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Question Time: Why is Labor Approving New Coal Mines in a Climate Emergency?

On Tuesday 23 May 2023, I asked the Environment and Water Minister why the Labor Government continues to approve new coal mines when we are in the middle of a climate emergency. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.


E WATSON-BROWN: My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Water. Last week the World Meteorological Organization warned global temperatures could reach 1.5 degrees in the next five years while at the same time you approved a new export coal mine in Queensland that will reportedly produce 500,000 tons of coal a year and destroy koala habitat. Minister, why is Labor approving new coal mines in the middle of a climate emergency, and how many more coal and gas projects will you approve in the coming months?

T PLIBERSEK: I want to thank the member for her question, and I want to say how proud I am to be part of a government that is acting on climate change—the first government to take serious action on climate change. It's been really instructive watching those on the crossbench line up with the Liberals and Nationals all too often to prevent and delay that action.

On this side, we want to transition to renewable energy. We are looking for a renewable energy target of 82 per cent by 2030 because it's cheaper and because it's better for the environment. Those opposite engaged in a lost decade of climate action. In contrast, I have approved 11 renewable energy projects since taking government, at more than twice the rate of those opposite. In fact, as well as those renewable energy projects that we have approved, I've got 101 additional renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will come before me for approval in coming months. I am also, incidentally, the first environment minister in Australian history to reject a coal mine, so you might remember that when you are thinking this stuff.

I am very proud of what we on this side are doing to become a renewable energy superpower. We are catching up on a wasted decade by legislating emissions reduction of 43 per cent by 2030 and zero net emissions by 2050. We invested $2 billion for green hydrogen in the last budget because we know that that will help make us a renewable energy superpower exporter. We've got $1.6 billion for home and small business electrification in the budget. We passed the safeguard mechanism, which will see emissions come down. We've got $20 billion for Rewiring the Nation, upgrading our transmission lines, because those opposite were so hopeless for 10 years that our transmission network can't cope with all of the renewable energy that we want to put into the network. We've got $3 billion in the National Reconstruction Fund for clean energy projects, green steel, green aluminium, green industrial chemicals—

M DICK: The minister will resume her seat. The Leader of the Australian Greens on a point of order.

A BANDT: Yes, Mr Speaker, on relevance. There is 30 seconds to go, and the minister hasn't once mentioned that new coal mine that she approved that was the subject of the question.

M DICK: The question was also about government policy and reports and koala habitats and projects, to which the minister is being relevant. If she strays, she will be pulled into line, but at the moment she's being directly relevant.

T PLIBERSEK: It's a shame we've only got 30 seconds left because we've got a lot more on this side of the ledger of what we are doing to protect the environment, including signing up to the Global Methane Pledge, legislating for better ozone protections, changing our Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to better protect nature, investing in electric cars and all of those things that will see us reduce emissions on this side.

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