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Greens Matter of Public Importance - Global Climate Emergency

23 May 2019

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, we brought this matter on as a matter of public importance debate today and we acknowledge the advice that has been received by the Speaker in relation to not reflecting on the vote.

I will say a few things about the young people who watched yesterday's debate. One of the young women who was in the reception room with her eyes brimming with tears, achieved a perfect score last year on her exit from college. She is a person of the highest intelligence. The young people who were in the reception room yesterday are highly engaged. They are not being led by the Green movement. They are being led by the scientists. They are being led by the fire chiefs who know this is a climate emergency.

We are now seeing a narrative from the climate inaction faction that it is somehow the Greens who are scaring young people. That is so insulting to the intelligence and the connectedness of young people today. It is insulting to the 1.5 million students who engaged in the global strike for climate a couple of months ago. It is insulting to the hundreds of students who gathered on the lawns of parliament yesterday in a snap climate protest. We are not going to get anywhere in giving young people hope for the future if we have dishonesty about what is driving their fear, their eco-anxiety, their solastalgia.

We had the Health minister this morning again in a state of denial about the impact on the mental health of young people of the climate emergency that we are in. Stop insulting young people. They are much clearer about the future that we are facing than 23 members of this House, other than Dr Woodruff and I. It might pain members to have us come in this place and keep talking about the climate emergency. It might tweak at their sense of morality, but we are going to keep doing it because we will stand with those young people. We accept the science. We know that the world is in a climate emergency just as those young people know that.

The Minister for Health this morning was saying we have a responsibility to give young people a sense of hope in the future. That is why we moved to have a climate emergency declared yesterday, because when you declare a climate emergency there is a sense of purpose and action.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor. You are reflecting on the vote.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not reflecting on the vote. I am reflecting on the debate.

Greta Thunberg is one of the most remarkable and inspirational people on the planet now. She is a 16-year-old student from Sweden who has led a global climate movement. That is what gives young people hope. A sense that they are part of something bigger, that they are working on this together and that if they keep standing up and rattling the cage of inaction and the deniers there might be change. The world has 10 years to avoid the worst extremes of the climate chaos that human beings have caused.

It is nauseating to sit in here as we did in question time today and in the debate yesterday and hear the glib responses to the concerns that we are raising on behalf of young people, mums, dads, grandparents. The trivialities that we have to listen to in this place. I am not speaking about you, Environment minister, not climate minister. I am speaking about the sort of garbage that comes out of the mouth of the Treasurer, of the Health minister. I am speaking about the silence from the Leader of the Opposition, the trite contributions of Dr Broad, who forgot yesterday that the Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard, worked with the Greens to deliver a price on carbon and had the temerity to blame the Green movement for Labor's appalling election campaign. If you cannot have a good hard look at yourself off the back of that campaign when you are backing Adani and fracking in the Northern Territory you deserve to lose, and you deserve to lose the next election.

My fear is that Labor will react to that election loss by lurching further to the right, by backing Adani even harder. It is worth pointing out that in this federal election there were half a million more Australians who cast their vote for Labor and the Greens than there were for the Coalition in terms of primary votes. That surely says something about the will of a majority of the Australian people for there to be real action on climate.

It breaks young people's hearts when they see both the major parties, the party of government, in this place and in this country backing a coal mine that would consign future generations to the bleakest of futures. We can do better.