Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:27): I am pleased to rise. I will make a fairly short contribution, but I would like to congratulate Dr Ratnam for bringing this committee referral to the house because I think this is very important.
I have listened to ‘nothing to see here’ from the previous speaker—’You should have been here in 1930, then you would have seen something really bad’. Just a fact check there: I was very surprised by this figure that the 1939 fires were bigger than the 2019–20 fires, because I had not heard that. And as somebody who was getting ready to defend a property against fires, I was very engaged with this. So I did go and have a look at that. In 1939, 2 million hectares of bush was burnt. How many hectares do we think were burnt here? Ten million hectares were burnt in 2019–20. So I have to indicate that that was considerably larger.
I think what we also have to note from that fire is that it was unprecedented to see Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria all burning at almost the same time—and just those incredible fires that were completely out of control.
As we heard from the emergency fire service when they briefed us a few weeks ago, they had to almost turn their backs on the fires because nature started them, as they said, and nature would have to put them out because they could not. I think it was only yesterday that it was announced that we are actually fire free as of yesterday.
So these fires were unprecedented—not to mention the effect of smoke over this summer, when somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent of Australians were affected by smoke and when our economy was affected by smoke. We are looking at the COVID-19 virus now, but the effects of smoke in those days and in those weeks was debilitating. The long-term effect of that smoke we probably will not know for some time, but we know that it was dangerous. And yes, our community and our constituents expect us to consider this. They expect us to look at this. They expect to see us taking the lead in action.
I think we need to look at why this is so important. We know that the average temperature of the world has increased—okay, probably just since the Renaissance period. I do not have figures going before that and I appreciate that the world is many millions of years old, but we know that the temperature has been steadily increasing since the industrial revolution. The Paris agreement is a goal. It is a long-term temperature goal. Mr Rich-Phillips was absolutely correct in that. It is a long-term goal to get our temperatures back to pre-industrial levels. So this means right now we need to prevent and bring back.
We have got sort of half a degree to play with, because we know that if we get more than half a degree warmer we will be hitting 2 degrees or more of global warming. We know the effects that that is going to have on our coastal cities. We know the effects that that is going to have on our floods.
I believe and I think most people believe that the fires that we saw were related to changes in our climate. High-tide flooding experienced now will be inundating communities every year. It will affect our food supply. We know this. It will affect our fresh rainfall. It will affect our extreme weather events and so much more. So that is why the Paris agreement itself is not controversial, and I do not think that Mr Rich-Phillips was saying that it was controversial.
It is probably how we get there and the time line that seems to be causing the consternation. It depends on what day you are listening to the news as to where our federal government is on when they are going to do this and where they are going to achieve it. We do hear that they are going to. The minister does say, ‘Yes, we are on. We will achieve our targets of reducing our emissions to zero’, but we do not know when.
We do know that the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation and the ACTU have all said that we must do it. In fact the Business Council of Australia said that we must legislate to do this—that this is so crucial to everything in our community that we must do it. So to hear Mr Rich-Phillips rally against people like the Business Council of Australia or the Australian Industry Group is somewhat surprising, but, you know, maybe he knows better.
I believe that this is a climate emergency, and I believe that our community expects us to do the right thing. I think our community expects us to consider how we can solve this—how we can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And yes, we can say that China is not doing it so we are not. That is a childish argument.
We need to state a clear road map, a clear path and a clear plan of how we transition to zero net emissions and the time frame. We need to have the time frame, and I think that this inquiry will help provide those answers. Given the make-up of that committee, I think this will be a very robust conversation, and I look forward to watching from the sidelines.
I encourage everyone to support this inquiry, because I think it is important. I think our community and our constituents expect us to be asking these questions, expect us to be coming forward with solutions and expect us to come forward with good plans of how we can play our part in reaching zero emissions. So I commend this referral. It is entirely consistent with Reason Party policy, and I wish the committee well.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Reference by Ms Ratnam 4/3/20