Friday, December 20, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

It’s not just Morrison – his whole government has deserted the nation

© Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

The first rule of tackling any problem surely is to stop making things worse. That’s what is wrong with the Morrison government’s response to Australia’s climate emergency, which is unfolding on an almost hourly basis and likely to get worse as summer rolls on: every relevant policy or lack thereof, and every relevant portfolio minister from the PM down, appears likely to make climate change worse, and there is not the faintest sign of a shift. The government’s foot remains planted on the fossil-fuel accelerator, driving us headlong to disaster. Scott Morrison wants to duck responsibility for the enveloping crisis – the government’s emissions policies are not to blame. “What no one can say,” he told us last week, “is those programs, of themselves, are in any way directly linked to any fire event.” True. Sky News Australia host Peta Credlin says the idea that closing down coal-fired power stations will somehow stop bushfires caused by lightning strikes and arson “is just crackers”. Also true. But continuing to expand coal, oil and gas is certainly going to make our problems worse.

Climate anxiety has peaked in Australia before, towards the end of the Millennium drought. To take a crude measure, a quick Factiva search of the phrase “climate change” shows that mentions tripled from 13,324 in 2006 to 40,497 in the following election year. Then prime minister John Howard, feeling he faced a perfect storm of public concern, with the drought biting and Al Gore and Lord Stern doing their thing, committed to bringing in an emissions trading scheme, after a decade of doing next to nothing and siding with the US to stymie the Kyoto Protocol. Howard was pragmatic enough to shift his position, even if he later recanted.

Mentions of “climate change” in mainstream media then dropped steadily – all through the debate about the emissions trading scheme – to hit just 20,808 in 2012, and sat in the 20,000s for the next five years. In 2018, “climate change” cracked 30,000 mentions. This year, starting with record-shattering nationwide heatwaves and unforgettable fish-kills in the Darling River, there have been 59,539 mentions. With 10 days of 2019 remaining, “climate change” will probably end up being mentioned in double the amount of coverage that it did in 2018, undoubtedly a new record. Yet today’s Liberals, with a few exceptions, appear utterly incapable of making a Howard-style, pragmatic pivot towards genuine climate action.

Every time they say they accept the climate science they are surely lying, because the science is terrifying and getting more terrifying by the day, and it is impossible to accept the science and do nothing. Every time they say they’re committed to achieving our Paris emissions reduction targets, they are surely lying, because they have not lifted a finger to reduce Australia’s emissions – apart from their ridiculous pay-the-polluter scheme that does not deliver additional abatement, they’ve blocked every attempt at a climate policy. And meanwhile the Morrison government is actively working with Brazil and the US to undermine the Paris Agreement.

Perhaps they are blinkered by faith and ideology, and perhaps they are corrupted by fossil-fuel donations and patronage. Perhaps it’s because they just won a surprising-but-narrow victory on a do-nothing platform at the federal election in May, and are betting the drought will break before 2021–22 and they can get away with a repeat performance. Whatever it is, the prime minister’s absence this week has become symbolic of a government that is utterly indifferent to the climate crisis, and his statement today that “I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected” only confirms a bad error of judgement. Coming on the day that two volunteers and best mates, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, died fighting the fires north-west of Sydney, the prime minister’s judgement call will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Whether Morrison is here or not makes no difference, because his whole government has gone missing in action for the foreseeable future, right when Australians need their government most. Community and businesses, states, territories and councils, we are all going to have to pull together and fix this drought-wildfire-climate-energy policy crisis ourselves.

“I support #GameOver. It’s time to get every refugee and asylum seeker off Manus and Nauru.”

The ACTU president tweets “it’s time for justice” in support of #GameOver to end offshore detention after almost seven years.

“[T]he government continues to fund agitators who are filled with the zeal of the righteous, and who not only believe their own propaganda but also insist everyone else must believe it, too. By giving money to institutions such as the university, the ARC and the ABC, the Coalition is funding a progressive ideology that is contrary to tradition, contrary to what people believe and contrary to the truth. The Coalition might keep winning elections, but as long as it keeps funding left-wing institutions that promulgate insidious identity politics it will continue to lose the battle of ideas.”

Bella d’Abrera, director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, calls for the defunding of left-wing institutions.

A very Morrison Christmas
As fires continue on both sides of the continent, and the government succeeds in putting off commitments at the UN climate talks, Scott Morrison went on holidays. Paul Bongiorno on what the year looks like from this end of the calendar.

The amount of money insurer TAL deducted from the income protection payments of a disabled man, supposedly equal to his disability support pension, in an apparent direct taxpayer subsidy to the company, which it has now agreed to refund.

“The [National Security Information] Act balances the need to protect national security information with the principle of open justice and gives the court wide powers to make orders it considers appropriate about such matters. The nature of the national security information involved in this proceeding informed the Commonwealth’s position to seek protective orders. The matter is unique in my experience, and I am not aware of any other similar cases.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter issues a statement on the secret trial of Witness J in the ACT Supreme Court, in response to questions from Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who is not satisfied and has pledged to establish a Senate inquiry to review the handling of national security information in Australia’s courts.

The list

Japan supernatural displays the id behind the nation’s superego, in an enduring engagement with the turbulent world of ghosts and monsters and terrifying supernatural goings-on that are the flip side of the outward Japanese self-discipline. Unlike in Europe, where the horror of traditional fairytales was eventually tempered for children’s consumption, the Japanese kept the psychological and the pre-scientific explanatory value of scary stories intact.”

“Though he’s one of the most highly regarded filmmakers in the world, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda claims not to be much of a cinephile. But he also claims never to have missed a film starring belle de jour herself, Catherine Deneuve, the 76-year-old French icon who delights in toying with her image in Kore-eda’s first non-Japanese film, The Truth … The director admits that, without his leading lady, he might not have made the film at all.

The Witches Are Coming takes as its premise the frequency with which feminists are accused of leading witch-hunts, while the real witchcraft lies in making people believe things aren’t what they seem to be – that Nazis aren’t Nazis; that abuse isn’t abuse; that human rights aren’t a reasonable request.”

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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