You’ve probably guessed that this is not fan mail. I’m sure you do have fans, but I don’t think there would be many game enough to admit it after your recent behaviour. Trolls perhaps, but not people. Why not people, you may ask? Succinctly, because no person with a shred of humanity, the sort of humanity needed to qualify as a human, could ever condone what you are doing to the world’s desperate asylum seekers who come to Australia begging for help.
Before you ready your list of excuses as to why it’s justifiable for someone to be murdered inside an Australian detention facility, there is no justifiable excuse you could possibly provide that will go anywhere near being a justifiable excuse. According to witness reports, a man has died after having his throat cut and sustaining head injuries. His name was Reza Berati. He had a family and friends who loved him. He had a personality. He had a whole life ahead of him. And he was murdered. With violence most compassionate people wouldn’t accept against an animal. A man was murdered. There’s no other way to describe it. You did not carry out the violence, but you were in charge of the person who did, and you were responsible for the victim, Reza Berati since he was in your care.
In the statement you snuck out on Saturday night in the most spineless of fashion, you admitted that your previous statement was based on incorrect information. We are experienced enough with your character to know that we will never find out what you knew and what you didn’t know when you released the wrong information. But I would like to point out that, even if you were personally misled, and you went with the information that was available to you, then you might not be as evil as it would appear, but you certainly are incompetent. So what is it Scott? Are you guilty of making up the first statement or are you incompetent in taking someone else’s word for it without endeavouring to find out the truth? Surely, in this situation, the truth would have been easy to find. If an asylum seeker was killed outside of the Manus Island detention centre, there would have been evidence of this. Because the crime scene, which I presume you are treating as such, would have been outside of the boundary of the detention centre? Or are you claiming you don’t know where this boundary is? This is becoming a bit of a pattern of not-knowing – the Navy apparently also did not know where the Indonesian maritime border was, on several occasions.
And we all know why you changed the official record. It was not because you respected the truth and wanted it to be known. And definitely not because you deeply regretted what you were finding out and wanted to make it clear how badly you felt about it. Because you didn’t feel bad about it. That’s obvious from what you have said and how you have said it. Tony Abbott has even congratulated you for the part you have played in this murder. And that’s the most immoral part of this situation. You’re proud of yourselves for being ‘uncompromising’ and ‘tough’ as if this is a chess game and your strategy has been successful. Think about that for a moment Scott. Someone is dead. Someone has been killed and many others horrifically injured in violent, hauntingly terrifying situation and you are proud of yourself. What is wrong with you Scott? This is not a game. This is Australia’s humanity being denigrated forever. Because you are doing this in our name.
However you try to play down this situation, it’s never going to work. Not just because the UN is now involved, and you’re destroying Australia’s human rights reputation on an international scale. No, it’s far worse than that. The worst of it is that this situation was no accident. When people drown at sea on their way to seek refuge in Australia, their loss of life is just as devastating as the loss of Reza Berati. And when young men installing installation are killed because their bosses don’t train them how to do their job safely, their loss of life is just as devastating as the loss of Reza Berati. But the difference with this death was that it was no accident. It wasn’t just one out-of-control person carrying out violence in an otherwise well run operation. Ever since you started your crusade to ‘stop the boats’, you made it clear you would do that by whatever means possible. And this murder has been part of that. This murder is the only place your ‘stop the boats’ strategy could go.
Before you think you can wash your hands of this, I want you to know that this is not going away. Murdoch might want everyone to forget, but we are not going to forget. And we are not going to forgive until you do the only thing you could possibly do to fully apologise for this crime by resigning from Australia’s Parliament. Reza Berati deserved better. His family and loved ones deserved better. Tony Abbott said proudly that you are not a wimp. But what he forgot to mention in this character assessment is that you might not be a wimp, but you’re also an evil, untrustworthy fool. And Australia deserves to have better people representing us.
Last Monday night, the ABC held a live televised debate to kick off the South Australian election season. I attended, eager to see how SA Premier Jay Weatherill performed against the incredibly weak Premier-wannabe, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall. Never heard of him? Neither has South Australia.
With the election coming up on March 15, depressingly, the Liberal Opposition is ahead in the polls. This is even after Abbott and Hockey bullied Holden into leaving, which will have a massively detrimental impact on the South Australian community. And even though Marshall is mimicking the negative-no-details-except-for-vague-motherhood-statements-about-tax-cuts-fixing-all-the-State’s-problems campaign that Abbott successfully used to win the Federal election, South Australians still seem determined to make the same mistake twice. On the subject of jobs, Marshall has promised to cut 5,000+ public service jobs, which like Abbott’s pledge, don’t seem to count as ‘real’ jobs as he also promises that there will be ‘more jobs’ under a Liberal government. And of course SA will have our own Abbott style ‘Commission of Audit’ after the election, for Marshall to identify new ways to slash and burn towards smaller government at a time when austerity could very quickly cause a deep recession. It’s incredibly frustrating to say the least.
