Present: myself, Sister Margaret Hinchey (Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace), Rev Rod Benson (Baptist Union of Australia), Fr. Claude Mostovik (Pacific Calling Partnership), Rev Niall Reid.
We had quite a long chat, and covered quite a bit of ground. Thomson described himself as a ‘disciple of Al Gore’, and was very supportive of real action on climate change.
He criticized the attitude of, ‘We shouldn’t do it if they aren’t’ to justify Australia doing no more than others. He said this was like a rower on a boat saying they won’t pull until the next guy did.
Thomson mentioned that he envisions an Australia with a decentralized power structure, solar PVs on every roof, and regretted the fact that some of the attempts to move in this direction were being rolled back as they were ‘too successful’.
Addressing the Libs’ criticism that the price on carbon would impact the poor, he acknowledged that there was an issue, saying that he had been to visit a constituent, an old lady. Her house was as cold inside as out: she couldn’t afford electricity for heating. But he said that the detailed policy on consumer relief for the carbon tax was close, perhaps weeks away.
Thomson expressed his support for the goal of 0.7% GNI for foreign aid, agreeing with us that this was closely linked to climate change, which will hit the poorest the hardest.
He emphasized that the media battle is key, saying he was disppointed the Australian media persists in promoting denialism as if it were a genuine option, especially since Rupert Murdoch has strongly voiced his acceptance of the climate change consensus and has pledged to make his companies carbon neutral.
I asked him whether he saw any possibility in combining the
incentive-based so-called ‘Direct Action’ of the Libs with the carbon price. He said there were some aspects that might be useful, but as a whole it is a political document not to be taken seriously as a scientific alternative.
On the whole, Thomson agreed whole-heartedly with the moral vision presented by ARRCC, including the notion of interconnectedness, and our responsibility for future generations.
In fact, I’d have to say that all the politicians I met today shared both a recogntion of the urgency of the problem, and the moral conviction that something needs to be done about it. The main division is clearly in terms of means. Having talked with Greg Hunt, and having read the Libs’ ‘Direct Action’ policy, I must admit I find it hard to take it seriously: full of infantile slings at the ‘great big new tax’ and very thin on actually demonstrating that carbon sequestration in the soil is a viable solution. Business as usual, and the public will pay to clean up the mess.
Nevertheless, as we repeated again and again, our purpose in coming here was not to get sidetracked into the details of policy, but to impress on the decision makers here in Canberra of the gravity of the situation, and the shared vision that all of us from such different backgrounds have. We have done our part if we inspire them to take the right path, rather than the convenient one.