Radio interview with Christine Milne
“We are in an emergency, and I think that the more we can use that word the better. At the moment, to a lot of people, that seems like an extreme thing to say, but it is actually an acknowledgement of the physical reality,” said Christine Milne when she was interviewed live on air in The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse on 15 June 2016.
The past senator had been asked to respond to a statement by Ian Dunlop, former Australian Coal Association chair and Shell executive, who told listeners of The Sustainable Hour that the problem with the main organisations advocating for climate action is that they feed into a political system which is flawed. Telling our political leaders that ‘we want change’ will no longer suffice, he explained: “We’re being taken for fools by the political system. Politics is broken in this country. Money has stopped the real issues being addressed.”
Christine Milne agreed with Dunlop, saying that to the extent that the fossil fuel industry and the mining industry influences both sides of politics, “we no longer live in a democracy. The parliament is owned by the big corporates. This is the cancer that’s eating Australian democracy.”
According to Milne, the answer to that can’t be to abandon the political process, though, because, as she put it: “It’s what we have got.” Rather, she suggested: “What we have to do is radicalise it, and also depoliticise the climate emergency so that it isn’t something that only Labor, the Greens, the Liberals or the Nationals would care about.”
Likewise, Ian Dunlop had emphasised that climate change is not a left or right wing political issue. “This is an existential issue. What we need is a Government of National Unity,” he said.
Milne recommended to focus at the community level: “Ask people to vote, not for themselves but for seven generations. And ask them to talk about that to their neighbours, to people in their workplace. Actually do it from the bottom up, because we are not going to change it by just continuing to support the status quo. As to how fast? I thought that extreme weather events would force people to realise what an emergency we live in. It hasn’t. People are somehow rationalising these extreme weather events. Just ask for the climate maps. Have a look at them and sign [the Climate Emergency Declaration] petition. That is the advice I would give people.”
The interview was part of a so-called ‘radio relay’ about the climate emergency
Full transcript of radio interview with Christine Milne on 15 June 2016 on 94.7 The Pulse
Christine Milne: “Ian [Dunlop]‘s right and he’s wrong, both at the same time. He’s certainly right, and I’ve written this myself, that the problem is that we’ve had our democracy taken from us. We no longer live in a democracy. I would argue that we live in a plutocracy where the parliament is owned by the big corporates. And it is no different here than it is in America. You see that when you see the extent of the fossil fuel industry and the mining industry’s influence on both sides of politics.
My argument is that we, the people of Australia, have to take our democracy back from the corporate sector, and it’s not until we get parliamentarians who are more responsive to the people than they are to the corporates that we’re going to get the sort of change we need. But we can’t abandon the political process. It’s what we have got. What we have to do is radicalise it, and also depoliticise the climate emergency so that it isn’t something that only Labor or the Greens or the Liberals or the Nationals would care about. It’s something that is almost beyond politics. They always say that when they head off to war somewhere. You know, it’s ‘above politics’, we’re going to go and bomb in the Middle East. It is ‘above politics’ and all sides are going to do that – well the Greens never have of course – but Liberal and Labor are very quick to go into ‘above politics’ when it comes to defence or terrorism, but they won’t do it on climate. I think that is the key to it.
To get to the point where the people force all the political parties to say, this is actually the crisis that the nation has to respond to, and urgently, and then this is how we are going to do it.”
Anthony Gleeson: At the moment, it seems to me that the politicians… – do you think they don’t realise the emergency that’s coming? I just can’t come to grips with the fact that they’re making decisions that are going to have a direct negative impact on the world in which their kids and grandkids are going to grow up. Is there a politician that is separate to the human being? Is that how it works?
“Well it is how it works to the extent that they know. It is absolutely an excuse for them to say, Oh – and I said that when the carbon price was repealed and the attack on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA – I said at the time, you wait. In twenty years they’ll say, if only we’d known at the time. Well they do know. They read every aspect of what the Reserve Bank has to say. They read and go over and analyse. They could do exactly the same with the climate science if they wanted to, but their vested interests that put them there are more or less paying them not to.
So it is no excuse to say that they don’t know. They do. I remember a classic was – one of the reasons I went into the Senate in 2004 was to get this issue of global warming on the agenda because it wasn’t even on the political agenda federally at the time – and Ron Boswell was there for the National party and I was talking about sea level rise, and he said, he had a yacht and his house had a balcony that overlooked the sea, and he had never seen the sea rising. And I just thought, we’ve got some work to do here! But. over the years, they all know exactly what is going on, but they look at where their dollars are coming from. They bury reports on the devastating impact of sea level rise on coastal areas because they fear that if they come out and tell people that their areas are vulnerable, then that will drop the property value and people will vote against them at the next election. That’s the kind of thinking that goes on.
You still get it with all the coal mining areas. It’s obvious there should be no new coal mines and no expanded coal mines, and yet they won’t come out and say that because they fear the backlash from people employed in the industry. Labor fears the Unions, and Liberals fear the corporates who own the mines. So that’s the kind of political reality they engage in, but they know, so they can’t be excused on the grounds that they didn’t know. They make short-term political decisions based on whether they think people will elect them. That’s where the real crunch comes. At this election, people should not vote for anybody who refuses to say, absolutely and clearly, that A: that they won’t take donations from fossil fuel in any shape or form, and B: that they won’t support new coal, expanded coal, coal seam gas.
It’s obvious you have to do that, and if they won’t, and they’re not serious about the climate, then you shouldn’t vote for them. But ultimately people will vote for them. That’s what the polls are showing. People will still vote for the people that they know are not acting in their long-term interest.”
