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Rosalie Woodruff Premiers Address Reply

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 5 March 2020

Tags: Political Leadership, Climate Change, Bushfires

Premier's Address Reply: Rosalie Woodruff MP, 5 March, 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I stand here giving my address on the land of the mouheneener people and acknowledge their elders, past and present, and their current emerging leaders and the people who live amongst us today. This is land which was stolen across the whole of Tasmania from the palawa pakana. We as a party and as a state must be committed to returning lands, establishing a treaty and changing the date of Australia Day to a day which is appropriate for everyone in this country.

Something which was extraordinary was the inaugural Ballawinne Festival - Dark Emu - that was held in Cygnet in this January. It was organised by the South-East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation and some other people and was a festival of Aboriginal philosophy. It is truly a time where we need to open our minds, hearts and ears to how Aboriginal people successfully lived on this land for tens of thousands of years. They were people who survived multiple ice ages and survived conditions which most people in Tasmania could never imagine living through. We have so much to learn about their philosophy of life and death and the connection to place that Aboriginal people in Tasmania can give to us all. It was a beautiful sharing of ideas. The headline person who spoke, Bruce Pascoe, is now widely respected in Tasmania for his incredible book Dark Emu which documents the -

Ms Houston - It is a good book, isn't it?

Dr WOODRUFF - It is amazing. It document is in a very simple form - the evidence recorded in the diaries of explorers around the country of their first observations of Aboriginal societies as they tended to different places. I will rephrase that, Madam Speaker, and it just goes to show how I have been indoctrinated through my education that I used the term 'explorer'. There was no exploration going on. It was an invasion of the country which was owned by many different Aboriginal peoples around Australia. As people came in to take land, the first people who came in did make records and that is the substance of Bruce Pascoe's book. It shows the amazing richness of Aboriginal societies and we must learn the lessons that Aboriginal people live with and can teach us today.

Jamie Graham-Blair, a young and very inspiring Aboriginal leader from Tasmania, spoke on the radio yesterday about the importance of seeing Aboriginal philosophy and Aboriginal society as a whole. He said you cannot pick and choose the bits that you like. It is not up to non-Aboriginal people to just delve into Aboriginal society and think that we can take a bit of burning practice or a bit of something else about culture, extract it, commercialise it, utilise it, consume it for our own purposes without looking at the whole context of Aboriginal philosophy. A really important point and one which we will continue to work with Aboriginal people in Tasmania to understand the knowledge that they have and to work together in the challenges that face us.

Taking stock of the start of 2020 must start with us recognising that we have so much more to do to provide justice to Aboriginal Tasmanians and to provide them with a real voice in the democracy.

As we take stock, it is also incredible to think that this time last year there had not been a global school strike for climate. There had not been a global climate rally. A lot of change has happened in just one year. What a tremendous movement is taking place across the planet, not just from schoolchildren, although they have led the charge in Australia, but from all people who understand the science and who are looking and listening to the 11 000 scientific experts who have given us a very clear deadline of 2030. They understand we are in a climate emergency and they are warning us that if we do not radically reduce our emissions by 2030 we do not get to have any say in the changes in the global climate system that will be unstoppable.

In many parts of the system we have already, it seems, passed some tipping points. If we focus and put all our energies into understanding we are in a climate crisis, there is still a prospect of being able to stop the feedback loops which would make this planet uninhabitable for humans within - well, the predictions now are ranging from 2070 onwards. We do not want to argue about a couple of decades when we are talking about the habitability of this planet. We want to understand that when we hear from the Bureau of Meteorology that since the 1950s summers in Australia are now on average 31 days longer than they were back then. That is only in the past 20 years our summers have increased by 31 days, compared to that 1950 period. In the past 20 years that is an incredibly short amount of time. That is an average across the country. In parts of the country, like in Port Macquarie, 48 days longer. We have far shorter winters than we ever had and those of us who live in Tasmania know we do not want to wish winter away. We love winter. Winter is the reason that we have berries. Winter is the reason that we have security from fruit fly. Winter is the reason that we love to go to the snow and be outside. It is not something to wish away. It is something to hold on to and nurture. We love winter. Winter brings us protection. It brings us food that other places do not have. It brings us a sense of camaraderie. It brings us the Dark Mofo Festival. These are things to celebrate and to understand what loss means.

For those of us who live in Tasmania, the drought on the mainland is something that we have watched on the screens for six months. People who live on farms on the mainland are affected every day and continue to be affected. If they have not already, whole towns are on the verge of running out of drinking water. Whole farming regions are becoming unfarmable. This is not normal.

