Don Henry

5 May 2014 – Don Henry has been appointed as a Public Policy Fellow at the University of Melbourne, after stepping down from his long term role as chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Mr Henry’s work at the university will be with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, and will involve research into climate change policy and the role of public activism, looking at the last decade of environment policy making, public engagement in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and indigenous and environmental collaboration for sustainability in northern Australia.

Director of the institute is Brendan Gleeson, formerly deputy director of the National University of Ireland’s National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis and a director of the Urban Research Program at Griffith University, which he set up.

Mr Henry said he would research how public action and collaborations across society can shape and influence political leaders and innovative policy making.

“My research will also look to the different approaches to climate change policy and public engagement across the Asia Pacific region. China and Indonesia, for instance, are approaching climate change policy in terms of alleviating poverty and developmental concerns,” he said.

There was good news on renewable energy in Australia, with the recent “tremendous growth in Australian rooftop solar panels” the equivalent of “shutting down a large coal power station and taking away all the pollution that this created,” he said.

In a recent media interview Mr Henry advised people not to invest in or work for big businesses – including mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto, which he said were among big business and lobby groups driving repeal of the carbon tax and Australia’s climate change laws.

He said accused big business and their lobby groups of driving the Abbott government’s repeal of the national carbon price and other anti climate policies, saying ”Australians shouldn’t have a bar of it”.

”Let’s not be stupid here, they are very influential on our politics. Governments in Australia, both Coalition and Labor, listen closely to business,” he told Fairfax Media.

”Don’t watch the Prime Minister here, you should follow the BHPs, the Rio Tintos and other major actors. And you should start having a discussion with them. If you are shareholder in Rio or BHP do you really want to give licence to actions that are clearly against Australia’s well-being?”

These interests were ignoring “the erosion in their public standing and social licence caused by their position on climate”, he said.