Earth Hour generated plenty of heat, if very little light, in political circles last Friday when the Department of Parliamentary Services dispatched an email to members and staff in Parliament House urging them to turn off all their equipment before the left for the weekend.

From: Hale, Lenore (DPS) On Behalf Of Crane, Terry (DPS)
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2009 10:30 AM
To: DPS-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department
Subject: * Earth Hour reminder *

Earth Hour reminder! Don’t forget Earth Hour is on tomorrow, Saturday 28 March at 8:30pm.

Please switch off all office lighting, printers, faxes, photocopiers, kitchen appliances and computing hardware before you leave the office today.

If you would like any further information, please contact…

Perhaps riled by the gratuitous use of an exclamation mark, Western Australian greenhouse denialist Dennis Jensen fired back some hours later — using reply-all:

From: Jensen, Dennis (MP)
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2009 2:20 PM
To: DPS-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department
Subject: RE: * Earth Hour reminder *

All

In my view, this is utterly inappropriate. Earth Hour is a political campaign run by the WWF, and as such the DPS should not be involving itself, or us, in a political campaign. It is fine for individuals to choose to subscribe to this “initiative”, but it should not be something that is overtly supported in any official capacity. I would urge the DPS to retract official support from this campaign.

Kind regards
Dennis Jensen

This in turn riled some others. One MP’s staffer replied to Jensen:

Dear Dennis,

While I agree that sending an Earth Hour reminder is inappropriate, It is also highly inappropriate of you too spam every single person on the DPS-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department with your political opinions.

Take me OFF your pearls of wisdom list.

Jensen, evidently with nothing better to do, responded immediately.

Well, I was just putting a counter opinion to the same group exposed to the original. Did you stop to think about that?

The staffer replied:

I don’t care. If I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it.

Jensen:

As per the original in my case. Amazing how sensitive some of you lefties are

Staffer:

As per my original email.

Jensen:

Ahhh, it’s fun baiting lefties

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, commendably hard at work on a Friday afternoon, also replied-all:

From: Oakeshott, Robert (MP)
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2009 3:39 PM
To: Jensen, Dennis (MP); DPS-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department
Subject: RE: * Earth Hour reminder *

Dennis,

On the contrary, it is my understanding that Independent NSW State MP and Mayor of Sydney City Council Clover Moore took the Earth Hour concept to other major capital cities throughout the world and was successful in gaining major capital cities support. It is therefore entirely appropriate this is circulated and that the parliament supports it.

Happy to discuss more if you want. Maybe at 8.30 tomorrow night?

Rob Oakeshott MP

Nigel Scullion’s office cheered Oakeshott:

From: Elferink, Dee (Sen N. Scullion)
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2009 5:01 PM
To: Oakeshott, Robert (MP); Jensen, Dennis (MP); DPS-Department; SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department
Subject: RE: * Earth Hour reminder *

Well said Mr Oakeshott. Although I am going to keep my TV plugged in — the AFL footy is on !!!

Dee Elferink
Media & Communications

For Senator The Hon. Nigel Scullion
Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory
Federal Shadow Minister for Human Services
Deputy Leader of The Nationals

But not before someone in the office of noted Western Australian sceptic and tidal power advocate Wilson Tuckey also bought in:

From: Holmes, Sam (W. Tuckey, MP)
Sent: Friday, 27 March 2009 4:56 PM
To: Oakeshott, Robert (MP); SEN-Senators; SEN-SenStaff; SEN-Department; REPS-Members; REPS-MemStaff; REPS-Department
Subject: RE: * Earth Hour reminder *

Mr Oakeshott,

From Earth Hour’s website:

“Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message. They want action on climate change.” said [UN] Secretary-General Ban. About Earth Hour: “Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming” More about Earth Hour: “WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol”.

I think one could say that Earth Hour would appear to be political in nature. To some at least, it doesn’t appear to be about reducing emissions:

I agree with Dr Jensen and I would argue that it is certainly inappropriate for Parliament to urge its Members & staff to take actions which will be presented at the Global Climate Conference.

DPS by circulating this has asked us to make a political statement through the auspices of the public service network, which is completely inappropriate. To VOTE EARTH as we’ve been asked to do is to indicate a desire for ‘action on climate change’ which will be presented for consideration at the Climate Change conference to ‘determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol’.

When is it that public servants are supposed to be political?

Senators, Members and staff who wish to VOTE EARTH! can ‘switch off all office lighting, printers, faxes, photocopiers, kitchen appliances and computing hardware before they leave the office today’. That’s if they don’t do so already. I, however, will do what I want, actually. And I’d prefer not to be encouraged either way thanks.

Regards

Sam Holmes
Electorate Officer
Office of the Hon Wilson Tuckey
Federal Member for O’Connor

Unfortunately Sam Holmes then thought better of replying-all and tried to that most useless of cyber-tools, the retraction, which invariably serves only to draw attention to what you’ve just said.

Your taxpayer dollars — and taxpayer-funded IT system — hard at work.

Peter Fray

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