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Adjournment - Climate Change - Response of Students

Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 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.