Big moment for Australia and Finland

By Finn McHugh

My name is Finn McHugh, I’m a federal political reporter for The Canberra Times and Australian Community Media in Canberra, Australia.

My focus is on federal politics and foreign affairs, but I have a broad remit to cover issues directly relevant to the trip to Finland – climate change, and early education being two stand out topics.

On Saturday night, Australia had one of the most consequential elections in its history – with the conservative government replaced by a centre-left Labor party working with a host of climate-conscious independents and minor parties. 

The trip to Finland comes at the perfect time for an Australian journalist, given Australians have voted overwhelmingly for stronger action on climate change. The election has the potential to end what has been a decade of political upheaval sparked by climate policy.

While the country has lagged behind the rest of the world – particular Nordic countries like Finland – on emissions reductions targets, it is now in a moment where it can look to and learn from experiences overseas. I hope the tour to Helsinki will provide better insights into how more progressive countries are tackling climate change.

The election result is also set to significantly change the way child care and early learning, two areas in which Finland is world-leading, are funded in Australia. I am hoping to speak to experts in Finland and politicians at home to explore the ways Australian education can improve over time. 

There are a number of Finnish-Australian experts in leading discussions on both education and climate change in Australia.

Of course, the trip will also come at one of the most consequential moments in Finnish history, as the country seeks entry in NATO. I’m interested in learning about the political calculations currently underway, and the history which has underpinned Finland’s historic opposition to joining the pact. There are interesting parallels between Australia and Finland, both middle powers seeking to navigate disruptions caused by major powers on their doorstep.

I’ve been to Finland once before, travelling through Helsinki and Turku in early 2019. That experience was in winter (temperatures of around minus 15!) so I’m curious to compare the city in summer. 

Lastly, I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to meet journalists from around the world. It’s a great opportunity to compare experiences and learn! I appreciate the efforts Finland’s embassy in Canberra has put into making this trip possible.

 

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