Mik Aidt: We are seeing that with the Climate Emergency Declaration petition. It is such an important petition, but only 2,500 Australians have signed it so far, and it it is going slow with getting new petition signatures.
“Imagine if there were two or three cases of Zika virus in Melbourne, and you put out a petition on doing something about that. You’d have millions overnight, and yet you’ve got these extreme weather events that are killing people, destroying ecosystems, destroying areas, ruining farmland, destroying stock and the whole lot, and people will just say, Oh, we’ve always had droughts and storms, and we’ve always had fires, this is just the same. There’s almost this mental block where – if people actually accept that we are living in a climate emergency, and it’s this question, will people sign a petition or not, well even if they don’t, they’re going to have to face the fact that the physical reality of the earth tells us that we are living in a climate emergency whether people are prepared to declare it or not. At some point they are going to have to sign up to it.
Christiana Figueres, who led the UNFCCC until recently, said she’s never seen a human being motivated by bad news. That’s why she talks in terms of hope all the time. But the reality is, you only get going on the solutions if you really believe we’ve got a problem. I think that the real importance of this emergency declaration is to get people to actually focus on the fact that people are prepared to put their name to the fact that we are living in a climate emergency.
And then the second thing is the solutions, because the transition will be disruptive, but it also means there will be new jobs and new innovations. You just have to look at that in the renewable energy sector. There are a lot of jobs to be had in retrofitting our buildings, which are large emitters. There’s a lot of work to be done, but a great outcome, in improving public transport, improving cycle-ways, the amenity of cities for pedestrians, the electrification of the transport fleet. There’s just so many good things that can happen, quickly, if people decide that that is their priority.”
Aidt: That’s right. And now we have this report which came out this morning from the Climate Council saying that if we move to 50% renewable energy by 2030, that in itself would create 28,000 new jobs here in Australia. 28,000!
“Absolutely, but you have to ask yourself, why is the climate change authority just modelling 50% by 2030. Why aren’t they modelling 100%. Now that is my frustration.”
Mike Lawrence: It’s my frustration too – Mike Lawrence in the studio here – and it’s been shown it can be done in 10 years or so. Do you think an end to political donations, full stop, would make a difference in the culture of politics so that people can think far more independently?
“I think it is essential. I think it is essential and we’ve campaigned for a long time for public funding of elections and a limit, therefore, on how much can be spent, and that being very heavily enforced. And that’s why I’ve also always argued that you also need a national ICAC, because it is the third parties – if you go to public funding where politicians or political parties have to rely on public funding, then you get the IPAs of the world, the Minerals Council and all the rest of them running their big ads and you have to restrict the third party intervention as well. But I couldn’t agree more!
The crux of it, as I said in the essay I wrote when I resigned from the Senate, which is, you know, that things are crook in Tullarook! I said, we are not going to win on climate, we are not going to win on inequality, until we take our democracy back from corporate money. It’s just so clear to me that that is the cancer that’s eating Australian democracy. If you look at the ICAC in NSW, at the number of leases that have been granted, illegally and fraudulently by politicians on both Liberal, Labor, and National sides, to those corporations and them pocketing the money.”
Lawrence: Football teams have salary caps…
“I really encourage people to proactively use their vote, to vote for what they want, not for the least worst of what they think is on offer. It’s so important. We have to change this because otherwise, we are going to see Carmichael. If the Galilee Basin is opened up in Queensland, it is an absolute disaster for the planet.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on renewables, looking at what’s happening around the world, and it’s very clear that the climate will be won or lost in Asia. If those new coal-fired power stations, coal mines, and ports that are already approved in Asia are built, we cannot achieve – we’re certainly beyond 1.5°C already, but we can’t even achieve 2°C. So that issue of Australia exporting coal into the region really, really matters. But you’ve got both Liberal and Labor saying, Oh, you know, we care, we’re going to do something about the reef, we’re going to do this and that, but both support opening up Carmichael to coal.
And, interestingly, this new Asia Bank – infrastructure bank that’s being set up by the Chinese and that Australia has entered into – has not ruled out using its money to subsidise infrastructure that would support those coal ports and coal-fired power stations in Asia, so in a way, Australia’s billion dollars going into that bank is yet another corporate welfare effort to support coal exports out of Australia.”
Aidt: What’s going to change the climate debate? What’s going to get people involved?
“Well, I think we have to start at the community level. It’s great that we’ve got independent community radio where we can actually go out there and speak to people. Ask people to vote, not for themselves but for seven generations. And ask them to talk about that to their neighbours, to people in their workplace. Actually do it from the bottom up, because we are not going to change it by just continuing to support the status quo. As to how fast? I thought that extreme weather events would force people to realise what an emergency we live in. It hasn’t. People are somehow rationalising these extreme weather events. Just ask for the climate maps. Have a look at them and sign this petition. That is the advice I would give people.”
Gleeson: You sound very much like a baton carrier with that one, Christine.
“I certainly am. Absolutely! I’ve just come back from the States where you’ve got whole states reliant on the Colorado River and living as if it doesn’t matter. And yet they are inevitably, Nevada, Arizona, and California, are going to be fighting over water before we’re very much further down the track.”
Gleeson: Yeah, and they’re in the same country. Let’s look at what’s happening in China and India and the glacial melt. It’s just beyond thought, really.
“Yes it is, absolutely, we are in an emergency, and I think that the more we can use that word the better. At the moment, to a lot of people, that seems like an extreme thing to say, but it is actually an acknowledgement of the physical reality.”
Christine Milne is former senator and was leader of the Australian Greens from 2012 to 2015.
Christine Milne: Intergenerational theft
— The Sustainable Hour (@SustainableHour) June 21, 2016