Wills MP Kelvin Thomson speaks strongly against carbon price repeal
Wills Federal MP Kelvin Thomson spoke out strongly against the Coalition’s Carbon Price Repeal Bills on Monday 18 November 2013, while the Federal Government lead by Prime Minister Tony Abbott was trashing Australia’s international reputation at CHOGM and at United Nations Climate talks in Warsaw.
Thomson was elected by citizens of Wills with a strong mandate on carbon pricing and to take strong action on climate change. Watch his speech in parliament below:
Since the election Kelvin Thomson has published two climate change related statements. The first, on the debate within the ALP on whether to fight against the repeal of the Carbon Price (September 19, 2013) and associated clean energy package.
The second statement, Wild Weather But Climate Action Grinds to a Halt (October 18, 2013) was input into the discussion around extreme weather and climate change raised by Adam Bandt’s tweet in relation to the unusually early and intense Sydney Bushfires in the Blue Mountains in October.
I had the priviledge of interviewing Kelvin Thomson at his electorate office in Coburg prior to the September 7 election as part of my citizen journalism coverage of the seat of Wills. Find below the verbatim transcript of the part of my interview dealing with climate change and related questions.
John Englart: You are obviously very concerned about climate change, so I have a couple of questions about that. So you actually do personal things? You have a solar hot water system? solar panels?
Kelvin Thomson: I had all the solar panels and all that stuff installed in my house, and then I moved house towards the end of last year. I’ve got to retrieve that…I have got plenty of rainwater tanks installed in the new house, I’m going well on that front, but there are a couple of things I have to put in place. Lack of time as much as anything proves to be a barrier but I do belive in those things. I do believe that solar panels are environmentally the right thing to do and are good for households over time. I am a strong supporter of that, and I’ve managed to get away without things like clothes dryers, dishwashers for most of my adult life and I think that we do have an individual responsibility to try to reduce or to contain and manage our carbon emissions. It is no good telling the rest of the world to cut your carbon emissions when we are not doing that ourselves.
John: China and the US have indicated this year that they are increasing their actions to limit their emissions. Do you think Australia should be considering lifting our targets from 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. I think there was a leaked report of the Climate Change Authority was considering lifting the target to 15 per cent.
Kelvin Thomson: We have said that we will look at more ambitious targets, subject to what other countries are doing and that will have to be an ongoing consideration. I think at the moment the key thing is that we do get our emissions trending down because the regrettable realty is we’ve been talking about action on climate change for a very long time. But each year those emissions have been going up. That is the thing that has to change. We have got to get the emissions coming down and once we get the trajectory coming down it seems to me yes we can do better.
I have advocated ambitious climate change targets. I advocated an 80 percent reduction target in a report prepared by the Parliamentary Treaties committee which I chaired.
John: By 2050?
Kelvin Thomson: …No…. I need to go and check this John. 60 per cent by 2050 and I think the treaties committee was 80 per cent by 2050. It’s either 2050 or 2060? But the idea of having an ambitious climate change target I think is important. We are moving towards renewable energy at 20 per cent by 2020 target. That is proving to be very useful in my view. It is something that is driving a lot of the solar panels and wind turbines, geothermal projects and so on. And that is another reason I believe the Government is entitled to be re-elected, because if you get the Liberal Party in they will be working away undermining the renewable energy target.
John: Like the State Government with wind farm laws?
Kelvin Thomson: Exactly. The state government position on wind farms is outrageous. To give anybody a power of veto on any windfarm that they live within 2 kilometres of. You try matching that against residents in this area having a 2 kilometre veto over something like the East-West tunnel or the Brunswick terminal station upgrade or something like that. It is farcical and fanciful that the state government should endeavour to ringbark wind energy in the way that they have done.
But the 20 per cent by 2020 target is a good strong target and people in the renewable energy industry say to me that it has given them a lot of confidence to invest and to put serious money into renewable energy.
