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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: Cunning stunts

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For once, the conservative commentariat has got it right – up to a point.

The silent majority don’t give a rat’s arse who becomes deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, and nor does anyone else outside the innermost reaches of the bubble.

The news that Llew O’Brien rather than Damian Drum, the guardian of the secret vote on his party’s leadership – is that karma? – will preside over the quaintly named Federation Chamber has left the punters positively agog with indifference – if they even registered it at all.

And even among the most fanatical followers of political manoeuvring, the coup that delivered it has been acknowledged as no more than a stunt. But what a stunt – an all guns blazing, ripgut ball-tearer of a stunt.

O’Brien’s agreement to run against his leader Michael McCormack’s (and Scott Morrison’s) nominee for the plum perk left the government flat-footed and embarrassed.

And when at least five of their own members defected to vote for Labor’s motion it was a humiliation that will not be forgotten or ignored as the long-running feud over both coalition parties’ key core agendas and strategies moves towards a climactic showdown.

The fight has now come into the open. Ostensibly, it is over McCormack’s leadership or the lack of it – about whether he is to be replaced by the belligerent egomaniac Barnaby Joyce, or perhaps the more moderate and more photogenic David Littleproud.

McCormack is dead meat – if he was not terminally wounded by the leadership vote, he has certainly been made utterly redundant by O’Brien’s win masterminded by Labor’s stuntman Tony Burke

Certainly McCormack is dead meat – if he was not terminally wounded by the leadership vote, he has certainly been made utterly redundant by O’Brien’s win masterminded by Labor’s stuntman Tony Burke. His final demise is only a matter of time, and probably not much of it.

But he is not the ultimate target. The real objective of the war is over climate change and whether the city-based moderates or the reactionary rural rump will prevail.

For years the issue has been evaded by a series of Liberal prime ministers and their National Party deputies; they have successfully argued that it was not a vote-changer, that the punters could be reassured that as long as the economy was plodding along and their hip pockets would not be assaulted, there was no serious reason for alarm.

Indeed, this was still the message that Morrison and his increasingly desperate treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, were shouting across the parliament last week. But, as the Nationals’ implosion has demonstrated, it is no longer sufficiently sedative even for the most quiescent Australians.

The Nats, or at least a majority of the 20 still left in the party room, are wedded to coal

The Nats, or at least a majority of the 20 still left in the party room, are wedded to coal – and they want more of it in the form of a new coal-fired power plant in Collinsville, in the heart of their Queensland coal constituencies. One of them George Christensen, spells it out in uncompromising detail – five seats, he insists, depend on it.

But the Liberals, emboldened by their own research, are now warning that many of their own marginals are looking fragile as a result of what is seen as government intransigence and denial. The trigger, of course, was the bushfires: ironically most of the damage was in the bush, but most of the angst was in the suburbs.

Once the rains came, Morrison and McCormack must have hoped that the notoriously short term concerns of the voters would be allayed and they could go back to procrastination as usual. But the rains brought new problems of their own: the government is now faced with the extraordinary situation of providing disaster relief for drought, fire and flood simultaneously – even in the same places.

Even the sceptics are now realising that climate change does not just mean a few more hot days in summer – it means that everything is more extreme and is likely to get worse

Adapt and resile as he might, Morrison cannot shrug this off as just another weather event. Even the sceptics are now realising that climate change does not just mean a few more hot days in summer – it means that everything is more extreme and is likely to get worse, that blathering on about meeting and beating inadequate targets and demanding that someone else takes the responsibility is no longer going to cut it.

And the idea of a new coal fired power station, which would have to be funded by the Australian taxpayers because no-one else will touch it, is not merely pointless – it is positively perverse. But that no longer matters – we are not talking about economics, or engineering, or even the most basic science.

The new and utterly irrational line from the reactionary rump is that the activists are motivated not by science but by belief – the deniers are the ones who worry about the facts, which is no doubt why they spend so much time cherry picking the ones that suit them from the fringe.

Presumably they do not expect to be taken seriously; one of their champions, the Liberal senator Jim Molan, boasted recently on Q&A that when it came to the science of climate change, he was not relying on evidence. So it was, we must assume, blind ideology that has persuaded him that it is all a conspiracy to destroy capitalism.

The latest suggestion is that McCormack should quietly stand down in favour of his brand new deputy David Littleproud

The latest suggestion (and it is no more than that) is that McCormack should quietly stand down in favour of his brand new deputy David Littleproud, who would include Joyce not necessarily in his cabinet, but at least in his ministry.

This assumes that Joyce would be grateful and conciliatory and would henceforth abandon any further ambitions of regaining the leadership – talk about hope trumping experience. At the very best it might buy a bit more time. So not a solution, not even a decent stunt.

The essential schism would and will remain – the irreconcilable division between those who accept the science and those who deliberately and proudly reject the evidence, and no amount of shuffling the deckchairs will resolve it.

