Dear Prime Minister, Our Kids Are Trusting Us On Climate Change

We must not let them down.

14/07/2016 11:02 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:57 PM AEST
Roger Wright
"Anyone who seeks a position of public responsibility is a trustee for their grandkids -- indeed for all the children of the future."

Dear Prime Minister,

Sincere congratulations on your re-election.

I am writing to you today, though, not as a voter addressing Australia's leader, but as a father to a grandfather.

It was delightful to see you with your grandchildren, Jack and Isla, during the election campaign. They look like lovely, bouncy little kids who are no doubt a source of enormous pride and joy to their families.

I've got two daughters, Josie and Rachel, who are seven and almost four. My father got to meet a very young Josie before he died, but he never got to meet Rachel, which is something I feel enduring sadness about. I wish you and your family all the best in cherishing the opportunities to be together.

I was genuinely moved by your public comments earlier this week when you said: "I know many people probably think I am an unduly sentimental fellow, sentimental bloke perhaps... But I was touched, deeply touched by the fact that when Bill [Shorten] rang [to concede the election] I literally had my, our little granddaughter on my hip... It is a beautiful reminder that we are trustees... for future generations. We're trustees for our little grandchildren and of course their grandchildren."

I agree with you. Anyone who seeks a position of public responsibility is a trustee for their grandkids -- indeed for all the children of the future. It is a solemn but beautiful duty to build and nurture a world that will enable the descendants of the Jacks, the Islas, the Rachels and the Josies, and all of their generation, to flourish long after we are gone. It is the greatest gift we can give.

I have only met you personally on one occasion, but you were generous with your time, which I greatly appreciated. Predictably, we talked mainly of global warming. I believe we share the understanding that global warming poses the single greatest threat to the future health, safety and happiness of my children and your grandchildren; indeed, of all the children of our country.

Like many Australians, I rejoiced when you took the prime ministership from Mr Abbott because I know you understand the need for a proportionate response to global warming. For whatever reason, your predecessor did not. But I won't lie -- I was badly disappointed in the first Turnbull Government for failing to do what is needed on global warming, and I've been publicly critical of that failure. Nothing personal of course, and nothing partisan either -- I've had a go at plenty of ALP politicians in the past too, because my organisation is an independent watchdog in our democracy.

The beauty of an election is that every new prime minister gets a fresh chance. Like many Australians, I continue to believe that you want something different.

As you know, at law the distinguishing obligation of a trustee is single-minded loyalty -- which is what future generations are entitled to from us. In your unique case and adopting your test, I respectfully suggest that your trusteeship entails undertaking the political contest with Coalition members who do not understand the scale of the threat posed by global warming.

I do hope you think about what you have described as trusteeship every single day, since the current parliament may well be the most crucial in Australian history. I hope this duty guides you in all you do. This year we have seen our reefs bleaching, our mangroves dying and our forests burning. But as the saying goes, the future is not yet written.

All over Australia, individuals, local communities and the entrepreneurs of the renewables industry are ready to put a hand out to work with you. Emissions targets that reflect the best science, fostering rapid innovation in the renewables sector, commitment to global best practice and removing industry subsidies and protection for the fossil fuel industry could become the hallmarks of your government.

The Australian prime minister who secures our country with a swift, fair and just transition away from fossil fuels will take their place as one of the giants of our national story. Any such leader will be able to look a child of our country in the eye and say with honour that they did all they could; that they did what was right in the face of the evidence; that they fully discharged their trusteeship.

My seven-year-old daughter, Josie, asked me recently what would happen if the grown-ups didn't find a solution to global warming. I looked her in the eye and promised her that the grown-ups would sort it out; that we would not let her down.

From a father to a grandfather, I wish you the best of good fortune in leading our nation well.

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