This is the longest and most severe drought ever been recorded in Australian history. It is a dustbowl in western New South Wales. It is place where parts of the sides of rivers have disappeared that Aboriginal people in tens of thousands of years have never seen the loss of their trees and vegetation in those areas. There is deep grief amongst Aboriginal people, amongst farming communities and amongst all the people who are supported by those farming communities. Deep grief not just for the loss of livelihoods, but the loss of history, the loss of memory which is situated in those trees, in that vegetation, in those animals that have survived for as long as humans can remember in those areas.

What we have seen, the bushfires that have occurred as a response to that super drying in eastern Australia was such an emotional experience for the people who suffered through them and as somebody who happened to be on the mainland myself, I knew three people whose houses burnt down. I had my husband's whole family stuck for two days, including 80- and 90-year-old relatives, on the beach in Malua Bay. I had people who were living in whole townships, Cobargo, gone. Places that cannot be rebuilt in the way they were. It is not like we can put back the industries of regions in parts of New South Wales and Victoria that have lost their whole apple processing plants, that have lost their whole tourism industry plant, that have lost their whole dairy, milking, processing areas.

These are not things that a fairy godmother will come along and start them up again. Many of those industries were marginal already. What we are looking at is a whole re-understanding of parts of New South Wales and Victoria and we do not know where that is going to end, where communities are going to go. It is a work in progress.

Along with the people and the impact on houses, there were 10 times more houses burnt according to the New South Wales Fire Commissioner; 10 times more houses burnt than have ever been burnt before in a bushfire experience. There were at least 33 people who lost their lives, numbers of them being volunteer firefighters. Whole communities suffered through months of smoke at levels far higher than recorded anywhere else on the planet at the time.

We do not know how many people who suffered from lung conditions died as a result of that, but the evidence is there. The relationship between smoke inhalation and mortality is very strong, so people did die. People must have died because of that smoke. We are waiting to see what the results will be.

More than one billion animals perished in those fires. We all would have seen traumatising images of burnt koalas and so many other burnt animals. It brought out the best in Australians. It brought out amazing community spirit. It gave me so much hope to see how people came together to support each other, rejected the false sense of community that was offered by the Prime Minister when he tried to insert his hand into the hand of some poor woman who had survived bushfires in south eastern New South Wales. They rejected that false community. People knew what mattered. It was people being true and people being real to themselves in hardship.

Bruce Pascoe was lambasted on the pages of The Australian and by numerous Liberal members of parliament at the same time he was fighting to save his house and the houses of his friends in Mallacoota. He had to chainsaw his way out through burnt forests and to open roads to come to Tasmania to the Ballawinne Festival.

This is yet another one of the Australian heroes who worked in community. I pay tribute to the leadership of Shane Fitzsimmons. He is the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. He showed us what leadership looked like. He was always compassionate. He flew to speak in person to the wives and children of the men who were firefighters who lost their lives. He showed us strength and clarity. He called the situation as it was. He talked about the climate change charging of the atmosphere and the impact it was having on the fires. He along with 30 other Australians sought last year to speak to our Prime Minister and warn of the catastrophe that happened this summer. Three times they were knocked back. One of those 31 was Mike Brown, a previous Tasmanian Fire Service commissioner. Other people understand what is going on.

We must come together and act in the time we have available to us. It is not an endless amount of time. Along with an understanding of the gravity of the situation, a tremendous energy is building in the community. People fought back against the climate deniers in the Liberal Party who were trying to pretend climate change was not part of it. People whose houses burnt down on the mainland were tweeting that climate change burnt their house down. The farmers who were losing their stock and their livelihoods were the ones tweeting that. You know this is true. The scientists know this is true.

This year the Greens will be working with everyone in Tasmania who understands the urgency of this climate crisis. We will be focusing 100 per cent of our energy on bringing a legislative agenda to parliament, putting pressure on the Government to take serious action on the climate emergency. What are we doing that for? It is because we know Tasmanians want a safe future.

Above all, that is what children and young people are feeling anxious about. They want a safe future and security in the future. They want to have a healthy life, filled with happiness and wellbeing. They understand that unless we sort this climate thing out, everything else does not mean a thing, because it is not worth putting pen to paper about. That is the bottom line. Young people understand this.

The lack of leadership shown by governments is causing a rise in solastalgia. This is a new psychological definition - loss of connection with nature. It has caused a new term in the Macquarie Dictionary this year - eco anxiety. This is what young people are tweeting about. The response to that has been a rise in the awareness of health providers. In Tasmania, a wonderful group, the Climate Resilience Network, has established that GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and educators of children say that children and young people need action to build climate resilient communities and organisations.

It is through taking action that people will best be able to adapt to the changing climate. In a few months' time, on 30 April, there will be in Tasmania for the first time, the national conference of the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy. What a wonderful thing. Finally, we have this amazing organisation here in Tasmania as a great opportunity for us. We understand the relationship between nature and health. This is yet another part of the story about responding to the climate emergency.

