Blog | 7th Nov, 2011

We officially have a price on pollution!

Today I went to Parliament House in Canberra to witness the carbon price legislation being passed into law. It was a humbling and exciting occasion.

The day began with the final speeches in the Senate. The public gallery was packed with community members buzzing with excitement to be there. Many Senators spoke passionately about why putting a price on pollution is critical to our future. Many of us reflected on the courage of the Government, Independents and The Greens to get the legislation to this final stage.

After some frustrating delaying tactics by the Opposition and a few last desperate jabs at the Government, the Clean Energy Future legislation was passed 36 votes to 32. In the final stages of a series of votes people in the public gallery burst into applause.

We then moved out onto the lawns of parliament house. There, Minister Penny Wong and Senator Christine Milne together with leaders from the Say Yes coalition including from the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Climate Action Network Australia, Get Up!, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Climate Institute, World Wildlife Fund Australia and me, from Environment Victoria joined together with hundreds of community members. To mark the occasion, we had decided to create a time capsule. There on the lawns we placed many items into the time capsule, including the messages from thousands of Australians about why they say yes to a carbon price.

Environment Victoria decided to put in a map of the proposed coal mining sites across Gippsland. When the onlookers saw how extensive the proposed coal mining sites are many gasped aloud and were staggered. We placed this map in there with a hope that in 2050 when we open the time capsule again we will find that these mines will not have gone ahead and that we will no longer be dependent on coal – one of the most polluting sources of energy.

The day really was a humbling experience and I felt deeply grateful to the people present and to all of those who have put their sweat, tears and cheers into getting a carbon price.

A quick search through the archives in the office last week showed that Environment Victoria has been working for a carbon price since at least 1997. I can’t imagine the number of campaigners, volunteers, members and supporters, climate action groups and others from the community who’ve been involved in just our work towards this end since then. If you’re one of them, thank you.

The carbon price package will create an incentive for big polluters to clean up their act, will support households already struggling with energy bills, will invest in clean, renewable energy, and will help replace some of our dirtiest power stations. The result will be a major step towards the transformation of Australia’s energy supply from old, out-of-date and polluting technology, to clean, safe and reliable power for the future.

As I observed the day’s progress and participated in proceedings I had the strong feeling that this legislative package going through means something real, it’s a concrete base upon which we can progress our work to stop dangerous climate change. And I am grateful for this.

So a massive congratulations and thank you to you all!