Now I know that many of you will have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, but for those who’ve never seen it, it looks something like this:
The basic idea is that one needs to meet the needs at the bottom before one aspires to the needs at the top. In order to demonstrate this, I’ll use a fictitious account of a young, homeless woman called Grace.
Grace is on the street and hungry when a man approaches her and tells her that he has a spare room and food and he hates to see anyone like this. While Grace is suspicious of his motives, sleeping rough isn’t safe either so she goes back to his house where she is fed and shown a room where she can sleep. With most of her physiological needs met, she barricades the door to make herself feel safe and gets some sleep.
After a few days, she comes to accept that the man has no ulterior motive and that she can come and go as she pleases and he is no threat to her. He gives her jobs to do so that she doesn’t feel like she’s relying on his charity. However, she feels no sense of belonging.
One day, on the way to the grocery store, she sees a guy rummaging through the bin looking for food. She approaches him and offers him some money so that he can buy food. He stands and looks her in the eye. He is strikingly good-looking. He tells her that his name is Pedro and that he has no need of her money because it perpetuates a capitalist system which is destroying the planet and that he prefers to scrounge for the wasted food and to live in the streets because that places less pressure on the planet.
Ok, I could go on for several pages with the love story that develops and how Grace is attracted to Pedro and all her dilemmas about whether she can leave her comfortable room to fulfil the next rung of needs: Love and Belonging. And how her decision to turn her back on the charity of the other man gives her Self-Esteem and that she rises above her need for food and shelter.
However, I’m not going to do that for three reasons: 1. I’d just be writing another sexist story about how a woman keeps getting saved by men. 2. It doesn’t fit with Maslow’s concept and 3. This is really more about elections and the story is just a vehicle for a lot of silly stereotypes that are so prevalent in the media.
I’m not suggesting that the Man is the government and that Pedro is The Greens, but I am suggesting that Grace is the electorate.
And this brings me quite neatly to the problem with how polls are used, viewed, analysed, and in the end quite meaningless unless we get to vote on things much more frequently. In the end, people are most focused on their immediate needs so they’ll vote for the party that appeals to their needs at the lower end of the hierarchy. This is why a fear campaign works well at times. And a party can scoop up some votes with the next step on the hierarchy with a sense of Love and Belonging. “As Australians…”
Before one allows something as important as battling climate change to affect one’s vote, one usually has to be high up on the hierarchy of needs. Consequently, Joel Fitzgibbon is appealing to those in his electorate who feel their jobs are threatened by any action, even though inaction won’t save their jobs in the long term.
When we start to look at the next election in terms of Grace, we can clearly see that it’s not that she objects to Pedro’s ideas about helping save the planet; it’s just that her more immediate needs are being met by the man who took her in. And so it is with the current Coalition government: they’ve taken a lot of people in.
But when looking forward to the next election, the question needs to be asked, does the electorate feel a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude to Scott Morrison and his merry men, or does it – like Grace – just feel that they’re better than sleeping on the streets. While the electorate may not embrace the extreme Pedro, it’s not because they don’t want to help save the planet. It’s just that they don’t want to put their own needs at risk. And any political party that can make them feel like it’s not threatening those needs can make the electorate aspire to feeling self-esteem and to do their bit for the world.
This is not just true of climate change. There are a whole range of issues where the polls tell us that the electorate would be behind a whole range of changes – take the marriage equality vote as an example – but we’re made to view them as risky by those opposing the particular change. In the case of renewable energy, we used to be told that people were against it because it was more expensive. Now that the costs are down, we’re told that it’s because it doesn’t deliver “base-load power” when the sun doesn’t blow and the wind doesn’t shine, or whatever that slogan is. What happens when batteries make that argument irrelevant? Well, I can just hear the PM telling us: “Isn’t it worth paying a few cents more for your power to keep coal-miners employed?”
Snigger at that if you think I’m being ridiculous, but remember that this is the government that had Dan Tehan tell us that the vaccine rollout “wasn’t a race”. Why not? Well, because the Melbourne Cup is a race, so…
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‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass
Ok, consider this: your friend, Jane tells you about her new relationship. “It’s the real thing but we’re not ready to move in together or anything. We both want to lead independent lives.” Fair enough you think, but when you meet her again a few months later and ask how it’s going, she tells you that they’ve been talking about living together but there’s no rush. After a few years of this, she eventually tells you that moving in together isn’t all that important, but Scott is inching his way towards a commitment because he told her that a formal arrangement wasn’t necessary; the important thing is the relationship itself which is better than most people’s, and she’s sure that he’ll be happy to make some sort of promise in the future but at the moment it would cause problems with his wife.
Hands up, if you think Jane is fooling herself… Yep, thought so. The only people who didn’t put their hands up are the Canberra press gallery. Substitute “wife” for “backbench” and even they might get the allegory.
The idea that Morrison is “inching” towards a zero-emissions target does seem at odds with his most recent statements about it being performance rather than promises that count and how Australia delivers – or meets and beats – when it sets a target. If they think that’s moving toward a target they haven’t been paying attention to Scotty “I’m ambitious for this guy” Morrison!
With our PM, there’s frequently a qualifier in the promise and even more frequently, his inability to achieve something is usually glossed over in one of two ways:
He uses some strange interpretation of what he previously said by concentrating on a couple of words or phrases in the original statement to explain that he’s actually done what he said he would. For example, promising that all Australians would be home by Christmas can be explained away by the fact that some Australians have now made their home overseas, so they can be considered home in London or New York or whatever city they currently reside in.
He tells a Trump-like lie. For example, announcing that the vaccine roll-out was ahead of schedule.
Just recently, Morrison made some rather strange claims at a religious conference. Now before I start unpacking these, let me just say that I’m not trying to bully those who are religious. I’m all for religious tolerance. If someone wants to believe that they’re literally eating the flesh and drinking the blood of some guy who died two thousand years ago, I’m not going to get into a fight and suggest that this act of communion is more symbolic than literal just because I happen to have a different set of values. However, when someone argues that I need to allow them to practice their religion because it’s theirs and it involves loud chanting on my front lawn from sunset to sunrise, I think I have the right to tell them to bugger off, or else they may be a lot closer to finding enlightenment than they realise.
And so with our Part-time Mansplainer, I have a real concern that his decision to fly his/the taxpayers’ plane all the way to the conference in order to speak wasn’t all to do with his earthly duties. Of course, this is clearly something where the PM and I would disagree. He would argue that he was put there by God, so every action relates to his divine purpose and everything he does is part of that plan. I would argue that Morrison is full of shit because I’ve been put here by God to say exactly that.
Morrison told people that when he was contemplating his future electoral prospects he asked for a sign and God gave him one: he saw a soaring eagle. So this morning I asked for one too and the first thing that I saw was a dog defecating, so I presumed that God must want me to tell Scomoses that he’s full of shit. Still, the meaning of signs is in the eye of the beholder. How did he know that the eagle wasn’t a sign that he should follow the USA? How did I know that my sign wasn’t that I should watch my step?
Whatever, I find it worrying that our PM would announce to a crowd: “I said, I can’t fix the world. I can’t save the world, we both believe in someone who can”, and no, he wasn’t talking about Alan Jones. This certainly explains his reluctance to hold a hose, run quarantine, set climate targets, work weekends, organise vaccinations or meet with a delegation of women. (For a more comprehensive list of what Scotty doesn’t do, Nadine Von Cohen’s article examines them in detail.)
But perhaps even more worrying was this announcement:
I’ve been in evacuation centres, where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying. And putting my hands on people in various places, laying hands on them and praying in various situations.”
I don’t know about your professional life so maybe this doesn’t seem strange to you. However, unless you’re a doctor, a masseuse, a sex worker, or one of a very narrow range of professions, the idea of you “putting hands-on people in various places” while going about your job, does seem like it would lead to a conversation about appropriate behaviour, if not a whole milkshake being tossed in your face.
So maybe that’s his whole plan. He’s a “hands-on” PM who is hoping that by simply spending time in prayer (though definitely not the Prayer Room) and touching people occasionally that God will cast out the wicked Twitter from our land and climate change will be no more. Verily, we shall once again walk in the shadow of coal and fear it not, for Scott’s Twiggy and his staff shall comfort us and there will be a go for those who have a go…
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For many years I have been furious with the Greens for their sabotage of Labor’s ETS in 2009. Perhaps the policy was flawed. Certainly it did not go far enough. But it would have been a start. Imagine if the CPRS had begun more than a decade ago? Rather than a decade of arguments over whether we should act on pricing carbon, we could have spent the decade refining the targets and methodologies. I’m still mad about it. But in the wake of the 2019/2020 summer bushfires I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m making exactly the same egregious error.
More than one opinion article has been published in recent weeks suggesting the Morrison government might use the fires as an excuse, a trigger, to recalibrate the Coalition’s approach to climate change policy. Each time I read such an article I find myself thinking along a well-worn track:
Don’t do it! Don’t start taking climate change seriously. Don’t deal with the deniers in your own ranks. Don’t suddenly start sounding reasonable!
We know that the bushfires have focussed Australia’s attention in a way never before achieved. We know that the last vestiges of AGW denial are crumbling in the real world. We don’t want the Coalition to be a part of the real world. We prefer our Coalition politicians to be outliers, historical artefacts, easily pushed aside in favour of progressive parties whose policies are obviously simply better.
There’s a narrative that has the Coalition remaining intransigent on the issue, clinging stubbornly to coal mines and fossil fuel oligarchs, carbon exports and the revolving door of post-politics coal company directorships. In this fantasy world, Labor drops its own recidivist approach, ceases clinging to coal and instead brings a decent selection of climate policies to the next election. And the Australian public, woken up by repeated disasters and environmental collapse, consign the conservative parties to history where they belong and sweep progressives into power across the country.
It’s a good dream – but it’s little more than a fantasy.
2019 was supposed to be the climate change election. The Coalition came into that election clinging stubbornly to coal and gas. By contrast, Labor brought a stable of progressive climate policies, along with the Greens on the far left. This was supposed to be the election at which Australia stated, loud and clear, that the preceding decade of policy stagnation and climate inaction would not continue.
And we know how that turned out.
When polled about important electoral issues, climate change ranked highly in the estimations of Australians. When push came to shove, though, it was not as important as taxes, cost of living and “death taxes”. (Never mind that the Coalition is higher-taxing, presides over escalating costs of living and entirely made up the threat of death taxes.) The Australian people increasingly understand the importance of climate change, but they won’t vote for decent environmental policies if it means foregoing franking credits.
Obviously there were many factors at play in the 2019 election. But that’s the point. There will always be many factors at play in any election. Climate change may persuade some hesitant Australians that environmental policies are needed, but the Coalition can play that game – they like to wave fig-leaf policies around, just enough to assuage conservative voters that they have the issue in hand, while not enough to actually force any kind of change. The expectation that climate change policies will be a vote-changer, let alone an election-decider, has so far proven unfounded.
