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June 24, 2024

Thus Spake Mungo: Morrison leads the way to the ultimate Pacific solution

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Mungo MacCallum

The Great White Father has arrived on the far-flung atolls of the Pacific. Like the missionaries before him, Scott Morrison is delivering the bringing of the light — a gospel of hope and salvation.

Well, up to a point. Boiled down, his message is that if they are worried about the rising waters, they should sandbag the foreshores and move to higher ground (if there is any), because he is not going to do anything substantial to help.

He will, of course, offer money, which his host at the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, said was not really the point:

‘No matter how much money you put on the table it does not give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is to cut down on your emissions, including not opening your coalmines. This is the thing we want to see’








Morrison brushed that aside – it was only confirmation the Islanders are too primitive to appreciate the beauty of Western capitalism, the wonder of a real economy. If he returns, he may try bringing traditional gifts for the residents, perhaps a cargo-load of beads, mirrors, and bolts of brightly coloured cloth.

But in any case, he was not there just to trade, but to evangelise, and his first commandment was a simple one: “thou shalt have no other gods before coal”. This was the red line, and a red line beats a waterline every time.

The epistle had already been delivered by Alex Hawke, the quaintly titled Minister for the Pacific – a designation some might find a touch colonial. But Hawke was, as always, at pains to emphasise the spin.

First, Australia was doing its bit on climate change – we would meet our Paris commitments in a canter. Actually, with Australia’s emissions continuing to rise we almost certainly won’t, even with the dodgy carry-over credits from Tokyo that were never envisaged in Paris and that most other advanced nations have rejected.

But even if we did meet our 28 per cent, the science has moved on – it is now clear this will not be enough, the targets need to be ramped up as a matter of urgency. No way, says Hawke – and in any case, Australia’s emissions are a very small contribution to what is now increasingly acknowledged to be a climate crisis.

Well, this depends on how you measure it – in per capita terms we are among the biggest, if not at the top. But this is not the real argument – Sopoaga also demanded we stop opening coal mines, to which Hawke replied we were only planning to open two more (at the moment) and right now Australia runs just 20 of the 2,459 operating mines around the world.

True, but again beside the point. Australia is the biggest exporter of coal in the world – our gold medal winner. And even if you add in the other fossil fuels, oil and gas, we would still be on the podium along with Russia and Saudi Arabia.

If Australia cut back, supply and demand would not only force the international price to rise, but the urgency of switching to other sources would make replacements, mainly renewables, far more attractive.

Australia is not an innocent bystander at the mercy of polluting giants. We are – or rather we should be – a major player, even a game breaker.

Morrison likes to insist emissions have no nationality. But Australian coal does, which is why he loves the export earnings of the sacred rock. Pretending we have no responsibility for it just because we ship it overseas in the way we used to get rid of our garbage is a lie. And for years it has been part of the mendacity that sustains climate denialists in the worship of their carboniferous deity.

Hypocrisy? Of course, so let’s shift the blame. The sinking Islanders are the real hypocrites because they accept largesse from the heathen Chinese, indefatigable miners and polluters. And they do, partly because they have little choice. But do Hawke and Morrison really want to draw equivalence? They attack China’s aid as exploitation, done with a sinister imperialist purpose, while for Australia it is all altruism.

‘We are’, declares Morrison, waxing sentimental, ‘family’. We certainly like to think of ourselves that way, but there is proviso: Morrison has to be the pater familias, the patriarch, and father knows best. The children have to be taught to behave: take what they are given and be bloody grateful; be seen and not heard; and preferably not even be seen too much.

The family gathering included shouting and tears but Morrison assured us the outbursts were always respectful. And Big Daddy had his way.

Morrison goes on about the vast amount of aid Australia provides, especially in contrast to New Zealand. But it is not too smart to dwell on the figures. The Australian bid, including a repackaged $500 million promised long before the forum, still only brings the current offering up to $800 million.

The Kiwis, with a far smaller economy, are stumping up $500 million. As we all know, the main reason Australia is coming to the party is to try and push back China – not too mush altruism there.

Morrison is quite right to boast of Australia’s long-standing engagement in the Pacific. It has come a long way since the days of the blackbirders –slavers who kidnapped Islanders to work on the Queensland cane fields. He is particularly keen to mention education and given the circumstances, he might like to throw in some intensive swimming lessons.

Now he is talking about disaster relief, by which he presumably means storm and tempest, often brought on by climate change.But the real disaster will be when the low-lying islands become effectively inhabitable as a total land mass, as opposed to the odd coastal village.

This will be Australia’s moment of truth: what is to happen to the Pacific Islanders? Where will they go? Chances are, many will become so-called ‘boat people’ — asylum seekers.

While the lucky may end up on more hospitable shores on New Zealand, a lot will head for Australia. But if the present regime, or anything like it, is in power, they will not be welcome.

It would be ironic indeed if they were confined in offshore detention – the ultimate Pacific solution.




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  1. You coined it Mungo. Then I thought maybe we should
    be looking at the Atoll Chain in French Polynesia: why,
    because Morrison is too miserable a ‘god-daddy’ to
    think or care about anyone but his puffed-up self image
    & shaking shares. See – all we need do is look &
    listen to the young & aged Godfather ‘Brando’ & his
    island Tetiaroa, in Tahiti. Brando was onto Climate
    Change almost 60 years ago & his brilliant mind came
    up with the idea that to save sinking islands you had
    to build floating new ones. French Polynesia in the
    Atoll Chain now do as Marlin did. He was the God-
    father who saved lives. Simple. Better still – we could
    try & bring back Brando, the rebel-with-a-cause. He
    looked after his people -the islanders- in real life.

  2. I am ashamed.
    We need a democracy that represents the people, not big business. Roughly half of us didn’t vote for the coalition, yet we are stuck with their dangerous neo-liberal ideology. If our politicians represented their constituents rather than follow the party rules, we might have a better democracy.

    • Richard Swinton, 3/4 of us didn’t vote for them, but our so called preferential system is badly flawed and subject to manipulation and due to apathy of a vast number of citizens who do NOT bother to follow the business of this country and are willing to believe the crap dished up to them in the mass media and TV, have enabled a pack of totally incompetent sycophants to take control of our lives.

  3. I follow the biz, the sth china sea was on the radar 7 years ago, and all Dear Mangosteen has to say about that is post-colonialism, not even a verifiable fact. The islands aren’t sinking, and if they were to, renewables would only offer preacher comfort. They still have to be made, and from something, and every 20 years if not sooner. Ditto batteries. And ditto windmill bearings. And then recycled. Unless we are all willing to give up the modern world, the point being made more and more in the trash left press. It wldnt be the appointed party giving up anything, they can fly in their thousands to Rio, Kyoto, Geneva, Poland more recently, and trash the West while at it. Neo-liberal? At least the word ‘liberal’ is still in there, lest we forget. Consider the word ‘progressive’, it just sounds like spin.

  4. Mungo, learn more about ‘Blackbirding’. A lot of it was well organised and willing labour, and carried out under Australian/British government rules and regulations. Mal Meninga’s grandfather willingly swam out to the labour recruitment ship and then stayed in Australia. 60% of all indentured labour came from Malaita in the Solomon Islands. The people there organised and sent workers to Australia because it benefited them. One of my friends from there had a grandfather who did four tours working in Australia he liked it so much. The people in Malaita these days have well developed agriculture because they learnt it in Australia during the days of indentured labour.


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