What do we want?

I went out door-knocking yesterday. My group, Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle, joined with dozens of other groups across the country, talking to people about Renewable Energy. We’ve been doing this for a couple of months now, but yesterday was the culmination of the campaign, and happened to be on the same weekend as the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee was spending the weekend in Canberra, drumming out details of the proposed Carbon Tax.

It’s not like delivering pamphlets, or even collecting for a charity. Door-knocking takes a lot longer to get up and down a street: more often than not there’s no reply at several houses in a row, but then you find someone at home and you’re there for at least five minutes and often ten, going through the questions. But most of us yesterday got to speak to about a dozen people, and I guess that would have added up to several thousand across the country.

All but one of the people I spoke to thought the government should be doing more about renewable energy.  Mostly they said “it’s all talk and no action” or “they’re just playing politics instead of tackling the issues”. Nearly everyone believed we should setting policies that would move Australia towards reliance on renewable energy, not on fossil fuels.

Many people admitted to being a little short on real information about the subject, and complained that the opposition and big business were clouding the issues.

And all but one said we should have a carbon tax, and we should have it now. There was discussion about how it would work, and some concern about its effects and its effectiveness: but as to the general principle, the answer was “yes” there must be a price on pollution, there must be a carbon tax.

a tonne of coal sends over three tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when its burnt

You might point out I was in the streets of Balmain, where they’ve just elected a Green MP to the NSW State parliament.  So of course I’d get a  pro-renewable energy response from people. But we’ve been doing this all around the country for months, and all across the country I am learning that the results are similar with only minor variations. People want a carbon tax, and they want to get on with it.

In the climate change movement, we know that the most important thing is to get these voices heard. That’s why we’re doing this door-knocking, to get the opinions of ordinary Australians.

After we’d finished, I got in the car and turned on the radio, scanning the dial for a news station.  As I was backing out of the car park I heard a voice seemingly echoing exactly those ideas.  ” . . .need to hear from ordinary people about this carbon tax . . . “.

I paid closer attention:

” Because let me tell you” the voice went on, ” if these politicians would just  listen to what the people want, they’d hear that we don’t want a bar of this stupid tax.  Nobody wants it.  And let me tell you, we’d hear no more about it – they’d drop it like a stone”.

A shock. After hearing from “the people” all afternoon during a national day of door-knocking, I turn on the radio, and hear exactly the opposite result. I glanced at the radio and found it was tuned to 2UE.   That explained a lot.

Regrettably, political decision-making in this country seems to be based more on who shouts the loudest than on sensible examination of the issues. Politicians take notice of the loudest people, regardless of the actual strength of their support. But yesterday’s door-knock underlined, for me at least, what a small base of support the shock jocks actually have for their views.

And so the task continues, never more important than now: to stand up for action on climate change, for a price on pollution, for support for renewable energy, and against misinformation, fear and the greed of vested interest.

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