With pointed, Thatcheresque precision, Member for Warringah and Independent MP Zali Steggall today made her first speech before a conservative-dominated parliament, calling on them to take action on climate change.
As the first woman ever to represent Warringah, Steggall began her speech by acknowledging the Indigenous peoples of the Warringah region and encouraged continued engagement with their “knowledge, that will be so important to a sustainable future for Australia.”
The MP unseated Tony Abbott at the last federal election and mentioned him only in passing, thanking him for his service before addressing the issue of integrating more connections with Indigenous communities.
“I hope that this parliament will go beyond the Apology, accept the voice of our Indigenous people, find mutual respect and accelerate the process of healing.”
In her victory speech in May this year, she told her campaign members:
“Warringah, we have a new beginning for our environment. I will be a climate leader for you and I will keep the new government to account and make sure we take action on climate change. I will push for real action.”
Today, she pushed on with this call to action.
“We live in a time where we are facing possibly our biggest challenge to date – to properly appreciate, respect and nurture our environment, and evolve to a zero carbon economy.”
She admits that the government’s own reports tell of rising carbon emissions and that “even our school kids know we’re not heading in the right direction.”
“Australia will experience higher than average warming, leading to more severe weather events, droughts and floods, bushfires to hurricanes. This will devastate productivity and way of life, regionally and nationally.”
“Many scientists from independent and varied fields of study have all come to the conclusion that we must reduce our carbon emissions to have a hope of averting the worst consequences of climate change. The duty to prevent the worst occurring falls on everyone and cannot be ignored and dismissed.”
“History does not look kindly on leaders who fail to properly prepare a nation for the challenge ahead. It is time to act on this with bipartisanship. Australian diversity, inventiveness and can-do culture has served us well, and will continue to do so. By recognising the industries of the future and investing in emerging clean technologies, we can provide jobs for regional Australia, and ensure we are a 21st-century clean energy superpower.”
She also took the opportunity to remind the nation that trust in Australian politicians is at its lowest in a decade. “It is time for a more respectful approach and accountability,” she said. “It’s time for more than just words. It’s time for fact-based policy and sensible politics.”
Earlier this year, Steggall sat down with our journalist Georgie Dent to express her thoughts on the electorate:
“People want their lives to be easier. They want a clean environment, a good future for their children.”
When asked whether there was any trepidation on stepping into politics, Steggall said, “I wouldn’t say I was afraid. I’ve always been up for a challenge and don’t shy away easily. I tend to make my mind up quickly and proceed down that path.”
Her frank call for the declaration of a “climate emergency” today in Parliament carries on the momentum instigated two days ago by newly minted MP Labor MP Anika Wells, who argued eloquently for action on climate change:
“In the near future, the North Pole will cease to be covered with ice in summer. It will be a dark ocean absorbing heat instead of a vast sea of white ice reflecting it. It will be time to colour in the top of the globe.”
Today, Steggall’s solid tenor and conviction were conveyed through the strength of her words: “The cost of inaction is too great. I refuse to be part of the generation that had all the facts but failed to take meaningful action.”
View the entire speech below.