Meeting the third: Greg Hunt, shadow minister for climate change.
Present: myself, Jill Finnane, Beth Heyde (public affairs Commission of Anglican Church), Bishop George Browning, Rev Rex Graham.
Greg Hunt is a strong supporter of action on climate change. He has a scientific background, and has worked to create a bipartisan response to climate change. In terms of the overall situation and the gravity of the challenge, he was in agreement with ARRCC’s aims.
However, he strongly defended the Opposition’s so-called Direct Action plan, of which 70 percent is based on sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. He argued that this approach would reduce CO2 more quickly and with less conflict than the Govt’s carbon tax.
In addition, he repeatedly said that such an approach would offer a model that would have a significant international flow-on. He believes that action globally will be effective only with the US and China on board, and that they will never adopt a carbon tax. He criticized the regressive nature of the tax, which he said will unfairly impact low income earners, and said that an incentive based system would be more effective.
We presented that this was an unprecedented moral challenge that needs bipartisan support. The moral issue is, of course, the recognition of anthropogenic global warming and the responsibility to make
significant changes that this entails. There are many possible means to this end, and in fact a solution will require a multi-facted approach.
Our main problem with Hunt’s approach was that he kept on insisting that his policy was better than the Govt’s; but he couldn’t explain why he couldn’t support both mechanisms. We invited him to consider supporting the Govt’s policy, while continuing to push for the ‘Direct Action’ mechanisms. After all, the carbon tax would provide funds for cutting back carbon, too. Despite our raising this question several times, he didn’t give us any real answer to this. At the end, I had to conclude that the only reason was that the Libs had to have something to attack the Govt with.
We discussed the situation with the media, and how, despite the consensus of the science, and the agreement on the problem (if not the solution) by both major parties, the perception is still that there is a meaningful debate on the science. We said that we appreciated his nuanced, informed position, but that this did not make the impact that it should do. We suggested that that the Libs opposition to the Govt’s policy is read as scepticism regarding the seriousness of climate change, regardless of how often he explained that the difference was in the mechanism.
We reflected that our generation is making choices that will determine our future, and that we have the chance to create a new vision for society, and should not get bogged down in small-minded thinking. History will judge us, and the verdict may not be a kind one.