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Dick Smith to Murdoch: Be a Beaverbrook

by 30 May 2011Climate mobilisation, Moratorium on population0 comments

Dick Smith’s Population Crisis

Dick’s Daughter’s Elephant: Dick Smith credits his daughter for challenging him to face up to the climate change elephant in the room—population growth. image Allen & Unwin

In a recent book, Terri Irwin makes this perceptive comment:

In a hundred years, what difference is it going to make worrying about two acres of land. We need to focus on the real change that will make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.

That is what my book is also about—focusing on the change that will make the world a better place for future generations.

When speaking with our politicians, I have discussed the fact that our present economic system which is beholden to perpetual growth in the use of resources is clearly not sustainable. Many agree with me. When I ask, ‘Why don’t you say this openly’ they quickly give lame excuses by blaming the media, saying ‘Dick, that might be the truth, but I would be crucified by the Murdoch press if I said it’.

It is often claimed that Rupert Murdoch has too much influence in Australia through his control of 70% of our print media. I have changed my view on this completely. I now believe he has too little influence. Today I am asking Rupert Murdoch to come back to Australia and give us some much-needed leadership. Whilst most of my wealthy colleagues deny that humans can be affecting climate, this is what Rupert says:

Climate change poses clear catastrophic threats.

We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can’t afford the risk of inaction. We must transform the way we use energy of course—and not only because of climate change. Rupert Murdoch also has News Limited embarking on the considerable cost of becoming carbon-neutral. This is responsible leadership.

Unfortunately Mr Murdoch’s papers here, especially the Australian, seem to have gone off the rails. In their editorials they say they accept that human induced climate change is a real danger, and say they support a market-mechanism for putting a price on carbon. Yet their news pages and opinion pieces are full of endless attacks on politicians and others who support putting a price on carbon as a necessary step to moving us beyond the carbon economy. Just look at yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph attacking Cate Blanchett’s leadership on this issue. It seems it’s okay for Rupert to support a price on carbon with his 6‍ ‍billion dollar wealth, but not for Cate.

Churchill and Beaverbrook

Dick’s Hero: Lord Beaverbrook ‘at the time of the catastrophe of World War II, entered British politics, became a government minister and devoted himself to winning the war’. image Chartwell Booksellers

Now it’s often said that the Australian loses Rupert Murdoch a pile of money, but that he keeps it going because of the influence it allows him to have on Australian politicians. I am hoping in that case that he is running the newspaper for noblesse oblige—the duty of the wealthy to show leadership and to do the right thing. Rupert, I ask you to come back to Australia and show the leadership that has made you one of the most successful businessmen in the world. I ask you to come home to become the Lord Beaverbrook of the 21st century.

Lord Beaverbrook was the Canadian-born newspaper magnate who, at the time of the catastrophe of World War II, entered British politics, became a government minister and devoted himself to winning the war. Unlike our present leaders who claim that to make major changes in relation to climate change it won’t cost us much, Lord Beaverbrook said the opposite. Together with Churchill, Beaverbrook told the truth—that the costs would be enormous, but the need to succeed was crucial—not just for present humankind, but for future generations.

Rupert, we need you back here in Australia. Come back and take the reins—your editors are losing the plot and need to be reminded that you accept we must transform the way we use energy and that we need to act now. Perhaps its time for you to take up Australian citizenship again—dual citizenship is now allowed—and help guide us wisely through this difficult and confusing age. We are facing some very big challenges. At the very least please go on Andrew Denton and tell us what your vision is for Australia.

I state in my book that the situation we face today could be similar to the situation the world faced before the second world war—one of denial that there could be a looming disaster. That one error in not taking early action against Hitler resulted in great misery for humankind and between 30 and 60 million people losing their lives. I have a feeling that a similar lack of action now could result in far greater hardship and loss of life for the human race.

We need Rupert Murdoch to become the Lord Beaverbrook of the war we will be facing because we are bumping up against the limits of the world’s ability to supply our needs.

With global population growing at 80‍ ‍million a year and heading to 10‍ ‍billion, with our oil running out, with food costs rising—and, as Rupert says, the possibility that our climate is changing dangerously, we face a threat in every sense that is just as big as World War II. There is no time to waste with pathetic squabbling.

We need strong leadership now.

Population Hero: Naturalist Sir David Attenborough presents the 2011 Royal Society of Arts president’s lecture.