John: We have touched upon the refugee issue but with climate change, there is a World Bank report out recently that a lot of South East Asia, South Asia are going to be affected by rising sea levels. It is likely there are going to be movements of people. We are seeing some boat people now, but I think that in 20 to 30 years time it could be a lot more people, because there is going to be a lot of flooding of low lying areas.
Kelvin Thomson: It is a point I have mentioned myself in speeches gone by, John. It is one thing to think about a place like Tuvalu or Kiribas which maybe has 10,000 people, but that is one order of magnitude, but in Bangladesh my recollection is that 100 million people living in low lying areas, that is potentially subject to inundation. You cannot imagine Australia, you cannot imagine any other country in the world being able to deal with what can be termed climate refugees like that!
It seems to me that we have to… it is one of many reasons why we have to be serious in our response to climate change and be determined to reduce the level of carbon emissions in the world and have serious climate change targets. Otherwise, there is the risk of quite catastrophic outcomes. Tens of millions of people finding their homes uninhabitable, that is a catastrophic outcome.
John: I think our aid budget the Labor Party is aiming to get it up to 0.7 per cent of GDP? It is still not there yet. Do you think it needs to be raised?
Kelvin Thomson: We are quite some way from 0.7. The Labor Party has committed to get to 0.5 per cent by 2017/18. It is presently at 0.37 per cent. It is a $5.7 billion budget, and this year it is gong up by $500 million, and it will go up by $500 million basically each year to get it to the 2017-18 target.
We would all like to see the aid budget increased and I think the 0.7 target, the United Nations target is the right target, it is an appropriate target. But obviously we are in tight fiscal times and you can’t just do these things in the way you would like to. Australia increasing our budget by $500 million on a $5 billion budget is inceasing by 10 per cent, and it’s worth being aware the other OECD countries are on average reducing their budget by 4 per cent. So we are goung up by 10 and others have gone down 4, and I know that in the United Nations Australia is held in high regard in that we are increasing our budget and others are not.
I have had the good fortune to spend time at the UN and experience the goodwill that exists towards Australia and one of the things that drives that good will is that we are upping our aid effort.
Kelvin Thomson provided thorough answers (PDF) to questions on climnate change put to all candidates by Climate Action Moreland before the Federal Election.
During the election campaign three public forums were held and climate change was raised as an issue at all three. The first public forum was organised by Climate Action Moreland focussed on climate change. The second was on food security and agriculture at Coburg Farmers Market. The third forum was organised by Brunswick Uniting Church.
Three very different forums in which Thomson spoke strongly on the Labor Government’s carbon pricing and clean energy package. The Liberal candidate was absent from all three forums. The Greens candidate, Tim Read actually outpolled the Liberals after preferences making the Wills two party preferred vote between the ALP and Greens, a very select group of Federal electorates.
As has been shown this past week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has trashed our international reputation by rejecting the Commonwealth climate change risk fund at the CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka.
Our reputation for constructive contributions to international negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is also in tatters.
Australia has won not one, but four Fossil of the Day awards, which are conferred each day by civil society NGOs at the climate negotiations.
The first rebuke came for Australia not putting forward any new finance commitments at the Warsaw negotiations. The second and third awards were for repeal of carbon pricing and abandoning neighbors on loss and damage.
The fourth award was given for a statement that obligations for new, predictable and reliable finance from developed countries are “not realistic” and “not acceptable.” This statement undermines one of the cornerstones of the UNFCCC: That developed countries due to their historic emissions have an obligation and commitment to provide funding for developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation.
As Australian civil society observer Mim DiNapoli wrote from COP19 climate talks in Warsaw, “This isn’t just bad press. The refusal to step up to the plate will be remembered by countries around the world. Our absence of leadership, coupled with our unwillingness to listen to the struggles of the outside world, will continue to create holes in the fabric of progress in halting climate change.”
Climate Action Moreland member