[Terry Mills has defended his fracking flip-flop, saying he doesn’t believe the ‘pipe dream’ will improve the Territory’s finances. Picture: Katrina Bridgeford]
My knowledge of Australian political history is somewhat limited because I was not born here and have only ever lived in the Northern Territory.
Some PMs and Premiers stand out more than others – not always for good reasons – but there are only two for whom I have a significant level of respect.
One is Don Dunstan, a former SA Premier, and the other is Gough Whitlam and the same reason for my choice applies to both – they were leaders who introduced policies which were needed and provided that leadership in a moral framework.
I will explain the importance of this later.
The two major parties in the NT have been the CLP and the ALP, and we also have a Greens Party.
Following a devastating loss at the last polls, the CLP has shrunk, but several former members have formed breakaway minor parties, one of which is led by a former CLP Chief Minister, Terry Mills.
Some weeks ago, on a Wednesday, when I was doing my Greta Thunberg stint outside NT Parliament house, Terry stopped by to discuss fracking with me, and insisted that, since contracts had been signed for fracking to proceed, the NT would expose themselves to sovereign risk if those contracts were cancelled.
Ignoring the fact that ‘sovereign risk’ is possibly an inappropriate term, the main issue was that he regarded the NT Government as being committed to continue fracking.
Then an opinion poll showed that a significant proportion of the NT voters are opposed to fracking, so he publicly reversed his support for continuing – to howls of ‘political expediency’!
As it was being reported, he actually came out to to where I was again sitting in front of Parliament House, to talk to me, and ensure that I knew that he had changed his policy!
I was dubious that he had made the change for reasons related to the need for action on climate change, which, for me is the only issue of current importance for government apart from COVID-19!
Then he did some homework, and was reported as having changed his mind, because continuing with fracking for CSG would not be economically viable as the price of gas is falling.
In actual fact, I believe the real story in the NT is much more complicated and convoluted, but, anyway, today (8/07/20) being Wednesday (again!) he took time to come out to talk to me this afternoon.
(I am not sure why Terry Mills uses me as a sounding board. I am not an important person. My opinions are not totaIly unknown, as I regularly write letters to the NT News, many of which they publish – largely, on their part, to stir up controversy (good for business) – and there are many fairly abusive responses from those much further right in their politics which clearly identify me!)
His position now is that a majority of the people in the NT do not want fracking, so he is changing his policy in order to offer the NT voters what they want!
I sometimes wonder whether too much reality TV (which I never watch but hear about!) has engendered this emphasis on pursuing popularity.
A few generations back, parents of teenagers were prepared to be unpopular, with a view to ensuring that their children were appropriately protected from the many risks arising from immature decisions.
Reality TV encourages people to vote actors out of the drama, popularity being the only criterion.
But in government, what we need more than anything else is transparent leadership, based on ensuring that policies provide us with what we need to be healthy, in all senses, as a nation.
Because a policy is supported by a majority does not guarantee that it is good policy, so trying to be popular is a dangerous game, IMHO.
It is brutally clear that our current PM, Scott Morrison, is obsessed with the economy. He has been in the forefront of pressuring a return to ‘normal’, ASAP, following the economic impact of the COVID-19 lock down.
He must still be grieving over the fact that the pandemic knocked his ‘back in black’ for six!
And Victoria’s current woes show how ill-advised that pressure was.
In my discussion today with Mr Mills, I expressed my opinion that policy based on popular demands was not an ethical way to conduct politics. After all, we elect a government to provide a system which is better for us, and if they have made promises over what they will do, and a majority have elected them, then that is what we expect them to do.
But, hopefully, before making those promises, they will have at least explored what we need, as well as what we say we want.
Now – back to the moral framework.
A majority of the Australian public, in all states and territories, have expressed a need for action on climate change. We are not so stupid as to think that one state, territory or even country can achieve what is necessary to reduce emissions, but we are intelligent enough to realise that, if too many states, territories or countries hang back from taking action, we will never succeed.
In some ways the COVID-19 epidemic has put a spanner in the works by distracting attention from climate action, but, by the same token, it has also caused a temporary reduction in emissions, as manufacturing plants have been temporarily shut down, and general traffic has reduced.
What we desperately need at the moment is for ideology to be removed from the planning process (sometimes the impossible does happen!) and for governments at all levels to look much more closely at what we need, given that we are effectively starting from scratch and people are desperate for a sense of security and certainty!
Thousands are concerned about mortgage payments or rent.
Probably thousands of landlords are also concerned about their mortgage payments, too.
Thousands are concerned about finding a job.
Life is never going to be the same for today’s adults.
Approaches to government finance can and must change. A UBI has major problems but it is also an initiative which could buy the government time, more simply than using processes which cause them to be get tangled in a mass of complex ‘welfare’ measures.
People need food, a roof over their heads, ability to move around, once infection levels are under control, and children need an education.
We really can afford to worry later about where the money is coming from!
We are a fiat nation!
To force people into poverty because of action taken by government – yes, it was necessary, but it has also been destructive – is immoral and probably illegal.
And – thinking of legality – the illegally obtained money from Robodebt MUST be returned ASAP!!! In full, immediately and with no adverse income tax implications!
In general I feel that politicians are far more interested in helping themselves than in helping us – and since we elect them, we have to take some blame for this.
If we want to keep the bastards honest, we have to make the moves and ensure that we are led by people who do have a moral compass.
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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