While Australia was sleeping this month, dreaming of new coalmines for tax-dodging multinational corporations based in overseas tax havens and of government-subsidised tax-free gas-fields for political party donors, a few things happened.
Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere hit their highest in recorded human history, Antarctica experienced a new record hot day and a massive iceberg broke off an Antarctic glacier – prompting one scientist to remark that: “What you are looking at is both terrifying and beautiful”.
Yes, these can feel like terrifying times, despite exhortations from Australia’s truth-proof political leadership to avoid anxiety and embrace something called “resilience”. It can be hard to avoid anxiety when decades worth of predictions about the likely impact on the climate of blithely continuing to let Earth’s atmosphere be altered are at last apparently coming true.
Sleep, Australia Sleep . . .
I watched Paul Kelly performing his new Sleep, Australia Sleep song – with the crowd swaying and smiling disconcertingly as it sang along – and I wondered how long it would be before the major political parties adopted the song as an irony-free advertising slogan.
This year’s horrific bushfires were a game-changer. Everybody said so. And so they have been, but not yet in the way we really need. Neither of the main parties is talking yet about speeding the transition from coal-power to renewables or breaking the political stranglehold of the export mining industry. In fact, many of our politicians – happily enjoying the largesse of fossil-fuel donors – are working overtime to suppress research, development and adoption of renewable energy, while singing to the tunes of their mining company sponsors.
It is literally heart-breaking to see how the triumvirate of bought-and-paid-for politicians, truth-suppressing news media and the corporations whose dollars run the country have taken the bushfire crisis and turned it into another grab-bag of rubbish policies designed to do nothing but line their pockets even more. Trash the forests because they are “a fire-risk” (and we want to graze and drill and mine and harvest them for money). Ruin the best of our food-bowl country because some well-connected corporates can suck out quick gas bucks or rip out fast coal profits and send them overseas. Wreck what’s left of our rivers and underground water resources because money money money.
I do not believe Australia has ever been more badly governed than now – and now must surely be the worst possible time for these gormless rival gangs of liars and petty thieves to have been ushered into the nation’s parliaments.
What can be done? I don’t know.
But I know some things that should be done, and I know that millions of other Australians believe the same.
Get donations out of politics, now
Get donations out of politics, now. Establish a truly independent corruption authority with real teeth. Enforce parliamentary standards of honesty by harshly punishing proven liars and cheats. Pour money into renewable energy research. Stop giving free money to fossil fuel companies. Make corporations pay their fair share of tax. Stop the destruction of rivers, aquifers and farmland and make sure Australia will continue to be able to feed itself with good clean food and water well into the future. Develop a comprehensive effective strategy for catastrophic fires and floods – and then fund it properly.
There is so much to be done, but the crooked and weak men and women now in charge are not going to do any of it unless we force them to – and it will have to be against their wishes and the wishes of their owners and donors who are now calling all the shots.
Paul Kelly is right. Australia has overslept. It needs to wake up, soon, but that won’t happen without a big noise.
Quiet Australians, you’ve been conned. Wake up and start yelling while you still can.