christine milne...

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    Abbott's support for Old King Coal is worse than knighting a prince

    CHRISTINE MILNEABC Environment13 FEB 2015

    Tony Abbott has an abiding affection for royalty, including Prince Philip and Old King Coal.

    If you needed more evidence that Tony Abbott's views are stuck in a bygone era, look to his support of a power source from the 1800s.
    PRIME MINISTER TONY ABBOTTknights a prince and pushes his own leadership to the brink of a spill. The resulting storm of criticism has dimmed the flame Mr Abbott keeps lit for the monarchy — even his biggest supporters have called him out of touch, behind the times, clinging desperately to a bygone era.
    That's true, but knights and dames are the least of it.
    The Prime Minister's knighthood decision was dumb, but it isn't hurting anybody (except maybe himself) in the comprehensive, long-lasting way some of his other decisions are.
    Worse than knighting a prince is pledging allegiance to Old King Coal.
    Who could forget when Tony Abbott declared that, "coal is good for humanity"? It is not. Coal has been left behind by the clever, cleaner alternatives we have today.
    Then the PM said, "coal has a big future in Australia". It does not. It is a dying industry reliant on a resource that must be left in the ground if we want to maintain a liveable planet.
    But politics can move painfully slowly. On this issue Parliament House is stuck in slow-motion, while the rest of Australia is charging ahead. There are thousands of people working as solar installers; farmers are including renewable energy on the balance sheet by getting a stable income from wind turbines; communities are coming together against coal seam gas; and individuals are doing all they can to cut pollution — reducing, rethinking, reusing, recycling, and cutting their bills with renewable power.
    In recent years, people have really harnessed their power as consumers, but not all have yet realised how much power they have as investors.
    You don't need a share portfolio. If you have a bank account, you have money being invested. If you have superannuation, you have money being invested. If you're paying a mortgage, university fees, council rates or tax you have money being invested. But how is your money being used?
    Is your money helping to finance that new coal mine your friends have been angry about at Maules Creek? Is your money helping to build a massive coal port in the Great Barrier Reef? Is your money paying to maintain coal-fired power stations that are spewing out pollution and surplus energy, while you're at home diligently cutting your electricity use or installing solar panels?
    Billions of taxpayer dollars — your dollars — are being used by the current government to support the fossil fuels industry: directly through subsidies and rebates, as well as indirectly by investing the money in Australia's savings account, the Future Fund.
    In the Federal Parliament, the Greens are pushing for the Future Fund to divest from fossil fuels, the way it stopped investing in tobacco.
    Fossil fuel pollution is like second-hand smoke on a global scale. We shouldn't prop up such a harmful industry, especially when Australia is rich in the alternatives: sunshine, heat, waves and wind.
    Our Prime Minister is all about preserving the old order — whether it's knights and dames or the old polluting industries — and he's fallen way behind the country he's supposed to be leading.
    The Greens will keep trying to drag the Liberals out of the Industrial Revolution, to clean up the use of your tax money. Meanwhile, you can get on with the rest.
    It's Global Divestment Day, led in Australia by, and it takes just a few clicks to find out how your money is being used. The next step is to take the power back. You can vote with your wallet and switch to banks and super funds that invest in industries you support.
    Christine Milne is leader of the Australian Greens
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