Last week I was succesful in having the City of Sydney donate $20 000 to the newly formed Climate Council, but in doing so the dark, climate change denying underbelly of Sydney’s current crop of Liberal Councillors was bought to light.
The Climate Council was formed last month after one of Tony Abbott’s first acts as Prime Minister was to shut down its predecessor organisation the Climate Commission. The Climate Council relies on pro bono work by leading researchers and public donations to achieve its aim of providing reliable, independent information on climate change. I moved the motion because in an age where climate change denial is rife information such as this is extremely valuable and the reports by the Climate Commission had been important resources to the City in developing its ambitious climate action targets. However it wasn’t until last week’s Council meeting that I realised how close to home climate change denial was.
With bushfires raging across NSW as Council met the agenda for the meeting also contained an item, moved by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, calling for the City to donate $100 000 to the Red Cross bushfire appeal. In her speech supporting the motion Moore highlighted the link between bushfires and climate change (a link the IPCC says is scientifically valid). This sparked Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla into action as he immediately sought to tow the party line and proclaim the Lord Mayor to be an ‘opportunistic greeny’ seeking to use the bushfires for her own political goals.
Mandla then went on to state that ‘the green movement’ was responsible for preventing fuel reduction burns, trying to hypocritically gain political mileage from the issue. However the Greens have always supported fuel reduction burns as part of an integrated fire management strategy – as set out in our policy on the matter here – and I’m not aware of any environmental groups opposing properly planned and implemented controlled burns. So in one speech Mandla managed to declare politicising tragedy to be a sin, then politicised that same tragedy by blaming it on his political opponents and go on to get his accusation completely wrong in the process.
Personally, I feel it’s very important to discuss the link between the current fire emergency and climate change. In any other tragedy we’d discuss the context as soon as possible in order to work out how best to stop it happening again and I don’t see why this should be any different.
Whenever a boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia sunk the Liberals in opposition were more than happy to blame the government immediately, no matter how tragic the event, on the flimsy pretence that we need to be crueller to refugees to prevent such things happening again. If Australians were killed in a terrorist attack we’d see our political leaders talking tough about how they would stop future terrorist attacks straight away, probably announcing that we were restarting the infamous ‘war on terror’ that was so loved by John Howard and George W Bush.
With some of the worst bushfires ever seen ravaging our country we should also be talking about how to stop them happening again in the future, and a big part of doing that will be through dealing with climate change. Sadly conservative politicians who want climate change off the agenda have fallen back on ideals of political correctness, something they usually despise, to try to muzzle discussion of the issue. It’s time we stopped hiding behind false ideas of sensitivity and did what needed to be done to make sure fires like these don’t become a normal part of life. We had our war on terror, so where’s our war on climate change?