It’s seductive, thinking that our dying environment (or, really, any one major issue) could be the defining factor in the next election, in the contest of ideas and the competition for government. It’s always foolish. There are no single-issue elections.
What’s a single-issue voter to do?
For many voters, the exigency of global warming and the existential threat to human civilisation trumps all other considerations. To the extent that if the Coalition had the best suite of climate policies on offer (and any feasible likelihood of being serious at carrying them out) a single-issue voter would need to consider voting for them, against their better interest in every other area of social policy. Climate change is so important that it can take priority over healthcare, education, tax policy or industrial relations.
So far in the 2010s and 2020s, there has not been a need to weigh climate change policy against other progressive issues. The progressive parties have also offered the best climate and environmental policies.
But what if the Coalition were to pivot to a decent environment strategy? How would that impact on the left, who fully expect – nay rely on – them to remain troglodytes on the issue?
The problem with being a single-issue voter is that political operators like to neutralise issues. If climate change is a perceived area of weakness – which it undeniably is, for the Coalition – then they will seek to minimise its impact in any election, through a combination of downplaying the issue’s importance, and offering policies so it can appear to be interested in doing something.
Adopting a single-issue approach willfully ignores and demotes the dozens of other defining policy areas on which the parties compete. It relegates consideration of a rejuvenated NBN. It discounts overt corruption, pork-barreling and electoral tampering. It devalues the Coalition’s continual budget cuts to the ABC, childcare, social security and just about any other area excepting the military and politicians’ salaries.
There are so many other political issues worth our attention. But in this hyper-partisan age it hurts us to consider that in any specific area, let alone the area of possibly greatest consequence for the future of the country, the other team might get something right. If it’s difficult for conservative voters to imagine the Coalition’s approach could be wrong, perhaps it could be almost as hard for us on the progressive side to give credit for things they do right.
Of course, this is likely all academic. It doesn’t seem likely that the Coalition will change its stance. They are too riddled through with entrenched climate change deniers. Too embedded with the mindset that coal is the energy source of the future and will be the backbone of Australia’s economy for the foreseeable future. Too dependent on the financial backing of their masters and supporters in Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and the Minerals Council of Australia. They seem unable to grasp that the market for coal exports will die, suddenly and quickly, and that climate change action can bring economic benefits rather than costs.
Most likely, I’ll never be confronted with the cognitive dissonance of the Coalition finding the way forward on climate change. I just need to accept that there’s a big part of me that hopes they never will.
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Clouds or clowns? The week’s politics offers both. A toxic miasma of 250 million tonnes of CO2 and clouds of sooty bushfire-smoke blanket vast tracts of eastern Australia yet also expose the Morrison government’s total leadership fail, while professional clown, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has a huge win over truth, justice and democracy in the UK. In the US, Democrats finalise two articles of impeachment that are unlikely to bother President, Donald Teflon Trump.
“There is no Republican Party,” John Boehner, who served as House Speaker from 2011 to 2015, said last year. “There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”
Ditto for the UK Conservative Party. And for Australia’s Liberals who retain the name only as some sick joke. Hilarious. Meanwhile, is Gus the badly-burned victim of the author of The Beauty Myth‘s vicious, anti-Semitism or is he just crying wolf? Could Angus Taylor be making some kind of Johnsonian run to be Australia’s next Prime Minister ? You decide.
What’s clear is Energy, Emission Reduction and Round-up Minister, Angus Taylor, is under a cloud of his own; the noxious emanations of allegations of outrageous water rorting, document forging and alleged lobbying of an environmental compliance officer (ECO) in 2016. The explanation he allegedly offers does not stack up.
Taylor sought permission to poison kangaroo or red anther wallaby grass and an associated threatened ecological community in the thirty hectare Jam Land grasslands in Monaro region NSW, a property located outside his electorate of Hume, weakening Taylor’s claim that his meeting was prompted solely by his constituents’ concerns.
Taylor did, however, meet with Geoff Richardson, the Department of Environment and Energy’s Assistant Secretary for the protected species and communities branch.
The department had prepared a briefing document on the grasslands which explained that the species had been protected since 2000 and that, collectively, temperate grasslands are among the most threatened vegetation in Australia, with only about 5% remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. It’s an indictment of our introduced agricultural practices and our land abuse.
Jam Land Pty Ltd is a Taylor family linked company in which one of Angus’ Cayman Island-registered companies has an interest through his family investment company Gufee. His brother, Richard Taylor, is the director of the company.
Now parliament’s shut its doors for 2019, hola! Gus is off like the clappers to Madrid. Labor wouldn’t grant him a pair, what with Scott Morrison’s erstwhile neighbour, former bin brother and mate, top NSW cop, Commissioner Mick Fuller, at the head of a strike force, he says is actively investigating Taylor over Clover gate.
Barnaby Joyce says Clover gate is a “triviality” which has gone on far too long. Leaking a false document to the Daily Tele to discredit Clover Moore is trivial? All the mayor has done is write to Taylor; tell him to lift his game on climate change.
Australia has already earned the Fossil of the Day award. Twice. Will Taylor, a noted wind-energy critic with close coal industry links be having another public tilt at windmills? Nope. Instead he ties up the conference with Kyoto credit nonsense.
Just to get the facts in context, Australia is responsible for about 1.3% of annual pollution, as our PM is fond of boasting. But this places us 16th on a ladder of polluting nations. We emit more each year than 40 countries with larger populations, including G7 members Britain, France and Italy.
Talk about punching below your weight.
Gus gives a speech which reprises former Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s twaddle about our “meeting and beating our targets” (but only if we cheat; use our carry over from Kyoto cop-out). Courageously, Taylor skips our outrageous plans to use 411m tonnes of CO2-equivalent credits from the previous Kyoto targets against the government’s newer Paris commitment. But he leaves it to delegates to resolve.
Absent from any reporting, or any Australian communication, is the story of how Howard Government Senator Robert Hill argued late in the night in Kyoto in 1997; how reliant Australia is on fossil fuel industries. How we needed a special favour. Hill got his way. Whereas Europe promised to reduce emissions by 8% by 2012, compared with the base year of 1990, and the US agreed to cut by 7%, Australia was one of three countries allowed to increase emissions – by 8%.
“Restrictions that had already been imposed on large-scale land clearing – especially in Queensland – allowed Australia to rest assured it had achieved its new target before it even signed up to it.”
In other words, Angus Taylor is on a fool’s errand if he thinks he can sell our Kyoto carryover caper yet again. Yet in our brave new world where Trump’s United States can just pull out of Paris, how much does good faith really matter?
Taylor flies out Friday leaving a skeleton crew of Australian negotiators to put the carry-over case. Observers expect negotiations on carbon trading rules and other issues to last until at least Sunday, Australian time. Only Australia is willing to play that card says John O’Connor CEO of the Carbon Markets Institute and it’s not winning us any friends.
There’s a more than a touch of the quixotic; a lot of Boris in Angus Taylor -beyond each MP’s wealth, their hidebound sense of privilege and entitlement, their membership of elite families, their Oxonian education and their ludicrous buffoonery. In Taylor’s case, unlike Boris, however, the class act is also a family affair. Enter Louise Clegg.
Gussie’s wife, Sydney barrister Louise Clegg, unreliably rumoured on social media to have local government aspirations in Sydney, but who “does not speak to journalists”, is quoted in the Australian Financial Review warning that rolling blackouts might be needed to teach people that “left populism (is) not the answer” to Australia’s policy challenges. Opposed to coal? Let them light candles instead.
Some Liberal malcontents mutter about having a Minister for emissions reductions who doesn’t actually want to reduce emissions but that’s Scott Morrison’s trademark perversity in his captain’s call in allocating ministries to MPs with opposing interests and backgrounds. Keeps everyone on their toes. Fantastic. Great move. Well done, Angus.
“Tickets” Taylor clearly sees himself as “a rising Liberal star” who may be only a Dutton coup away from being Deputy Prime Minister. Or are his sights already on the top job? He’s certainly attracting a lot of attention in track work. Just not the right type of attention.
Gus fully expects to be allowed to play Kyoto-Carryover, a party trick, a rare form of carbon emission-figure-fiddling while Spain burns along with the rest of the world. Editor Maddison Connaughton observes in The Saturday Paper,
“In Madrid, Angus Taylor argues for carryover credits, so that the government might do less. The world is slowly ending and he is doing a card trick. He is not even doing it well, and has to ask the other countries if they will pretend they didn’t see him cheating.”
It helps to have galloping Gus out of the country while NSW police investigate The Mystery of the Doctored Documents, another Canberra soap bubble opera which concerns false claims about Sydney City Council’s exorbitant overseas travel bill his office dropped to the Daily Telegraph 30 September to discredit the green credentials of Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Any day or month now, police are bound to solve this baffling case, given how much rides on its speedy resolution. Or not. Imagine how our AFP, with full TV camera crews, would bust Gussies’ office if he were Labor.
But now to BoJo, who modestly claims a “huge great stonking mandate” in the UK general election, over anti-Semitic, socialist, dotard, Jeremy Corbyn – who offends the press by not immediately resigning; outliving his political demise. Bojo’s win heartens our own Coalition government of secrets, lies and rubbery figures and its Tory Story supporters in Murdoch’s The Australian, whose orgy of Corbyn-bashing parallels its relentless character assassination of Shorten in its epic Kill Bill campaign.
Australia’s sons let us rejoice in a victory for vanity and mediocrity. Even The New York Time’s Jenni Russell describes the contest in terms that would delight the late, great, absurdist, dramaturge Samuel Beckett:
“Two vain, incompetent, mediocre charlatans are competing to become prime minister. For the Conservatives, we have the blustering, lying, oafish puffball Boris Johnson. In the Labour corner is the querulous, wooden, sanctimonious Jeremy Corbyn.”
In mirror images of our own oxymoronic Coalition’s MPs, Russell sees each UK pretender as ill- briefed, hazy on the facts and implications of policy proposals, uneasy under scrutiny and belligerent when challenged. Yet, again, as in our local, national soap opera “How good is Australia?” both MPs meet realities of stagnant wage growth, galloping economic inequality and a mounting workers’ sense of helplessness with lies – especially Boris’ Brexit consoling fantasy.
As both ScoMo and Donald Trump know, illusion and deceit can build a type of rusted-on loyalty; feed our emotional need to believe that our leader is on our team. It’s a blind faith; at best indifferent to facts – if not downright hostile.
How Good is Australia has a sequel. How good are Quiet Australians? It’s a narrative about blind obedience; a type of group-think loyalty which scorns key detail and elevates faith above empiricism, especially the science of climate change.
If you are going to tell a lie tell a big one. Angus Taylor knows that. The big lie is back -if it ever went. If your big lie looks absurd, then launch an even more outrageous counterfactual counter-attack. The figures did not come from Clover Moore’s Sydney Council website. Throw a staffer, such as Josh Manuatu, under a bus. Then attack Naomi Wolf for her Christmas Tree War. When that’s exposed as a blatant lie, call the Jewish feminist writer an anti-Semite. Or sexist.
