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The reality of the Turnbull Government

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 3 Feb 2016

I rise to speak to today's matter of public importance.

There was a national sigh of relief when Tony Abbott was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull. Most Australians gave the new Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. We were pleased to see the end of Tony Abbott's divisive politics. We hoped that it would mark a turning point on so many critical issues-issues like climate change, getting children out of detention and marriage equality-that we would finally be able to transition our economy and set ourselves up for those industries of the future-

We hoped that Prime Minister Turnbull would help transition our economy to set ourselves up for those industries of the future and that we would end the attacks on the poor, the sick and the unemployed-on ordinary working people. But here we are, only months out from an election, and very little has changed.

With each week that passes, it is becoming more and more apparent that this Prime Minister lacks the courage and the vision so desperately needed to stand up against some of the dinosaurs inside his own party, that he fails to act with the courage and conviction that is so desperately needed to ensure that his beliefs and priorities prevail over the dinosaurs of his party.

Let's start with the issue that will define this election: catastrophic global warming. Here we are, in January, the middle of summer, and we have seen extreme weather: bushfires in Victoria, in South Australia, in Western Australia and now in the World Heritage area of the precious wilderness between Cradle Mountain and the Walls of Jerusalem. At Lake Bill we are seeing an ecosystem never before exposed to fires, with species being wiped out. We are seeing pencil pines and cushion plans that will be destroyed by these fires-the loss of some of the most precious biodiversity anywhere in the world. In Queensland the Great Barrier Reef is on track for a catastrophic bleaching event. We are seeing the impacts of climate change right now in this country and we must act.
We are seeing the health impacts of climate change manifest themselves right around the world with the spread of vector borne diseases, and there are alarm bells now with the Zika virus, something that we know will be vulnerable to changing temperature and those vectors that will increase their spread. We already know that in northern Australia the mosquito that carries that virus has the potential to spread with catastrophic climate change.

But this is not just an issue about the impacts of climate change on the environment, health and our social systems; it is also an issue of how we manage to transition our economy from those polluting sources of the past to those industries of the future. The Prime Minister talks a lot about innovation. He talks a lot about being flexible, agile and nimble. But, when it comes to global warming, there is absolutely no commitment to innovation, flexibility or agility.

I was in Paris, where I saw the Prime Minister and indeed the Minister for Foreign Affairs defend Tony Abbott's pathetic emission reduction targets, making us the laughingstock of the world. He is still committed to taking the axe to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, two agencies that are driving innovation in the renewable energy space. Just today we saw the commitment to open up new coalmines: again there was the huge, polluting coalmine in the Galilee Basin, something for which Senator Larissa Waters has been a champion to try to protect that precious community and environment and to prevent the impacts of catastrophic global warming.

Why is Prime Minister Turnbull backing the opening up of that coalmine? Why is he committed to abolishing those agencies that are driving investment in renewable energy? It is because he lacks the courage and vision to take us on a different path. It requires vision to understand the opportunities that are opening up before us if we embrace the renewable energy revolution. It requires courage to stand up to those industries that are fighting for the status quo, that are holding us back, that incidentally are huge donors to both the coalition and the Labor Party-those industries of the past that are holding back the industries of the future.

On the issue of people seeking asylum in this country-innocent people fleeing persecution, seeking our protection and seeking refuge in Australia-just today we learned of the High Court's decision. But this is not a legal question; this is a moral question, and it can never be acceptable, regardless of the problem, to have a solution that locks up young children who are innocent, causing them tremendous grief and suffering, forcing them to self-harm and damaging those people's lives permanently. And here we are, with Malcolm Turnbull facing a decision about whether he will deport children who are born here in Australia to that system of offshore detention camps to continue to inflict that suffering on vulnerable people. So far, the signs on that issue are not good.
On marriage equality, a question of ending prejudice and discrimination, we now see the farce that is the plebiscite that this government is committed to. Even members of that government say they will not stand by the decision of the Australian people. Let's not have a plebiscite. Let's have a vote, let's do it now and let's end prejudice and discrimination in marriage once and for all.

On the question of the republic, a person who says that this is his life's work, who has campaigned on an issue that defined his entry into politics, is now vacating the space, saying that it is up to the Australian people to lead the charge. We have three leaders of our main political parties in this country who are committed to a republic. It is not the fault of the Australian people that we do not have a timetable towards a republic; it is a failure of leadership. And this nonsense that we need to wait until the reign of the Queen is over: that is the point. The point of a republic is that we make our decisions independent of the monarchy.

We have now a debate around tax reform in this nation-a debate that is about what it means to live in a civilised society: investing in health care, investing in education, investing in the social safety net and ensuring that we look after people who are vulnerable. We have the opportunity to do that by ending unfair tax breaks and ensuring that tax reform starts at the top and not at the bottom, and yet here is a government committed to raising the GST because it wants to protect its mates at the big end of town and would rather go after those people on low and middle incomes, further increasing this huge and growing gap between the haves and have-nots in Australian society, between the super-rich and those people who are struggling. The issue of tax reform is not some dry economic debate about whether we can balance the budget; it is about the society we want and whether we are prepared to live with the growing inequality that has become a major problem within Australian society.
It is a debate around getting our investment setting right so that we do not continue to give preferential tax treatment to the property sector and the mining sector and that we drive the innovation that is so desperately necessary in advanced manufacturing, in the renewable economy, in the health sector, in the education sector and in being a service based economy, which is where our future lies.

So it is an election about courage and vision, and the Greens have laid out an optimistic, forward-looking road map for how to transition Australia from an old economy to a modern, prosperous, confident 21st century Australia. Just last year we launched our plan, a detailed blueprint to renew Australia-to have 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030, generating jobs and investment in this country; to end the system of offshore detention and to have a much more humane way to look after innocent people who are seeking our protection; to deliver marriage equality and to deliver it now; and to ensure that, when it comes to raising revenue, tax reform starts at the top rather than the bottom. We want a corruption commission, a corruption watchdog, rather than targeting one sector of society. We have been courageous. We have been visionary. We have provided the leadership in this country that is so desperately lacking from this government, and we will do that right up until the next election. (Time expired)

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