In a parallel universe….
Thursday 18th October 2013
Adam Bandt: Hello – Adam here. It’s a difficult time for New South Wales this week, but I’m calling because it prompts a conversation that I think we need to have.
Greg Hunt: I appreciate your call, Adam. What would you like to discuss?
Bandt: Without wanting to put it too bluntly, we have a climate change catastrophe razing hundreds of houses and it’s only October. There could be people dead in the next few days. The reality of global warming is staring us in the face – it’s too deadly and dangerous to ignore.
Hunt: Look – I agree with you that we face a genuine challenge to stop the growth of CO2. But I’m not sure we need to have this discussion today. I thought you might be calling about our draft legislation to repeal the disastrous carbon tax.
Bandt: In effect, I am. Repealing the carbon price is deadly. The rest of the world is moving forward with action on climate change. You know that I believe that your party is taking us backwards.
Hunt: Yes – you made that clear in a rather unflattering piece in the Guardian yesterday. It’s our election commitment and we’re sticking to it. It’s costing families $550 and making us internationally uncompetitive and has been unfair on businesses.
Bandt: I understand where you stand on this and I know that if we are going to have a meaningful discussion on this we are both going to have to think more broadly than we have before now. We are both in our corners. Yesterday I wrote about Reagan’s view of a government’s first duty – to protect its people. It’s up to all MPs to get out of our corners and do this – as uncomfortable as it is.
Hunt: I appreciate your call, but we know our positions and we have our respective political limits and expectations. The fires don’t change anything.
Bandt: The IPCC has said that 9000 more Australians will die every year from extreme heat unless we get global warming under control. We are potentially seeing some of those deaths this weekend in New South Wales. The fires can change minds – they are the perfect reason to change minds. I know you don’t want to change tack; I don’t either. But unless we can work out something here we are doomed – not politically, but environmentally and morally.
Hunt: Look to blunt again, Adam, your party has called us ‘climate criminals’ and I could be wrong but I think this may be the first time you have ever attempted to discuss climate policy with me. I am the Minister for the Environment with a mandate to repeal the carbon tax. There are better ways of dealing with CO2 levels and threats of bushfire. There is little to achieve in discussing the matter. After July next year, the carbon tax will be repealed – if not before.
Bandt: Can I suggest that in the interests of the Australian people, and the globe more widely, that we approach the matter with some sensitivity to the fires and the people who have lost everything this week. Repealing a carbon tax while fires rage and more fires threaten seems untimely. Would you consider adjusting the timing of introducing the legislation to allow for discussion on climate change to take into account the dryness of the land and our vulnerability to a fire wipeout?
Hunt: It’s going to be impossible for me to convince anyone of anything of that nature.
Bandt: What if it came as a request from those affected by the fires? That would be difficult to refuse.
Hunt: What are you proposing?
Bandt: Would you attend a meeting called by residents affected by the fires to discuss the environmental condition of the Blue Mountains and the best ways of managing the threat of fire to their homes and lives? We could see where things go after that. Just as a first step.
Hunt: I doubt it – but I can discuss it with Tony. No commitment at this stage. But I’ll discuss it.
Bandt: We have little in common on policy, Greg, but I would like to see what we can achieve to combat climate change. There is too much at stake.
Hunt: We have a mandate and a clear policy, Adam.
Bandt: I see it as a responsibility. But thank you.