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Transcript: Christine Milne and Larissa Waters

Christine Milne 28 Feb 2013



Subjects: Warragamba dam, climate change adaptation, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), coal seam gas


CHRISTINE MILNE: The Prime Minister's announcements today concerning money to be spent on flood mitigation around the country demonstrates why we should have been dealing with climate change so much earlier. The reason that we are having so much Commonwealth money having to be invested in mitigation is the failure of both state and federal governments for a long period of time to listen to the scientists, to listen to Sir Nicholas Stern when he said the cost of not acting on climate change is going to far outweigh the cost of acting.


And that's precisely what we are seeing. Since 2010 $6 billion has been spent in Australia trying to clean up after flooding, after extreme weather events. The Prime Minister's statements today, the promise of extra money, the decision to put $50 million into the Warragamba dam and $50 million into other flood mitigation projects is couched in terms of insurance premium and cost of living. And it's absolutely true that insurance premiums have gone through the roof in areas which are vulnerable to extreme weather events. What we need to do now is to recognise a) that we need to act on climate change and we need to maintain the National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility as a source of good information on which to make informed decisions about where best to spend the money so that we do protect communities into the longer term. It is essential that it's not just the insurance industry dictating the terms, but that in fact that the science is in there so that people can make informed decisions and I'm calling on the Prime Minister to use some of that money to continue to fund the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility so it can work in conjunction with communities in interpreting the climate models so that we get the best value for money and real resilience built into the system. The Insurance Council of Australia in its submission to the extreme weather events inquiry that I established said that we not only needed to invest in mitigation from flooding to bring down premiums but also we needed to harmonise land use planning. And also building codes because if you are really going to anticipate the consequences of extreme events you have to make sure that you upgrade the building coded, you have to make sure that planning permission is not being given to building areas that are vulnerable to flooding in the first place, and then money is available to assist people in whichever way you can.


Campbell Newman in Queensland for example moved when he was elected to say Queensland is open for coal business. He then overturned regulations which actually prohibited building in vulnerable coastal areas. Now he's putting out his hand saying oh we need help because of flooding, yes and Campbell Newman should never have overturned the laws which prevented people from building in areas vulnerable to coastal flooding. So I'm calling on the Prime Minister to see this in the climate change context, to see it in genuine long-term planning and the best investment in resilience, not just as a cost of living issue. If it is just seen in terms of cost of living, it is just seen in terms of handing out $50 million to the states so that you end up with whatever they want in the context of the federal election, it will not be the best use of money and if she wants to really genuinely invest in resilience around the country then you would invest in maintaining the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.


Larissa just wants to make some comments on coal seam gas because in the context of the visit to western Sydney, the decisions that have been made in recent times on coal seam gas are at best cynical decisions, because they are saying to country people in Australia - you can put up with it, they can come on to your land, they can destroy your land and water, but if you live in the city where most of the votes are, we will take on a different view. It's a first domino but it's not enough.


LARISSA WATERS: Thanks Christine, look you're exactly right. We've seen today with the motion that I've put in the Senate that the old parties support coal seam gas, they don't want it restrained, they don't they don't care about protecting our land, our water, our communities or our climate from this scourge that is coal seam gas. Now of course it's very convenient for the Prime Minister and Mr Abbott to go into western Sydney and say, oh it's fine Barry O'Farrell banned coal seam gas in urban areas - well I'm afraid the issue is important across the country and it's not just folk in western Sydney that are worried about coal seam gas, it's folk everywhere. This industry is running rampant over our best food producing land in Queensland, in New South Wales, and it's looking to WA and of course to Victoria as well. So I'm afraid we've got the Prime Minister and Mr Abbott saying one thing about coal seam gas when they're in western Sydney, and saying something completely different to every other Australian.