What’s wonderful about Gus’ contribution to our public conversation is its inspired inclusivity. No elitism here. After all, most of us were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford. We all have a Jewish grandmother somewhere and we’re all on first name terms with Naomi. Probably send her Christmas cards. Talk to her about how good is attending Mass.
Boris’ big lie? A quickie divorce from foreign control, the parasites, bludgers and tinpot dictators of the EU will make Britain great again. Instead, he’s more likely to preside over Scottish independence than anything faintly like the Great Britain of his followers’ magical thinking. Probably about one hundred years too late, Boris.
But, in a post truth age, deceit rules. Victory goes to best clown. In a debased, corruption of the court jester, the most plausible liar, the most brazen dissembling toady to the powerful, wins. Enter the PM as best crowd-pleaser.
As with Trump, local fans bust a gut to cheer on a fellow fraud; rally around his bigotry, ignorance and monumental incompetence. Lionise his repulsiveness. Naturally, Pete Costello’s Nine News’ Sydney Morning Herald throws to our own James McGrath.
“You don’t become mayor of London, you don’t become foreign secretary, you don’t become the elected leader of the Tories, you don’t become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and you don’t secure a new Brexit deal against the odds by being a dunderhead,” slobbers Johnson’s former aide, our senator for Adani, local savant McGrath.
Unlucky Jim McGrath, “Let them go if they don’t like it here” was fired, by Boris, in 2008 for telling older, Afro-Caribbean Britons to return to the Caribbean if they didn’t like the vibe and other vast benefits of Tory rule in London.
You don’t become? – clearly, you do, Jimmy. Above all, your former boss, Boris’ has the gift of the gaffe. BJ’s way with words supercharges his natural tact, his homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny. It’s unifying. Uplifting. Inspiring.
Gay men love it when Boris calls them, “tank-topped bum-boys”. Women in burqas are cheered to hear Boris; ” would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
Britons in general -not just racist Brexiteers, are also hugely comforted to know that if “a female student turned up at school or a university lecture looking like a bank robber” Boris would ask her to remove it [the burqa] to speak to her.
Despite being fired for telling lies as a journalist, urbane, cosmopolitan Boris is a peerless wordsmith. Who else could claim, “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” ?
Boris will Get Brexit Done, Rupert’s local toadies croak. It’s Johnson’s only slogan. Yes. The Oz is a political party in its own right, as Kevin Rudd knows. But hold the front page. Getting Brexit done will create a bonanza Down Under all wrought by the miracle of UK trade deals with Australia which will be signed off within a year. It’s a done deal.
Oddly overlooked by The Oz is that there’s not a skerrick of evidence to suppose that Johnson can get anything done. Au contraire, apart from Boris’ sheer brilliance as professional fabulist, serial womaniser and a policy-free zone on a bicycle – his entire political career is one of unrelieved, bungling ineptitude. And malignant narcissism.
Unless, of course you admire Boris’ cunning stunts and his peerless record for cop-outs and cock-ups. Crass theatrics. Above all, is Johnson’s endearing laziness, his inspiring, Trump-like resolve not to bother with the fine print or even read briefings at all.
Also forgotten by The Oz is heretical research that shows that our own, upright, tax-evading, wage-stealing business class are fully occupied in being the backbone of the nation -having a go and getting a go. They mostly can’t understand free trade deals, don’t use them because they are too complicated – or they’ve lost buckets of money on them in the past.
Yet, in another sign of the times, Johnson’s Tory Party win is a big victory for mendacity. Morrison’s mob will take great comfort that Johnson’s government was helped into being by a farrago of online lies.
First Draft, a disinformation tracking organisation, finds 88 per cent of the most widely circulated online Tory ads during the first four days of December were misleading. That’s nearly all of them. First Draft found no Labor disinformation in the same period.
But it’s another thing to try to lie your way out of a real crisis; one that demands a rational response and real leadership – as Boris and Scott Morrison will discover.
A noxious miasma of acrid smoke smothers the yellow brick roads of The Emerald City poisoning Sydney’s air, over twelve times hazardous levels in Camden and Liverpool, Tuesday, as catastrophic fires continue to ravage the east coast of Australia, consuming over 2.7 million hectares of bush and destroying seven hundred homes in four weeks.
Commuters choke. Hospital emergency admissions soar. Ferry services are cancelled. Yet no smoke is thick enough to cloak the federal government’s wilful blindness; its failure of leadership. Morrison’s government is being tried by fire; bushfires of unprecedented scale and ferocity. And it is found lacking -utterly, comprehensively lacking. Not a clue what to do but to retreat into a type of paralysis.
The smoke is thick enough to trigger alarms at Liberal HQ in Sydney where Australia’s climate science denialist Prime Minister Scott Morrison neatly sidesteps the nation’s catastrophic bushfire crisis by holding a press conference on his post-truth, post-government’s religious discrimination bill, a sop to his right wing, which effectively foments intolerance by extending the definition of religious organisations to include hospitals and Op-shops. Smoke prevents from leaving the building.
“Let’s not beat around the bush … let’s call it for what it is. These bushfires have been caused by extreme weather events, high temperatures, the worst drought in living memory – the exact type of events scientists have been warning us about for decades that would be caused by climate change,” says Matt Kean, who is the leader at state level of the NSW Liberals’ moderate faction.
Kean is quickly clobbered; he cops a hiding for being right in The Australian. He’s accused of using the bogeyman of climate change as an excuse for not introducing any new initiatives – whatever they might be. It’s a straw man argument in which the Australian specialises. He’s also – shock – horror –“politicising the fires”.
“The [no new initiatives] revelation comes after Mr Kean attracted criticism for politicising the devastating fires — which have seen six people killed and more than 720 homes destroyed so far this season — by claiming the nation needed to prioritise the urgent reduction of carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic bushfire seasons becoming the new norm.” Expect a lot more of this type of smear before the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women is over.
But a few festive season shout outs are in order. Merry Christmas aged care executives – enjoy your $12 billion dollar a year subsidy and congratulations in lobbying govt to vote down Aged Care 2019 amendments to make aged care accountable – as recommended by the current Royal Commission.
Public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell, reports for veteran Walkley Award winning investigative reporter Michael West how a “few big interests” run our coalition government was on full show last week, when three critical amendments to the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 were tabled. The Liberal-Nationals voted against all amendments.”
The amendments would have been a watershed in aged care – holding private firms accountable for their duty of care rather than maximising their profits. To vote down the reforms makes a mockery of the Commission’s findings and stalls vital transparency and accountability around finances, staffing ratios and complaints in aged care homes.
Yet you’ll hear a lot of boasts about the number of new home care packages available. Few of us are ever frail enough to warrant any kind of care package at all. Most packages available to average candidates offer very limited practical help.
The elderly do not need neoliberal packaging, any more outsourcing, service-delivering or commodifying. They need a government prepared to exercise humanity and to reform a system which horrifies Royal Commissioners by its cruelty, its abuse and its neglect of our senior citizens – all in the interests of a privatised age care system which works mainly for the financial benefit of owners and investors..
Season’s greetings also to all pensioners who may still be able to fend for themselves.
Waiting until the last sitting day, the Coalition uses its numbers to quietly push through its Social Security Integrity Bill which will make life harder for 400,000 Australians. Newstart recipients are mostly over 45. A quarter are over 55 years old.
” … the two onerous or odious bits of this bill is what’s called the Liquid Assets Waiting Time. If you are a middle aged man, who’s lost their job; been made redundant; and you have more than $36,000 in the bank – or if you’re single and have $18,000 in the bank – the government wants to double the wait time before you can access social security.
So it’ll go from 13 weeks to 36 weeks, which is half a year. And it means that the government expects people to run down all their savings – any buffer they’ve got for a disaster in their life, like sickness – before they can access social security.
The second aspect of this bill which is odious as well is what’s called the migrant wait time. That means if you’re someone that’s migrating here from overseas, and you go back to your home country for more than six weeks the government wants to take the age pension supplement off you.
One final image of a government out of touch with those in its duty of care; a government crippled by internal division and its servitude to climate change deniers in its ranks and its donors; our coal barons and fossil fuel magnates, occurs Tuesday.
The bushfire smog is so thick that it triggers fire alarms trapping occupants of Liberal HQ in Sydney. Prevented from leaving also, is a climate science denialist PM who is trapped in a building by smoke from fires fuelled by man-made global warming, a term which the press has largely dropped in favour of the neutral “climate change”.
Time to drop the ideology, Mr Morrison. If you can’t join the dots connecting climate change and catastrophic bushfires, it’s high time you stepped aside in favour of someone who can. Or sought advice from experts. Not turn away when former fire chiefs try to help you with their advice and expertise.
Given your government’s track record, so far, however, it’s clear that you are a dangerous liability in the current crisis. You are not just fiddling while a nation burns, you are feeding the flames with your inertia, your policy paralysis, your wretched climate science denial. Time to declare a state of national climate emergency as a first step to taking the type of emergency action that experts are urging you to adopt.
Twenty-three former fire and emergency leaders say they tried for months to warn you that Australia needed more water-bombers to tackle bigger, faster and hotter bushfires. Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins — one of the founders of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group — says his group’s been seeking a meeting with Federal Government to discuss the crisis since April.
Subsequent pleas fall on deaf ears. Time to act step aside in favour of someone who can. Australia’s current crop of catastrophic fires are not about petty party politics and climate science denial. They are a real and pressing danger you need to address now.
Call the National Summit which Greg Mullins and Lee Johnson, two former fire chiefs from NSW and Queensland, say we need immediately to work out “how to deal with the increasing strain on volunteers battling more extreme and frequent bushfires, but also how Australia deals with fire in a changed climate.” Listen to them.
“A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.” Of course, it won’t solve the crisis but it’s a very good start.
Instead we have a federal government and a headstrong, obdurately stubborn PM unwilling and incapable of taking any advice that is not his own or from powerful cronies whose views he already shares. It’s a lethal combination. A deadly Canberra bubble all of Scott Morrison and his ministers’ own making.
Don’t look to Boris Johnson’s win as some kind of vindication; far better that you treat it as a warning that even a lunatic, incompetent, clown born with a silver spoon in his mouth can get elected PM but there’s no reason to believe he knows remotely where to begin when it comes to governing. Nor does he have the personality or the nous to ever learn. If that sounds familiar, it’s time you, yourself, stood aside or at least owned your own cluelessness. The bluffing just adds another potentially lethal layer of disaster.
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Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson
Attack of the Labor Zombies:“Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.
Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.
It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next, he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.
How very dare he get in first?
MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.
Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.
Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.
Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.
What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.
Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.
But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.
But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.
“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.
Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.
Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.
It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.
“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”
But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.
New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.
But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.
News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.
Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report. Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?
“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.
Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s, Lucy Barbour.
McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.
Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent descent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.
(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)
Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’. Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.
Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.
Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.
Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.
In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.
You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.
Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.
Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.
But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.
“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”
Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.
Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion-dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.
Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next, he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.
Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.
Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.
Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” – a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.
But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.
But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.
“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.
Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.
A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.
The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.
“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”
Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three-volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.
Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.
Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.
“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.
Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.
Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.
Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.
The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.
Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants, not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.
While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.
Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion-dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?
The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.
And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past. Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!
But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief? wonders Bernard Keane.
Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.
But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.
“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation, the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?
Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.
But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.
Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.
In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.
Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.
Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.
“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”
It’s plain as day that we’re responsible for the drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.
But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.
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Those that demonstrated around the world for ‘Extinction Rebellion’ recently have certainly been making headlines. Pity it is for the wrong reasons. On an intellectual level, their point is sound — unless there is meaningful and urgent efforts across the world to mitigate climate change, there is an environmental (and by inference economic) disaster just around the corner. All you have to do to see the evidence of unprecedented change in climatic conditions is to recall that a considerable part of Binna Burra Resort in South East Queensland burnt to the ground in September. Binna Burra’s claim to fame was its location in an unspoilt rainforest. Typically, rainforests don’t have bushfires.
A lot of the Extinction Rebellion activities are based on protest actions in the past such as the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1970s. In reality, as the politicians of the 1950s retired there would have been the gradual de-escalation of tension between the Communists and Capitalists of this world in any event. It’s probably also fair to suggest that the only lasting effect of the protest marches of the Vietnam War era has been the lack of acceptance that those who served overseas in the Vietnam War endured when they returned home when compared to those that served in World War 2 and other conflicts. It really wasn’t the conscripted soldier’s fault that they were sent to Vietnam.
Certainly, those that are concerned about the future of the world in a potential climate disaster have the right to their opinion and to protest the lack of apparent action to correct the perceived wrong. Those that choose not to join the ‘rebellion’ also have the right to their opinion and the right to get to where they need to be without delay from ongoing protests in our big cities. However people that do marketing for a living will tell you the days of the over-hyped advertising screaming at you (as the protesters are doing) to buy a particular product are long gone. Most have realised it doesn’t work, except those that inhabit the wastelands of shopping channels on third rate digital television stations. Even then, they have to give you two items for the price of one to convince you to call ‘in the next 20 minutes’. So, blocking roads, gluing themselves to infrastructure and so on may get a few cheap headlines but it doesn’t answer the relevant question; what exactly do they believe should happen and how exactly do we get there?
This blogsite published a piece after the last federal election suggesting that the ‘anti-Adani’ caravan from Melbourne to Clermont in Central Queensland was a disincentive for people to support political action on climate change. The article suggested
They rolled into towns that are certainly not in ‘boom times’, having weathered a lot of economic changes in recent times due in part to drought and the cyclical nature of mining to tell everyone that their jobs and lifestyle should immediately and irrevocably change. Not subtle or conciliatory, is it?
Extinction Rebellion are using the same tactic. Demanding instant and immediate change without offering a preferred solution or a practical method of getting there is not realistic. It is the same problem the Greens suffered in 2009 when the Rudd Government was prepared to legislate for an emissions trading scheme. As we noted in the same article
The scary thing is that it’s not the first time Brown and the Greens have not seen the forest because of the trees. They voted on principle against former PM Rudd’s emissions reduction scheme in 2009 because the target range of 5 to 20% reduction didn’t go far enough. A 5 to 20% reduction was politically achievable and would have reduced emissions. Voting against the legislation meant a 0% reduction in emissions, which is what has occurred. ‘Principles’ don’t reduce emissions; legislation is far more effective.
As a result, the last 10 years of Australia fiddling while the earth burned is largely due to the Greens lofty principles overruling logic and understanding what can be achieved, together with absolutely no idea of how or when to compromise and gain part of what they want instead of nothing.
On the Nine Media news websites, Madonna King recently discussed how Extinction Rebellion is failing to achieve its aims. Unlike the demonstrators, King identifies the problem and offers a solution.
Just imagine if they tried something else — like getting every year 9 student in the state to write to the Premier, and plead for a hearing, for example.
Imagine how the media headlines might be different. Voters — aka mums and dads — would be helping out with Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, posting letters and making banners.
As King argues, the Same Sex Marriage debate wasn’t won by people gluing themselves to roads in peak hour or other headline grabbing stunts, it was won by consistent, targeted consensus building and facilitating change in the attitude of the community, not only in Australia but around the world. Twenty years ago, love between consenting adults of the same gender was still illegal in some states of Australia and there was discussion on the need to protect the environment from climate change. Today people are free to love and marry whoever they like, regardless of gender and we’re still having the argument on climate change.
It’s pretty obvious which action group has the better tactics.
Nowadays it seems strange watching TV, film productions and documentaries from more than 30 years ago. Nearly everybody in them seems to be smoking cigarettes!
OK, Joe Hockey and Matthias Cormann were caught smoking cigars only a few years back, although that was a drop in the ocean of his stupid behaviour when you think of the appalling budget he had just announced!
Do you remember how strenuously the major tobacco companies worked to deny that smoking tobacco was harmful? Nearly as strenuously as Hardie Industries fought to avoid paying compensation to those whose lives were drastically and painfully shortened because their lungs succumbed to mesothelioma.
It is now old news that in the late 1970s to early 1980s, as coal, oil and gas production was ramping up, some of the major companies involved in that production, commissioned research into the atmospheric consequences of increased emissions of CO2 and their predictions have proved remarkably – and alarmingly – accurate.
They subsequently paid considerable amounts for pseudo-scientists to refute the information. The success of that campaign is such that today, in Letters to the Editor of my local paper, yet one more brainwashed individual decries man-made global warming as a myth.
Feel free to fact-check the above!
What is the connection between this and tobacco?
And where does amnesia come into the picture?
Mega global corporations like the oil and gas and, even now, tobacco, companies need to raise large profits to keep their shareholders happy. They have little compunction in lying and cheating in order to ensure those profits keep rolling in.
I was one of many who were conned into feeling more sophisticated if I nonchalantly waved a cigarette around on social occasions and I would have been far from alone in being guilty of causing others to suffer from passive smoking.
I gave up smoking at Easter, 1987, and am aware that I have probably not done my lungs any good. This morning I was talking to a neighbour who has just had surgery on her lungs and is waiting to hear whether further surgery will be required. Needless to say – she is an ex-smoker.
Australians are fortunate that we have had governments who have stood up to the tobacco companies, introduced plain packaging and reduced the numbers of locations where people can continue to smoke.
Unlike Indonesia, our country’s next-door neighbour, the number of smokers here has massively decreased and more and more people are being discouraged from taking up or continuing smoking.
Yet when it comes to our attitude to climate change, we seem to suffer from induced amnesia.
Once more we have major corporations, telling lies to ensure that they can keep the profits rolling in.
I would be curious to know how many of our decision makers have shares in the coal, gas, CSG and oil industries, because they seem desperately reluctant to accept the science and take effective measures to reduce emissions. Maybe the donations are big enough to induce amnesia!
Currently our government, maybe experiencing pangs of conscience over the effects of drought on our farmers, are throwing money around like confetti – some of which is being spent in ways totally unrelated to the drought.
The Murray Darling Basin Authority, having allowed capitalist approaches towards water to encourage non-water users to buy water rights, are responsible for exacerbating the adverse effects of the drought.
We now have rural communities with no potable water, yet, at the same time, big corporations are hoarding water to ensure successfully selling crops which are highly water-dependent. I do not know why we pay our politicians to run the country because by all accounts they are only doing a good job or running it into the ground, saddled with debt and disaster.
Don’t be fooled by the truly mythical importance of having a surplus! We have an overall debt which is massive compared with when the Coalition came to power. And the much-touted surplus is courtesy of taxes, paid by all, including the poor.
I suspect many people do not really understand a country’s finance system, so please bear with me for a necessarily simplified explanation.
Each year, the budget drawn up details what the governments intends spending, on what the money will be spent and how much money the government anticipates receiving from various sources – mainly a range of taxes and sometimes sale of assets.
If, in fact, the balance between income and expenditure is not achieved, then the government ends up with either a deficit or a surplus.
If a deficit, then it simply goes into debt by ‘borrowing’ through issuing government bonds. It will pay interest on these, they can be traded, and when they expire the government has to buy them back. If, however, a surplus is achieved, then the government has more money to either pay for existing or new services, or pay off existing debt by buying back bonds.
The latest tax cutting exercise has not achieved the claimed outcome of boosting spending to enliven the economy, and the people most in need of government assistance are being given short shrift and accused of being on drugs.
Not only that, but the government, has failed to devise any tax measures that ensure that global corporations trading in this country pay their fair share of taxes. Instead it devises possibly illegal schemes to claw back possibly notional debts from welfare recipients.
Talk about robbing the poor to further enrich the wealthy!
Back to the main theme.
The underlying problems which affect us are a result of greed.
Corporations have a duty to act in the best interests of their shareholders – who did very nicely from all the schemes which were exposed during the recent Royal Commission into the finance sector.
We do not help ourselves by allowing ourselves to suffer amnesia.
We forget the history of tobacco so we do not recognise the truth when it comes to global warming/climate change/the climate emergency – call it what you will. It represents a pattern affecting the world, bringing increasingly severe weather events – hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides, rising sea levels, melting polar ice – over which we have little control.
WE DO HAVE SOME CONTROL OVER THE INCREASING SEVERITY IF WE REDUCE EMISSIONS AS MUCH AND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
That way we can limit the extent to which temperatures will rise but it is now unlikely that we can reverse the situation greed has created!
They say you get the government you deserve.
In that case we all deserve to get the hell out of our world, because the government’s inaction is ensuring that the world will become an increasingly unpleasant place to try to live!
And – sorry! There is no Planet B! Certainly not in the time frame left to us!
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Is “One Million Dollar Woman” Liberal Party “gun” fund-raiser, Gladys Liu, a catspaw of the Chinese Communist Party’s 2005 huaren canzheng, a policy of “ethnic Chinese participation in politics overseas” which has seen Beijing support ethnic Chinese politicians in gaining office in Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Australia?
Or is Ms Liu just another reactionary, evangelical, Coalition homophobe to whom LGBT issues, Safe Schools and marriage equality are “ridiculous rubbish”; a former fifteen-year Victorian Liberal apparatchik, who leads the Liberals’ ruse to legalise discrimination under the pretext of “protecting” an already constitutionally protected religious freedom?
In 2016, Liu attracted national attention, if not notoriety, with her social media campaign against Safe Schools, an anti-bullying programme designed to ensure schools are safe places for all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students, and are free of discrimination. It was her way of getting attention.
Safe Schools originates from school communities, parents and teachers who identify a need for greater support for LGBTI students – students at higher risks of bullying and suicide, and to ensure that schools create safe and inclusive environments. It’s been the subject of much disinformation and misrepresentation from our reactionaries, such as Cory Bernardi or George Christensen who proclaim themselves conservatives. But to campaign against it is damning.
