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September 21, 2021

Time for tempers to cool? Greens MP calls for climate change truce

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Ballina MP Tamara Smith

Mia Armitage*

When Tamara Smith talks about a ‘gracious U-turn’, Byron readers might be surprised to learn she isn’t referring to drivers waiting patiently on Jonson Street outside the Mercato shopping centre.

The Greens state member for Ballina wants mainstream society to give conservatives on climate change another chance.

Ms Smith made the call on Bay FM’s Community Newsroom last week and little wonder if the progressive politician has raised eyebrows – after all, not even former federal coalition leader Malcom Turnbull has been so generous towards those he publicly denounced as ‘climate denialists’ on ABC’s Q and A late last year.

Mr Turnbull wasted no time pretending he held any hope of change on climate denialism within the far-right ranks of his old team-mates and given the likes of federal MP Craig Kelly’s recent performance in a UK TV interview, it’s hard to blame him.

But in a region where voters are wondering what to do next now that burning rainforests are supposedly part of the new norm, water restrictions are only getting tighter and bores and dams are running dry, the state representative voted in for a second term last year has lost interest in fighting.

The path of least resistance: let them ‘save face’

‘I think we’ve gotten ourselves into such a pickle over wedging,’ Ms Smith told Bay FM listeners, ‘it’s all attack and different positions’.

The Greens politician says we all need to allow the prime minister to do a ‘graceful about-turn’.

‘A graceful U-turn, for me, is where we let the Liberals and Nationals change the path they are on and we don’t attack them for doing it,’ she said.

‘So I’m refraining from the huge “I told you so” and all that sort of stuff, I loathe seeing anyone do that.

‘We’ve got to do everything we can so that they can save face because who cares who’s right? We just have to do this,’ she said, referring to a move to a lower carbon-emitting economy.

The member for Ballina says policies for bridging the transition will be her main priority in parliament this year.

Hope through the smoke

But with state politicians arguing just as furiously as their federal counterparts over whether or not to even mention climate change – try comparing commentary from the NSW environment minister to that of the transport minister or deputy premier, for example – it’s hard to see the light of hope though all the bushfire smoke.

As Ms Smith reminded listeners, The Greens NSW tried introducing a climate emergency in the last sitting week of parliament for 2019.

The party had the support of Labor but progressives in the lower house are outnumbered by conservatives and lost the vote.

Ms Smith says environment minister Matt Kean ‘stood up and trashed’ the initiative ‘because of politics’.

By Christmas, Mr Kean had started singing a different tune to the media, telling reporters the bushfires were related to climate change.

‘It’s a vicious cycle and it’s really hard to break out of,’ said Ms Smith.

‘I think that we in The Greens are in a position to be the better person, to be the better party, and to not make fun and say “look we don’t care that you’ve been wrong for a decade or more, we just want you to turn around”’, she said.

Climate change; a ‘mess’ and an ‘opportunity’, says Greens MP

The apparent call for a truce might be less about peace and diplomacy than a need to simply get on with the job of recovery and mitigation.

The Greens member says years of government inaction on climate change have created both ‘a mess and an opportunity’.

‘The chief commissioner of the RFS has come out and said the issue is not anything to do with environmental laws, it’s to do with our summer turning into nine months-long,’ Ms Smith said of the state’s ongoing bushfire crisis.

‘There simply isn’t a gap to do the hazard reduction burning, so we’ve got a lot of mess to do with mitigation now and of course we’ve got this huge opportunity to become a low-carbon economy and a superpower in renewable energy’.

Billions in funding for bushfire survivors… but when?

The Greens last week put out a media release calling for an urgent return to parliament to fast-track recovery funds for NSW bushfire survivors.

The party wanted each NSW household lost due to fire to be eligible for a one-off, non-means-tested payment of $10,000.

The government has instead promised a billion dollars of funding for recovery to complement money promised to the state as part of a $2 billion federal fund.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the money will be used for infrastructure but details on when and exactly how the funds will be spent are yet to emerge.

Ms Smith said The Greens had support in the upper house for an early return to parliament and immediate cash payments to bushfire survivors but wasn’t sure where Labor stood on the idea and a lot of politicians were away on holiday.

‘We think the idea that we wait months, or at least a month, to support those nearly two thousand families that have lost their homes in NSW Is just too long,’ she said

To hear the full interview with Tamara Smith on Bay FM’s Community Newsroom.

* Mia Armitage is a member of Bay FM.

