Last Saturday I met my MP on a Community Corner in Hawthorne. On a flyer in my mailbox he invited me to share my views with him in one of five locations dotted around the local area. If I couldn't make it, he listed eight issues and asked me to identify the top three of concern to me and return the survey to his office. The issues were: cost of living; tackling crime; improving public transport; protecting the local environment; improving schools; providing better health care; helping small businesses; and long-term infrastructure planning. All worthy.
I went to meet him, however, because the issue that concerns me – probably more than all the others put together – is the government's, all governments', failure to adequately tackle climate change. As I explained that I was there because he'd missed the most important thing off the list, his smiled faded a little.
He started to explain what he'd done for the environment locally – planting trees, for example. Was he deliberately confusing a life-threatening global issue with local beautification? His reluctance to acknowledge the subject we'd brought to the corner per se prompted my friend to ask if he believed in anthropogenic climate change. He didn't appear to be familiar with the term meaning 'originated by humans'. Avoiding the affirmative, he wittered on about there always having been climate change, which no one disputes. Oh dear.
Looking as if he'd been caught on the hop, he asked how my concern could be addressed at local level. Let's start with renewable energy, shall we? Making it easier, not more difficult, for people to install solar panels. I expressed my disappointment at the demise of the solar feed-in tariff due to take effect from 1 July. Then came more predictable guff about those without solar subsidising those with it. I contested this (see Solar Blindness, March 2014), as I did his next claim, that domestic solar energy producers will be free to negotiate feed-in rates with the power companies. Why would a fossil-fuel-based energy retailer make it easy for solar users? That's a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.
A clean-energy economy should be the government's imperative, in Brisbane and Canberra. Thousands of Australians are already doing their bit, and energy ministers should be helping them, not thwarting them. With incentives to meet renewable energy targets.
My MP and I had to agree to disagree.
By now he was glancing over my shoulder to the next constituent waiting, clearly hoping for a more comfortable topic next. We took our leave, having requested that he take our subject on board. Maybe he should start with the IPCC's recently published Fifth Assessment Report, kindly unpacked* by the Climate Council, an independent, non-profit organisation (funded by public donations) that rose out of the ashes of the Climate Commission, abolished by Tony Abbott's government soon after they came to power. I think I'll send it to him. I'll send it to Abbott, too, while I'm at it.
My MP was elected in 2012, by a mere 74 votes. Community Corners are a great idea but I think his listening skills need work and he should do his homework. No prizes for guessing which party he belongs to.