Sisters of St Joseph letter on post-COVID recovery

ARRCC supporters in Newcastle supporting Student Strike for Climate, Sep 20, 2019

Dated 4 August, 2020

Dear Mr Morrison, Mr Albanese, Mr Bandt and Mr McCormack,

I write as the coordinator of the Josephite Justice Network.  The Sisters of St Joseph were founded by Mary MacKillop in 1866 to work with those at the edges of society. ......

At this very time, when scientists are establishing new possibilities to assist in our recovery, both environmentally and economically, it is of enormous concern to us to watch as the Government moves to support fossil fuels.

We have been grateful for the decisions of the Australian Parliament to provide economic support during the Covid-19 pandemic.  This has been a time of extraordinary challenge, and while most of our Congregation’s service has been spent with those who have received no government support at all, we know that our work would have been enormously magnified if many Australians hadn’t received JobSeeker and JobKeeper.  As you yourself said, Mr Morrison, and as many Australians have reiterated, this extraordinary time calls us to work together to find new, creative and life-giving directions for us as a nation. 

At this very time, when scientists are establishing new possibilities to assist in our recovery, both environmentally and economically, it is of enormous concern to us to watch as the Government moves to support fossil fuels.  The Coalition’s decisions to increase the appointments of fossil fuels advocates to Boards and other Government agencies expose the partisan nature of Government decisions.  Blatant strategies for a gas-fired recovery can only serve to confirm this Government’s subservience to the fossil fuel industry, and reinforce the judgement made of Australia at the UN Climate conference in Madrid where Australia was named as the worst-performing country out of 57 nations, and a “regressive force internationally”.

Clearly, the health of our land and our communities has been superseded by the goal of short-term economic and political gain:

  • The King Review, headed by the former director of the electricity company, Origin, and the resultant  Energy Technology Roadmap (with its reliance on carbon capture and storage, gas, and hydrogen sourced from brown coal) does nothing to advance the urgent call for Australia to tackle the climate crisis
  • It has been little short of absurd to witness the Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister announce that Australia will continue to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to prolong the use of fossil fuels
  • The Coalition has lifted the ban on onshore gas in Victoria, allowed coal mines to operate under one of Sydney's major water sources, and is moving to open up swathes of country to dangerous fracking projects
  • The National Covid-19 Coordination Commission, charged with creating new possibilities for the future, is dominated by those with extensive commitment to the fossil fuel industry.
  • The board of ARENA is changing and there are serious questions about its future members and future direction, with the concerns that it will be less about renewable energy and more about areas such as carbon capture and storage.
  • Government decisions to promote and subsidise gas projects through a $2 billion investment in a new gas-fuelled energy deal demonstrate clearly that short term profits are taking precedence over the health of the community and environment.

As the evidence from scientists and environmentalists makes clear, the promotion by the Federal Government of “a gas-fired recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic” is short-sighted, highly politicised and dangerous. Even the very consideration of new gas production is an unwarranted and perilous step if Australia is to take seriously its responsibility to tackle climate change.[1]  Such a plan is dangerous and foolish, environmentally and economically. 

The science experts have already mapped out alternative pathways, whether it be to 90% renewables (AEMO), a transition to zero emissions with considerable job, industry and economy-wide benefits (CSIRO), a huge new renewable export industry (Garnaut, ARENA and many others); or the science, which says – above all – we must reduce our emissions to zero by 2050, and we must act quickly over the next decade.

The overriding reality of the climate emergency, as outlined by the IPCC Report is clear.  Accelerating devastation and increasing poverty, both in Australia and globally, being caused by our increasing emissions, and the failure of governments to deal appropriately with the disasters facing us, can no longer be ignored.

For the sake of future generations, the sake of our land, and the sake of our planet, we urge all of you to abandon any consideration of “a gas-fired recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Jan Barnett rsj

Josephite Justice Coordinator

[email protected]


[1] Greg Mullins: The verdict from bushfire experts: there's no sidestepping climate”,

https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-verdict-from-bushfire-experts-there-s-no-sidestepping-climate-20200729- p55ggv.html