I’m very proud to speak to a community rally today outside this important ALP National Conference and to do so as someone who is a proud member of the Labor Party and a delegate to this conference. Earlier this year we lost a great warrior for the environment, in my mentor Tom Uren.
What you may not know is that Tom Uren was the first environmental spokesperson for any political party in Australia, way back in the 1960’s. The platform that he put together as Labor’s environment spokesperson led to the vision that occurred under the Whitlam Government. Vision about ensuring that we looked after our natural environment but that we also understood urban environmental issues.
Then of course, we saw the great legacy continued by the Hawke and Keating including stopping the Franklin Dam; including making sure that we protected Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef; including making sure that Australia was a positive participant in the first conferences of the UNFCCC, including in Rio way back in 1992.
Labor continued that legacy in office under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard; the world’s largest marine parks. Ending the decades-long conflict over Tasmanian forests. Signing up to and ratifying Kyoto as our first action in Government.
As Labor’s then-environment spokesperson, I remember coming to a conference just like this and presenting a case for a 20% per cent renewable energy target by 2020 at a time when renewables were 2% of our electricity grid. And it has been achieved. It has been delivered.
At this conference Mark is going to tell you about how we’re going to take that to the next logical step. Because delegates to this conference just like people out there in the community understand that the challenge of dealing with climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue. They understand that we need to have a vision for the future, not a pining for the past.
They understand that a government led by a man who says that he objects to solar and wind but doesn’t mind a coal mine, anywhere, even on prime agricultural land is a Prime Minister who is not worthy of support of the Australian people.
Delegates in there understand, just as I do, that when I’m not going to these conferences anymore, and I’m sitting on the porch with my now 14 year old son’s children, I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to deal with climate change.
It is an intergenerational issue, because what we do today impacts on what occurs tomorrow. That’s why the lecturing from first world countries such as Australia who have created the problems by having the highest per capita emissions in the world, to developing nations, where we’re not prepared to take action ourselves is simply not good enough.
It’s why we need a comprehensive, whole of government strategy.
It’s why Mark has the climate change portfolio but in reality, all of us have the climate change portfolio.
It’s why we need to invest in urban public transport, not just in roads.
It’s why we need proper emissions standards on cars.
It’s why we need to deal with the nature of our cities and making sure that jobs are closer to where people live and we have 20 minute cities whereby everyone can have access to work and recreational activity within 20 minutes by public transport cycling, or by walking with active transport.
So all of us have a responsibility.
But the bloke I’m about to introduce has a bigger responsibility than most. And the fact that he was elected ALP National President by the rank and rile of the Labor Party says to me and to all the delegates to the Party to which I belong that we value environment being front and centre.
Friends, Mark Butler.