Labour and the environment

I missed this at the time, but Bruce Hawker has helpfully done a decent write up.

In the lead up to the ALP conference two weeks ago, a group of titans of the ALP from the 90s and 00s have released a public statement in support of Labor’s efforts on sustainability and combating climate change. Here it is…

We the undersigned:

1. Acknowledge that effective climate policy must be informed by science and global carbon pollution must peak and begin to decline rapidly within the next 10 years.

2. Congratulate the Prime Minister and her government on achieving a price on carbon: a vital first step towards achieving this goal and, with it, a secure, strong and prosperous low carbon economy.

3. Believe this vital national reform stands in the great Labor tradition of bold change in the national interest.

4. Regret the toxic and crude nature of the recent Australian debate and believe there is work for the Labor movement to help re-build consensus with government, civil society, workers and business on climate change.

5. Consider that tackling climate change, building resilient communities and achieving more sustainable ways of achieving economic growth and human betterment will be a key task of any Labor Party or social democratic party in the world in this century.

6. See enormous opportunity for our country in many of the technologies required to reduce emissions.

7. Assert we must maintain the Labor movement’s determination to continue to develop and implement the policies necessary to drive public and private capital towards a low-carbon future.

Bob Carr
Premier of New South Wales 1995-2005

Steve Bracks
Premier of Victoria 1999-2007

Peter Beattie
Premier of Queensland 1998-2007

Geoff Gallop
Premier of Western Australia 2001-2006

Mike Rann
Premier of South Australia 2002-2011

Clare Martin
Chief Minister, Northern Territory 2001-2007

Jon Stanhope
Chief Minister, Australian Capital Territory 2001 – 2011

Hawker discusses how important the signal that this statement sends is, particularly for the ALP…

At times, some modern Labor administrations have de-emphasised environment protection as a priority. ‘Brown’ influences, hostile to the natural environment have unintelligently taken hold.

The consequences have always followed this pattern – environment protection was set aside, Labor’s popular support declined and the Green political party grew in strength.

This is obviously in relation to Gillard’s back-down on aspects of their new carbon tax towards industry. It’s a very valid point. I think the problem in New Zealand is quite different, but it is still a very relevant issue.

The New Zealand Labour Party has a very strong tradition in the area…

  • One of Norman Kirk’s major policies that got the 3rd Labour government elected was a strong endorsement of the Save Manapouri ideas, followed by the establishment of the Guardians of Manapouri.
  • In 1987 the 4th Labour government established the Department of Conservation (which might I add the current National government is threatening major cuts).
  • The 5th Labour government introduced New Zealand’s first ETS, and continued the fight in areas of conservation and environmental innovation.
  • In 2011 Phil Goff’s Labour opposition campaigned strongly on bringing the agricultural sector into the ETS on time, and using the extra revenue that would generate to fund extensive spending in research tax credits.

These are just off the top of my head. There is a heck of a lot more.

My point is that in New Zealand, Labour has a long, proud history of protecting the environment. However just like in Australia, that is not how our party is seen, and because of that we are losing votes to the Greens.

Is this a problem of policy or communication? Do we not have a clear enough idea about what we want to do in this space, or do we not communicate it well enough with the public?

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