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  1. Well said Tamara. The UK has successfully introduced targets and major initiatives around reducing carbon production based on tri-partisan support from the Conservatives, Liberals and Labour. We can see subtle shifts in the PM’s language around the relationship between global warming and the recent fires and, tragic though those fires are, they give him leverage to pressure his denialist colleagues to at the least not block action on the issue that the majority of the electorate now expect.

    That does not mean we should not continue to hold the Government to account for its actions and pressure it to do more. Germany has announced it will phase out coal power by 2018 and other large producers of coal fired power like China and India also have longer term plans to do so. Australia needs to be taking a position of global leadership on negotiating for greater reductions in emissions. Many in the public would agree with Tamara that a tri-partisan approach is the only way to make that happen. I encourage others to join me and share Tamara’s comments on social media beyond the Northern Rivers.

  2. Ballina MP Tamara Smith is the MP for the electorate of Ballina.
    That is mainstream, so there is no need to say “mainstream” as she is swimming quite well in the local social and political current. In the big pond in State parliament she floats well as well.

    • I would suggest that the mainstream in her electorate are conservative on climate change. She doesn’t want to get them offside as she will not retain her seat.

      • Surveys across Australia – including the NSW North Coast – have consistently shown over 80% of the population supports urgent action on climate change. The groups that show the least support all into the categories of: conservative voters, and/or aged 60+, and/ or having a lower standard of education. It is the pollies and the self-proclaimed climate experts in the right-wing media with their false and damaging narratives that need to change.

  3. We can’t have a green in a ‘hot seat’. A gracious
    U turn is a total turn off from me. What’s more, I
    am not the PM’s underdog.

  4. Wrote a lil’ something before… I have to say personally, I feel totally irate by the political situation at the moment.. thought I should nick off & live in France, they’ve banned Round up, they stood up to DT not cuddled up to the malevolent crazy that tweets all day instead of leaving it to a media person… & the acknowledge the planet needs help & respect. The rents are cheap.. ra ra.. then I remembered i’m Vegan. Trained,1st job in French Ala Carte cooking! better off here..

    I have to say this story legitimately pushed my buttons before, I was like a raving banshee… i’ve calmed down a little bit… so I will say this,
    No one is calling for Gladys to remove herself.
    Why not…? I feel so confused! Is it that we have become so tolerant & expect constant failings from Government that people are just over fighting. I know I am. Fighting for the right to love our planet. It’s an outrageous concept.

    I find it hard to believe that 2 weeks into Parliament & the only people calling for Scott Morrison’s removal are the people in the streets & not the politicians. I find it an outrageous betrayal of all that is good & wonderful about this planet, this country especially. I honestly cannot believe the vagrant apathy. These two people have openly & willingly contributed to harm on mass & are not being held to account.

    So I will say this Tamara. Sorry. You do not speak for me. It’s not about taking the high road or being right. It’s about making sure this type of scenario is never enabled again in this country. That by enabling this we become complicit in the most heinous wilful act of negligence by both & publicly. There is no need for debate. I personally feel overloaded by tyrant governments right now who are shielding each other from retribution because despite opposing sides, there is such a level of high self service that they will let the country down constantly to save their own skins.

    It’s not about 10 years of debate about climate change. It’s about now. Right now!
    There is no other royalty in this country or on this planet except the planet. We are all equal despite the social standing of custom & birth that is human culture & no disrespect intended.

    Really, it’s just very simply so offensive to observe this. Really I hear this & I say it’s s missed opportunity to remove a serial self server from a position where given the opportunity will continue to abuse the position.
    It’s just not acceptable. Where’s Jackie Lambie when you need her. I love that woman’s outspoken voice. She speaks up.

    So, I don’t agree. Tamara you don’t speak for me & right now, except for recovery relief, etc, which of course is paramount, no one is talking about Marrise Pain going to India to make another potential mining deal & a deal about our military. Quietly gone in Smoko’s place.

    The only one speaking for us here is the planet
    yet no-one in government is speaking for her.
    The abuse on this nation needs & demands immediate removal of Scott Morrison & while Gladys did work effectively, the lack of acknowledgement was a large contributor to the extent of damage.

    So it’s not acceptable to hear this.
    I understand the reasoning. Its ineffective! It also enables a whole lot of stuff to occur in between. It’s the job to activate these policy shifts. The relevance here is the absolute demand for accountability. Not blame. Accountability! This conversation is for me, utterly saddening. It is not inspiring. It says to me there are a lack of ideas now. Not in the past. Right here & now!

    Love & blessings


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