Hazel Buchanan

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We are having the wrong conversations

Posted by Hazel Buchanan on 7 January, 2020 at 8:25

For a great many ordinary Australians, the frustration of watching and experiencing the catastrophe playing out across our country has now become so intense, it is difficult to express our views and feelings in a calm and measured way. The discourse is not only partisan and divisive but increasingly accusatory, abusive and derisive. That people should be venting their anger and grief is wholly understandable at a time of such horrific and widespread fear and loss. Aggravating those feelings is the sense, for many, that the top leadership of the nation has failed not only to prepare and plan for the continuing crisis we are facing, but even to respond at critical times in a timely and effective fashion.

 

For some, particularly those who embraced Scott Morrison’s ‘daggy dad’ routine back in May, the frustration of witnessing such a leadership vacuum must have come as quite a shock. It is a sad indictment of Australian current affairs that so many of the voting public have already turned their backs on politics, either through disinterest, disenchantment or disgust. Sick of the endless, negative debates and contradictory arguments; faced with an overload of facts and disinformation, they don’t know who to trust. A number of those voters, last May, would have been influenced by the plethora of highly-funded, anti-Labour, scare campaigns. It is a moot point how many of them would vote the same way today. No doubt, a considerable proportion of LNP supporters voted for the Coalition government to maintain the status quo. They actively chose to prioritize growing the economy and returning the budget to surplus over taking any progressive action on climate change or environmental policies.

 

For a great many Labour and Green voters, the current situation in Australia is no less shocking but less of a surprise. The reality we, as a nation, have now been forced to face has been predicted time and time again by countless scientists and experts all over the world. The knowledge base has grown exponentially over the last forty years. The critical information has been increasingly highly publicised, particularly throughout the last decade. Warnings, forecasts and scientific data have variously been refuted, discounted and ignored, but the facts have certainly not been lacking. The evidence of its veracity is now painfully, brutally plain for all to see.

 

And yet, even today, we are having the wrong conversations. We are arguing about whether or not our Prime Minister has failed in his duty. We are still debating whether the majority of us want coal mining to continue in Australia. We have utterly failed to agree on a nationwide water policy, even while our major rivers have been drying up and the fish in them dying. We are now disputing the differences between hazard reduction and back burning, and whether or not enough of it has been done. We are even arguing about whether it is fair to blame the Greens, who, let’s face it, have never been in power, for the quantity of fuel on the ground. Almost unbelievably, while millions of hectares of forests are blackened or burning we are still logging old growth forests. And we are either disparaging those whose priority is feeding their family by working in a fossil fuel based industry, or denigrating climate activists who want to close those industries down.

 

Seriously, take a look around. Tune in the radio. Switch on your TV. The time for all of those debates has demonstrably passed.

 

Mr Morrison has incontrovertibly failed every test of his leadership, at the very least for the past four months. His career as a federal MP, let alone as Australian Prime Minister, cannot possibly survive. Let’s not waste any more time debating that. He needs to resign.

 

Australia has already warmed by 1.5°C. We are suffering through the longest and most severe drought in human history, along with the most terrifying consequence that can bring. It is simply indisputable: we have to start doing everything humanly possible to stop our country from getting any hotter.

 

We have to lead the world. Fossil fuels can no longer be extracted. We can’t afford to do it any more. The risks are too great. As Greta Thunberg has been telling us all year, they absolutely have to stay in the ground. We need to start transitioning our economy away from coal, oil and gas. And we need to do it now.

 

Renewable energy is the only way forward. We have to invest right now in vastly more production and storage.

 

All of our farmers, not just the forward thinking few, need to make the change to drought resistant farming techniques.

 

Trees must be planted as fast as humanly possible. Logging operations, outside of plantations, will have to be reduced and then banned.

 

We have to stop debating. The time for division is over. All Australians, regardless of previous partisan inclinations, must unite to take emergency action on climate change. We simply have no choice. In the interests of survival, climate deniers and doubters must be pushed to one side, their opinions no longer considered or given any credence.

 

Given the Coalition government’s record on climate policy inaction and detraction, it is unrealistic to look to anyone in the current government for leadership. Federal Labour’s recent endorsement of the Australian coal mining industry notwithstanding, the Labour opposition did demonstrate, before and during the 2019 election campaign, a strong commitment to taking effective action on climate change. The Australian Greens have not yet managed to develop a large enough support base to make them a viable option for government. The leader of federal Labour, Anthony Albanese, is therefore, by default, probably the only realistic choice for Prime Minister as the current Parliament stands.

 

So, Mr Albanese, how about this for a plan?

 

Make a simple public statement to the effect that the Australian Labour Party will henceforth hold effective climate change action to be its number one priority.

Acknowledge that this new direction will be based on a commitment to phase out all fossil fuel based industries in Australia by 2030.

Commit to providing retraining and new job opportunities to everyone currently employed in fossil fuel industries, whose jobs will inevitably be lost. New industries will need to be created and developed enabling Australia to reduce and repurpose or recycle all of its own waste, with the intention of leading a global revolution on waste management. Investment will need to be redirected from fossil fuel based industries into effective waste management technologies, non-fossil fuel based transport and renewable energy production and storage.

Commit to debating and enacting a nationwide water management policy as a matter of the highest priority.

Commit to an overhaul of logging regulations to restrict operations to plantation forests.

Commit to providing overwhelming incentives for Australian farmers to transition rapidly to drought resistant farming techniques, including reforestation and renewable energy farming.

Ask the Governor General to sack the current government for its failure to put the interests of the Australian people ahead of its own narrow minded, coal supporting agenda.

Direct each of your current federal MPs to make a choice: either leave the Labour party immediately or fully commit, in public, to the new direction.

Invite any of the current Independents and Coalition MPs who are genuinely committed to doing everything possible to limit the effects of climate change to join the ALP.

Form a new Labour government.

Instruct every newly committed Labour MP to propose at least one new initiative that could realistically and practically either facilitate Australia’s rapid transition away from fossil fuels or improve and enhance Australia’s action on climate change.

Categories: Politics

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