A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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07 Jul 08 Peter is from Mars, Brendan is from Uranus

Did you ever happen to notice…

Politicians have developed the annoying habit of constantly repeating what they consider to be their key catch phrases. A line like “We’re about a fair go for working families” is always quickly followed by another: “yes, a fair go for working families”. Do they really think the average person is so thick they won’t understand the complexity the first time? Are they not aware that it really sounds just a bit patronising? In fact, this strategy serves several purposes. It allows the media to make sure they have captured a tidy sound bite, and it’s also a good way of stopping yourself saying “ummmmm” when you’re not sure what to say next. Both would have about the same meaning.

Whenever Brendan Nelson refers to Peter Garrett, he repeats the question: “Which planet is he from?” I’d like to offer an answer before Brendan asks again: Peter Garrett quite clearly comes from Mars. Garrett is an imposter who has been conscripted into the Labour Party in a cynical attempt to boost the youth and green vote. Even in his Midnight Oil days he professed to be just the singer and not responsible for the group’s political messages. As an Environment Minister, he makes a pretty good singer, remaining a figure head and leaving the really important stuff to Penny Wong. He has put forward a policy on the momentous issue of plastic shopping bags but he remains something of an embarrassment and a reminder that cheap populism has a price. Judging by his proposed solution to the fuel crisis (5 cents!!!???) there are strong indications that Brendan Nelson may actually come from Uranus.

The Australian Democrats have finally drawn their last breath. I doubt too many people will shed a tear over their final demise. A great many middle class, small l liberals thought they were very clever during the Democrats heyday and would announce: “I vote Labor in the lower house and Democrat in the Senate, let’s keep the barstards honest!”. They didn’t feel so clever when Meg Lees capitulated to the GST. This was surely a crime against the electorate; no one wanted it and once installed we’ll know we’ll never be rid of it. So much for keepin the barstards honest; Meg Lees may also be from Uranus.

Keep watching the skies…

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06 Jul 08 The Climate Change Political Football

earth wrecking ball On Friday 04/07/2008, in the first comprehensive assessment of the impact on Australia of climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut reported that Australians must pay more for food, petrol and energy or risk a rising death toll, economic loss and destruction of natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef.

The Howard Government’s policies on the environment, climate change and global warming: scepticism, inactivity and a steadfast refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol did little or nothing to address concerns raised by The Garnaut Report and other similar studies. None the less, it was to some extent highly politically astute. Howard understood that any positive measures in environmental policy would have a huge economic cost and be political poison. However, Howard failed to accurately gauge the mood of the Australian electorate and the piecemeal environmental policies he took to his humiliating 2007 sydney flooded due to global warmingdefeat were seen as too little too late. The rise of the Greens as a force to be reckoned with attests to the fact that the environment is now a major concern to considerable sections of the community.

The Kevin ’07 campaign made considerable ground by declaring environmental policies which at least appeared to have some credibility, as long as the capitulation on the Gunn’s pulp mill is put to one side. There were key Tasmanian seats which might have been put in jeopardy had Labor opposed the mill. The Rudd government has undoubtedly been damaged by the recent trauma over petrol prices. The decision to implement an emissions trading scheme and meet the Kyoto goals is likely to damage Rudd’s government even more among sections of the population that votes with their hip pockets in mind. It may actually improve his standing among those with a genuine concern for the environment. The backroom boys have undoubtedly already weighed up the statistics. Still, the climate change political football is looming more like wrecking ball for both sides of politics.
sydney desertPerhaps this is the fundamental flaw with democracy. It is natural that any government strives to ensure its political survival. To do so, it necessarily introduces short term policies that aim for approval within the next electoral term. Dealing with the environment has always required much longer term vision and a good deal of short term economic pain; making ‘climate scepticism’ a very attractive response.

It seems clear that governments will always create policy agendas in line with voting intentions. The responsibility ultimately falls to the electorate. If the majority aren’t willing to spend more on petrol and make sacrifices to help save the environment governments are unlikely to do anything more than make expedient noises in an attempt to pacify the minority who understand that sacrifices are necessary to ensure the survival of the human species.

The irony is the long term economic cost of ignoring conservation will be much greater than any short term hardships we might endure securing the future. How much prosperity will we enjoy when coastlines are under water and the rest of the country has turned to desert?

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