This year we will be focusing on climate change action and protecting nature. We recognise the current woefully inadequate state climate act is well past its use by date. It was an important start 11 years ago, but other than some work done by the Greens when there were climate change ministers from 2010 to 2014, nothing has happened. This Government killed off the Climate Action Council and it has killed off effective action on sectoral targets.

We will be introducing a bill that recognises that we are in a climate emergency, that understands that we have until 2030 to make massive reductions in emissions or the world's climate will move into an uncontrollable and increasingly uninhabitable state. Our bill will be based on the best available science. Instead of setting a far-off target of 2040 or 2050, which kicks the responsibility to governments in the future, we will set targets to bring down emissions across all sectors in every year. We will set targets and mandate state-wide plans that need to be prepared every four years to achieve emission reductions within each sector, to increase and protect our stores of carbon and to develop climate adaptation plans at state and local government levels.

This is a Tasmania-specific bill. It recognises the gains that we have already made in the clean energy sector, but they are not enough. We must use this advantage in the clean electricity sector to electrify transport, electrify agriculture and to make the big gains we can and must make.

The bill establishes a joint standing safe climate committee. It will also establish an independent safe climate commission of experts who would provide frank and fearless and science based advice to government and the community about the actions we need to take for the climate emergency. This is legislation that would set us on a pathway to a future that is safer and better for the health and wellbeing of everyone in Tasmania.

Along with that important legislation, on which we will work with other parties and bring on in the spirit of trying to find cross-party unity on this matter, we also understand that we have to keep the carbon stores that we already have locked up in the ground. We cannot ignore the issue of forestry. Our emissions at the moment in Tasmania are currently effectively only within a few per cent of where they were 30 years ago. That is because we have had rapidly growing native forests thanks to the forestry agreement, but if we look at the emissions from all the other sectors in the Tasmanian forestry economy, other than the forests which have regrown because of the forest agreement, we find we have been increasing in 2016-17 relative to 30 years ago. We must change that. We must not return to large-scale native forest logging. In fact, we have to stop large-scale native forest logging. We have to not log any trees in the 356 000 hectares of forests and we have to make real emissions reductions in each other sector of the economy.

Crimes against the environment affect everyone. The situation in the United Kingdom is a light on the hill for us as people across the planet, because a legal case against the Heathrow Airport expansion just last week was pitting the need to tackle the climate crisis against the economic arguments that were put up by the developers to extend the runway for a third runway. The judges found on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom and us as a planet. They found that the impact on the climate of emissions from a third runway, which would be 260 000 extra flights a year, would jeopardise the UK's ability to make deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. That is an important point. They recognised the failure of the assessment authority to take account of the UK's international obligations under the Paris Agreement.

This ruling is a warning note to this Government and to all governments that the climate crisis means that we cannot take business as usual as our operating metric. In future, for economic and business decisions to have legal standing and political credibility, they have to take account of impacts on global heating. The impact itself of that legal decision will filter down through every country on this planet.

Meanwhile, the Greens in Tasmania understand that we need to focus on this issue of bringing to account people and corporations who violate the principles of environmental justice. It is a gap in our Tasmanian law. When people or corporations cause extensive damage to ecosystems or destroy them there is currently no mechanism within the Criminal Code to call these people to account. When people take actions that harm the health and wellbeing of other species, including our own species, we humans, by their developments or their active destruction of landscapes, they need to be held to account.

I can foreshadow that we will be bringing in this year an ecocide bill that seeks to take account of the deficit in the Criminal Code of Tasmania whereby people and corporations are not able to be charged and convicted when they cause extreme damage to the environment and to human beings and other animals and plants within that environment.

The Greens have long been concerned that the state's laws do not sufficiently allow for the environment's interest to be protected. There is a history of the failure of our laws to protect the Macquarie Harbour ecosystem from rapacious fish farming which caused known permanent damage to places and values of the World Heritage Area, as well as to other plants and animals within Macquarie Harbour. That experience, rather than providing the evidence that the Liberals should have taken for the problem with the laws, just emboldened them to go in harder and since that period in 2015 this Government has weakened the regulations and laws surrounding the expansion and development and operation of fish farming in Tasmania. That is a disgrace.

The approvals around Storm Bay and the massive expansion, a doubling of the fish farm industries around Tasmania, has been a corrupted process. It is well understood to be a corrupted process. The Marine Farm Planning Review Panel is a joke. It has the minister's final sign-off and it is just an opportunity to tick a box and pretend to people who are not watching that there is some form of scientific credibility and independent assessment happening, but that is far from the truth. Until the minister no longer has the final say over development applications and the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel is properly constituted, there will be no possibility of developers having to respond to concerns from the community and to the science.