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Speech: NSW Bushfires & Climate Change

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 12 Nov 2019

New South Wales is burning. In my home state, almost one million hectares have been razed by bushfires since the start of this year's unprecedented bushfire season. Lives have been lost. Over 150 homes, as at the last count, have been burnt to the ground. First and foremost, my thoughts and heart are with those families and communities and with our courageous firefighters, volunteers and emergency services. They must have the resources they need to do their jobs—not budget cuts, as the New South Wales Liberal-National government has done over years. New South Wales is in a state of emergency, and summer hasn't even started. The Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter areas are experiencing catastrophic conditions for the first time on record. I hope everyone is safe from the fires today.

My state is burning, Queensland is burning, and yet all we have from this government are platitudes. The experts have told us for decades that our inaction on the climate crisis will mean more frequent and more intense disasters. There is no mistaking the fact that the climate crisis is making bushfires more dangerous every year. But there is shameful silence from the government on the link between tragic bushfires and the climate emergency. Instead of a solid plan to confront this crisis, they are offering thoughts and prayers. You all have to grapple with this reality, but you refuse to. The truth might be a bitter pill for you to swallow, since you've been denying it for so long, but now is the time to change. Now is the time to stop running a protection racket for the coal lobby.

We have to act like the house is on fire, because it literally is. This is the time to talk about the climate crisis that we face. If not now, then when? Yes, the community is looking for all the support and protection, and we must be very generous in providing that here and now. But they're also looking for leadership to take real action on the climate crisis. That's what politicians are elected to do. So, yes, this is political. Your refusal to act is political too. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said it is unprecedented for New South Wales to have so many fires burning at the 'emergency alert' level, pointing out that it is a sobering reminder of what's around the corner.

Hundreds gathered outside New South Wales parliament this morning with survivors of these bushfires who came to Sydney to tell politicians what it's been like. Jacqui Mumford from Rainbow Flat, whose family home was severely damaged by fires, said she hadn't seen such conditions in her 30 years. Jacqui said: 'It's not too soon to talk about climate change. It's too late.' Carol Sparks is the Mayor of Glen Innes Severn Council and lost two members of her community in the fires last weekend. She wrote powerfully yesterday about the need to speak the truth of climate change's role in the fires. Her words are haunting. She says, 'Ignorance and arrogance have delivered us only ashes.' Mr Greg Mullins is a firefighting veteran and a former head of Fire and Rescue New South Wales. On ABC's 7.30 last week, Mr Mullins said: 'People are at risk. We need a game changer in how we deal with these catastrophes, because they're going to get worse and worse.' Mr Mullins leads a delegation of former fire chiefs and experts. The Prime Minister keeps dodging meeting with them.

Mr Mullins wondered what it would take to wake up the people in Canberra, and some days I wonder the same thing. What will it take? How many more disasters must we go through before you stop serving the interests of coal barons and start listening to the people you are meant to represent? Communities have been devastated by bushfires across New South Wales. Hundreds of koalas are feared dead, their habitat ravaged by these bushfires. Almost 600 schools and TAFEs have been closed across New South Wales. This isn't normal. The climate crisis is in our homes, and all the Liberals can offer is platitudes. What a profound failure of your duty to the community. In the words of Greta Thunberg, how dare you?

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