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COVID-19 Matter of Public importance

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 7 May 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Health, Climate Change

COVID-19 Matter of Public Importance: Rosalie Woodruff, 7 May, 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I return to the letter that was written by some doctors from the north-west, 23 doctors from that region in Tasmania, who have been at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic in Tasmania, and still are. These were GPs and emergency doctors, some of whose names I recognise as they have been in contact with me - and I daresay with other members - with questions and concerns and ideas throughout the last couple of months about the progress of the pandemic and the way it has been managed.

It is very clear that they are dedicating every moment of their working day to caring for people. I know one of those people has self-quarantined because he has been personally treating patients with coronavirus and has not wanted to take the risk of introducing the virus to his family. There is another patient at the Mersey hospital who is being treated at the moment.

Amidst the work that these people are doing and continue to do for people in the north-west, for all of us, in keeping us safe in this pandemic, they also recognise the importance of looking to the future, as are we all. As we think of stepping out and being at the crossroads that we are as a country and the decisions that we are making over the next few days which will be so important for our new future and for the longer term for us as a state. They are concerned about our prosperity and fundamentally they are concerned about the health and wellbeing of their patients and their communities. That is why they compiled a letter and addressed it to the Premier with their concerns about the continuing heating of the climate and our response to that.

They recognise that this continuing warming of the planet - it is now heating of the planet - is at a point which is causing loss of life, mental health problems, permanent loss of livelihood across regional communities in Tasmania, Australia and the whole planet. Whilst this pandemic is ongoing the climate has continued to keep warming, communities around the world have dealt with bushfires, floods and storms and people have lost their lives. Crops have failed to produce, droughts have increased so this is not going away and these doctors understand that.

They want us to be looking to a recovery from coronavirus, an economic recovery, which puts the climate crisis front and centre with the virus economic recovery. The two are adjoined together and we look at them as one. These are two crises which the global community is facing.

I found the Premier's response to the question that we asked this morning, surprising and very concerning. The Premier has said at almost every single press conference that I have listened to, which has been every single day he has given one, I have listened to him stand there and say, 'I take my advice from the health experts, I listen to the health evidence. That is why I am doing and taking the hard decisions I am taking.'

He has been policy driven, leadership driven by health experts in a health crisis. Yet this is the same Premier who dismissed the concern of these health professionals who were talking about another health issue. This other health issue is the quality of life for their patients, the future wellbeing of their communities if we do not also act on the climate crisis.

Where is the Premier's response? Where is the Premier listening to the climate experts? Why is the Premier not listening to the climate evidence? Why is he not looking at the evidence which is overwhelming in Tasmania, from our amazing Tasmanian climate scientists, who are world-leading. Also, from the whole global climate science community, the thousands of scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) who have made it very clear that we have a deadline and it is 10 years away. This is the year, 2020, the year of action.

They told us that two years ago. Here we are, in 2020, we have two crises we are confronting as a global species. We may recover from one, but will we recover from the other? Unless we come out of this economic devastation - that we are really only at the cusp of experiencing as a state - without a focus to managing the climate crisis at the same time, we are doomed to have the worst of all economic recoveries. We can never recover as a community, as a state, unless we address the damaging impacts that are coming, and will continue to come, as the climate heating builds.

We have great support across the Australian business sector for doing exactly what I have been talking about. Just yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, who represents more than 60 000 businesses, made a very strong statement that the two biggest economic challenges in memory - the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and cutting greenhouse gas emissions - have to be addressed together. By so doing, it will boost growth and put the country on a firm long-term footing.

This is not even climate scientists who are saying this. They are now being backed up by the industry groups who recognise the risk to their business and who want to work to better their employees.

Wise heads in business are calling for the Premier to take this response. Now is the time for him to listen to climate experts about the climate crisis.