Letter to Tanya Plibersek re: Carbon targets

I received a response from Tanya Plibersek to my previous letter re: clean feed just before I went away on holidays, and just after the Government announced their woefully inadequate targets for CO2 reduction.

Below the fold is my follow-up.

Dear Tanya,

Thank you for your considered response to my letter outlining concerns about the Government’s proposed “clean feed” internet filter. I have some questions further to your response, along with some other notes below.

Clean feed

A number of the concerns I raised were not addressed directly in your response, and I was hoping you might be able to provide some clarification on the following points:

  • Will the Government be providing clarification on what criteria will be used to determine the legality (or illegality) of content?
  • Will the Government be making public the list of blocked content?
  • What measures will the Government be taking to enable owners of incorrectly blocked sites to contest their blocked status?
  • What measures will the Government take to ensure that other Internet traffic such as Voice Over IP and non-HTTP traffic will not be filtered or monitored in any way?
  • What criteria will the Government use to evaluate the success of the planned trials? As Senator Conroy has failed to accept the advice of his department to date, how can we be sure that he will acknowledge the results of the trial?

Sedition laws

I am relieved that the Government will update the Criminal Code to remove the word “sedition”, and that it supports the other recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission “Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia” report.

This goes a long way to addressing my concerns about the use of sedition laws to stifle legitimate dissent in Australia, especially in the context of the proposed internet filter.

Indigenous health funding

I was pleased to hear about the Government’s announcement at COAG that it will contribute $806 million, along with $772 million from the states, over the next four years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

My understanding is that this is the biggest single injection of Indigenous health spending in decades and I fully support the Government’s pledge.

Carbon emission targets

I was very disappointed to hear the Government’s low targets for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions announced recently by the Prime Minister – targets that belie the rhetoric in the Prime Minister’s statements at the announcement and during the election campaign. I believe the Government has missed an opportunity to set strong targets that inspire other countries to join with us to achieve the required reductions.

Whilst this commitment – an unconditional target 5% of 2000 levels – is the minimum required to meet a 2050 target of 60% according to the Garnaut report, it is very low compared to the 25-40% on 1990 levels commitment sought at the recent COP13 talks in Bali and recommended for developed countries by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A commitment to 5% of 2000 levels is less than what developed countries agreed to (5.2% of 1990 levels) under the Kyoto Protocol by 2012. As you are no doubt aware Australia is the only country permitted to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. So in effect we aren’t even catching up to where Kyoto ratifying countries have committed to by 2012!

The justification that the current economic turmoil is a reason for not setting a stronger target is unreasonable for two reasons. Firstly, the current crisis will abate in due course, the impacts of climate change will not – and the ultimate impacts of climate change will be much more damaging to the economy than the current downturn.

Secondly, Australia should be looking to lead the way in the carbon-constrained economy by setting strong targets and supporting and rewarding innovation in the realm of carbon reduction in industry – it seems clear to me that this is the best measure for supporting the economy in the medium- to long-term.

Had such an approach been taken sooner, perhaps our car industry would not require the recent multi-billion dollar bailout. Every year that we postpone strong action puts us at an increasing economic disadvantage internationally. Strong targets would greatly hasten this goal.

The business community and citizenry support bold action. Primarily what is needed is strong leadership from Government. As a nation, we can achieve a lot, but only if we have the Government’s support.
I call on the Government to reconsider its policy and increase its unconditional commitment to a minimum of 25% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020, with further cuts evaluated upon international agreement being reached.

Yours sincerely,
Grant Young