Environmental Speech - RHHFFPS 7th May

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This is the text of a speech I gave to the Ryde-Hunters Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society on the 7th of May. I was asked to comment on environmental issues, and hope I did a decent job of that.

Hello, I'm John August Fusion/Pirate party candidate for Bennelong. Within Bennelong, I often bushwalk, and have walked here from Cressy Road, I've been on your local walking tours, and have also sometimes dropped in on your outpost down the way. I'm also getting involved with the Lane Cove bushcare group, so have an additional interest in the area. I've had a longtime interest in environmental issues. Up north, the Bramble Cay Melomys has gone extinct, the result of climate change, and I've attended the memorial day - there's a push to found a national museum to extinct and endangered species. We've had pressures on the Pigmy Possum in Victoria - due to a lack of Bogong Moths. That's the result of light pollution - an issue I've also been concerned about. I have a community radio show where I've considered these issues. There's Rewilding Australia - now under the WWF umbrella - amongst other things, trying to rebuild the Eastern Quolls population.

But, not just animals - our customs authorities incinerated unique botanical specimens on loan from France, and also lichen samples from New Zealand. I have more general concerns about the growth of Bureaucracy, which we've seen in how the health system sometimes goes terribly wrong. But it's not just about plants or the health system, but also excesses like Robodebt.

So, this is some of my background. I'll continue, focusing on the Fusion and Pirate perspectives on environmental and climate policy.

You have the problems with invasive species, habitat loss, pollution, and of course climate change. But there's a broader policy context. Environmental work can be complicated. Rewilding of degraded ecosystems requires a long-term approach to stop new waves of invasive species attacking vulnerable and plant and animal populations. Species restoration is also difficult, often requiring vulnerable species to be protected in sanctuaries, or on islands and fenced-off peninsulas until their numbers can recover for their re-introduction. Erratic and uncertain funding makes these things difficult.

We embrace a longer-term approach. Rather than drip-feed funding each year, environmental grants need to be scaled up to the challenge and provided over longer time-frames to enable proper planning and co-ordination. We'd establish an ecology fund, overseen by experts, with the mandate to provide long-term grants for scientific research and community-driven environmental work. We'd want to support a permanent regional workforce supporting rewilding and habitat restoration. We'd ensure that successful initiatives such as the Indigenous Rangers program are expanded and funded permanently, ensuring the cultural knowledge of our first people is valued and preserved.

Now, looking at climate change. Fossil fuels don't just generate greenhouse gases: particulate air pollution from coal burning kills millions of people every year and generates massive volumes of toxic waste.

We have seen some recent dramatic weather events. For sure, our regular ups and downs are in the background. But, they've recently been the worst on record. When they're bad, they're really bad. Firefighters have seen pyro-cumulus formations - bushfires generating their own clouds and weather - as never before. We've had bushfires in Tasmania in areas for the first time in a thousand years. You can have a double whammy - our winters are warmer and wetter, with more growth. Our summers are dryer, drying out that additional growth and setting us up for another disastrous bushfire season.

But there are many opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint. Expanding home solar, batteries and micro-grids provide opportunities. Further, as we develop green industries, we can export low carbon products and energy and effectively yield an 800% carbon footprint improvement. We see a fixed carbon price as important. Predictable pricing provides the certainty which long-term investment requires, and would create a mechanism for energy efficiency and innovation all across the economy. Environmental externalities are a form of privatised profits and socialised losses, which a properly run economy should reject.

We can make other economic changes - on implementing a carbon price, we take away the GST on energy, so providing added incentives for the expansion of green energy. Part of that story is to impose an export charge on coal which we'd then use to purchase UN carbon credits, and remove ensure there are no waste levy exemptions on coal power.

Some claim we're just part of the global environment, and our actions will make little difference. This is very misleading. It's a bit like saying there's no problem with selling weapons of mass destruction to a despotic dictator, because if we don't, someone else will. If we want overseas nations to take action, we need to have our own backyard in order in order to be taken seriously. Then there's the fact that per capita we're pretty bad for the carbon output. There's a lot more to this picture.

So, that brings my review to a close. I hope you will seriously look at voting for me - I bring my own passion and experience together and the strengths of both Fusion and the Pirate Party branch to the table - with a considered vision for how to deal with climate change and the environment.