In her orchestrated attack on Safe Schools, Liu aligns herself with ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and injustice and her PM, Scott Morrison. His children go to private school, he tells The Guardian Australia to avoid what he wilfully misrepresents as “skin-curling” sexuality discussions. But not all Glad’s agenda is reactionary. She’s progressive on foreign investment.
A whiz on WeChat, Liu’s 2016 social media campaign helped Julia Banks get elected only, in the end, to be bullied out of the Liberal Party. Liu’s pitch on Chinese social media is to claim Chinese Australians worry that future generations will be “destroyed” by “ridiculous rubbish” such as “concepts of same-sex, transgender, intergender, cross-gender”.
Liu continued her attack in an article in The Age Liu in 2016. Above all, subversive Safe Schools undermined conservative Chinese values and “we are concerned it will change society and the moral standard [of] the culture”.
WeChat also ran other fake news including the scare that immigration under Labor would rise to 320,000 in ten years; “surpassing the entire Chinese immigrant population.” Liu’s mentor, Morrison’s legacy as Immigration Minister, 2013-4, incidentally was a program of 190,000, a figure he bizarrely locked in by tying the size to budget calculations.
The nation plays Chinese whispers this week with the Liu debacle. We’re Glad all over. MSM is abuzz with scuttlebutt about the MP for the Victorian seat of Chisholm, a marginal seat where 23,000 residents were born in mainland China.
As Niki Savva says on ABC Insiders Sunday, we need to know more about her miracle fund-raising, which Sam Dastyari happily inflates to $3 million. Where does the money come from? How does she suddenly get her precocious skill in political organising? It was this skill which finally won her pre-selection after nine years of knock-backs and failure.
But Gladys is in good hands. Her senior adviser is the arch-conservative, Graham Watt, former Liberal MP for Burwood, who in eight years in state politics, is remembered as the only MP who refused to stand for Rosie Batty’s standing ovation when the Domestic Violence Campaigner and Australian of the Year, visited Victoria’s Parliament in 2015.
Watt is not in Canberra, Tuesday when all hell breaks loose, after Gladys strays into Andrew Bolt’s lair; his Sky Studio. As a Liberal, never did she expect to be held to account. And certainly not by Bolt. A similar perspective appears to have been behind her interpretation of AEC rules regarding polling booth signage.
A case before the High Court challenges Liu’s Chinese-language posters’ how-to-vote advice which effectively directed unwary voters to vote Liberal. Oliver Yates, the unsuccessful independent candidate for Kooyong, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg’s seat, has teamed up with a voter in Chisholm to have the election result ruled invalid. Yet the current crisis, capably boosted by MSM’s Sinophobia, is self-inflicted, like so much of ScoMo & Co’s political franchise.
The latest buzz stems from Ms Liu unplugged. Un-minded. In sensational disclaimers to an incredulous Andrew Bolt on Sky, Tuesday, Liu fails to recall her twelve-year membership of key agencies of China’s bid to influence local politics; organisations linked to the CCP’s United Front Work Department. Add in failing to disclose a $39,675 donation to the Victorian Liberals, three years ago. Liu’s s also three years late in declaring a second donation of $25,000.
Victorian Liberals quickly claim the $39,675 is not in fact a donation after all. “As these payments were for attending events, Ms Liu did not have an obligation to submit a return to the AEC,” the party says. That clears that up then.
The member for Chisholm evades questions critical of China’s foreign policy. Her name might well have been added to the organisations without her knowledge, she conjectures, a fanciful narrative she abandons next day.
The media pack is baying. The Victorian Liberal Party was warned, by “men in grey suits”, against pre-selecting Ms Liu, trumpets The Herald Sun, while The ABC reports this week, that in 2018, then PM Turnbull was advised by ASIO not to attend Ms Liu’s “meet and greet” function whose guest list contained “thirty names from the Chinese Community”.
Is ScoMo spooked? It’s just another day at the spin machine for our PM who opts for a ludicrous downplay – as he did recently with his presence at Nine’s fund-raiser – which Jennifer Duke and David Crowe report in The Sydney Morning Herald, a Nine newspaper, netted the Libs $700,000. All that happened was Nine gave a function and he was there.
It’s part of his government’s Trumpist gaslit-nation strategy. Fraser Anning uses it too. There were no fascists at a Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson organised rally, he attended, despite images clearly showing protesters exchanging Nazi salutes.
“I think the problem here is Gladys Liu has given a clumsy interview,” Morrison says. “That is all that’s happened here.”
“Everyone has a bad day in the office and that was one,” Barnaby “bad-day” Joyce throws his own, huge, personal, authority into the mix on Patricia Karvelas’ RN drive. Nothing to see here. But how good is Mick-Mack’s melt-down!
Look over there: Deputy PM, vacuous Michael McCormack, stages a meltdown in question time, Wednesday, in case Liu sabotages ScoMo & Co’s smooth roll-out of Labor-bashing bastardry and wedging. Attacks on Labor fill its policy vacuum. It also presses on with Ensuring Integrity, another zombie bill. ACTU’s Sally McManus says it’s some of the most draconian anti-union legislation in the world. ScoMo & Co’s war on workers must proceed until every union is crushed.
The nation is suffering the economic consequences of Coalition governments’ – and some of Labor’s – long-term strategy of de-unionisation. Labor may claim to represent working class interests. But in office, both federally and at the state level, it has consistently implemented neoliberal, anti-working class policies over the last three decades.
Take a bow, John Setka. Setka is a gift in ScoMo & Co’s demonisation of organised labour and their attack on Labor’s credibility and Albo’s authority. Yet it’s not about Setka. Our average unionist is a thirty-nine-year-old female nurse.
Wages remain frozen at 2013 levels, according to ABS data published in April. Workers and their families are suffering while others prosper. Our top 20 per cent of households’ average net worth is over 93 times that of the lowest 20 per cent — some $3.2 million compared to just $35,200.
Yet workers are never valorised by this government the way it makes saints of farmers and small business owners, both groups prominent in recent wage theft cases.
“I don’t know why you’re yelling. The Member for Hunter. It’s time you came to the table and just behaved yourself occasionally,” Mick-Mack yells at shadow agriculture minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. “There are country people doing it tough. You won’t ever stop yelling out. You should behave yourself. You are a disgrace. You know you are!”
Yet what Fitzgibbon has to say encapsulates the Coalition crisis and its dire need to seek diversion in the Gladys Liu soap opera and the up and coming return of the living dead drug tests for welfare cheats and useless, cashless credit cards.
“We’ve had the drought coordinator, the drought envoy, the drought task force, the drought summit. Now we have a drought minister …. (but) what hope does the Australian community have when their drought minister denies the connection between our activity and what is happening in our natural environment and with our climate?”
So much to evade; so little time. ScoMo & Co have economised on parliamentary sittings to save face.
Peak stupidity is reached when the Nationals’ leader Mick-Mack claims new dams would improve things for farmers. It’s a response to a typically tedious “Dorothy Dixer” which elicits the climate change denier’s default evasion.
“That is Australia – a land of droughts and flooding rains,” the Deputy PM says. Profound. Literary. Urbane. Or so he believes.
Fitzgibbon interjects to ask what the government is doing to help country people. ScoMo doesn’t blink. But things go bad for the PM when Andrew Bolt gives him an earful in his Thursday morning sermon from Sky’s moral high ground.
Morrison is forced to pause his crusade to wedge Labor by legislation or “wedgislation” as Albanese wittily puts it, abusing parliament with a series of bull-shit bills such as reviving yet another trial of the cashless debit card, the war on vegan terror, which would outlaw on-farm protests by animal liberationists, drug-testing dole bludgers and the populists’ perennial -mandatory sentencing of child sex offenders – all designed solely to give Labor an atomic wedgie.
No chance of ScoMo & Co tackling real issues; our “existential environmental crisis” or our incipient economic downturn. New Matilda’s Ben Eltham notes, “if the climate is heating the economy is cooling; the jobless are obviously to blame.”
Digging deep into his shallow but well-exercised desperate tactical response lobe, Trumpista ScoMo chooses to impugn Labor’s motives in holding Gladys Liu to account. ScoMo’s dud political judgement rivals that of his predecessor.
Morrison denies the allegations. Calls Labor racists. His mentor, Trump, whose latest claim to victimhood, is to claim his fake orange tan, is due to low-energy lightbulbs- deployed by Greens’ traitors everywhere, would be proud of him.
ScoMo! There’s flies in the buttermilk. What will you do? Liu, Liu, skip to Ms Liu. Skip to Ms Liu my darling.
ScoMo barely has time to take visiting Fijian PM pal Frank Bainimarama, another big fan of guided democracy, for a happy-clap and a singalong at Horizon. Horizon, which, oddly, shares its name with an Imperial Tobacco cigarette brand.
Horizon must be rapt when a PM deploys his prosperity gospel church; his religiosity, as a multipurpose political tool. But no sign so far of rapture from fellow evangelical Bainimarama. In fact, Frank seems to be inwardly seething.
Climate change advocate Frank’s no fan of Australia’s coal baron government. He sees our PM’s Pacific Island Forum refusal to agree to phase out coal-fired power as “insulting and condescending.” Yet a puff piece from the ABC’s Michael Walsh, helps us all to forgot human rights’ abuse in Fiji. Frank is a noble reformer who is restoring Fiji to democracy.
Big Frank’s glad to get out of Suva after being captured on camera assaulting Opposition leader Pio Tikoduadua in what is loosely known as the Fijian parliament’s car park; breaking Pio’s spectacles. Incredibly, local police make no inquiries. Pio, on the other hand, gets suspended from parliament for bad-mouthing his Prime Minister. ScoMo is inspired.
Bronte’s brontosaurus, (thunder lizard) the small-headed, whip-tailed, political dinosaur, Morrison goes in low. Our nation’s top grub, owes his own 2009 pre-selection, solely to a smear campaign. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph published four stories about the successfully pre-selected Liberal candidate for Cook, Michael Towke which defamed him, destroyed his political career, caused untold stress to his family and led to his dis-endorsement and ScoMo’s free walk.
”These stories sent my mother to hospital. They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court,” Towke explains.
ScoMo’s smear’s a silencing tactic; the very tactic used by The Chinese Embassy, notes Charles Sturt’s Clive Hamilton.
Critics of the Hong Kong-born MP are guilty of filthy racist slurs, ScoMo howls. It’s an outrage. Morrison follows his parliamentary gutter politics – (“disgusting”, Mark Dreyfus dubs them), with Standing Up for All Chinese Australians, a video he releases on Chinese social media, WeChat, now a Coalition propaganda, go-to. It’s a sequel to his April love-in, when after years of failed attempts, but vast increases in donations, Liu was finally pre-selected for Chisholm in Victoria.
