John Connor speaks at Say Yes rally in Adelaide Speech

Jun 06, 2011 - 3:24pm

On 5 June 2011 almost 45,000 of Australians stood up at rallies across the nation to “Say Yes” to cutting pollution and taking decisive action on climate change. Rallies took place simultaneously in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Canberra, in a national day of action organised as part of the “Say Yes” campaign.

John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, delivered this speech in Adelaide. 

Citizens of Adelaide, I am proud to be with such positive, forward thinking and important people today.

You are joining tens of thousands who, across Australia today, are coming together to say YES.

From Perth to Wagga Wagga, from Brisbane to Hobart, Australian’s from all walks of life are voicing their support and joining those who:

  • Say YES to finally making our biggest companies start to pay for polluting our skies
  • Say YES to money from those payments, and its incentives, driving investment in cleaner industries and cleaner energy
  • Say YES to money from the big polluters being used to ensure those on lower incomes are better off and there is support for workers and others as we shift to a cleaner economy
  • Say YES to cutting our carbon pollution and helping global efforts to tackle climate change

Citizens, we need all your support and positivity because I’ll let you in on a secret:
We are in a struggle

I know, it is hard to believe but it is true.

We are in a struggle against those captains of industry, who like not having to pay for their carbon pollution and seem to like not having to think about cleaner and energy smarter ways of doing business.

We are in a struggle against those who will risk our way of life, and the health and prosperity of our children, by rejecting the views of over 97% of published climate scientists By rejecting the world’s leading Academies of Science and by rejecting the CSIRO, who all tell us the risks are great and the need for action is urgent.

We are in a struggle against those who persist in the myth that Australia is somehow at risk of leading the world in taking action on pollution and climate change.  Against those who shut their eyes and ears to commitments like the UK to halve pollution levels by 2025 and to the massive investment in clean energy in China and across Asia.  

Even New Zealand has a price on pollution!

We are in a struggle with those who will make action on pollution and clean energy the scapegoat for electricity price rises and the pressure on manufacturing.  Those who ignore the fact that electricity price rises have been driven by fuel and network, pole and wires, cost increases and that manufacturing’s woes in Whyalla and elsewhere are at far greater risk from currency and terms of trade increases from the resources boom.  Both impacts are bigger than potential carbon price impacts.

Finally, we are in a struggle against those in politics, business and the media, who persist in a fear campaign intentionally frightening workers, low income households and others with the worst possible scenarios  – and then some – of taking action.  This is a struggle against those who wilfully ignore the support packages that will be there for families and businesses as we switch to a cleaner economy.

We will win this struggle!

Citizens, we have to face up to the fact that Australia is a big polluter and the longer we delay action, the more it will cost.

Our carbon pollution dependent economy doesn’t just leave us with the premiership flag for highest carbon pollution per person.

Australia is the world’s sixteenth biggest polluter in absolute terms, roughly similar to UK, France and Italy.

We are also in the top ten when it comes to carbon pollution in terms of energy production.  We are in the company of much poorer countries like Botswana, Estonia, Mongolia and others in this regard.  Countries who don’t have the abundant clean energy resources of solar, wind, geothermal, wave and others that we have.

We have to drop our economy’s dependence on carbon pollution, not just for the planet but for our future prosperity and economic competitiveness.

This need to increase our carbon competitiveness has been pointed out by many global business leaders, from GE to BHP.  Marius Kloppers, Chief Executive of BHP made a speech recently where he acknowledged that Australia must become a low carbon economy if it is to be competitive in a global economy that will be carbon constrained.

Since then, BHP has unfortunately joined others in seeking special treatment and favours in the switch.  

I apologise for saying this in the city of churches but this is like saying oh Lord, give me chastity - but just not yet!

Citizens, with your help we will win this struggle against fear, prejudice and short sightedness.

Our challenge from here is to push past these voices and speak directly with our fellow Australians.  That’s why today we set ourselves the bold target of having one million conversations this week – today.

Word of mouth – you sharing your story about why you support action on climate change – you giving a letter to a neighbour or making a phone call the most effective persuasion technique we have.

That’s why right now marshals are travelling the crowd handing out letters and flyers, if each of us simply drop them off to between 10 and 20 neighbours on our way home today we’ll have reached a million people directly with our message.

With this we can send a message to our Government, the Greens and the Independents, that we want them to price pollution, encourage clean energy and energy efficiency, look after workers and those struggling with energy bills to:

  • Say YES to cutting carbon pollution
  • YES to cleaner industries
  • YES to a healthier environment for our kids
  • YES to finally acting on climate change

Citizens, last Sunday we witnessed one of the lowest and trashiest attacks as we launched the Say YES campaign.  

There were personal, mean spirited and anti-democratic attacks on Michael Caton, Cate Blanchett and other Australians in our advertisement urging action.  

Leading papers claimed community outrage before a single ad was aired!

With you joining in, we have launched a tremendous fight-back with Australians from all walks of life joining in:

  • Liberal leaders like John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser joining with former ALP PM Bob Hawke;
  • Leading economists joining religious leaders from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and other faiths;
  • Farmers and sports people;
  • Manufacturing workers and their unions, the Australian Council of Trade Unions;
  • The low paid and the well paid

Together, we will win this struggle and be proud of an Australia that Says YES to cutting carbon pollution, YES to cleaner industries and YES to tackling climate change.

Thank you for your support now and in coming weeks and Happy World Environment Day!

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