Climate Change: Morrison Government, Youth Voice in Parliament Week: Australia

Federation Chamber
26 October 2021

This week we heard from the government that they have finally managed to reach an agreement on net zero. After campaigning against any action on climate change for almost nine years, after days of vicious fighting in the media—with Liberals-on-Nationals violence and Nationals-on-Nationals violence and toxic WhatsApp messaging between the government and within the National Party—the government, under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has finally been able to stand up in front of a television camera and announce a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050—except it isn't a plan. To quote their own document, the plan is based on existing policies. It's a hastily cobbled together announcement that is completely without substance.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet today, and it's also a huge opportunity. Taking proper action on climate change will be good for regional jobs and it will be good for our economy, particularly in Queensland. We need action now, but it's clear we're not getting any of it from this government. It truly makes me wonder, over the last eight long years of lost opportunities under this government. It makes me sad for people like Caitlin, a 15-year-old young person in my electorate. She wrote a speech as part of the Raise Our Voice in Parliament campaign to give our youth a voice on the decisions and issues that impact them. Caitlin, like many people her age, is intensely concerned about the future of her generation and the impact of climate change. I will let her words speak for themselves:

My name is Caitlin Narayanan. I am 15 years old, and my electorate is Oxley, Queensland.

Australia in 20 years could be either two ways; vibrant, green, and lively—or suffering, perishing, and doomed. But I have a vision. In this vision, I am strolling through a park, I breathe in the sweet, clean air and feel safe amongst the surrounding trees. The grass is green, and occupied by birds, dogs, and our other beloved animals. In the lake nearby, lily pads drift with the ducks and fish.

But this I know; if we continue to allow harmful substances into our air and our water, if we continue to allow deforestation of our precious trees, and if we continue to allow plastic waste to pollute our country, Australia as my generation wishes it to be would perish.

If we do not start protecting our priceless Australian environment, what would my vision of the park look like instead?

Would I struggle to breathe the air? Would the park be stripped of its trees? Would plastic waste drift among the lily pads?

It is the bitter truth that our environment is currently headed down the wrong path, and we are not doing enough to stop it. Our trails of destruction—our overconsumption, our carbon footprint, our carelessness—it has to stop. We must act, and act now.

Thank you, Caitlin, for taking the time to write this speech and for your passion for the future of our country. We must listen to the voices of young people. They are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions that are being made today. They don't deserve the circus that we've seen from this government. They don't deserve a Deputy Prime Minister who, by all reports, opposed today's announcement in the Nationals party room. They certainly don't deserve a government that is too scared to legislate its own policy. Caitlin deserves better, the young people in my electorate of Oxley deserve better and this nation deserves better. They will get better under an Albanese Labor government.