Climate change

Twirling towards freedom

Perspective lost
The week that was nonsense

On Tuesday night, 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider stabbed two counter-terrorism police officers outside the Endeavour Hills police station in Melbourne’s south-east and was shot dead.

Yesterday’s editions of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times dedicated the front page of their print editions to the story. Two photos accompanied the story – one of a young man wearing a balaclava, and one of another young man in formal wear, who isn’t Haider, a suspected terrorist or anyone connected to the story really; just an unlucky student who works for Hungry Jack’s. Fairfax issued an apology, saying that branding an innocent man a “Teenage Terrorist” was a simple error. This has become the scandal that everyone has seized on, while the real Abdul Numan Haider’s actual ties to terrorist organisations remain unconfirmed.

According to the Victoria Police Crime Statistics 2013/2014 report there were 1,290 other knife attacks in the state in the last year that didn’t serve as justification for expanding what are already the most restrictive security and privacy laws in the western world. Brandis argued that the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) – which could give ASIO a warrant for the entire internet and will restrict what journalists write – had to be rushed through because the situation is “urgent”, our fears comparable to those during the Cold War. Of our 76 senators, only twelve – the Greens, and crossbench senators David Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Nick Xenophon – opposed the bill yesterday.

Australia, it seems, has lost all sense of perspective. While our prime minister was on a plane to New York to participate in a UN security meeting, Julie Bishop addressed the UN summit on climate change – the one Tony Abbott refused to attend, although it was also in New York – and said with a straight face that Australia is still moving to take “serious domestic action” on global warming.

For perspective, we have’s piece – “How Australia Became the Dirtiest Polluter in the Developed World” – on our efforts at becoming a Banana Republic that cares only for short-term cash. The article reminds the world that our PM wrote off climate change again and again as “absolute crap”; the Murdoch press has managed to “upend public debate by painting climate science as superstition and superstition as climate science”; the carbon and mining taxes have been repealed; and a noted climate-change skeptic (“yes,” sighs Slate, “another one”) has been appointed to review our renewable energy targets.

It goes on. The rest of the world would be forgiven for assuming that every piece of climate change mitigation policy has been thrown out the window of Parliament House, left to litter the lawn, and replaced with giant banners bearing the new way forward: “Come hell or high water”.

And the water, or hell, or both, will come. As Obama outlined in his address to the UN climate change summit this week, the effects of climate change are already clearly demonstrated in Miami, where waters continue to rise at alarming rates. Australia, where rivers are drying up, reefs are dying and fires and floods ravage the continent every year, is regarded as the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change, and our government is instead prioritising a war on those who might want to prevent our God-given right to watch the footy.

"For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week – terrorism, instability, inequality, disease,” Obama said with perspective, “there's one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

Last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people all around the world took part in the People’s Climate March. Thirty thousand Victorians marched in Melbourne, though you wouldn’t know it from reading Murdoch’s Herald Sun, which failed to report it at all. The mass gatherings took place in the spirit of solidarity and hope, though there was every cause for them to be driven instead by anger and fear. Those emotions have been exploited so successfully by our government, police and media that teenagers are more afraid of Muslims (because they “are evil”) than they are about whether or not they’ll still have clean water to drink in twenty years.

On the up side, water has this week been discovered in a small, warm, exoplanet beyond our solar system for the first time. If it doesn’t prove to be an appropriate site for Earth’s inhabitants to flee to once we have completely destroyed the planet, we can at least look at it as a viable dumping ground for the flood of refugees our current raft of myopic policies will trigger when our hubris finishes off the ice caps and drowns most of the world.

Unless, of course, this whole thing is a canny ploy to buy the swinging vote of Western Sydney by turning it into prime beachfront real-estate, which makes as much sense as anything else.

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.


Read on

The Rupertvirus

News Corp’s COVID coverage has been a health risk of its own

Image of Taylor Swift

Yours truly: Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’

The singer-songwriter explores fictional selves on her tender-hearted eighth album

Blind study

When it comes to China’s influence, Australian universities have been burying their heads in the sand for too long

Image from First Cow

Milk it: ‘First Cow’

Kelly Reichardt’s restrained frontier film considers the uneasy problems of money and resources