International Union Leader Slams Climate Change Politics

Australia must stand by its Pacific neighbours on climate change


One of the key players in the global trade union movement has condemned the Opposition's division on climate change heading into the Copenhagen meeting warning that Australia must stand by its Pacific neighbours.

Ahead of the vote on the ETS scheme, David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation, called on the Opposition and its leader Malcolm Turnbull to look to the long term.  

"We can't take the risk that we may be wrong here. There has to be a massive change in the way we structure our industries in the face of climate change. Restructuring has always been a trade union issue and therefore trade unions must be at the centre of a policy response here", said Cockroft who  is attending the ITF Oceania Sub-regional Organising Globally Seminar in Sydney.    

"Transport worldwide is a major emitter of C02 and we know there have to be some major adjustments. It will affect corporations and workers alike. We need to find a way of focusing on existing jobs and ask how we can make those jobs more green, so that we have more, decent unionised jobs out of the process", he said.

The ITF represents 654 unions and 4.5 million members worldwide, through 148 countries.

"With the very existence of a host of Pacific nations threatened by a 1 or 2 percent increase in temperatures Australia has a key regional responsibility in seeing that Copenhagen establishes a benchmark for developed and developing countries. If Australia backs down at the conference it will represent a betrayal of its neighbours", he said.

Mr Cockcroft was taken aback by comments made by the Liberals Senate Leader Nick Minchin on the ABC's Four Corners Program last night.

"That a senior politician can claim that man made -climate change and pollution-reducing schemes are somehow a "left wing conspiracy" and that "for the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they always wanted to do - to sort of de-industrialise the Western World" is the sort of language you expect from Dr Evil in an Austin Powers movie.

"The key message from the recent United Nations Leadership Forum on Climate Change which I attended was "seal the deal" in Copenhagen.

"When you realise that this means accepting a reduction in CO2 emissions by developed countries from 1990 levels of 80 per cent by 2050 and substantial cuts in the growth rates of emissions by developing countries, you can see that this will have a profound effect on most industries.  

"Transport is part of the solution and promotion of public transport is priority.  We can talk about solutions including hybrid and electric cars but buses are an even better solution", said Cockroft.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said that the Pacific region was made up of many island nations and the ITF could not afford to be Eurocentric.

"We need to be organised and we need to speak for the whole of our region. As maritime workers we also have to ask if we need specific representatives in Copenhagen representing our interests. I believe the answer is yes", Crumlin said.

The CFMEU's General President Tony Maher said that climate change may have begun as an environmental issue but it was now very much a trade and economic one.
"The developed world has created this problem. A lot of it comes down to who pays. We are seeing vested interests deploying scare tactics but we have to look at this in the long term", Maher said.             

Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin: 0418 379660
Michael Meagher: 0410 482367