Help us make the most of this opportunity

Campaigning for change article written on the 24 Sep 2010

We haven’t been in this position for seventy years. With the dust now settling after the federal election, we have a parliament – both in the lower and upper houses – that appears set to accommodate a wider range of views than it has for a very long time. Climate change is key amongst them, with Julia Gillard just this week flagging her government’s renewed interest in taking action.

Given this, you have a unique opportunity to help press for reform on a number of issues important to many Australians and on which we have been campaigning for years: Indigenous health; reducing global poverty; climate change; and the treatment of asylum seekers.

We have a plan for what we would like to see achieved by government in its first 100 days through to the end of 2011. Join us to press this case for change.

What we’d like to see in the government’s first 100 days:

  1. The setting up of an all-party climate change committee – this was part of the post-election agreement struck with the Greens.
    • As the world’s highest per person greenhouse gas polluter, Australia needs to immediately tackle the issue of reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. It must set out a clear agenda for developing clean energy as well as its strategy for reducing our GHG emissions.
  2. Play a positive role at the United Nations (UN) climate change negotiations in Cancun later this year. This should provide the building blocks for a global agreement on climate change to be achieved at the UN meeting being held in South Africa at the end of 2011.
    • The building blocks we’ll be campaigning for include the establishment of the international climate fund promised at the Copenhagen meeting last year. This fund must include the establishment of a governance structure ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable communities get assistance to adapt to the impacts of climate change. It must also enshrine principles of gender equity.
  3. A strengthening of the cross-party commitment to close the gap between Indigenous life expectancy and that of other Australians backed by a comprehensive plan of action.
  4. Establish a timeline for commencing negotiations with countries in our region on the development of an UNHCR-sanctioned regional protection framework for refugees and asylum seekers. This should have the protection and welfare of asylum seekers at its core.
    • Such a framework would ensure Australia upholds its international obligations to treat asylum seekers humanely including accepting the responsibility for on-shore processing of those who enter our territory and not simply establishing a regional processing centre.

What we’d like to see in Budget 2011:

  1. Practical steps towards closing the gap through increased funding to Indigenous community controlled health services and the release of a long-term plan. This plan needs to have been developed in genuine partnership with Indigenous organisations and communities, and have as its central aim the timetabled closing of this life expectancy gap within a generation.
  2. A fulfilment of the government’s promise to increase our aid spending and quality. This must include the establishment of a strategic and timetabled framework for continuing the growth in the aid program to 0.7% of Gross National Income within the medium term.
    • Most rich donor nations have already committed to aid spending of 0.7% of their GNI. Sixty-four per cent of Australians and 84% of young Australian support the government developing a timetable for aid to reach 0.7% of GNI.
  3. An increase in aid in key areas including: the prevention of violence against women; maternal and child health; water and sanitation; and increased funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.
  4. Funding for our share of the ‘fast track finance’ promised at the UN negotiations in Copenhagen. This climate funding would be used to assist developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change they are currently experiencing.
    • Australia’s fair share is $A760m over three years. (So far, under the Copenhagen Accord Australia has only committed $A350m.) This fund would assist countries like Tuvalu, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea that are experiencing severe climate impacts including: salt water intrusion into ground-water and agricultural land; coastal erosion; increased drought; and increasing intensity and frequency of severe weather events.

By the end of 2011 we want to see the government:

Support a fair, ambitious and legally binding global agreement on climate change at the UN climate meeting in South Africa. This should include emission reduction targets that would ensure global temperature rises are kept as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible. This agreement should also provide funds – through the establishment of an international climate fund – that would enable poor, developing countries, to adapt to climate change and end poverty through low-carbon development pathways.

With your support we are confident that we can achieve many of these objectives and make significant progress on others. We look forward to working with you to bring about change.

If you’d like to assist our work further then please think about becoming a financial supporter of our campaign work – it will make a real difference.

Andrew Hewett, Executive Director Oxfam Australia