Where did the sky go? 

Let's talk rainbows fanned out like a deck of cards where the reverse side 
is always black and they are held up in front of greedy eyes, clouded by 
toxic smog, choked by the gambling room as they sit around the green table 
playing a complicated game with high stakes, with my life, and it seems 
like it is all in judging by the amount of chips on my shoulder and the 
grey suits keep dealing aces and hot air promises. Meanwhile we are all 
losing.

Let's talk rainbows loud enough to reach ears shuttered by fists, willing 
to hand over a world of greys pass on their vibrant shame to their 
children. Listen to this rainbow. Isn't it loud enough? Aren't we loud 
enough for you? How bright do we have to be to be heard? How brilliant 
do we have to be to be taken seriously? How much brightness must be 
sacrificed to be understood? Until that darkness becomes the black behind 
my eyes, expands over pupils and irises, until the whole world is left 
blind into its red hands hidden behind red tape. It tastes black and 
white and simple.

Let me paint you a picture. Stop taking this land, it isn't yours to take 
and it's rich enough for all of us. Stop draining the ocean, you are not 
the ones to have to swim in it and it does not need to be any deeper. 
Stop draining the world, it isn't your world, it's not your futures you 
are wasting. Stop murdering me and your grandchildren never to be. Cause 
what I can do when there is no blue sky overhead and a slimming chance 
there ever will be again, what can I do? 
All I can do is speak. 

Amelia Neylon and Imogen and all the other children who walked out of the 
school deserve a response. They deserve to be heard by every member in 
this place, they deserve for all of us to open our heart, to open our eyes, 
to free ourselves from party constraints of any sort and do everything we 
can to bring down carbon emissions and to take strong action for these 
children's future.