SPC members, Peter Whiting, Bill Frilay, Bruce Duncan and Audra Kunciunas, met on 12 October with Senator Jacinta Collins, Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, and her advisor, John Conlan.
We nominated our areas of concern and expressed our wish to work constructively in the evelopment of public policy. We were open to suggestions or advice from Senator Collins, and expressed our hope that she would see us as a resource for engaging with church and community opinion.
We discussed the asylum seeker issues, especially our concerns about women and children in detention. We also spoke about the Woomera. Millennium Development Goals, noting that while we supported the government in its efforts to increase our foreign aid to 0.5% of GDP by 2015, this still fell well short of the UN target of 0.7% of GDP that Australia had earlier agreed to.
Climate change was also prominent in our conversation, and we noted that SPC policy was close to that proposed by Labor before the Copenhagen conference. We expressed our disappointment that it appeared to drop off the policy agenda during the election campaign, but were pleased to see it now firmly back on the agenda. The issue of whether it would be better to have a carbon tax or an Emissions Trading Scheme we would leave to others, but we were convinced that astute regulation was urgently needed to allow businesses to plan and invest.
We also related our advocacy on nuclear non–proliferation over the past 18 months. While we were disappointed with the outcomes of the UN NonProliferation Treaty Review, the Rudd government did much valuable work through the International Commission for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. We urged the new government to continue working for disarmament through bilateral and multilateral discussions.
Senator Collins’s advice to us was to build up community consensus on a range of issues, including on asylum seekers to minimise use of detention consistent with security concerns.