Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein has hit out at Australia’s climate change policy, saying the country was “raising the middle finger to the world”.
The Q&A panel, which also included Liberal senator James Paterson, shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese, author Don Watson and the Institute of Public Affairs’ Georgina Downer, discussed Australia’s approach to the issue as well as the country’s border protection policy.
Senator Paterson was asked when the Government would “accept once and for all the energy system has to change”, after the closure of the Hazelwood power station.
He defended the use of the coal power stations, arguing it was the cheapest source of energy.
“We can’t just turn it off … if we did just turn it off straightaway, we would have a massive spike in electricity prices and that would hurt businesses,” he said.
“If we’re going to make this transition, it would have to be in a way that’s mindful of the fact it has on people.”
But Klein said there was “overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real”.
“Among wealthy industrialised countries, Australia now stands alone raising the middle finger to the world and saying that we’re not going to act, and we will build massive new coal mines … opening up vast fracking fields,” she said.
“Just yesterday there was a piece, quoting Elon Musk, the inventor of the Tesla, saying we need a popular uprising against fossil fuels.
“‘I can’t do it alone just with tech.’ That’s what he said. We also have to stand up to the extraordinary power of coal, oil and gas.
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) November 7, 2016
“There’s debates about the details. But there is overwhelming scientific consensus, 98 per cent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing this.”
Ms Downer however argued “climate science was a constantly evolving science because our data sets are very, very small”.
“We don’t have satellite data from 1,000 years ago. Because obviously satellites weren’t invented,” she said.
— Rod Moffatt (@Ozlandscapes) November 7, 2016
Ms Downer said the IPA did not have a specific opinion on climate change.
“We have a committed line of research into the facts,” she said.
Proud of my daughter Georgina going on @QandA. Sad so many on Twitter descend to personal abuse. Argue on substance, not abuse
— Alexander Downer (@AusHCUK) November 7, 2016
The difference between Trump’s wall and Sovereign Borders?
The panel also discussed Australia’s border protection policy, focusing on the detention centres of Manus Island and Nauru.
When asked what the difference was between Operation Sovereign Borders and US Republican candidate Donald Trump’s proposed “wall”, Senator Paterson said the detention centres were “open centres where people can come and go”.
Good on Naomi Klein for criticising so bluntly what we are doing on Nauru and Manus #qanda
— Julian Burnside (@JulianBurnside) November 7, 2016
“They have healthcare. They can go to school. That’s one difference,” he said, as some members in the audience scoffed.
“But … the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd ran a taxpayer funded advertising campaign, and it was in Australia and overseas, and it said if you come here by boat you’ll never be settled in Australia.
“All the policy that [Immigration Minister] Peter Dutton has announced seeks to give effect to that … to put into law what that says.”
— Greenpeace Aus Pac (@GreenpeaceAP) November 7, 2016
But Mr Albanese disagreed, and argued the Government’s proposed legislation to ban refugees and asylum seekers in offshore processing centres from ever coming to Australia was “absurd”.
“If someone was settled … as a US citizen, in 40 years time they can’t visit here? That’s absurd,” he said.
Klein said she thought the Government’s proposal was “outrageous”.
“The New York Times called this proposal cruel, short-sighted and shameful,” Klein said.
— GetUp! (@GetUp) November 7, 2016
“I hear this argument that we can’t send a message to the people smugglers. What about the message you’re sending to refugees around the world?
“What message are you sending about Australia?
“I think that Donald Trump talking about building the wall with Mexico is insane and racist, but I think what Australia is doing on Manus and Nauru is as well.
“You’re doing it. He’s just talking about it.”