“How good is Gladys Liu? Gladys Liu is a force of nature.” ScoMo crowed in April at her pre-selection. And he’s right. And she may have a right to be a bigot provided she doesn’t harm children who need safe schools. Or if she stays away from promulgating lurid lies and fantasies on social media which impede the voters’ right to make up their own mind.
But it’s fair to ask who her political mates are. Her connections. What are her links to United Front Work Department’s Guangdong provincial branch of the China Overseas Exchange Association, an overseas propaganda and influence outfit headed by high-ranking party officials? Documents show that Liu has been a council member of this outfit.
Liu also confirms she was honorary president of the United Chinese Commerce Association of Australia. All done and dusted? Not yet. There’s a torrent of abuse from what is mysteriously called the other side of politics. Bolt’s side.
Bolt goes nuts. “The way that the Prime Minister played that race card five times this morning, well I can only say the Chinese regime should be sending him a thank you card,” he says in his opening harangue on Thursday. Classy irony.
“Prime Minister why was it racist to question Gladys Liu’s connections to China but it wasn’t racist to call Sam Dastyari ‘Shanghai Sam’?” asks a Ten Reporter. Liar from the Shire, ScoMo denies using the phrase but social media lights up with evidence to the contrary. Hansard also records Morrison stooping to racist taunting of Dastyari on several occasions.
So who is being racist? “Questioning by Labor and the crossbench members of Parliament on this is legitimate and reasonable,” Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, tells The Sydney Morning Herald; Nine Newspaper’s Peter Hartcher. Hartcher dismisses suggestions ASIO warned his paper’s Liberal Party pals ScoMo or Fizza Turnbull. So neither PM or their departments could join the guest list warning dots? We are in trouble.
In trouble also are Chinese communities, here and in other nations. Already under-represented in parliaments, they must now suffer being represented by MPs of dubious loyalty, observes Clive Hamilton.
And how fares our democracy where pre-selection is determined, at least in the Liberal Party, by how much money you can raise? Your ability to chat up rich-listers – and not by the calibre of your thinking, your humanity, or dare it be said, your capacity to contribute honest, constructive, socially cohesive ideas to policy or your demonstration of good faith.
A bit of concern for the planet doesn’t go astray either. Does our nation really needs another climate change sceptic?
The Liu case is far from closed. Word is that Gladys will be minded by the PMC – reduced to another bot from head office. The well-oiled, back-biting, faction-riven fossils in the Victorian Liberal Party will fall over themselves to help.
Micro-managed, scripted, she will win more time to be a WeChat warrior. But there are still few wild cards to be played. Her bully-PM has the diplomatic skills of a demented warthog and a hide to match. No patience for high maintenance.
If, on the other hand, it turns out that Gladys is of no further use to the United Front Work Department they may cut her loose. Beat ScoMo to it. Recall her. Some irregularity with her residency. Before even Morrison’s office works out that she’s more a political liability than an asset. A conga-line of suitable replacements will already be putting itself forward.
Or the High Court may be pleased to find her election invalid. But don’t hold your breath.
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No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.” (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).
“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.
Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.
Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.
Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.
“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.
Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.
New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.
Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,
“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”
Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.
Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.
Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.
It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.
Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.
The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.
Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.
“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.
“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”
“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”
Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”
Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.
“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”
Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.
Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.
Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.
Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.
“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”
And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.
Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality. No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.
Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.
Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.
As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.
Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.
“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”
Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.
Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.
(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age. “If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.
“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.
ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.
In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.
We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.
“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”
Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.
Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.
The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.
Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.
All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.
Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.
By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.
Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.
Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.
The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.
Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.
Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.
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It was strangely ironic when Scottie told us last Saturday, “we will stand up for what we believe until the bell rings – the bell hasn’t rung.”
It was ironic because I’d been thinking that if the current government was a boxing match, the referee would surely have stopped the fight. I mean, when you have one boxer staggering around, not sure who he’s fighting, it’s clearly time to get the doctors to check him…
Although, on that basis, Abbott would have been gone years ago.
Of course, the trouble with the Liberals is that they don’t stand up for what they believe. Ok, they have a few times, but it’s been electoral suicide. Take Fightback ’93 as an example! Or Workchoices 2007, if you’re not that old.
In 1993, I wrote that the Liberals couldn’t work out what the lesson from Hewson’s loss in the unloosable election was. Ok, I wrote it on a bit of paper so I can’t find exactly what I wrote, but that simply means that – like the Liberals – I can pretend and nobody can call me out. Anyway, I remember writing that the Liberals couldn’t work out whether elections were about offering up a vision of an alternative future and if that vision was rejected, well, that’s democracy and we should change what we offer OR we take a stand on what we believe and we keep arguing for that until we bring the people along with us.
In the aftermath of ’93, they tended to explode and say things like, “We told them what we’d do and that was a mistake. We’ll never do that again!”
Ok, I’m not quoting directly, but if you want to search for quotes, I’ll bet you can find someone saying something pretty close… Actually, when I think about it, that’s pretty close to an accurate reflection of everything they’ve done since.
But back to the present…
There seems to be a strange view about the Wentworth by-election which goes something like this:
“No, we don’t need to reconsider our policies in light of the result because this is all down to one simple thing. It was a very, very silly thing to remove Malcolm as leader and that was all his fault, so we don’t need to think that maybe it was all about the policies and nobody gave a tinker’s cuss about Malcolm because clearly this was because everyone loved Malcolm but not because he seemed to want policies more in touch with the majority of Australia than the rest of us: it was personal. He was trying to push the party to the left so we got rid of him because people didn’t want that but unfortunately people didn’t realise that they didn’t want it and got angry because we got rid of this man because, well, he quit, we didn’t get rid of him…Sorry, what was the question?”
Yes, when Scott Morrison said, “This wasn’t unexpected,” on Saturday night, I had to wonder why wasn’t it? And not just because he used a double negative instead of saying, “This was expected.” I mean, yes, if I have three glasses of scotch, finish off the bottle of wine, see how many times I can spin around and then try to climb onto a table and dance, when I fall over and do some damage, the line, “This wasn’t unexpected,” may be true for anyone that witnessed the previous ten minutes, but the people who asked me to babysit an hour or two before, would be thinking that, while the end damage wasn’t unexpected, the drinking and twirling wasn’t something that they factored in before they entrusted their child to me.
Ok, nobody, would be silly enough to let me babysit. Unless they voted Liberal where they entrusted the whole country to Scott Morrison. To be fair, at the last election they thought they were entrustring it to Malcolm, but at the previous one, they were giving Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge…
Actually, Tony never made it to the Lodge owing to some renovations. Scott emulated John Howard and announced that he needs to be based in Sydney owing to his young family, Fair enough, I suppose, but one really shouldn’t put one’s hand up for a caretaker role and then expect to be able to work from home.
Whatever, the Wentworth by-election does make it clear that we have an entire government with about as much self-awareness as Donald Trump on LSD… Actually, Trump may have more self-awareness after dropping acid…
The Liberals have lost one of their safest seats, but they conclude it was only because they removed Turnbull as PM and they did that when he called a spill after Peter Dutton was counting the numbers and threatening to challenge. Then, after losing, Dutton’s backers assured everybody that they had the numbers. However, owing to the Finance Minister’s inability to count, the Treasurer slipped by and emerged victorious. Turnbull then did as he promised and left Parliament, leaving an unwinnable by-election because the Liberals only held it by a margin of 17%, so you’d hardly expect that not to be down to Turnbull’s personal following. No, that’s the explanation and we don’t need to consider changing any policies because Wentworth is out of step because they’re all well-off and not like the rest of Australia. No, we don’t need to change any policies…
Oh, have we mentioned we’re bringing eleven children from Nauru for health reasons. Not a change of policy. We’ve always been nice guys where people’s health is concerned…
No, there’ll be no change of policy on anything else.To quote Tony Abbott from 2014 after a few little hiccups: “Good government starts today.”
I must go and check the news to see if the rumours of a Bishop challenge are true.That’s Julie, by the way. Bronwyn’s left Parliament and she’d make a terrible PM…
Although, when I think about it, the Liberals seem to think that’s a prerequisite for the job!
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The Liberals have lost Wentworth for the first time and so the analysis begins.
We’ve already been told that Malcolm didn’t help. He should have been there, campaigning his little arse off out of gratitude that the Liberals made him PM. Ungrateful wretch.
And, in the washup, Sky News was telling us not to draw too many conclusions because Wentworth wasn’t typical of the rest of Australia…It’s one of the wealthiest suburbs and it does have a significant gay population. True enough, I suppose, but is one meant to draw the inference that other electorates have an insignificant gay population?
However, I keep coming back to a point I make over and over again. We only get to vote once every three years or so and we often make our choice based on who we think is the least worst. Our vote is sometimes the lesser of two evils, rather than a ringing endorsement of every single policy of the party we ultimately vote for. And sometimes, an electorate gets the chance to say, yes, you seem more in tune with what we actually think than either of the major parties.
It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with the rest of Australia on something like climate change. Wentworth has pretty accurately reflected the fact that most people think more should be done on climate change. It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with attitudes to LGTBI issues or children on Nauru; it’s more that the loudest conservative voices have managed to make it sound like they are speaking for the “ordinary” Australian. And it’s hard to get more ordinary than some of the people backing Peter Dutton.
Now, I always suggested that Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t all that left-wing. I know, it’s surprising that a Point Piper multimillionaire Liberal Party leader wouldn’t be an extreme socialist pushing for the overthrow of the corrupt system. Yes, we’ve been told about leftie Malcolm, so often that we overlook the fact that most of his progressive views were consistent with the majority. Backing for the Republic, marriage equality, action on climate change. You name it, there was nothing that wasn’t a popular position. He was always positioning himself for popularity. That is, until he became Prime Minister, where his Faustian bargain left him unable to please either his party or his electorate. While it was one thing to paint Malcolm as progressive; it’s quite another to ask us to believe that a Liberal stronghold – one of its safest and most affluent seats – is a hotbed of out-of-touch elites who were simply angry at the dumping of their man.
It’s worth pointing out that they did so with the full knowledge that, unlike so many by-elections, they had the power to make the Coalition a minority government. If anything, this should have chastened them, made them more circumspet. And it’s not as though, this was a surprise like the 1999 defeat of Kennett in Victoria where people made a protest vote without any expectation that it would result in a change of government.
The electorate made a conscious decision to create a hung Parliament. But to hear Scott Morrison last night, it was all about Malcolm Turnbull, it was all about the “price” of switching leaders. But rest assured, the Liberals would rise again. (I’m sure I heard a few “hallelujahs” at this point from the crowd). Ok, perhaps not in three days, but it certainly sounded like an evangelical meeting at times. He went on to repeat his well-worn slogans of “Those who have a go, will get a go”, “The best form of welfare is a job”, “Jesus was a small businessman” and “I stopped the votes” and several other meaningless phrases, as though these had somehow helped deliver an electoral victory rather than the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Liberals in almost a week.
