Motion- Bushfires

5 Feb 2020

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I rise in support of the fire condolence motion moved by the Premier. The impacts of these fires that have occurred over this summer in 2020 have been catastrophic. Five people here in Victoria have lost their lives, and I want to pay tribute to them—to David Moresi, to Mick Roberts, to Fred Becker, to Mat Kavanagh and to Bill Slade. We pay tribute to them, and our thoughts are with their families, just as our thoughts are with those of the 29 others that have lost their lives in the fires in New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, over 1 million hectares burnt—massive environmental destruction, animals killed, habitat lost—with fires still burning and the threat to people still remaining.

I also want to acknowledge that the impact will be felt for a long time. I think what we have got to remember is that when people return home, when homes are rebuilt and when people return to their normal lives and some sense of normalcy for some—for survivors and those who have responded to the bushfires—that is when the impact and the trauma can often be felt the most. Certainly I want to acknowledge the need for ongoing support for them.

This fire season has started earlier and is going longer. A code red in November is not normal, so I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who has responded to these fires. When my Greens colleagues and I had a briefing from the commissioner, the extent of these fires really hit home, but what was really clear in that briefing was the professionalism of those who were responding—the massive response and what that entails, and the coordination. But it was all focused on saving lives and supporting those in harm’s way, so it did provide some comfort that people’s lives were front and centre in their efforts. Thank you to all, from fireys on the ground to the commissioner and his team, to emergency services, public servants, the defence force and volunteers.

We will learn from these fires, just like we learned from Black Saturday. No doubt since Black Saturday the clear advice and the warnings to people to evacuate have saved lives. Yes, there will be a lot more to learn and understand from these fires. Personally I have learned a lot just having this condolence motion today and hearing from MPs in those electorates. So, yes, we do support a royal commission. Let us look at climate change; let us look at land management; let us look at all the elements.

I do want to take this moment, and I think it has been alluded to by some members, to hit on the head that vile conspiracy theory that was travelling around during the bushfires that somehow the Greens are responsible for land management or hazard reduction burns in these areas. That is false, and to even drop a hint that it is somehow an inner-city ideology or something along those lines—we hear what you are saying—is a vile conspiracy theory and it needs to end.

What has been incredible is the incredible outpouring of support from people in Victoria, in local towns but also across our state and across the world—people raising and donating money and giving up time. I remember my time at the Salvation Army during Black Saturday, and I understand that people are very keen to bring goods and clothes and what have you, but often the logistics of actually receiving those goods is overwhelming. So it was really good to see the message out there that the best thing to do is for people to donate money, and people have really answered the call.

In my patch I was really pleased to join in a local relief run around the Tan and along the Yarra. I want to really acknowledge and do a shout-out to ultra-distance runner Samantha Gash, who started the relief run initiative which has now raised over $1 million from people worldwide doing a run and donating money. I give special acknowledgement to Samantha.

Australia has been in the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Like many people right around the world we have felt really helpless as we have watched those images of people, of children, being evacuated from Mallacoota by boat, our cities engulfed by smoke—one of the, if not the, biggest climate catastrophes in earth’s history occurring right here, right now, in our own country and in our own state. As a representative, as an MP, you cannot ignore the demand for climate action from Victorians and Australians, which hangs in the air as thick as the smoke that engulfed our city. It is clear, and we all agree. The consensus is out there: these bushfires are linked to climate change.

We need to do more on climate change, but what I want to do is outline: what exactly does that mean and what does it mean in Victoria? It does mean a phase-out of coal-fired power stations and a planned transition for local economies. Forty per cent of our emissions here in Victoria are coming from coal-fired power stations, and we do not have that transition plan in place. It does mean no new fossil fuel projects. Currently in Victoria we have investigations into and funding for new fossil fuel projects. It does mean an immediate end to native forest logging. These precious carbon stores are home to so many species. It does mean a rapid transition to sustainable transport and zero emissions vehicles. Emission from transport is around 20 per cent in Victoria. It is on the rise, and we do not have a plan to get it back down. That is what climate action here in Victoria actually means. These actions are all eminently achievable. They are right in front of us.

I know with a lot of people there is a lot of cynicism and a lot of feeling that these solutions are out of reach or for some time in the future or that this is some sort of intractable political problem that is now impossible to solve. That is not true. Change is right in front of us. I almost feel like I can grab it, and I have got great optimism that we here in this state and this chamber can rise to the challenge.

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