Green leader Richard di Natale says new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will not be taken seriously until he acts on climate change and stands up to the “dinosaurs” in the Coalition. He notes that when the non-reappointment of climate deniers such as Maurice Newman are celebrated, things must be pretty crook.
Here is an excerpt from di Natale’s speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“It’s often said that people are apathetic, but I don’t believe that’s true because apathy implies indifference. They’re not apathetic, they’re angry and they have a right to be angry. You only need to look at the community’s reaction to the entitlements scandal to know that it wasn’t just about helicopter rides to Geelong and taxpayer-funded weddings as outrageous as those things were, it was a very clear symptom of outright hostility that people feel towards our politicians.
“Now whether Malcolm Turnbull, the fifth Prime Minister in as many years, can change any of this is an open question in my mind. I have to say it’s pretty hard to imagine that things can get any worse. You know things are pretty cook when someone like Morris Newman, a climate denier… look, he’s a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, when Malcolm Turnbull says he’s not going to be reappointed as his business adviser and as a community we celebrate that decision, you know things are pretty crook. You know that the benchmark has been set very low.
“But if the Prime Minister is genuinely interested in ditching the mind-numbing 3-word slogans, in having a mature debate about the direction of this country, I welcome that. Eventually, though, he’ll need to put some meat on those bones. It’s one climate thing to talk a good game on climate change, on marriage equality. It’s another thing altogether to deliver on those things.
“Now whether the new Prime Minister can deliver will depend on whether he’s done a pact with dinosaurs that have locked him into the Abbott Government’s agenda. Nothing’s changed and some of the early signs are not good. Malcolm Turnbull has already backed in Tony Abbott’s very weak climate targets. Targets that are, let’s be frank, amongst the worst in the developed world and he supported Tony Abbott’s last century approach to marriage equality. And my only advice to Malcolm Turnbull is this, is that there are very few things as dangerous in politics as high expectations without the capacity or conviction to deliver on those expectations.
“And on no other issue is conviction and courage more important than on issue of global warming. We’re now disrupting the world’s climate systems and quite literally changing the conditions for life on earth. Now I’m not going to speak for very long on this issue. I suspect that for many of you if you don’t know this already, nothing that I say will make a big difference, but the science is telling us that we are on a trajectory that puts us on track for a 3.5 degree temperature rise.
“That is incompatible with civilisation life on earth as we know it. Some nations will be wiped out altogether. Our major coastal cities will be inundated. We’ll see food supplies disrupted, we’ll see the collapse of entire ecosystems. People will endure unprecedented heat waves. We’re going to witness the spread of infectious diseases and resource wars will become inevitable. The world will be unrecognisable. So unless we get serious about tackling global warming, everything else Malcolm Turnbull is just background noise.
“Malcolm Turnbull can’t be taken seriously on his plan for an economic transformation unless at the heart of that plan is a credible attempt to address global warming and the economic transition that it demands. Now in one sector of the Australian economy that transition is well under way despite the best efforts of successive governments to prevent it from happening. Thermal coal in Australia is in structural decline and no-one is more exposed than Australia. As we saw dramatically yesterday with the collapse of Glencore, ignoring the demise of coal poses a huge threat to our economy.
“Earlier this week, the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reported that our major export markets for thermal coal are disappearing and there are no new growth markets appearing on the horizon. A great bulk of coalminers are, at coal mines are operating at a loss and many are closing down with a massive one-third of the coal workforce lost in the last 18 months since data’s been collected. I’ll say that again, one-third of the coal workforce has already been lost over the past 18 months.
“Now the Government wants to blame those communities who stand up in support of clean air and water.
“They want to make this the problem of those people who care about their environment, rather than the decisions of coal companies and their executives and governments who have failed to understand the declining markets are costing us those jobs . We’re now seeing coal mines sold for $1 to avoid remediation costs and the hardest hit from all of this would be those coal workers who are thrown out of work. We’ve got State governments who are deeply exposed by not holding bonds anywhere near the cost of rehabilitation. And we know that the public purse will bear the costs. We are on track for a repeat of the James Hardie abandon era where companies flee and abandon their workers and leave the public to clean up the mess.
“This shift is happening right now and we’ve either got to have a plan for coal workers and the environment, or we need to leave it to the future of the whims of an industry that is on the way out. Coal workers deserve more than that. Our plan, The Greens’ plan is for an audit of mine rehabilitation liabilities to ensure that each coal company meets those costs before they go bankrupt or leave shelf wealth companies behind and transfer wealth overseas. Our plan ensures that workers can transition either into new industries or be employed in mine rehabilitation to provide a reliable bridge into retirement. Now if you’re driving a dozer or an excavator it doesn’t matter whether you’re digging a hole or filling one in. It’s employment with the same skills that are being utilised.
“Sadly, the national wealth that came with the past two mining booms has made our leaders lazy and they’ve stayed lazy. We gave the mining industry very generous tax concessions on the way up, but we’ve collected very little on the way down. The world’s appetite for our resources saw a huge rush of capital pour in. It inflated our dollar, it hollowed out and tossed aside other export industries and we’re now left with a highly concentrated export base, leaving us vulnerable. The end of the mining boom should focus our minds more than ever on what comes next, but as yet, our leaders have no plan.
“Our governments are betting Australia’s fortunes on the assumption that our trading partners will prefer cheap energy over taking action on climate change. But the fatal flaw in this assumption is that they’re no longer two different heading things. Where the world is heading is obvious to anybody who is paying attention. It’s hardly a surprise that the share prices of old energy companies like Glencore or Peabody or Santos are crashing or Tesla which makes only 40,000 electric vehicles is valued by the sharemarket at over half the price of General Motors, which makes 9 million vehicles.
“But despite the attacks on the clean energy economy, our clean energy businesses are pushing through. We’re now exporting solar inverters to Germany. We’re at the cutting edge of new battery technology. Car parts manufacturers like Excel which of has been rocked by the closure of the car industry is now building infrastructure for solar farms. In Portland, wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prints is employing hundreds of people, many of whom were on the dole queue for years. Tragically many of those people lost their jobs when this Government wound down the renewable energy target.
“There are huge and exciting opportunities in this sector of the economy and we have a proud track record of unlocking this potential. Christine Milne my old boss was the architect of the Australian renewable energy agency and the clean energy finance corporation which were created to roll out cutting edge technologies and break down barriers for financing new products. Arena and the CFC not only investing in equity, technologies through debt and equity, but they bring experts together. They bring skills together. They partner public and private institutions. They add value to the entire clean energy marketplace. The clean energy finance corporation is making a profit for the Government from its investments. Those investments are being directly invested in early technologies through Arena so that the cycle of innovation and development and jobs grows exponentially.
“So I say this to the new Prime Minister. These are good news stories. They’re moving us into the 21st century. Look, if your politics demands it, just ignore the fact that they are green initiatives, just ignore it. Stand up to some of those dinosaurs in your party and walk away from your plans to abolish Arena and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. And beyond the clean energy revolution, our vision is for an innovative, entrepreneurial, cleaner and fairer economy. One that works for people and for the environment.”