I guess it’s easy to be pessimistic and shake one’s head. We have a governent voting for a motion then realising that they didn’t intend to vote for it, floating ideas which are against all departmental advice, squabbling internally, considering a disgraced Barnbaby for a return to the Deputy PM role only a few months after his embarrassing admissions. And I know some of you will be worried by the assertions that this won’t flow through to the general election because of Rupert Murdoch or because the Liberals will “get away with it like they always do”.
However, I think that it’s always worth stopping and considering how many impossible things have happened. I mean, not only have the Liberals lost Wentworth – unthinkable just a few weeks ago – but they lost to an openly gay Independent. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, so what? But that’s the point. How long ago would it have been unthinkable for a candidate to have called their same sex partner up on the stage during their victory speech? If you go back to the beginning of this century it would have been talked about for weeks.
Progress may feel like two steps forward and one step back. And even, at times, the other way round. But because progress is slow, we often don’t see how far we’ve come. There’s still a long way to go, of course. For example, I was confused as to why the email suggesting that Phelps had pulled out because she had HIV was reported as being a “smear” and a “slur”. I don’t see having HIV is either of those, any more than a suggestion that she was cancelling an appearance because she had the flu. It was a nasty trick, sure, but why a “smear” as though HIV suggested something immoral about the person.
So, before the media starts talking about how terribly the Labor Party performed and tries to start leadership speculation about Shorten, let’s see this for what it is: a massive wake-up call for Scott Morrison. Unfortunately for him, his speech last night suggested he intended to just keep hitting the snooze button.
School Counsellor’s Office. Mr and Mrs White enter.
Counsellor: Ah, thanks for coming in.
Mr White: We’re really glad you called.
Mrs White: We’ve been really worried about Harriet.
Counsellor: I understand, but really, it’s nothing to worry about.
Mr. White: Yes, but some of the things she’s been doing. She keeps taking her younger brother’s toys and insisting that he shouldn’t have them until he’s earned them. I mean, I do appreciate a work ethic, but…
Mrs White: But he is only two. And then there was what she said when she saw that the government was helping farmers with the drought.
Mr White: Yes, she insisted that we shouldn’t be giving charity to people who didn’t come from the same house as we did. I said that they were in need and she just said that they didn’t have the same surname so why should we help them. And she locked one of her friends in the cupboard because she didn’t come in the right door.
Mrs White: We’ve been asking her for the key for months now, but she insists that the friend has to stay in the cupboard so none of her other friends come in by the wrong door.
Counsellor: So she does have friends?
Mr White: Well, not so many since she had her thirteenth birthday and told them that they had to make a large donation to sit at the table with her.
Counsellor: Yes, well, I can see how this may seem like a real worry to you. However, I’m just throwing this out there, but have you ever considered that she might be…
Mr White: Go on!
Counsellor: A Liberal!
Mrs White: No, she can’t be. I mean what sort of…
Mr White: Not our daughter surely. I mean, she can’t be. She’s female.
Counsellor: Now I know that you may need some time to adjust to the idea but believe it or not, there are female Liberals. It’s just that they’re much more likely to be hidden away than the type you see in the media, but female Liberals are more common than you might think.
Mrs White: But what makes you think that she’s a Liberal?
Counsellor: Well, one of her teachers noticed that she kept blaming everyone else whenever she made a mistake. By itself that wouldn’t be unusual but then we noticed her complete lack of empathy and her inability to make a consistent argument for anything. For example, when she was doing group activities, she’d insist that she’d done all the work and then when the marks were in, she’d loudly declare that this shouldn’t go on her report because the other students had done it. Classic Liberal behaviour.
Mr White: Is it… Is it something to do with the way we raised her?
Counsellor: Now, you mustn’t blame yourselves. Sometimes these things just happen and because we live in a tolerant society she’ll be able to lead a relatively normal life. Of course, she’ll never be able to make a meaningful commitment or trust any of her friends, but apart from that, she’ll be able to function just like a normal person.
Mrs White: Is there anything we should be doing? Like is there any treatment or help available.
Counsellor: I think the main thing is just continuing to be supportive and remembering when attempts to install herself as head of the household, that it’s the condition and nothing that you should blame her for.
Mr White: So there’s no cure or…
Counsellor: Well, there are people trying a radical new therapy. Apparently if you give Liberals lots and lots of money and keep telling that they’re the adults, they behave politely and only lash out at things like renewable energy or unemployed people.
Mr White: How much money?
Counsellor: All of it, but I only mentioned that to say that people are trying to help. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity behind the therapy.
Mrs White: But the lack of science wouldn’t matter, would it? I mean, if she’s really a Liberal…
Counsellor: The main thing is not to over-react. As unbelievable as it may seem, there are lots of Liberals out there and if you can just steer clear of certain topics, you might never even be aware that they’re any different from you or me.
Mr White: Is there some sort of support group? Malcolm Fraser inspired a lot of people by showing that you could make an almost complete recovery from being a Liberal.
Counsellor: That’s what I mean. You shouldn’t talk about recovery. You should just respect her choices.
Mrs White: So it is a choice thing?
Counsellor: Look, I’m not an expert. We do have someone at the school who’s very good at understanding they way Liberals think and he’ll be able to give you some strategies for getting Liberals to do what you want.
Bolman and Deal’s “Reframing Organisations” encourages leaders to look through various ‘windows’ to reframe and solve problems. The Author argues that climate change activism is led from a position of privilege. To counter this, the worker must be central to the climate change debate.
The Rise of Climate Change Activism
Climate Change Activism is not a passing phase. Warnings about climate change have progressed since the 1980’s. Aerosols and cows expelling gas would destroy the earth. Climate change activism has become increasingly more prevalent in politics, media, and society.
The current phase, post-Paris Agreement, is a particularly strong phase of climate change activism. This is globally pushing leaders to implement legislation and regulations to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The Force of Change on the working class
The vocal aim of activists to shut down entire industries, such as coal (and some say beef is on their radar as well), places climate change as a (negative) force of change on the working class.
We are no longer in an era where we are debating the reality of climate change. The majority of people accept that climate change is real and we must act on climate change.
Many activists still operate in the mindset that any question about jobs equals denialism. They do not try to understand if the other person believes in climate change. Lectures about the merits of climate change stream forth in abundance, regardless.
Abuse and ridicule are common responses to the jobs issue. A strong position is jobs do not matter in the end. They argue fiercely if mining destroys the earth, there will be no jobs at all. This is particularly exacerbated by the current anti-Adani movement at present.
Activists who do try to engage only have one solution – all the coal workers will now work in renewables. There is no vision to reinvent communities or truly see the human factor and offer diversity and true renewal.
Other activists are quite discriminatory about who deserves jobs. They will respond with the notion that Great Barrier Reef jobs are more important than coal jobs. The notion of job losses in the coal sector is sometimes even celebrated by activists as an achievement.
Rebuttals are in the form of industry that is not yet prevalent.
Oh! They can just go get jobs in the renewabls industry!
The conversation around jobs and regional communities towards a post-coal world is extremely difficult to get off the ground.
Concern for Jobs isn’t Climate Change Denial
Environmental activists must cease the perverse accusation that one is a “climate change denier” if displaced workers are a major concern.
(And Malcolm Roberts, by some weird turn of events you read this; despite what you may have read from Climate Change activists yelling at me on Twitter – I am not in love with you).
To achieve positive progress we need to reframe the debate with the worker as the centre. This will highlight the negative impact climate change action has on workers.
Environmentalists must question if their position is so pure that negative consequences, such as mass layoffs are inconsequential. If mass layoffs are inconsequential, and workers can’t put food on the table, then does one’s activism come from a position of privilege?
The Negative Consequence of Positive Action
Activists generally sincerely value their actions and advocacy as a positive effect on society. I do not disagree that this is the intent with climate change activists.
However, I would strongly argue to value the intent of activism is not enough. I would also argue it is ignorant. Activists must also value the consequences of their actions, not just the intent. Sometimes a positive action can result in negative consequences.
An environmental lens ensures the following remain silent:
Displaced workers, economic loss, increased welfare, homelessness, poverty, despair, an increase in psychosomatic symptoms and even suicide.
Reframing the debate with the worker as central to the climate change debate is essential. This places climate change action as an externality that is a force of change on industry and work. This shifts the worker from an irrelevant byproduct of change to the central focus.
This should serve as the impetus to mitigate harm to the working class co-existent with positive action on climate change.
What does Feminism have to do with this?
I am using this example to demonstrate activism and privilege. Often the negative consequences of positive action, are not recognised. The activist does not have a desire to reframe the debate. It is not until voices push for reframing that the negative consequences of activism are realised.
As a white liberal/radical feminist in the 1980’s, I was oblivious that the activism I participated in had negative consequences. This activism had a negative affect on women of colour and also misrepresented men of colour.
It has been through women of colour persisting with their voices, who created this change. This forced white liberal feminists to reframe their activism and recognise specific feminist issues for women of colour. Many white liberal feminists now follow women of colour as allies in support of their activism.
Through reframing by women of colour, white liberal feminists could then identify the negative consequences. They recognise their activism was from a position of privilege.
A united and stronger feminist wave was born.
Stop Lecturing and Start Uniting
Activism that spares no thought about how to alleviate harm on the worker is from a position of privilege.
Activism that is not involved in ideas and discussions to mitigate harm to the worker, is a position of privilege.
Persisting with ‘lecturing and convincing others’ and shouting down concerns about jobs is regressive and obstructive.
If this continues, unlike feminism – a new wave will not be born.
Privilege and Elitism
Privilege is a term commonly used in sociology and feminist literature and it is described as:
As a concept, privilege is defined in relational terms and in reference to social groups, and involves unearned benefits afforded to powerful social groups within systems of oppression (Kendall, 2006; McIntosh, 1988).
Within Environmental Literature this concept is defined as “Elitism” (Dunlap, 1986). There are three types of environmental elitism.
Compositional Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists are generally more upper-class and financially well off.
Ideological Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists protect their own interests at the cost of the poor – i.e. Preventing a power plant on land that is beneficial to their own interests.
The third type of elitism is the most relevant for the purpose of this article:
Impact Elitism: The suggestion that environmental reform measures that have (intended or not) regressive, distributional impacts on society. (ie job losses, economic loss).
Some examples of impact elitism are:
The cost of reducing energy costs benefits the wealthy and excludes the poor. (Older cheaper cars versus newer Tesla cars).
Solar panelling and insulation benefits wealthier home buyers and excludes those who rent
People from poorer countries live in unhealthy environments. This is because they cannot afford the infrastructure or cost of electricity for a healthier, cleaner environment.
Purchasing a set of environmentally friendly shopping bags as a choice between an inedible bag or much-needed food.
Wealthier advanced countries advocating against poorer countries accessing fossil fuel energy. Although this may be a step enable fuelling, farming, agriculture and new industry.
Activism to shut down an energy intensive plant, even though its closure will result in mass layoffs.
Reframing the Debate
The Climate Change debate would look much different if activists, politicians and media reframed this to a worker-centred debate.
