ARRCC meeting with PM Julia Gillard

First meeting today, with our PM. She was spotted coming into Parliament at 7.30 – a hard worker! Last night there was a meeting with the mining industry, in which, apparently, she aquitted herself well, negotiating towards what by any standards is a togh sell – a carbon tax.

Present at the meeting were myself, Thea Ormerod (president of ARRCC), Bishop George Browning, Rabbi Jeffery Kamins, and Jill Finane, of the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (Catholic).

We presented our key issues, while congratulating the PM on her courage in pursuing a difficult issue. We emphasized that climate change is a fundamentally spiritual issue, based on our
interconnectedness with nature, and cannot be reduced to economics.

Jill has worked extensively in the Pacific islands, and has see how the lowest-lying islands are already impacted by rising sea levels. The people there contribute almost nothing to carbon emissions, but are suffering the severist consequences. As people, they have a lot of confusion about what is happening, wondering how they have angered the spirits, or alternatively being confident that they will not be flooded, as the Bible promises there will be no more floods.

Australia is the local power in the region, and islanders look to us for help. The PM mentioned the work that we have done, acknowledging our responsibilities, including fast-tracking finance for climate change amelioration. Jill emphasized that the people are not asking for much, but what they are receiving is just not enough. The PM encouraged us to lobby for use of some of the carbon tax for use in adaptation in developing countries. She said that there have been several pointed questions raised in Parliament by the opposition on this issue.

We said that we looked to the PM and the government for leadership, and that climate change cannot be something that is used for political point scoring. The PM responded that it was difficult to avoid conflict, as the media and opposition loves to present an argument. She said this is contested space, and will become more so. She emphasized that government is working on a number of levels.

We appreciated that the Govt’s policy is informed by science, and requested that the carbon tax be structured to avoid the kinds of exemptions that have hobbled similar taxes in Europe.

The PM spoke of the strong, ambitious program that has been introduced by the Conservative Govt in England, as referenced by Ross Garnaut. She said this had been made possible by the process that involves an independent commission to ensure the implemantation of policy. She said that rather than focussing primarly on the quantity of carbon targets, we need to put in place the mechanism that makes carbon reduction possible. If we miss this narrow window, we will fail to achieve any carbon reductions.

The discussion was friendly and supportive. I felt that the PM was very genuine in her concern and committment towards making a real difference. She struck me as more of a ‘substance’ rather than ‘form’ person. She is, of course, heavily restricted by political realities, and she respected our position, that we aimed to serve as a moral voice that speaks the truth, even when this may be uncomfortable. We finished by offering our help to communicate the urgency of the climate change situation to our constituencies.

8 thoughts on “ARRCC meeting with PM Julia Gillard

  1. Bhante you’re doing a great service to us by getting involved in the climate change issue. Social change isn’t easy to sell especially when money and the almighty economy are concerned but that’s more reason to applaud your efforts.

    I often remind myself of this Cree Indian saying:
    Only after the last tree has been cut down
    Only after the last river has been poisoned
    Only after the last fish has been caught
    Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten

  2. Dear Bhante,

    This is really inspiring! Lead on!

    It is easier for leaders to do what is right when media and the general public are supportive. Canada has completely tossed the ball on the environment and recently voted in a government that is especially myopic on climate change. That happened because voters became apathetic, overwhelmed, disgusted (and didn’t bother to vote – or to take an interest in anything beyond mainstream media which sadly has lost its neutrality here). Poor excuse of course. Dismal reality, for us and for the world.

    But, now that you have engaged the leaders,
    what can spiritual leaders do on the “demand” side to make sure lay practitioners back up the politicians when they take “bold” leadership steps?

    _/\_

    • (The expected protests. A degree of groundswell awareness raising needs to happen in order for (some) of these things to fly. I feel the Sanghas of the world (in all faiths) could encourage people to take their spiritual values with them out of the “temples” – “engaged” practice can perhaps give us the tools to do that – “engaged” Sanghas can help us translate the meaning of “sila” into daily life and more specifically daily life at critical junctures- like the ones we face now in the environment.

    • Lisa, it’s not just one way as portrayed by the BBC. Just a few days ago thousands of Australians rallied all over the country in support of a carbon price on pollution.

  3. Ajahn Sujato I’m listening once again to your talk on Youtube ‘One Breath’ dated June 10th, 2011 today (my 3rd time listening today).

    I want to thank you for this talk. Beautiful..!!

    This is a subject dear to my heart.

    Thank you very much.

    With much respect and humility: Betty Ann NYC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s