Dismaying Australian Politics

Sunday’s Guardian carried a telling editorial on the poisonous political climate currently holding sway in Australia in relation to climate change. It opens with the observation that 1700 miles from Canberra the indigenous peoples in islands of the Torres Strait fear that climate change may soon overwhelm them, with communities vanishing under rising seas. Their concerns haven’t a show of being heard in the prevailing clamour against Julia Gillard’s government’s plans to curb pollution generated by the nation’s big companies.

“When parliament returned recently, there were 2,000 protesters outside, equipped with placards bearing slogans such as “ditch the witch”. The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, partly distanced himself from such language, but demanded Ms Gillard scrap her planned carbon tax and call an early election. And last week lorry drivers converged on Canberra to demand an instant poll.”

The editorial chronicles the fall of Kevin Rudd for failing to steer through the legislation to deal with “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”, and the toppling of Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the conservative coalition, who ordered his party to support the government’s plans to combat climate change. Tony Abbott, who replaced him, “no doubt on the basis of long and subtle scientific analysis dismisses the whole case for man-made climate change as ‘crap’.”

Julia Gillard who led the plot to displace Kevin Rudd promised no carbon taxes, but has had to ditch that promise, allowing the opposition to charge her with deception. “Mr Abbott’s intention, which opinion polls suggest is being fulfilled, is to use the issue to prise Labour’s blue-collar voters away from the party.”

The editorial concludes with the wry comment:

“It may make little sense in those distant islands, but, as often in climate change debates, while most scientific assessments point to one conclusion, politics points to another.”

Abbott has pulled back somewhat from his earlier dismissal of climate change and his party proposes direct measures to reduce emissions marginally by 2020, in effect substituting government subsidy of chosen projects for the market-oriented effects of a carbon tax. But the grossly exaggerated terms in which the carbon tax is being caricatured and the fevered atmosphere which the attacks have generated are a sad reflection of how the excitements of gaining political power outweigh any rational appraisal of the scientific picture. The Guardian did well to juxtapose Canberra’s tumult with the likely fate of the inhabitants of Torres Strait islanders. The dangers ahead for humanity should be bringing politicians together in constructive common endeavour. It can reasonably be called the duty of care.

4 thoughts on “Dismaying Australian Politics”

  1. Abbott has backed off from his explicit denialism, but that’s a purely tactical move. He now “accepts” that the climate is changing, and that humans are involved somehow, and even that carbon emissions should be restricted. This is so that he can answer critics who say he’s a denialist. In practice, the media don’t make that criticism though because it would involve accusing him of hypocrisy or actual lying. And the policies get essentially a free run in the media without criticism of their actual content and potential efficacy. The policies are in fact a joke. They don’t have to work, though; they only need to be there to be waved around to show that Liberals “take the issue seriously”. In practice, Tony can carry on exactly as he did when he was a self-confessed denialist.

  2. Ah, I return from several balmy days (for August on the south coast, at any rate) rambling along “the worlds’ longest footpath” (the Heysen Trail – 1500km from Cape Jervis to Blinman – any serious alternative contenders, global citizens?) to… Abbott.

    Abbott, the Clown Prince of the Golden Age of Stupid, the man who I’m quite willing to believe would indeed do anything short of “selling his arse” to be PM (this is, for those in more dignified lands, the I-kid-you-not controversial Abbottism du jour – though intellectually and metaphorically I supect he’s been in that exact trade so long he’s no longer consciously aware of it.)

    Precisely what I go to the bush to forget!

    And now he’s even here on HT.

    In the not-too-distant future Australia looks set to elect its Most-Stupid-Government-Ever – and believe me, that is saying something. One can only hope the Carbon price is locked in before then.

    But the Lucky Country is currently determined to provide the text-book case of the 21st Century failure of liberal-democracies to enact any changes – no matter how clearly needed and even if called for by our major, hitherto-respected scientific instituions – that might significantly impact the powerful and inconvenience the rest…

    1. Bill, your walk on the brighter side of life has done well for your witticism which spot on as ever! 😉

      Sad that Ozzonians are by majority such a right wingerish lot and so close in heart to their US-Republican counterparts which by the time Australia elects again will have had their shot at wrecking it for the USA already.

      What is becoming of this world when rhyme and reason fade…..??

      1. I get the impression this tea-baggerish stuff in Oz is a small number of people making a lot of noise. These gatherings at parliament house have a bit of an astro-turf feel and are extensively spruiked by shockjock Alan Jones. The people that turn up are mostly older folks and the numbers are not all that impressive. The latest was the ‘convoy of no confidence’ which failed to bring large numbers of people – at least some were truck drivers who were paid to do it by their bosses.

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