Decisions around budget measures, domestic and foreign affairs, industrial relations, training and the distribution of revenue would look much different.
The continual lecturing and ridicule from activists who are stuck in the view that the majority of people still need convincing are stifling the debate.
The leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, is also guilty of this. Shorten’s narrative concentrates too much on the environmental, rather than the working class.
It is up to the Australian Labor party to lead serious reform in this area. Leave the environmentalism to the Greens. Australian Labor should be working to mitigate the effects of climate change whilst simultaneously loudly advocating for national reform. Championing the new way we look at jobs, industry and the economy in a post-coal world.
A Serious Transition is Urgent
The Labor party has a transition document available. However, in my view, it does not go far enough. The legacy of Labor is about national progressive reform. I welcome a transition plan. However, one that responds within an environmental framework is not enough. The answer is not just about renewables.
We urgently need a visionary set of serious reforms for regional communities.
How will revenue be redistributed?
How will the loss of coal revenue impact regions?
What are the impacts on specific communities, rather than nationally?
Should we focus on regional unemployment or a national average?
Do education and training need greater investment?
Should renewables training colleges be set up in regional universities?
Do we fully fund TAFE to secure the necessary training required to reskill for the future?
How do we attract a range of non-energy related industry investment to regional communities?
Is funded redeployment for displaced workers to existing and new industry an option?
Should regionally focused apprenticeship quotas be funded on a national scale?
Will redistribution of centralised public services to regions relieve the burden?
These are some questions to be asked.
The Labor Party’s narrative about the world of work in a world of serious climate change action is also non-existent.
Unless we fight and win a region-focused jobs and economic transition plan, the resultant high unemployment, filled with skilled heavy industry unemployed, only risks tipping the balance of power to the employer. This is a huge risk for further erosion of job security, safety and fair wages and conditions.
I have renewed hope now that Australian Unions are speaking up.
Food on the table, rewarding and permanent secure work should be an inherent value we ALL fight for.
A Synergistic Policy Framework
This cyclical fight does not have to continue to be the case. The “left” appears to be fighting itself to champion one social cause (environmentalism) at the expense of another (the worker).
Mass layoffs and closures will become a prevalent and a visible acknowledgement of successful climate change activism. Without a serious region focused economic and jobs transition plan, this divide will deepen. It will hurt.
Arguments that the worker is secondary give fuel to the ONLY argument that the actual climate change deniers have left. That is pretending to care about the working class as the reason to block change. We saw that in abundance this week with the Liberal and National Party’s rejection of the Finkel Review.
The absence of narrative about jobs is also partly attributed to the rise of Trump and Hanson. I do not want that to continue. Do you?
Reframing and placing the worker at the centre of the policy debate and self-identifying privilege is the first step. A step towards a synergistic policy framework of positive climate change action united in positive progress for the worker.
Ok, she was riding high in the polls and, even though she had three years before she had to face the people – in her case, for the first time as PM – she decided that she needed to shore up her support and get a “strong mandate” for Brexit. While some saw it as a cynical attempt to take advantage of Corbyn’s supposed lack of electoral appeal, it was generally thought to be a good political move. And, just like when the US banks were bundling loans together and selling off the risk before the GFC, there was no risk.
However, Theresa (Dis)May got a surprise. Who would have thought it? (Ok, well I did suggest that it was possible a few weeks ago, but nobody takes me seriously!) Of course, that’s the thing about surprises: They’re surprising. Otherwise they wouldn’t be a surprise and they’d be that other thing which we call predictable. If a thing is predictable, it’s not a surprise. But to me the surprising thing is that anybody is actually surprised about the surprise.
To explain what I mean, let’s look at the world of the past few years. Ok, we can’t expect a British PM to have heard about Campbell Newman going from a record majority to losing the next election when the only thing he’d done wrong was to be a complete dickhead, but we could expect that she’d be more familiar with British politics where the following things have happened in the recent past:
In 2015, David Campbell’s Conservative Party is re-elected in a surprise result.
He surprisingly calls for a vote on leaving the EU.
The “leave” campaign surprisingly wins in spite of having Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson arguing for it.
David Cameron quits as PM less than a year after being re-elected. Perhaps not a surprise after the vote, but certainly not expected at the start of the year.
So, in 2017, thinks Theresa, let’s call an election because I’m not expecting a surprise. After all, Donald Trump was elected in the USA, so it’s not like anything is possible. No, I’ll go to the polls, increase my majority and I won’t even need to debate Corbyn because nobody likes him. Yes, half the country did vote against Brexit, and, yes, we don’t have compulsory voting, but I am expecting all those people who voted for David last time and who voted against Brexit to come out and vote for me to give me a massive mandate. And no, I’m not expecting any protest vote because some people think we’re going to win so they feel safe voting for other parties just to let us know that they think we’re a bunch of out-of-touch wankers. I’m sure that my support for the re-introduction of fox hunting will be the sort of policy that shows that we understand that people are doing it tough…
But in a world of such unpredictability, it’s good to know that there are still some things you can rely on! Take Tony Abbott.
While both major parties, business, scientists and others all agree that we need to find some sort of bipartisan policy on energy, Tony decided to pre-empt the Finkel Report by declaring that the Liberal Party needed to be the party of “cheap power”… Rather ironic, when I think about it.
Anyway, Tony was concerned that the Finkel Report could lead to coal-generated power going from its current 65% to around 20%. Given that a large chunk of the report was about ensuring energy security, I haven’t been able to work out why it’s a concern, beyond the current fetish that some Liberals have for handling lumps of coal. If battery storage gets to the point when renewables could deliver 100% of our energy needs, why would need to send men into the mines to dig up coal? (Actually, even if we still needed coal, it’s far more likely that all mining will be automated, depriving our workers of not only jobs, but fringe benefits like black lung disease and industrial accidents!)
But no, apparently coal will still be good for humanity and any attempt to replace it isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also somehow wrong. We have a moral obligation to sell our coal. If God hadn’t wanted us to mine it, he wouldn’t have put it in the ground! (By the way, you can have a lot of fun with the same argument when you apply it to sex, drugs, alcohol or just about anything considered sinful by the person proposing the theory. For example, “If God hadn’t wanted me to practise bestiality, why did he make sheep so damned attractive?”)
And, of course, let’s not forget Malcolm Roberts when talking about certainty in an uncertain world. You can be certain that Malcolm’s argument will go like this:
Empirical evidence is the only thing that matters.
Because I know this, I must be clever.
Because I am clever, I must be right.
This is empirical evidence, and if you don’t see that, then you are ignoring the facts.
If you bring up evidence that doesn’t agree with my point of view, it must be from some organisation that is pushing a political agenda and can be safely ignored because it’s not empirical evidence.
If you attempt to argue with me, we shall go back to Point 1 and start all over again.
Yes, it’s good to be sure of some things in a world full of surprises. I mean, lots of things are uncertain but at least we know we can rely on people like Tony and Malcolm Roberts. Just like we know that when Malcolm Turnbull goes into the party room to argue that we need to find a bipartisan policy on energy, that he’ll be rolled and have to find some way to spin it as though it was Labor’s fault. Of course, this gets harder each time he has to blame Labor because, as Tony found out, you can only do that so many times before people start asking when you’re going to do something to actually fix things… Or in Turnbull’s case, when you’re actually going to do something.
Perhaps a new leader could blame Labor another dozen times before they start to look incompetent too.
Surviving the 21st CenturyHumanity’s Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them is Julian Cribb’s latest book. I was halfway through Chapter Two when I thought, “This book should be mandatory reading for every politician around the globe.” Everyone, politician or not, can benefit and learn from the insights and information Cribb shares with us.
Cribb takes complex global issues and distills them into a crystal clear picture of where we currently stand. Surviving the 21st Century will not be as easy as our leaders would have us believe. After my thought of required reading for politicians, I read the dustjacket reviews. I know, I know – odd timing, convention suggests I should have read them first, but I prefer to make up my own mind.
One of the dustjacket reviews by Professor Clive Hamilton, author of Requiem for a Species and Earthmasters:
“With astonishing breadth of knowledge and acute observational skills, Julian Cribb has given us a book that is a kind of report on the state of life on the planet. At the centre of life on earth, he tells us, is the creature known as homo sapiens – self-deceiver, degrader, destroyer, anything it seems but sapiens. And yet, if we peer through the gloom is that a spark we can just make out, the spark of wisdom?“
Jenny Goldie, past president of Sustainable Population Australia writes, “This is an important book. Few others deal with so many confronting problems in an integrated way.” The added emphasis is mine. This is what I see as the greatest value of this book to any reader: scientist, politician, educator or layperson. Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas says, “… absolutely essential reading for all politicians and policy makers, voters and young people everywhere. … Grandparents should read the book with particular care.”
Ten Greatest Threats
Cribb takes the ten greatest threats to human existence and suggests we do “the very thing we humans have always done best: understand and find co-operative solutions to life-threatening challenges”. He doesn’t just describe the threats, he offers solutions.
Cribb got me in the first chapter, Homo suilaudans. The Self-Worshipper. He describes how we ended up with the sapiens tag simply so the father of taxonomy could avoid a massive dispute (or possibly worse, given the era) with the religious fanaticism of his time. Heaven help anyone who suggested humans were not some form of divine special creation. Cribb asks the question, did this actually set a terrible trap for humans? Perhaps it did. “A name is who you are.” Or who you think you are, or want to be. As this book so clearly describes, we are not wise. Not at all.
A Topsoil Fact
Some of the facts Cribb covers I was already aware of. But I have learnt much. One learning that I found particularly interesting involves topsoil. Cribb relates how today’s crop varieties are developed to grow in modern, degraded soils. Such crops are lower in micronutrients and higher in carbohydrates and this situation is a major driver of the global obesity pandemic and other diet related diseases. I look at such things from a personal perspective – is this likely to be contributing to the ever increasing and as yet unexplained incidence of auto-immune conditions? I share this to illustrate we are ALL impacted, all readers will find relevance. All of the threats are relevant to all of us – it is our survival at stake.
The water situation globally is horrifying. Deforestation. Population growth. Bringing all these problems together is what Cribb does so well. Big problems, readily solved. If we use some wisdom.
I don’t want to share spoilers – this book is one each reader needs to discover at their own pace. I could not read this book in one session. It is damn scary. It is also immensely encouraging because while the facts are disastrous, Cribb clearly shows there are ways we can get through this. Ways to ensure surviving the 21st century.
If we stop being Homo delusus.
“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” – Voltaire (Surviving the 21st Century, p 171)
Like, you know, “clean coal”.
One conclusion I came to is the current trend of many in power ignoring science, of slashing funding for scientific endeavour, has to stop. That, my friends, is up to us, the voters.
I’ve never demonstrated or marched – been tempted a few times over the years, but never did. On Saturday, April 22, I marched. For science. I’m interested in surviving. I want my grandchildren to survive. I publish this review on ANZAC Day. My father fought in World War II – he didn’t fight so we could become extinct – at our own hands.