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Comments made by Mr Ellis - Children and Climate Change

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Tags: Children and Young People, Climate Change

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, we are elected to this place to do the right thing and some of us in here take that responsibility extremely seriously.

Mr Ellis, when he stood up before, made the most grotesque assertion and a complete untruth, which is that the Greens are responsible for the fear that young people are experiencing now right around the world due to the science on global heating.

It is insulting to the intelligence and capacity for independent thought of young people. Mr Ellis thinks children and young people cannot make up their own minds. I go now to a global study which found young people are suffering profound psychological distress due to climate change and government inaction on the crisis. Some 45 per cent of the 10 000 young people surveyed across 10 countries for the study, which was published Tuesday a while ago, said:

Anxiety and distress over the climate crisis was affecting their daily life and ability to function. Three quarters of respondents aged 16 to 25 felt that the 'future is frightening' while 64 per cent of young people said that governments were not doing enough to avoid climate crisis. In fact, nearly two thirds of young people felt betrayed by governments and 61 per cent said governments were not protecting them, the planet, or future generations.

The study, which is said to be the first large scale research of its kind, was led by academics from the UK's University of Bath and the Stanford Centre for Innovation and Global Health, among others. It is under peer review in the Lancet Planetary Health Journal. The authors of the study have warned: 'Such high levels of distress, functional impact and feelings of betrayal will inevitably impact the mental health of children and young people.'

Caroline Hickman, a researcher from the University of Bath Climate Psychology Alliance and co lead author of the study, said that anxiety among children was 'a completely rational reaction, given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments'. In addition, Liz Marks, a senior lecturer from the University of Bath and another co lead author of the study, said it was 'shocking to hear how so many young people from around the world feel betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them'. I put into that group of people this Tasmanian parliament and people like Mr Ellis.

I received the most moving email from a young person in Campbell Town on Monday 6 September. I am not going to name her because I have not yet asked permission, so I am going to call her Sally for now:

My name is 'Sally'. I live in Campbell Town. I'm 10 years old and I'm trying hard to raise awareness about climate change but I can't lie, it's challenging trying to be heard when grown ups are in the way. I'm writing to you to address climate change. Of course, you've already been told about it way too many times but this time it's from a child's perspective. My point is children are the people who are going to be affected the most. You adults, the main problem, are going to get off scot free.

This applies to me especially as I'm an aspiring writer, activist - climate change and human rights - and proud Tassie girl. I was not going to let anything get in my way until climate change did. My point is that I, yet ashamed to admit it, need your help even though you are part of the Government.

That is not true, of course. We are part of the parliament. She goes on:

I'm constantly working on a way to help but I need more than just one person. I need a nation.

Mr Deputy Speaker, what were we thinking about when we were 10 years old? We were probably thinking about who we were going to hang out with that weekend, where we might go to high school, what fancy piece of clothing my mother might make me on her sewing machine. They are the kind of thoughts that used to occupy my head when I was 10.

Imagine being a young person in Tasmania now who is so distressed, not because of anything the Greens have said but because she is intelligent and she is informed, she is so distressed that she is writing to people like me to say 'can you please help me work out how to tackle this?'.

I am not going to send young Sally, the Hansard of Mr Ellis' contribution earlier, because that is what causes anxiety. That is what causes stress amongst young people when they see the sort of garbage that was coming out of Mr Ellis' mouth earlier.

I will go now to a quote from Sam Eccleston, which I read into Hansard during the Climate Emergency debate. We sought advice from the organiser of the School Strike 4 Climate on our climate emergency motion and what does scare children and young people.

Sam Eccleston, from the School Strike 4 Climate nipaluna Hobart, has this to say:

Tasmanian young people are some of the most educated and aware on a climate crisis and as such, are some of the most concerned about the effects it may have on them, their families and their communities.

Declaring a climate emergency sends a strong message to Tasmanian young people that the Government is truly committed to climate action and the futures of all Tasmanians.

Declaring a climate emergency will not scare or intimidate young Tasmanians, it will only help to tackle their fears.

Last weekend, Saturday's Mercury which was a focus on climate anxiety and there was an interview with young climate activist Chloe McCann - and this is for you Mr Ellis from Ms McCann. Ms McCann also hit back at comments made by Liberal MPs that climate change alarmism was the real culprit behind young people's mental health problems.

She said:

If they are trying to combat climate alarmism, then they need to have professionals to do that.

The point I make here, is that we need to respect young people's intelligence, capacity for independent thought and their autonomy. Remember that young people have more access to more information than we ever did. They have access to Twitter, to Facebook, to Insta and to Snapchat and they are reading the climate science.

What scares them is people like Mr Ellis who comes in here and just for politics makes attacks on the Greens because he thinks it is going to work for him in Braddon.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The member's time has expired. The member for Clark, Ms Ogilvie.

Ms O'Connor - Oh, the same member for Clark who was chortling away through my contribution just then. It is all very funny, isn't it, climate anxiety?