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Climate change

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
8 October 2015

Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) — Today I wish to raise a matter for the Premier. I start by sending my thoughts and hopes to all those facing fires across Victoria today. My dad was a firefighter with the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Growing up in regional Victoria, our summers were filled with fun and freedom but also with something quite scary: fire. I know what it feels like to wait for your dad to get home at night and see him exhausted and emotional after long, hot days filled with danger and stress. I know this week has been and will be tough for many Victorians facing over 100 fires raging across the state, yet it is not even November.

I commend the government for employing more firefighters and note that the Premier has acknowledged that the fire season has started early this year. The emergency management commissioner, Craig Lapsley, has said that such high temperatures and wind speeds have never been seen this early in the year. They are probably the worst fire conditions in Victoria's history. The stories I am hearing from Lancefield and around the state today are heartbreaking and gutwrenching. I thank all our those in our emergency services who are keeping people safe during this tough time.

On top of these fires we are seeing some other worrying signs. Crops are failing in western Victoria, dams are dry and the Wimmera and Glenelg rivers could stop flowing completely over summer. There is even talk of turning the desalination plant on so we have something to drink. That is why, as well as fighting the fires and keeping people safe, we also need to talk about how we can reduce these extreme conditions in the future, and that means talking about prevention and climate change. I want to know that our government is doing everything it can to keep people safe and also to help fight these problems at the cause not just at the symptoms.

The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have said that average temperatures across Australia are now 1 degree warmer than they were in 1910. This has led to more warm weather and extreme heat, an increase in extreme fire weather and a longer fire season. We are seeing that play out right now in Victoria. Unless we drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the extreme conditions we are seeing now could become the norm, and that is really scary. I commend the Andrews government on its positive statements on renewable energy and on employing more firefighters, but we need to do more than just talk or take small actions. We need big commitments, and unfortunately we need them urgently.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I ask the member to detail the action she is requesting of the Premier.

Ms SANDELL — Yes, I am getting to that. We cannot just pay lip-service to climate change. We must realise that breath freshener will not stop a smoker getting lung cancer; only quitting cigarettes will do that. We must commit ourselves to doing everything in our power to address climate change, including weaning ourselves off brown coal. If we do not, we are doing Victorians a disservice. The action I am seeking is that the Premier increase his government's efforts across all departments to take bold, ambitious action — not just small steps — towards dealing with climate change and weaning us off coal.

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
8 October 2015
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