On Monday 11 September 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the need to prepare for summer heatwaves. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.
This summer Australians are set to swelter. This summer—and the next and the next—Australia is about to experience unprecedented climate change induced heatwaves, causing immense pain for people across the whole country. Extreme heat is the biggest killer of climate change, but the government has no plan for it. We're sleepwalking into a disaster, and the Labor government is actively making it worse by opening up new coal and gas.
By 2050, heatwave related deaths are predicted to double in Melbourne and quintuple in Brisbane. People are told to simply keep cool or to go somewhere cool, but, for older or other vulnerable Australians, this simply doesn't cut it. Not everybody is physically able to move to a shopping centre or a library. Turning on the aircon—if they have it—is out of the question for people struggling with their electricity bills, and renters, unable to make even minor modifications to their own homes, cannot improve efficiency by installing insulation or replacing windows.
We need a national heatwave plan. This means urgently updating building codes and planning laws so that all buildings and precincts are heatwave resistant with passive cooling and ventilation, shading, insulation, high-performance windows, renewable energy, and banning black roofs. We also need to retrofit existing homes, including rentals, to meet these standards. The Greens won $1 billion in the federal budget for this, but much more is needed.
People also need support with their energy bills so that they're not having to make the choice between cooling their home or being able to afford the rent, the mortgage or, indeed, food. We need to plant millions of street trees and expand public parkland for cooler cities. We need public heatwave refuges within walking distance of people's homes, airconditioned public libraries and community centres, and public pools. We need early warning systems, like those for fires and floods, and resourcing a mass program of outreach during heatwaves, going door to door to check on and support people in high-risk areas. We need to develop, sector by sector, binding heatwave regulations to protect workers in industries potentially affected by heat.
But, ultimately, no amount of money invested in prevention or disaster response comes close to repairing the damage that this government is doing by continuing to open new coal and gas mines. We are rapidly accelerating climate change and the heatwaves, fires and floods that come with it. Labor cannot claim to be serious about addressing unnatural disasters and heatwaves until they stop making the problem worse by opening new coal and gas.