SPEECH TO NATIONAL CONFERENCE: TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

Date:  25 July 2015

This has been an extraordinary piece of work by so many people in this room; by sub-branch activists who are either here today or who have got behind the election of National Conference delegates here today; by trade union delegates who are impacted by this chapter.

I am, as the Shadow Minister, incredibly proud of the work that you see before you.

There is no question in Australia that Labor is the party of environmental protection.

Every single significant decision taken at a national level to protect our natural environment has been by a Federal Labor Government.

It was Gough Whitlam who stopped Joh Bjelke Petersen drilling the on the Great Barrier Reef. It was Gough who signed Australia on the World Heritage Convention.

It was Gough who introduced Environmental Impact Statements and who made the Environment Ministry a serious part of the Government.

It was Bob Hawke’s Government that decided to intervene and stop the damming of the Franklin and really instil the Commonwealth Government as part of the national apparatus to protect natural environment.

And Hawke and Keating also gave protection to Kakadu and the Daintree and so much more besides.

It was Kevin Rudd’s Government that introduced the first serious Renewable Energy Target and as the seconder to this chapter, Tony Burke, knows because he had so much responsibility for it, it was the Gillard Government that introduced the largest network of marine reserves on our earth, that helped carry through the Tasmanian Forest Agreement that was the subject of so much hard work, by CFMEU, by Tasmanian Labor and by environmental organisations and also finally landed that piece of work that had been on the national desk for more than 100 years, the Murray Darling Basin Agreement.

Well we’re not content to sit on our laurels and to boast about our legacy – as much as I have been boasting about our legacy.

We’ve got more to do. The 21st century will see the frontline environmental protection move to the climate.

And this chapter, as Bill Shorten said so eloquently and inspirationally in his speech yesterday, this chapter has so much to be proud in terms of climate change and renewable energy.

Labor will take the Emissions Trading Scheme to the 2016 Election because we know that a legal cap on carbon pollution that reduces over time in accordance with our international commitments is the best way to deal with carbon emissions.

It’s a market mechanism. I thought the Liberal Party was supposed to be the party of markets.

But instead it’s the party of handing out billions and billions of your dollars out to big polluters without any impact at all on the national carbon footprint.

This platform includes, for the first time, vehicle emissions standards to start to clean up our transport sector. Global car companies are now selling dirtier versions of their global brands in Australia than are sold in the United States, in Canada, in Europe, because we don’t have those standards.

That will change under a Labor Government.

And as you heard from Bill Shorten yesterday, Labor will take a 50 per cent goal for renewable energy by 2030 to the election next year – or later this year, wherever it is held.

Because we know that renewable energy will be a central part, not just of Australia’s energy system, but of our industrial and jobs base as well.

Friends, in closing, I just want to say thank you to a number of people and organisations. Particularly, I want to say thank you to the CFMEU at two levels.

The Mining and Energy Division for their incredible approach to climate change policy now for 25 years.

There are very few organs in the Party that know more about climate change policy than the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division and there’s almost no one in the Party who knows more about it than Tony Maher.

He knew in the early 1990s, as did his delegates, that this will be critical to the future of energy policy in Australia and around the world and he didn’t pull his cardigan up over his head and pretend it wasn’t going to happen.

You don’t wear cardigans do you, Tony? He engaged with it and he took a proactive approach to working with Labor in Government, particularly under Penny Wong and Greg Combet’s leadership and he’s continued to do that and I particularly want to pay tribute to him and his delegates.

And I want to pay tribute to the forestry division of the CFMEU. The work that they did over the past five or six years working with their members, particularly in Tasmania, is an utter credit, not just to their leadership but to their delegates and their members across the Tasmanian island.

It was incredibly hard work I know, but the TFA stands the test of being one of the great pieces of work between so many different interests: Federal and State Labor, environmental organisations and the CFMEU representing workers on the frontline of an industry in massive transition across the globe.

I also want to thank the green shirts up the back. Some people think there’s another party that represents environmental protection in this country, but it’s the Labor Party that is the true Party of protecting our natural environment.

It was under Gough, it was under Bob, it was under Paul, it was under Kevin, it was under Julia and it will be under Bill.

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© Mark Butler. Authorised by Mark Butler 15 Semaphore Road, Semaphore SA 5019