Former PM Kevin Rudd has mounted a scathing attack on Cardinal George Pell for being a “radical climate change sceptic” who is “muddying the ethical waters” ahead of the critical Paris climate change conference, in direct contradiction to the views of Pope Francis.
Rudd says the ethical imperatives of strong climate action and the fact that Pell is now a “global figure”, means it is time to confront “head on” the views of the cleric, who was a strident critic of the Labor government’s climate policies as archbishop of Sydney and who is now a senior Vatican cardinal.
“It is, therefore, no small matter, at this most critical of times, for the ethical waters, at least in the community of faith, to be so deeply muddied, by such radical climate change sceptics as Cardinal Pell, and for his commentary to go without challenge. Of course he is free to contribute to the public policy debate in any manner he wishes. But it is equally important, particularly now that Cardinal Pell has become a global figure, to have his … statements on climate change challenged by others in the public space. It is high time his views were confronted head on. The stakes are now far too high for us all,” Rudd says in the Rowan Williams lecture.
The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said recently no energy source could have a “moral characteristic” and Australia just needed to make rational choices between the various abundant energy sources it had available.
But Rudd insists that “anyone who claims in making policy judgments they are doing so oblivious to ethical considerations, and instead are simply acting on a simple ‘value free’ premise of ‘common sense’, is engaged in deep self-delusion”.
And he strongly defends the right, and even obligation, of churches to engage in public debate as one of a number of “ethical voices”.
“Unless there is at least one institution seeking to construct, maintain and argue the continuing ethical parameters within which the stated purposes and unintended consequences of government action should be considered, then there is a greater risk that public policy simply becomes ‘interest group politics’ or, even worse, retail politics by another name,” he says.