Alexandria Rantino
February 19, 2024

Parliament highlights from February 2024

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2023 was a big year for the planet: the hottest year on record, and back-to-back natural disasters that hit every continent on earth.

Odd timing then, for the organisers of the ‘Rally Against Reckless Renewables’ to mark the first day of Parliament of the new year with a protest against clean energy.

They’ve set a frustrating tone for the new year and federal election campaign beyond. Keen to keep fighting the ‘climate wars’, National and Liberal MPs continue tilting at wind farms and railing against solar arrays.

This continued this past week, as powerful storms left Victoria with the biggest power outage the state has ever seen. The same voices against renewables found a way to blame renewables when a coal fired power station tripped and went offline, leaving half a million homes in the dark.

But in good news, progress on reducing pollution is marching forward, thanks in large part to some great advocacy from the independent crossbench.

Ratcheting up ambition

Over the summer, a group of Independent MPs stood together to demand a minimum 75% emissions reduction target by 2035. This significantly increases the ‘floor’ of 43% by 2030, previously set by the Government. “It’s ambitious but achievable and aligns Australia much more closely with our international peers” Independent MP Allegra Spender said.

Cleaner cars on their way

The Government has announced it will introduce fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles. This means car manufacturers will have to sell more zero and low emissions cars.

Australia has long been viewed as a dumping ground for the world’s dirtiest cars. Along with Russia, we are the only countries in the OECD without these standards.

Independent MP Kylea Tink, who has long pushed the government to introduce standards to cap car pollution, said “this is a win for the family budget and a win for the climate”.

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“Bring him home”

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a long-time advocate for whistleblowers, introduced a motion calling for the release of Julian Assange from prison in the UK and his return to Australia. The Independent crossbench, the Greens and the Labor government all supported his motion.

Independent MPs Andrew Wilkie, Dr Helen Haines and Senator David Pocock also supported calls for a dedicated whistleblower protection agency to ensure that public interest whistleblowers receive the protection they need.

Stopping the violence

Independent MPs Zoe Daniel, Kylea Tink and Zali Steggall have called for a crisis National Cabinet meeting of federal, state and territory ministers to drive forward real action to stop violence against domestic and intimate partner violence.

“Violence against women is a matter of national urgency” – Zoe Daniel MP

End of offshore oil and gas in NSW within sight

Last but not least, there was a big win for the environment at the state level: the New South Wales Government announced it would introduce legislation to stop offshore oil and gas exploration. This would not have happened without tireless campaigning from local community groups, independent campaigns and federal Independent MPs Zali Steggall and Dr Sophie Scamps.

The NSW election was also instrumental. By presenting a real challenge to the government, Independent campaigns forced the then-Liberal government to announce legislation to stop PEP-11, an offshore oil and gas exploration project. The new Labor government has now followed suit.

That’s a wrap on the climate and integrity highlights from parliament, as well as MPs’ efforts to advance safety and respect for women.

Thanks for reading,

Chief Operating Officer

Alex has pursued climate action throughout her entire career, including as a Paris Agreement negotiator and a policy adviser at DFAT, the Climate Change Authority and United Nations Environment Programme. Alex is a qualified lawyer with honours degrees in law and media and communications at Melbourne University.