Crikey regular Clive Hamilton explains why he is running in the Higgins by-election as a candidate for the Greens (we have also offered space to the Liberal candidate, Kelly O’Dwyer):

I decided to become the Greens candidate for the Higgins by-election because I am scared. With the climate scientists ringing the alarm bells at a deafening volume, and the crucial Copenhagen climate conference in December, it is time for us to act and act decisively on global warming.

Those of us willing to heed the alarm bells and understand what is at stake, watch in dismay as the government and the opposition in federal Parliament squabble over who can do less to tackle this fearsome threat to our future.

Adelaide’s water has dried up; the Great Barrier Reef can no longer be salvaged; the February inferno killed 200 Australians after a fierce heat-wave.

What will it take for our leaders to wake up? There is nothing more important. The climate scientists say we have at most a few years to get it right. By 2020 it will be too late. Allowing the coal industry to expand is criminally irresponsible.

Yet, in the two main parties the choice is between the weak and the pathetic. We desperately need the leadership that the main parties seem incapable of giving, and it is only the Greens that can provide it.

So we have reached a political turning point. We Australians must decided whether we are going to be world leaders or world laggards; whether we are going to listen to the climate scientists and take urgent action, or listen instead to the fossil fuel lobbyists and climate sceptics whose voices currently dominate in Canberra.

I can write books and articles, and I can speak out. But if I can do more, then I am obliged to do so, otherwise I will not be able to look my children in the eye.

I am not from Higgins, but I have been selected by the local Greens to be their candidate. In this moment of our history, we are asking the voters of Higgins to think of themselves not as residents of Prahran or Glen Iris or Camberwell or Malvern; we are asking them to think of themselves as Australians.

We are asking the voters of Higgins to send an unambiguous message to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. And that message is this: “We are seriously worried about the changing climate that jeopardises our future and that of our children. Stop pretending to take warming seriously. Listen to the warnings of the scientists and take decisive action, now.”

Asylum seekers

Although for me the dominant issue is climate change, it is not the only one. I expect that the voters of Higgins are uncomfortable with the escalating rhetoric over asylum seekers.

The Sri Lankan asylum seekers are reluctant refugees. They do not want to leave their homeland; they are fleeing persecution. In their situation, we would do the same.

We have to decide whether we are a nation that accepts our legal and humanitarian obligations to the persecuted, or a nation of fearful people who would turn away those asking for our help.

Through their incontinent language, Prime Minister Rudd and Opposition leader Turnbull have stirred the ghost of Pauline Hansen, who now stalks the corridors of Parliament House.

There are many on the back benches of both parties who must be appalled by this turn of events, yet only the Greens have taken a principled position.

With only a cigarette paper separating the main parties on all of the important issues, they must resort to spin to create the impression of difference. We need an alternative because the system is rotten.

Now it imperils our very future. Global events have converged and it is now or never to get climate policy right.

The political system has failed. It has responded to the climate crisis with a mixture of denial, spin and capitulation to commercial interests. The answer is not to abandon democracy, but to reclaim and reinvigorate it. And that is why I am running for the Greens in Higgins.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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