Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Shades of denial
Neither government nor Opposition is facing up to the climate emergency

© Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese held their final party room meetings for the year, but there is not much to cheer about heading into Christmas. Morrison told his MPs that if they hold their unity, and do not allow themselves to be distracted, this “can and will be one of the great terms of Coalition government”, reflecting that during its third term, from 2001 to 2004, the Howard government was able to deliver on the groundwork laid in its previous six years, “and that is what we seek to do through this term”. Nothing about climate change.

In his wide-ranging, televised speech to caucus Albanese tore into the government’s management of the economy, called for a royal commission on veterans’ suicides, and joked about the Coalition’s “Angus Horribilis”. He did mention climate change, once.

Meanwhile Australia’s largest city today woke up choking on smoke from unprecedented bushfires. “Who knows how this season will end,” wrote journalism academic Jenna Price in a powerful op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald about her fears for the world her unborn first grandchild will grow up in. 

It was not quite hubris, but there was a dose of self-congratulation in Morrison’s reflections on the past year: the party room had asked him to lead, and he had asked them to work with him, and it had been humbling to receive their support. He listed the government’s achievements over the past 12 months in the legislated tax cuts, extra drought funding, responding to natural disasters, supporting mental health, skills training, countering foreign interference, and “walking a tightrope internationally as we manage some of the biggest tensions between the two biggest countries we’ve seen”. Morrison told his colleagues he would take more time to get the proposed religious discrimination act right. He said all options to deal with the problem of veterans’ suicides would be given active consideration over summer. 

Albanese opened up his caucus speech on the economy, citing official figures showing “the lowest labour productivity in 25 years”, wages failing to keep up with the cost of living, low consumer demand, the worst retail figures since the 1990s, and low interest rates that, of course, benefit people who already have assets. Touching on recent setbacks for the government on the Ensuring Integrity Bill and robodebt, Albanese looked forward to his third big vision statement on Saturday – on democracy and media reform – and the first meeting this Friday of Labor’s National Policy Committee, which will overhaul the party’s platform. Labor will support much of the legislation the government hopes to pass this week. 

With angry farmers circling the parliament and berating the Nationals for a lack of a drought policy, wildfires threatening, and a looming summer as dangerous as 2009, it seems neither side of politics is facing up to the climate emergency. Australia is hardly alone there, but as a country blessed with endless renewables we could be leading the way.

Meanwhile, the questionable conduct never ends. Today it was the revelation in the Nine newspapers that Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt awarded a $2.2 million contract to conduct Indigenous eye surgeries at double the market rate, without tender, to an affiliate company connected to prominent Liberal Party donors and a former candidate. For the past fortnight it has been about Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, who today confirmed he has not been interviewed by NSW Police’s Strike Force Garrad, which is investigating his office’s provision of a doctored City of Sydney annual report to The Daily Telegraph. The government is sticking by Taylor, insisting the minister had not misled parliament or failed to meet disclosure requirements in relation to his holding in another private company, GFA F1. 

A smug, scandal-prone government contemplating an unexpected third term without much of an agenda. An Opposition embarking on a painstaking renovation. Is the country in good hands, as we roll from one worsening disaster to another? Hardly.

“It’s the first time to my knowledge that we’ve ever had a minister of any form, through any party, undertake to make a change and do it with an independent body that is going to look into state and federal jurisdictions’ infrastructure solutions. Historical dinosaur agreements. This is huge, this is big, and if the states are willing and serious about getting a fix to this Murray–Darling Basin mess they will give him the powers he needed.”

Southern Rivers Irrigators farmer Darcy Hare, who protested outside Parliament House today, lauds a commitment by federal Water Minister David Littleproud to seek a review of state-based water-sharing arrangements by the interim Murray–Darling Basin inspector-general Mick Keelty.

“I mean we’ve got to stop celebrating a culture that couldn’t even invent the bloody wheel, for God’s sake. We’ve got to start enjoying and living in Western culture.”

A Liberal-National Party volunteer interviewed by Barclay McGain, the chair of the Gold Coast Young LNP.

Andrew Bolt vs Dark Emu
Andrew Bolt has led a campaign against Bruce Pascoe and his book Dark Emu. But after reading the explorer journals on which the book is based, Rick Morton was unable to find any errors.

Australia recorded its second consecutive current account surplus – in which the value of net foreign assets grows – in the September quarter 2019, for the first time in 46 years.

“The purpose of the Bill is to introduce a streamlined regime in the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) Act by amending the process by which the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Board determines to authorise the ACC to undertake a special operation or special investigation, to ensure the validity of current, former and future special operation and special investigation determinations.”

From the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (Special Operations and Special Investigations) Bill 2019, which the government has introduced to retrospectively validate investigations by the secretive ACIC, ahead of a High Court challenge to its coercive powers.

The list

“Peter Morrissey SC reads out the details of a lesson headed “Bias in Action”, involving a video clip showing three young people stealing a bike. “One’s a white male, one’s a black male and the last is a white female,” the barrister explains, “and it show[s] that when the black man stole the bike, people swarmed around and called the police … No one did so for the white man, and when it came to the white female, people helped her. Do you see that?” Superintendent Sussan Thomas puts on a pair of glasses. She does see that.”

“Last Saturday, about 20,000 surfers gathered in 50 beach locations for what was called ‘the biggest coastal environmental action in Australian history’. They were joined by surfers across the globe, who staged a collective paddle-out – surf culture’s memorial ritual – to champion the bight, one of the Earth’s last pristine marine ecosystems. A whale nursery and sea lion playground, the region also has the highest concentration of dolphins on the planet; 85 per cent of its marine species aren’t found anywhere else.”

“In the front bar of the Walkabout Hotel on Fields Avenue, you sit elbow-to-elbow with middle-aged, board-short-wearing Australian men who could have been plucked from any suburban shopping mall. More of them are on the street, surrounded by women, moving like lords of creation.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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