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With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions coming into place progressively throughout the States and Territories, it is not surprising that many are now focusing on steps to recovery. The Prime Minister has announced that the new National Cabinet will replace the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), focusing the new body squarely on job creation. The consensus, whether from State or Federal leaders, the Reserve Bank or Industry bodies, is that we cannot simply return to the ‘old normal’, and that reform is required.
Morrison government dangles new carrots for industry, but fails to fix bigger climate policy problem
The intricacies of climate change policy have not been front of mind for the Australian government this last half year, but the issue is now back on the agenda. Yesterday, a review was released into new low-cost sources of emissions reduction, chaired by energy industry executive Grant King. The government has accepted many of its recommendations.
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor says the changes create new ways to reduce emissions across the industrial, manufacturing, transport, and agriculture sectors. The package spells a broadening of existing mechanisms, and may open the door to some improved outcomes. But the existing climate policy patchwork remains deeply inadequate, and, in practice, the changes may do little more than channel government funding to industry.
It would be counter-productive to wind the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs down and tighten the budget too quickly. In particular, higher education, international tourism, and the arts and entertainment industries may well require further assistance. In addition, there are good social reasons that it would not be fair to return to the previous rate of $40 per day for unemployed persons under Newstart …
The present budget deficit is an appropriate response to the present recession. And the biggest risk to the recovery would be premature action to reduce that deficit. As that orthodox journal The Economist put it recently, “rich world governments will make a big mistake if they succumb to premature and excessive worries about deficits”.
This is the critical decade. Scientists tell us, repeatedly and with a near unanimous voice, that serious emissions reductions must be achieved in the next 10 years if the world is to flatten the emissions curve and give itself half a chance of capping average global warming at less than 2°C. A target of 1.5°C may already be out of reach.
Australia finds itself at a critical juncture. It benefits from the stunning cost reductions in solar, wind, and battery storage, and key institutions have mapped out a path to a high renewable energy grid. Experts are shining the light on a future of green manufacturing and ‘green energy exports‘ which could enhance the position of the country as a significant energy superpower. But the fossil fuel industry and its backers, with their focus almost entirely on short-term profits and ideological claptrap, have other ideas.
Greatly concerned about the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, significant voices are urging us to reshape public policies, and reset our compass towards a fair and sustainable economy. The Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, in a speech on 21 April, urged collaborative economic reforms to develop “strong and sustainable growth and rising living standards for all Australians”. But as Dr Joe Zabar, deputy CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, comments, we need tax reform, but not necessarily tax cuts, industrial relations reform “but not reduced working conditions and job security under the guise of increased flexibility”. And, of course, we need policies to provide full employment.
The question of population is more complex than it may seem, in the context of climate change, as well as in other issues such as biodiversity loss, and international development.
As a starting point, let’s look at “out-of-control population growth”. In fact, population growth is more ‘in control’ than it has been for the past 50 years. The global rate of population growth has been declining from just over 2% per year in 1970 to less than 1.1% in 2020, (and this estimate was made before COVID-19 erupted globally).
Action for a Fairer World
Yarra Theological Union study unit with Dr Bruce Duncan
Since his 2015 document Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has continually urged vigorous ecumenical and inter-faith action to help solve global warming and extreme inequality. These issues are even more urgent than ever after the financial and health crises resulting from Covid-19.
The unit explores the influences on Pope Francis and his team of advisers and collaborators, including by leading economists, demographers, environmentalists, and social thinkers involved in developing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It examines Pope Francis’s moral critique of economics today, especially extreme inequality resulting from neoliberal policies. It highlights the climate crisis compounding the challenge of how an increasing population can live sustainably without excessive consumption.
The unit considers the roles of religion, values, and economics in shaping a fairer world.
Classes 6pm Mondays from 27 July 2020 for 12 weeks.
Enrolments 6-16 July 2020 (for accreditation or audit).
See the YTU Handbook, or contact the Registrar at 03 9890 3771 | firstname.lastname@example.org.
For awards, courses, and units available within the University of Divinity, go to www.divinity.edu.au.
Reviewed by Lisa Bright
I was intrigued when invited to review Mary Burke’s My Cry is to All That Live: Voices of Women & Earth in the Gospels, as the book moved outside of my normal interests. I don’t often explore an ecofeminist point of view, and I wasn’t sure I would find this book relatable. Yet, right from the preface, I was hooked. It promised to offer a refreshing exploration of the Gospels through the lens of today’s world. From its rich and original iconography, through to imaginary conversations with female characters or nature itself, this book did not disappoint.
SPC video selection
Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta
Five years ago, Pope Francis issued Laudato Si’. That encyclical, on the environment, called for an ‘ecological conversion’, meaning a deep communion with all things that surround us. In that prophetic document, we have a blueprint for a sustainable future based on respect and love for this beautiful planet. The encyclical is offered to us as a timely reminder that we humans are part of the interconnected cosmic web of creation, and we need to live in harmony with it. Today, we are also challenged to move individually and collectively beyond old patterns of living and behaviour.