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Speech: Government Disrespect For Climate Strikers

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 13 Feb 2020

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Faruqi today relating to impact of the climate crisis on students.

I rise to take note of the government's pathetic response to my questions about the impact of the climate crisis on students. The government has relentlessly attacked brave students striking for climate action. In the last two years we've heard the Prime Minister say, 'Kids should go to school,' the Deputy Prime Minister denounce anything that would disrupt schools, and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Cormann, say, 'During the school time kids should be in school.' They say all this, pretending that what they care about is keeping kids inside the classroom, but today they refused to acknowledge that it is their woeful inaction on the climate emergency that has actually disrupted the lives and studies of Australian children this summer.

The bunch of climate criminals in government have helped make natural disasters more frequent and more intense with their total lack of action on the climate crisis. As a result, we've seen bushfires disrupt the education of tens of thousands of students around the country this summer. On just one day in November my home state of New South Wales saw more than 600 schools shut down and nine schools urgently evacuated. How dare the government demand that students concerned for their future stay in school, when their policies are keeping them out of the classroom in the first place!

It gets worse. As well as telling students to shut up, they tried to tell them that the climate crisis is nothing to worry about. Craig Kelly told the thousands of students planning on going to the climate strike: 'Everything you are told is a lie.' He claimed: 'The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought.' According to him, despite all the experts and evidence, 'Today's generation is safer from extreme weather than any time in history.'

And his is not a fringe view. When the Prime Minister said the worst thing he could impose on any child is needless anxiety, he flagrantly ignored striking students' legitimate worries about life under his climate-denying government. We know that the WHO regards climate change a greatest threat to global health in the 21st century, and that includes mental health. Constant predictions of doom and gloom, of course, can be terrifying. They may create eco-fatigue, climate anxiety and a desire to tune it all out as much as spur us into action. But the PM's response either gives you false hope by denying the problem is real, as if there is some validity in the view that climate change is not a thing; or it is dismissive of those people and communities who are feeling anxious about the future.

Of course we know students' worries were realised in the most tragic way as the fires forced students from their classrooms and homes. Many were students who only months earlier had been on climate strike. Some lost everything, but still the government refused to admit that students' climate anxiety is real and won't go away without strong action on the climate emergency. In fact, when you cast your eyes across the last few years, it's clear that the Liberals and Nationals have spent much more time criticising brave children working for a better future than they have addressing their disastrous pro-coal climate policies that have us hurtling towards three degrees of warming. It's time that they swallowed their pride; apologised to the climate strike students, who are doing more than them to fight the climate crisis; and got on board with tackling the climate emergency.

The Greens are proud to stand with the students who courageously walked out of schools and demanded action on climate change. We are with you in the streets and we are with you in this parliament. Together we will win real action on climate change.

Question agreed to.

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