About a year ago, as we emerged from the bushfires here in Australia and concern escalated about what the hell our leaders were doing to combat climate change, I suggested we all go and talk to our MPs and tell them what we think. It’s our right. It’s our responsibility.
I said I would go first, record it and show how it can be done. It took 12 months, but I finally got a slot with my local representative, Dave Sharma, member for Wentworth. He calls himself a “modern Liberal” and went to the election telling us he was serious about addressing climate change. He also told us he supported a target, ie net-zero emissions by 2050.
I invited the local paper, the Wentworth Courier, owned by News Ltd, to report on our meeting. Why not the Guardian or other sympathetic media? I wanted Dave to feel comfortable, so I chose a familiar outlet; me, I have nothing to hide or lose (also, it is fitting to invite the local paper if I’m talking local issues). That said, I did request to video our talk, but Dave and his staffers refused this, telling me they were only OK with “reputable” media doing such a thing. (I chose not to take them up on the merit of such an argument.)
- You can read the Wentworth Courier story here.
- You can download a copy of the article here
- And you can listen to our chat below…
A few things to know
I’m just going to break things down in a way that might best encourage you to go and hold your local representatives to account.
Know that this is your right. You are not being difficult or weird requesting to meet with your MP. They are obliged to respond; it’s their job. It’s how democracy works. The good ones will relish the opportunity to get a feel for what their constituents are doing and thinking. The remiss ones will ignore you, and that will speak volumes.
* My suggestion if they do the latter – share this fact on your social media, on a local Facebook group, etc. Hold them to account. Make noise.
I rang around and got different community groups to forward me the concerns they had…you could do the same or approach your MP as a group and have a few of you attend the meeting.
As I say, I got my local paper to come and cover the interview. For the reasons I state above. You might like to do the same. Dave was more open to this than having me do the report myself here.
Ask questions that you truly want answers to. You don’t have to second guess or be the expert. In fact, if you are in the dark, then this is something your representative should be attending to!
Don’t buy it when they say they are obliged to attend to their party’s stance on a matter. No! Their job is to represent us. The “politics” is their problem to manage.
Below I’ve outlined the questions I asked. Feel free to use these as a guide.
I rounded things off by asking Dave Sharma to meet the Wentworth community in a Town Hall situation since there were hundreds of people that I contacted – via concerned community groups such as Voices of Wentworth and Quiet Australians – who all indicated they wanted to hear much more from him on climate…he’s yet to confirm.
Suggested questions to put to your MP
Note, many of these are questions that pre-empt a line an MP is likely to present. My questions were targeted at an Liberal Party MP. Yours will be slightly different if you’re meeting with an independent, Greens MP or a Labor MP (although most questions remain pertinent – the ALP barely have a climate policy either).
I suggest you do a bit of reading around each of the topics I flag below, especially as the debate is moving fairly fast. You can see some of my links at the bottom as a starting point.
What are you doing personally to push the climate change policy agenda in Parliament?
You claim your 2030 targets will be met (Liberals have in place a target of 26-28% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels)…but these targets are lower than the targets your own advisory body set out (45-60%). Will you push for a higher target (especially given you say we’re going to meet it with such ease)? * You might like to highlight to your MP, if they argue they’re doing a great job with this target etc that any headway has come from the States and Territories’ work and – depending on the figures they cite – from the reduction in emissions as a result of Covid lockdowns. You might like to ask if their “wins” bear these factors in mind.
Every Australian State and Territory has committed to net-zero by 2050, so have our major trading partners and more than 100 governments worldwide, why do YOU think your Federal party won’t? Should they, IYO?
Governments set targets all the time, and trust that technology and industry support will then fall into line…why are you saying a target is not appropriate with the climate crisis? Why is this situation different from any other?
OK, so you don’t want to set a target until you know the how, until you’ve done the modelling…But why hasn’t your party done this modelling? Is modelling now being done? When will it be done? We’ve known of this crisis for decades. The Paris Agreement was signed in 2016!
What do you say to business groups who are asking – begging – for a target? The Business Council of Australia, The Farmers Federation, Origin Energy, Meat Livestock Australia, the Planning Association of Australia, the Builders Association – they are all asking for a net-zero target for 2050 so they can plan the road ahead for us, to create jobs! Why would you deny them and us jobs and growth opportunities (leaving aside a viable planet to live on!)?
Why do you keep using “jobs” as the excuse? Modelling shows the sustainable energy industry will produce far more jobs than coal – about three times as many.
Why are you still standing by coal? Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan are our coal export market, making up 70-80% but they are ditching coal…some say it will happen within five years. Do you agree this will leave Australia out in the cold? Why would you do it to us?
You cite the different climate bodies that your party is funding…but really you’re making up for lost ground. How about you quadruple the funding, increase 10-fold? In 2013 this government tried to kill off many of the things it is now taking credit for: The Renewable Energy Target. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. In regards to the Climate Change Authority – funding has been reduced from 50 staff to now a team of eight, and their input is regularly ignored.
Electric vehicles – many of the world’s leading car manufacturers are switching to 100% electric, the US has announced a huge phasing out of diesel and petrol…
- Where is our policy? Our charger infrastructure, the incentives, the emissions policies?
- We were promised a plan in 2019, then in 2020. We watch the fun Superbowl GM ad with Will Ferrell and get excited by the idea of cleaner transport…but we won’t have access to these cars here and won’t be able to afford them…what are you doing about this?
The Big thing for me: it’s got to the point where I’m embarrassed by Australia’s climate policy
- Our major trade partners have set net-zero targets
- Australia is ranked worst of 57 countries on climate change policy – our Government has been described as a regressive force
- Our PM was snubbed at a climate summit ahead of COP26…
- Our 2030 commitment is considered a joke and the fact we were using Kyoto credits to reach it, well, it was labelled as cheating (Watch this video for context but bear in mind the NLP has succumbed to pressure on this and said they’ll not need the credits now)
How do you feel to hear that Australians are embarrassed to be Australian in this context?
The Zali Climate Change Act – will you push to have it taken to the floor? Will you support a conscience vote? How would you vote?
Do you support new coal mines given the above points?
Are you concerned that the methane from gas (ala a gas-led recovery) is 80% more heat-trapping than CO2? Are you concerned subsidising gas sends the wrong message for longterm investment?
Have you done a local risk assessment for this electorate on the costs of climate change? * In beachside areas, this is imperative as rising sea levels are likely to take out 50% of beaches by 2100.
What do you say to your kids when they tell you they are worried about climate change? What do you say you’re going to do to protect them?
If you say you’re concerned about climate change, why aren’t you making noise? We hear noise from the deniers, Craig Kelly etc….
If you disagree with the targets and suggestions that I’ve mentioned, what do YOU think we should do to fully, comprehensive and speedily attend to the climate crisis?
Some helpful reads and podcasts
I’ve flagged starting points and articles not behind paywalls for ease and I urge you to read deeper.