• Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama. (AAP)Source: AAP
In the first week of sittings, fires burned across Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and the Minister for Emergency Response Management, David Littleproud, couldn’t say if climate change was man-made.
Shahni Wellington

18 Sep 2019 - 2:01 PM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2019 - 2:02 PM

This week in federal parliament, the stage was set to continue on-going discussions on whether or not the planet is in environmental crisis.

For the first time in over a decade, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, joined his Australian counterpart at Parliament House in Canberra.

The last time the pair met was at the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum, where Mr Bainimarama criticised Mr Morrison for not doing enough to address climate change, an issue threatening the Fijian way of life.

Despite their differences, both leaders signed the Vuvale Partnership - “Vuvale” meaning family in Fijian - and agreed to stronger economic, security, and community ties.

During their discussions, the Fijian leader asked the Prime Minister to do more in the climate change space, but asserted that “no-one expects that our differences can be resolved quickly or easily.”

Taking a look back at the outcomes of this week’s environment agenda so far, the results suggest there is still a long way to go.

Voted down

Australian Greens leader, Richard Di Natale moved two motions in the Senate with a climate change focus.

His first, called for the upper house to note three things: humankind first landed on the moon on 20 July 1969; the earth is round; and the burning of thermal coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change.

It was a slim margin, but his bold approach was voted down 30 votes to 29.

His second motion called for the Senate to support the right of people to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to demand action on the unfolding climate and environment crisis.

This was a landslide failure, with 53 ‘no’ votes to 7 in the affirmative.

On Friday, thousands of people are expected to walk out of school and workplaces as part of a global strike protesting government and business inaction on climate change.

It is likely to be one of the largest environmental protests in history.

Doctors and farmers alike

Outside of the chambers, groups rallied in the nation’s capital to urge the federal government for more action climate change.

From the field to the operating room, two separate delegations of farmers and doctors gathered to draw attention to the effects of climate change on the future of agriculture and children’s health.

More than twenty farmers launched a report outlining the case for a national strategy on climate change and agriculture called ‘Change in the Air,’ written by the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) and commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action (FCA).

In their visit to Canberra they met with the Environment Minister Sussan Ley and former Nationals MP and farmer Richard Bull.

Meanwhile, the group of health professionals were joined by Independent MP Zali Steggall who moved a motion in the Federation Chamber on behalf of the campaign.

The organisations, representing over 10,000 doctors and medical students nationwide, called for the Parliament to officially recognise that climate change represents one of the biggest and most urgent health threats to children, requiring immediate and effective action.

It also urged the government to de-carbonise by 2050 to reduce the intensity and occurrence of extreme weather events.  

After half an hour of back and forth, the debate was adjourned.

Question time focus

During question time, the federal government was questioned on their environment policies and whether they were responding to the serious concerns of the organisations and members of the public.

Leader of the Government in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, spoke on behalf of the Prime Minister and defended their course of action on both climate change and the Murray Darling Basin.

 “Firstly, our government, of course, is committed to effective action on climate change,” he said.

“Not only are we on track to meet and exceed the emissions reduction targets signed on to in Kyoto, we also have a plan to meet our emissions reduction targets to 2030 agreed to in Paris.”

“In relation to the Murray-Darling Basin, the government is committed to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, to ensure benefits flow to communities, farmers and the environment,” Senator Cormann said.

“We have achieved a lot, but we acknowledge the Basin Plan isn't perfect.”

With one more day left in the sittings week, it will be interesting see what else comes from the government's commitment to 'effective action.'

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