And it is now clear that compromise is no longer on the table – if it ever was. This is not a fight that can lead to a points decision, in which the losers can regroup and prepare to a return bout – it is winner take all.

Except, perhaps, for Llew O’Brien, the turncoat deputy speaker. Alone among the coalition, he is laughing all the way to his lavishly provided sinecure. Such are the rewards of the double cross.

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  1. Just because we’re currently wedded to coal because of the COALition’s intransigence doesn’t mean we have to remain wedded to coal. A transition is required and all transitions involve some pain but the deniers have simply dug their collective heels in and refuse to change. In fact, they are pushing to make things even worse. Irony? No. Frustration at the stupidity of others? Yes.

  2. There IS a difference between a wedding and a passing relationship !
    With due respect Narrow , pretty dumb reasoning ?
    All Things Must Pass, G”)

  3. I have a different barrow to push: Coal will exist for some time, but it is slowly being phased out. The economics mean, as Mungo said, that a new Coal fired Poer Station will never be privately built. If the Government did fund it, they are funding a millstone for future generations (IF we still exist!).
    The reality, like it or not is that sustainable generation is now cheaper than shovelling coal into a burner & polluting our atmosphere. The reality is that the transition will take some time (2040 or so). In that time, there will be newer, cheaper, more competitive generation & storage developed. The generation & storage will be distributed which allows efficient use of waste heat, etc for industrial processes etc. Centralised power generation cannot easily use this waste.
    The advantages of distributed generation & storage is that strategic installations can make the power system more resilient. (So peak demand can be managed locally for instance.)
    The comment about using Base Load power is factual at the present time. As we build battery systems (which are mainly used for stabilty purposes) & larger storage such as pumped Hydro which will supply the longer needs of the grid. There will be other developments that fill the generation gaps, such as tidal power or wave power.
    One fact that is true is that ´Business as usual´ will not be viable for our future generations. The sooner we adapt the better our environment will be. The Government does need to retrain the current coal miners & Coal power workers to transition into sustainable jobs. The reality is there probably needs to be a change of Government to have this change take effect. Perhaps the GG can fire this current government for incompetance? It seems the mismanagement is far greater than the Whitlam Government was fired for. If the conservative Royalists want the Queen, perhaps the Queen can demonstrate her power?

  4. Barrow, If you are not in a position to drop out of the system altogether, then you are stuck with depending on the system. It is the system that needs to catch up with science. Our towns are planned around the car – so it is nearly impossible to live effectively without a car, even if you would prefer alternatives. So it is with power and water. I am conneted to town water buut 95% of our water comes from tanks catching our own rainfall runoff. But not everyone can do that. Ditto, power – I generate more than I use withsolar, but I can;t afford batteries (yet), so I’m stuck with the grid – but that doesn;t stop me telling our troglodyte politicians that we need to shift away from coal and gas as quickly as possible. And that transfer can yield many more jobs than mining fossil fuels and be healthier and cleaner.

  5. Base load through coal is a thing of the past. We need to look to the future and the future starts now! Australia needs to be a clever country, rather than a mine 🙂

  6. Re Barrow’s comment that Mungo’s household may rely on the output of coal powered power stations, perhaps he (i.e. Mungo) has solar panels, is a customer of our wonderful local energy retailer Enova, and may even have storage batteries (if so, lucky him, everyone’s waiting for the cost to come down, as it will). Having done the above (minus batteries) the consumption for our household, including a pool filter, two fridges, dishwasher and washing machine, cost a total of $14.00 last month. Muchas gracias, el Sol.

  7. Yes ken all things pass ..all good things come
    To a end ! One would assume you as a individual
    You have started the transition from fossil fuels
    Start the weaning process.!!
    Stop the hypocrisy! Or just head to
    The hills and live in a cave .
    No tents , they are fossil fuel connected!!

  8. Mr Barrow, I feel you are wheelbarrowing out the tired old arguments that to be ´Sustainable´ one needs to not use Gas, Petrol, Coal etc. The reality is that at the moment, we do need to use these things, but Electric Vehicles are coming (I have owned one for 6 years & 90K Kms).
    I try to live softly on this planet: we all do damage, but the damage should be minimised. I will probably buy a Tesla Cybertruck when they are released so I can tour without using much fossil fuel. (This is the Truck Scomo said would never happen!)
    The real issue with the ´Conservative´ view of Climate change is that the current government is really being obstructive about the transition: We still have Luxury car tax on many Electric Vehicles, There is currently very little Federal Govt planning to assist the transition: There is a need to retrain Country mechanics to service our new EVs, they also need unrestricted access to service tools, training & software to maintain these vehicles (We need a ´Right to Repair´ legislation in Australia:)
    Instead of trying to prop up outmoded jobs in Mining & Power generation, help to retrain in coming industries: old power station sites make great Solar farms because the infrastructure is there already. Automation will take many Minimg jobs anyway: Adani will only have a Skeleton staff if his mine goes ahead (The 10000 jobs are BS: even the management of the mine will probably be based in India, so very few blocal jobs. Many mining jobs are 457 Visa holders anyway.

