Speech to the Australian Labor Party's National Conference

25 July 2015




Delegates, there’s a huge and growing gulf in our country between the people of Australia who understand that climate change is real; and their Prime Minister who describes it as 'absolute crap'.

Australians feel the weight of the same responsibility that we in this room feel – to act on that reality that our climate is changing in dangerous ways, putting our environment and our economy at risk.

Australians know the world is heading one way in the lead-up to the Paris Conference in four months and four days, led by the US and China, while Tony Abbott tries to drag us back into the past – a tactic unacceptable to a confident, assured, problem-solving nation like ours.

But unfortunately in one sense, delegates, in the short term, he's succeeding: ours is the first nation to ever abolish a functioning emissions trading scheme; and we've gone from 4th to 14th in the world in renewable energy investment since the government changed hands.


I'm proud to move this motion before you today delegates, because Australians are far smarter and more forward-looking than their Prime Minister and his Government.

I salute the leadership demonstrated by Bill Shorten and Mark Butler and the Shadow Cabinet.  I pay tribute to the hard work and grass roots activism of the Labor Environmental Action Network – and thank them for the opportunity to be their Queensland patron.  And also all the groups like Solar Citizens and the Solar Council who are making the case for a low-pollution future, in our suburbs and towns.

And I stand here representing my community - my Rankin electorate – which is taking up the benefits of renewable energy with enthusiasm and with gusto.


People like Jennifer from Crestmead, who emailed me this afternoon to say how pleased she was to hear that there is a political party listening to the citizens of our country and seeking to reduce emissions to sustain the world we live in.

Too often I've heard the argument that climate change and renewable energy is a preoccupation of the inner city.  My community is simultaneously under financial pressure, it’s outer suburban, AND convinced of the need to act.

Our take-up of solar energy is twice the national average and a full ten percent above the Queensland average.

Delegates, my community, and our nation, understand something the prime minister does not: that lowering our emissions, and investing in renewable energy, means cheaper, cleaner, more reliable power and more jobs into the future.

And just as Labor under Bill's leadership is leading the national debate on STEM education and fairer tax arrangements for superannuation, so too are we leading the national debate on emissions in the lead-up to the Paris Conference and beyond.

We do this because it's right; not because it's easy.  We know this course is not without political risk.  But the environmental risk and the economic risk of pretending-away this challenge is far more damaging for the nation.

Not for us, the Tony Abbott way – to deny the science, ignore the economists, and to pay the polluters billions of taxpayer dollars to keep on polluting.  

Not for us the smears and the scares, the fictional world of towns wiped off the map and hundred dollar lamb roasts.  

Not for Australia the environmental degradation, the missed economic opportunities, the intergenerational vandalism, the low-pollution jobs offshored to our competitors in the region and world beyond.

This is the future Tony Abbott would consign us to.

As always, it's left to us to lead.  We relish that opportunity.

As this motion says, Labor will commit to our fair share of global action, based science and expert advice.

We will consult with business and other stakeholders then announce targets before the election which will underpin our climate policies, including an emissions trading scheme.

We will boost renewables, as Bill and Mark have said.  And we will help build for this nation the first rate, first world economy our people need and deserve.  One powered by cleaner energy and characterised by low-emissions and less carbon pollution.

Thank you delegates and I urge you to support the motion.