Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (17:20): I will put on record straightaway that I never was taught by the Christian Brothers, though sometimes I think it would be a useful thing to have happened! We have the matter of public importance before us, and certainly the element of it that talks about the disputed theory of climate science is one that we know is true. There is a disputed theory of climate science. We only have to listen to some of the contributions as we have just heard from Senator Williams. There will continue to be dispute around the issue of climate science, as we have heard many times in this place. Those of us who were here during previous parliaments when there were moves to put in place measures around carbon emissions know just how strong this dispute continues to be not only in this parliament but in others. But I believe the level of dispute is lowering. I truly believe that, as a result of years of discussion in this space, there is more understanding more willingness to listen and more acceptance that there are indeed threats to our environment as a result of climate change.

We had the Paris Agreement signed only in the last year. As you would know, Acting Deputy President Back, that was a considerable move forward in terms of international discussion on the issue. Only a few years ago, we had the Copenhagen conference, where again countries from across the world gathered to talk about issues of the science, issues of the threat and issues of the future. At that stage, there was no agreement by the nations. There was lots of talk and there was concern, but no single agreement was signed at Copenhagen. There was a change by the time the Paris agreement was signed by over 190 countries who agreed that there needed to be change and needed to be a response to the real understanding that there are threats to our environment. And an environment is not owned by one state, by one nation or by one region. Our environment is such a vibrant natural feature that it is owned by the world. And the world stood up at the Paris agreement and said there needed to be change. One of the key areas that pushed for change and has continued to be involved in this discussion over many years, never moving their anger, never moving their concern, is the region of the Pacific, our closest neighbours. If you remember, there was a great deal of media around Copenhagen, and again in Paris, about small nation states from Oceania who went to talk about their reality to the other nations of the world.

I hope many people in this place do have the opportunity to talk with the people from Micah, who are visiting the parliament today. At their open meeting outside the parliament-their parliament-this morning, and in their meetings with many of us, they said, of course, that we can have discussions about climate change. Of course they know that parliamentarians here will be part of that discussion. But for them it is not a discussion. For them it is their livelihood. For them it is their future. That was the message that the people of Oceania as a group-Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu-took to the international conferences. And they turned to us, their nearest neighbour, and asked us to support them in their struggle for the future.

The people of Oceania, the people of the Pacific, are not just standing back and waiting for other people to take action; they meet regularly and talk about the threat to their nations. At the recent Pacific Islands Forum, a number of important issues were passed. Climate was the No. 1 issue at the Pacific Islands Forum. The communique from the Pacific Islands Forum, which came out on 21 November this year, said: 'This week, as the entire world gazed at the super moon from the comfort of their homes, some Pacific islanders evacuated their homes temporarily due to the result of tidal surge. Let there be no doubt about the real impacts of climate change. Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of people of the Pacific.' They went on to talk to their neighbours: 'We seek your support in accelerating the implementation of commitments made in the Paris agreement at the COP 22 meetings this week. The Pacific Island Forum members have endorsed the framework for resilient development in the Pacific to ensure coordinated action on a number of the key issues related to climate change and disaster risk management.'

I feel sure that not every single person in the Pacific actually rates climate change as the No. 1 issue for their region. I do not believe that every single leader in the Pacific would say that they absolutely believe in every element of the climate change science. I understand that there continues to be some dispute. But what has been put on record is that, when the leaders of the Pacific nations gathered together, they identified together that they did not have a dispute about the climate change science. They did not have a dispute about the theories around the need to change the way we operate in our environment, in our nation and in our region. They were clear that they understood that there had to be changes made. And the reason they understood that so clearly was exactly what the impact on their part of the world was. We can sometimes feel quite protected and safe. But when you have in your immediate sight the impact of the loss of your land, a change in your water safety and the need to move location because you can no longer live where your parents and grandparents were able to live, that makes it very important and very real to you.

Only a couple of months ago Caritas Australia, with their Pacific groups, put out a document that was circulated to all parliamentarians in this place. It was called Hungry for Justice and Thirsty for Change. It was a state of the environment report for Oceania in 2016. This particular document hears from people from across the Pacific nations talking about what has happened to their environment over recent years. In this particular document a very strong argument was put to us about the immediate impact. There were statements from Tonga, which is an extraordinarily beautiful country-as Senator Fierravanti-Wells knows. And we had a young man from Tonga speak with us this morning. He was from Micah. He was talking about the connection with country and also about the need for strong action to be taken to look at the science and make sure people across the region understood the severity of the situation-in particular, the safety of water in that area, water salinity, coastal erosion and flooding, and the impact on communities having to leave their traditional lands and no longer able to plant the crops that they had always been able to plant.

I do not believe that this discussion will end the debate around climate change. I do not believe it will end the dispute about the science. What I do know is that we will have the opportunity to listen to people from our region, respond to their needs and make the discussions very active and very real so that we understand the impact and what our role will be as one of the 197 countries who have signed up to the Paris agreement. I have not read the communique from Marrakech-I am sure it is around-from the recent meeting that Julie Bishop attended representing Australia. But I know that there were further commitments made there and a re-enforcement of Australia's position.

Senator Roberts, I know that, as you have been a regular correspondent over many years, we will continue to have this discussion. I understand that we have the opportunity to listen to the science and to challenge it-of course we must challenge it-but, having listened to people from the Oceania region, we cannot turn our back on their needs. We need to work together to ensure that this science, whilst disputed, continues to be understood.