Federal parliament isn’t sitting at the moment, but lobbyists and spin doctors never sleep, which is why we’ve all been facing fresh assaults from our ‘leaders’ and would-be leaders this week.
In what at first appeared to be a scrap of good news, the Morrison government announced $1 billion for new clean energy projects, including extra money for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They also appointed an expert panel to do something about greenhouse emissions.
But faster than you could say George Orwell, it was revealed clean energy – in the topsy-turvy world of the amusingly named Minister for Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor – actually meant gas, and the head of the expert panel was to be none other than Grant King, the former CEO of Origin Energy (aka the people who fracked Queensland and created a fiery spa bath in the Condamine River).
The Prime Minister’s other major thought bubble of the week came in a speech to his good buddies at the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, two days after a further 30,000 square kilometres of Queensland was opened to unconventional gas exploration by QRC Chief Executive, and former Coalition Minister, Ian Macfarlane.
According to ScoMo, environmental activists – who are trying to draw attention to business-as-usual’s collision course with scientific facts, and the future prospects for life on earth – are ‘selfish, indulgent and apocalyptic’ anarchists who pose a threat to ‘quiet shareholders’ and are engaging in acts of ‘economic sabotage’.
He didn’t elaborate on whether the quiet shareholders were the descendants of Menzies’ forgotten Australians and Howard’s battlers, but the comparison between these gallant types and the ‘noisy minority’ of trouble-makers interfering with the resources industry from Melbourne to Queensland seems clear.
Coalition and Labor side with fossil fuel companies
Acting Greens leader, Adam Bandt, responded by saying ‘the Prime Minister’s commitment to outlaw the peaceful, legal protest of Australian individuals and community groups reads like a move straight from the totalitarian’s playbook.’
Former Queensland cop and Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, added some notes to the margin of that playbook (his favourite bedside reading) when he suggested activists should cover the costs of police responses to protests, along with having their welfare stripped and being publicly shamed.
Apparently unaware that civil disobedience was how women and other pesky types got democracy in the first place, Dutton said the protesters ‘are completely against our way of life. [They] don’t even believe in democracy’.
Instead of Anthony Albanese leaping on all this nonsense and tearing it to shreds, as might be expected from the former attack dog of the ALP and now federal leader, he made a speech in Perth in which he attempted to delineate the ALP as the party of the future, past and present; a place in which coal miners would help build wind turbines, for ‘cheap and endless energy’, together with new training opportunities that would power Australia into a glorious renewables-future of endless growth and prosperity.
That frame was tarnished, just a little, when four federal Labor MPs toured Adani and BHP operations in Queensland this week and posed for smiling photographs – all sponsored by the Minerals Council of Australia.
What hope for younger voters?
In a speech to a Labor think-tank, young frontbencher Clare O’Neil urged people to stop thinking in terms of left and right, but to focus instead on the digital divide and remember ‘not every social change is inarguably a good one.’
This was one of a number of pronouncements from ALP figures designed to soften us up for the imminent arrival of their election post-mortem document, which seems likely to herald another lurch to the right.
Magic happens, but it all seems a long way from the Labor party that got Australia out of Vietnam, saved the Franklin River and gave us Medicare. Of course this is also the party born from the White Australia policy, who later let the uranium genie out of the bottle, abandoned East Timor and started the great privatisation rush.
According to Richard Di Natale, Labor has learned ‘all the wrong lessons’ from its election defeat, but no one is listening to him, least of all the ALP. Despite the nonsense spewed by coal poster-boy Matt Canavan and others, a Green-ALP coalition in Australia seems as remote a prospect as ever.
Meanwhile the country burns, towns are running out of water, indigenous Australia’s voice is unheard, debt is skyrocketing, the interim report of the aged care royal commission has described a ‘shocking tale of neglect’, and more than a few Australians have become quiet because they’ve fallen completely into despair.
Feeling unrepresented, many young people in particular have withdrawn completely from the political process. If the Liberals and the IPA succeed in destroying GetUp! and non-violent civil disobedience is outlawed, then there will be nowhere left for them to turn, except inward, to self-destruction, or outward, to revolution.
But would the majority be too numb, distracted or indebted to respond?
Perhaps it will take a picket of breweries, pokies, Netflix and the banks to spark any really meaningful change in 21st century Australia.
NB: Thanks to David Lowe for contributing on national politics this week. Mungo is convalescing; he will be back soon.