Sunday, May 9, 2010
Climate, jobs and immigration: my election campaign
I have been selected as the Socialist Alliance candidate for the Federal seat of Gellibrand in Melbourne’s western suburbs. I have spent much of the last 13 years as a union activist here, working in the manufacturing industry. This is the “rust belt” – the old industrial heartland, and also one of the most ethnically diverse, immigrant areas of the country.
Workplace rights, industrial decline, and the treatment of immigrants are issues that have all affected me here. But world events have returned me to the first political interest of my life: protecting the environment. In particular, stopping climate change.
My first involvement in politics was in the Greens' historic 1989 election campaign in Tasmania, fought over campaigns to stop logging of old native forests and a proposed new pulp mill. Some things never seem to change! Climate change was an issue back then too, but industry-fuelled denialism buried it as a popular concern through the 1990s and until recent years.
I recently had the privilege to attend the World People’s Conference on Climate Change in Bolivia. Like many poor countries, Bolivia is ill equipped to deal with the disasters that climate change is throwing their way. Their glaciers are melting, removing the security of their water supply for millions, in a country that is too poor to have safe, drinkable tap water to start with. Unlike Australia, they cannot simply build expensive (and polluting) desalination plants when water is short; even if they had a coastline, they couldn’t afford it.
Australia is one of the worst greenhouse gas polluters in the world. That’s just on our per capita emissions, and doesn’t even include our coal and gas exports. Australia also has the economic power to change: we could abandon fossil fuels. We have enough sun and wind to provide all our energy.
We also have the wealth to develop an industry manufacturing renewable energy and other “appropriate technology.” We can export this technology to poor nations, from Bolivia to PNG. This is a fair ask: it is only a payment of our climate debt.
Such a program will revitalise Australia’s dying manufacturing industry. It will provide quality, skilled jobs for tens of thousands. It will also put Australia in a position to go from one of the worst offenders in the world climate stakes to being an important part of the solution.
The current regime in Australia is leading the world in barbarism. Not simply on climate. We have troops in Afghanistan, perpetrating a barbaric war on one of the world’s poorest people. We are ripping off our poorest neighbour, East Timor, in their oilfields. Australian based mining and forestry corporations destroy the environment in poor countries across the world. Our own indigenous people suffer third world living standards and are still having their land taken for mining exploration too. And this rich country has borders that are closed to the refugees fleeing the poverty and violence that countries like ours do so much to create.
We need to create a just Australia that welcomes refugees and immigrants. Climate change will create many more. Each arrival should be seen as another pair of hands to help us build a sustainable future. There is only one planet earth, and it is time for Australians to be responsible citizens of that planet.