I think that's a travesty and it was exposed today when all of the old parties voted to support coal seam gas against the Greens' motion to say this is too dangerous for our land and our water and our climate. We need to stop this damaging industry, particularly when we have other alternatives for energy supply that we know actually are clean. Now the other motion today I moved was to call on the Federal Government to act on a promise that they made 18 months ago to protect our national parks. We've had conservative state premiers want to log our national parks, as Campbell Newman now does, we've had grazing in the alpine national parks in Victoria, and of course we've got shooting in national parks in New South Wales. So we've got conservative premiers wanting to trash our national parks in the states and it's about time the Federal Government finally acted on that promise of 18 months ago. Again they confirmed that they did want to step in and protect national parks - great - please hurry up and do it, we've got logging, grazing and shooting, you should not be logging or grazing or shooting in national parks. This is a serious danger to bushwalkers and it's a huge threat to wildlife and to the very ecosystems themselves. So I'm afraid we're seeing a lot of talk and not a lot of action on the issues that really matter to Australians, like protecting land from coal seam gas and like protecting our beautiful national parks which we all love to enjoy.


JOURNALIST:  (inaudible) this money is being spent now because state and federal governments haven't listened since 2010, well frankly it's a drop in the ocean compared to what's happening overseas (inaudible) as a result of what's happening in China and India, isn't that the real issue here? (inaudible)


CHRISTINE MILNE: The science models have shown very clearly that Australian governments should have been acting for decades in anticipating the impacts of climate change on extreme weather events and the vulnerability in Australian communities. Regardless of where the pollution to the atmosphere is coming from the impact is going to be on this country and we are one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to the impacts of extreme weather events, but it's not only our own emissions we're talking about, we are also driving massive emissions in China and India because of our export of fossil fuels. That having been said, the issue is we are on a trajectory to four degrees warming. Scientists have been telling us we are going to have more extreme and intense floods, fires, heatwaves and that's exactly what we're now seeing. Greater intensity is a function of climate change, it has its finger prints all over these extreme weather events. And what the Government should be now doing is a long-term strategy to plan for how we are going to adapt to them as well as reduce emissions. What we are seeing now is the beginning of a response but it needs to be science-based, it needs to anticipate the scenarios and work out where best to invest the money to make sure we genuinely build resilience in the longer term.


JOURNALIST:  (inaudible) do you think it's appropriate given that $40 million of the last $6 billion has been spent on (inaudible)


CHRISTINE MILNE: As to where the money is spent, the $6 billion that has been spent since 2010 has been overwhelmingly in Queensland and that's because it has suffered the huge damage as a result of the floods. The $50 million into Warragamba Dam is to put down a very small deposit on what some people estimate the works would cost - around $500 million some people are suggesting. What the Greens want to see is a science-based approach. Where should we best spend the dollars to get the maximum outcomes, where there is vulnerability in communities and the insurance industry's already making that clear because the level of risk equals the size of the premium. If you are in an area of risk your insurance premium is going to be high, so spending money to mitigate against the risk is going to help communities have less to pay in insurance premiums. But the issue is we have to spend the dollars in the places where they're most vulnerable and we have to spend it on what the scientists and the engineers say will get the maximum outcome for the dollars. 50 million is not going to see the Warragamba Dam changed in the short term, whether the New South Wales Government put up the money remains to be seen, what I want to make sure is that we maintain the science base, that we do this for long-term planning and not short-term political gain.


JOURNALIST: If the science based approach recommended the building of more dams for flood mitigation would you support it?


CHRISTINE MILNE: The Greens have already supported increasing flood levees for example, that's one of the recommendations around Roma, has been something people have been asking for a long time and we would support that. The issue is the very people who are now saying we want money spent on flood mitigation are still the people that are saying that climate change is not real, that these are one-off events. They are not one-off events, we need long-term strategic planning to maximise where our dollars go to protect communities, but at the same time we need to be massively reducing emissions. This has got to be science-based. It just can't be subject to pork barrelling in an election campaign if that is what happens with an insurance authority being set up and you abolish the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, you can only assume this is just about cost of living and not about long-term resilience and adaptation to climate change.


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