    I think I will go back to my verandah & put my feet up! I am one of the quiet Australians, but I am still furious with this bunch of Corrupt Mis-managers in Canberra.

  9. I mistakenly thought this facility from Echo was for “Comments on this story”.
    Obviously me wrong and it must be inaccurately named: as it seems that many wish to comment on others’ comments; a la Twitter.

  10. Richard some good points !!
    You talk of affordability regarding the transition
    To renewables , it is expensive , However the
    Consent rubbishing of most of the population
    In regards to the use of coal , fossil fuels
    In their lives!, and the very one’s that do most
    Of the complaining are reliant as anyone else
    On fossil fuels! Most people have had a enough
    Of these protesters etc telling us how to run our
    Lives , “do as i s say not as i do “. to eliminate
    The resource Industries in Australia is not possible
    We have a running budget of 500 – billion and
    Collectively the revenue from the resource industries , tax , exports ,is about 220- billion
    It will completely collapse the economy !!
    In doing so homelessness will spike and how .
    Welfare will be halfed, talk of cutting back
    Welfare by as much as 10 dollars a week
    Is enough for the country to go into meltdown
    Including this forum. Baseload supplies 85%
    Of electricity to Australia.
    “Be careful what you wish for” the privilege’s
    And the very prosperity you enjoy today
    Due to coal will cease ! May the irony flow !

  11. Its a shoo-in. The conservative commentariat stepped up on the right foot and in the dance that was to follow did not get their shoes trodden on … up to a point.

  12. An average drought, a bad fire season (caused by drought, dumb human behaviour, and poor fuel load management), and a very minor flood, and we’re calling it extreme weather. What an hysterical over reaction from the media and others.

  13. Len, sounds & looks like the ‘dance of the sugar plum
    fairy’ upside-down & back-to-front. And Barrow, the
    state of the economy has been off the rails for years
    so I guess you missed it. The ‘protest’ lobby is doing
    its best to wake people up & the least you can do is
    support [not trash] those with guts enough to start
    the practical revival that’s needed & into a ‘change’
    that’s been a long time coming. Mungo’s got his
    finger on the pulse. Now, I’d like to see our G.G.
    approach the Queen & get an election happening.

  14. Yes point taken Stefanie, stand by what you Believe !! That has merit no doubt! But it also
    Applies to both debates Stefanie. Mungo is staunch you will never change that , although he once was a conservative? Its not opinion
    Its a fact that even if Australia Shutdown
    For 6 months it would make no difference
    To Global warming. Australia at the present
    Or 100% renewables no difference.
    Please all bring the real polluters into
    The conversation china 36% india 25 %
    Very Quiet on those countries on this
    Forum why ? Bring on a royal commission
    And debate such eco anxiety!

  15. Hey, true-blue – most of the country’s had a brutal
    bashing & it’s been a 3 in 1 starting July 2019.
    If you reckon the loss of people, homes, all wild
    -life, jobs, small & large business, tourism being
    propped up by governments & fire-fighters from
    overseas plus our own military in each state is
    an okay daily kind of happening – you’ve got a
    problem & know bugger all about the actual
    science of land, sky & beyond. It will take years
    to repair – that is, if the following onslaught does
    not do a repeat. The world radar followed every
    happening explosion, that’s why they sent their
    reps & troops. I know this country. After 75
    years I haven’t slept through my life.
    Wake up.

  16. People arguing for the status quo is akin to passengers refusing to leave the Titanic because it is unsinkable.

    Before people get on their pulpit to deliver their sermon on the past they should look into the future as far as they possibly can and if they have an open mind they might just think that their sermon needs a bit of a rewrite before it is delivered.

  17. Referring to the previous comments about cosmic fields & energy & of course, to the unresolved research on string theory… round the world & back again before they can discover what’s sitting right in front of them. Wiggle your fingers in front of your face.
    What is that… ? It’s the quantum, cosmic field.., an ocean of communication.. of science, of energy… of love… knuckle draggers! I say that with love..we have so much more to offer this planet as a group.

    Much love

  18. Australia, like most of the western world, have transferred their emissions offshore to India and China-they make everything we need and burn our coal while doing so- of course their emissions are high.

    If people making rude comments (with sooo many exclamation marks!) claiming we are ‘wedded to coal’ were able to do some rudimentary research they would know that Canberra is almost 100% run on renewables and South Australia almost 50%, with battery storage making their energy system much more reliable, at the same time their energy prices are going down.

    The reality is no corporation is lining up to open new coal fired power stations as they know they’d be wasting their money. But our troglodyte politicians are happy to waste billions of taxpayers money funding them when no one else will.They’ll be an expensive millstone around our children’s necks.


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