The Politics    Monday, July 15, 2019

Climate insecurity

By Paddy Manning

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the USS Ronald Reagan. Source: Twitter

The real threat is staring us in the face

As if the climate emergency was not already bad enough, today’s revelations that the Australian Defence Force is concerned about the security implications of global warming only underscores the fiddle-while-Rome-burns incompetence of our federal government. This morning the ABC revealed documents showing the military warning of increased “sea-borne migration” due to warming, which could mean 100 million refugees seeking to come to Australia. Meanwhile, serving defence chief Angus Campbell has warned [$] that China might occupy Pacific islands abandoned as seas rise. Today it’s the ADF in the news, but just about every Australian institution is calling for urgent action to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees: the Reserve Bank, ASIC, the courts and the banks who have refused to fund Adani’s coalmine. Everyone, that is, except Australia’s denialist politicians and their media cheerleaders who seem determined to drive the country over a cliff.

Last week David Attenborough told a British parliamentary inquiry it was “extraordinary” that climate-change deniers were in power in Australia, given we are “already facing having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change”. As economist Ross Garnaut warned more than a decade ago, Australia’s large agricultural sector and a reliance on trade with developing nations in Asia, which are also put at risk by rising temperatures, makes it one of the most vulnerable countries in the developed world.

To his warning we can now add that of the ADF, which is reportedly worried that “sea level rise, ocean acidification, increase in extreme temperatures and a forecast increase in intensity of bushfires and extreme weather events may directly impact Defence capabilities, personnel and equipment”. The Defence Force also warns that “an increase in illegal foreign fishing or sea-borne migration to Australia because of climate change effects may increase demands for Australian Defence Force patrols in Australia”. Former defence chief Admiral Chris Barrie, now a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, told the ABC that he “once suggested to government we might be talking 100 million people … when we’re only 40 million people – you can get the enormity of this problem. Frankly, it would be beyond our resources.” Similarly, a month ago General Angus Campbell told an invitation-only forum on climate change and national security that “if other states see the opportunity to occupy uninhabited spaces then it could introduce new tension into our region”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne did her best to sound as though the government was indeed serious about climate change on RN Breakfast this morning, saying that “we are very focused on our engagement in climate in the region”, and claiming that our $2 billion Pacific infrastructure fund would “stream climate adaptation and resilience”, whatever that means. At home, however, Angus Taylor is in charge of getting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions down (they’re going up) while also getting electricity prices down (they’re also going up). A sure sign of the government’s policy apathy is its failure to do the homework: RMIT ABC Fact Check shows National Party deputy leader Bridget McKenzie’s recent claim that there were 54,000 people employed in the thermal coal sector did not stack up – they reckon it’s more like 29,000 people.

Meanwhile, the LNP’s post-truth ideologues, including resources (and science) minister Matt Canavan and member for Dawson George Christensen speak in favour of a Queensland party motion calling for a new state agency to reject scientific advice.

The government is not trying when it comes to climate change – in fact, you could mount an argument that it’s trying to make climate change worse. Prime Minister Scott Morrison can hop around on US aircraft carriers all he wants: the grave security risk to Australia is his do-nothing government.

“In just the past week, Dutton has failed to meet legislated reporting deadlines regarding significant national security legislation, ignored requests from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner and national media outlets, and hidden a taxpayer-funded review of the Department of Home Affairs from the public.”

Shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally pens a damning op-ed in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“The question is whether [the debts] are properly incurred or not, and it’s a bigger question that people all across Australia are having trouble now with liquidators and receivers … I’ve got a moral responsibility not to give up, to bring these things to the public fore, so people can understand what’s happening, it’s for the greater good.”

Failed politician Clive Palmer outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane, where he is refusing to pay more than $200 million owed to creditors of his collapsed Queensland Nickel.

The extinction rebellion
Extinction Rebellion is not focusing on one project; it’s focusing on the system as a whole. Scott Ludlam on how change can come from just a small portion of society participating in sustained non-compliance.

The combined amount that the Australian wing of the Christian Brothers has already paid out and expects to pay out in compensation to victims of child abuse.

“We urge the Federal Government to play a leadership role and bring together all state and territory governments to: (i) Develop and implement a consistent and best practice Australia-wide response for risk assessment and a rectification strategy for existing buildings with combustible cladding with an agreed timetable that reflects the urgency of the issue. This will reduce confusion, clarify the scale of the challenge and support a viable professional indemnity insurance market that provides the coverage needed by industry participants and building owners; and (ii) Establish a joint government-industry taskforce to oversee urgent and consistent implementation of all Shergold-Weir report recommendations across all jurisdictions.”

From today’s joint letter to Industry Minister Karen Andrews from organisations representing the building, construction, property and insurance industries, including the Property Council of Australia, Insurance Council of Australia, Ai Group, Australian Construction Industry Forum and Master Builders Australia.

The list

“In the last half-dozen years Mungo has had two significant brushes with melanoma, a heart attack, throat cancer, and now prostate cancer and advanced emphysema. Through all of it ... he has continued, with very rare lapses, to write his weekly political column in a genuinely independent and nicely idiosyncratic Byron newspaper called The Echo. The quality of his work is as good as anything he’s churned out in 50 years, and his well of political history – a rare commodity these days – is deeper than any other commentator’s I know.”

“The muffled applause last week was coming from Scott Morrison and the Coalition, cheering, of all things, the Supreme Court of Victoria. Justice Peter Riordan reserved his decision over maverick union leader John Setka’s appeal to block Anthony Albanese’s attempt to expel him from the Labor Party. That in itself was a cause for celebration – a serious knockback for the leader of the Opposition. But wait, there was more.”

“‘What programs and services will be cut to fund stage three of the government’s tax scheme?’ asked the Opposition leader, Anthony Albanese. ‘None,’ said the prime minister. But that depends on what you mean by the word ‘cut’.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.

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