What we have seen of Marhsall’s campaign so far are ads that don’t even mention his name or show his face, with mean, dark music, and a scary deep voice suggesting there are leadership tensions in the South Australian Labor Party. But I kid you not, they don’t even suggest an alternative Labor figure who is supposedly anonymously threatening Weatherill’s leadership. But hey, I guess it worked for Abbott to hype up Gillard versus Rudd, so why would the SA Liberals let a little inconvenience like no leadership tensions in SA Labor get in the way of a negative advertising campaign? Faceless men, and all that. (Talking of leadership instability, check out how the SA Liberals stack up. Pot Kettle Black? The only reason Marshall got the Leadership in the first place is because the rest of the SA Liberal Party had already torn apart more experienced contenders in a leadership war lasting numerous years.)
So with this hypocritical advertising campaign in mind, when the ABC debate Producer emailed the audience asking for questions, I submitted this:
- Question for Steven Marshall: Tony Abbott won the 2013 Federal election with a very negative campaign. From what we have seen of your campaign so far, you are following his lead. My question is, do you worry that the South Australian public are looking for a positive alternative who has vision for the future, rather than someone who just wants to bag the opposing side?
It’s a tough question, but it’s fair. It goes to the very heart of Marshall’s bid to lead South Australia, and for that reason, I think the viewers deserved to hear an answer. But no. Even after a follow up email from the ABC Producer to again ask the audience for question submissions after I had already submitted mine, this one didn’t make the cut. So, in front of what felt like a heavily stacked Liberal audience*, the questions that were asked were, as usual, invitations to bash Labor, whether that bashing be with a big stick or a small twig. Anything would do.
We had questions about jobs and business tax cuts, two questions about mental health policy, niche questions about regional population growth, train services being disrupted on hot days (with no mention of climate change), a good question about the treatment of women in parliament, a Gonski question from Twitter and three vague vision questions, including one asking what the two candidates agree on. But what we didn’t have, and what we never see asked on Q&A or by an ABC journalists when interviewing politicians, is a question that could be considered a tough one for a Liberal to answer. When in the last few years, the hardest question Tony Abbott has been asked on the ABC’s 7:30 is ‘did you read the report’, it’s clear the Liberals, and in fact anyone from the ‘right’ will be protected as soon as they enter a conversation with our national broadcaster.
So since I’m bitter and twisted about my question for Marshall being culled before it had a chance to be answered, I have three other questions that I would like to ask Marshall, which I can guarantee the ABC would never let me ask:
- You spend a lot of your time talking down the South Australian economy. You even cite your reason for going into politics as being a very narrow mission to make sure your two children don’t leave South Australia when they become adults. My question is, don’t you think it’s bad for the South Australian economy to constantly talk it down, as the effect of consumer confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
- Your answer to ‘how will you create jobs for South Australians’ is ‘I will cut payroll tax’. We see from the current example in the US that tax cuts do not create jobs, because the business owners just take the extra profit for themselves. There is no reason for business owners to hire more people just because they’re making more money. Growth in jobs comes from an increase in consumer and business demand. So how are you going to increase consumer and business demand to actually increase jobs?
- Whenever you are asked a question about your plans as Premier of South Australia, you bring everything back to a discussion of the economy and how you will fix it with tax cuts. My question is, have you realised, or are you likely to realise sometime soon, that we live in a society, not an economy? And do you think it’s important for the economy to serve our society, and not the other way around?
It’s hard to know why the ABC goes to such great lengths to protect Liberals from answering these tough questions. I suppose it has something to do with the Liberals’ wish to cut jobs at the ABC, and to an ingrained bias towards Labor bashing (whether Labor be in power or not) under the guise of ‘balance’. Perhaps ABC Producers have such trouble getting the Liberals onto their television and radio shows that the last thing they want to do is scare them away.
In South Australia particularly, we rely on ABC coverage of politics, as we’re basically a one Murdoch newspaper city. But what we get from the South Australian ABC is the same Labor bashing, Liberal free-ride that we see across the country. The South Australian election might be irrelevant to all other Australians, but I think you’ll agree that my questions for Steven Marshall would really be suitable for any Liberal politician in this country. Yet on a national scale, these questions remain unasked and for that reason, unanswered.
*The ABC producer for the SA leaders’ debate provided the following breakdown about the voting intentions of the audience. I stand by my personal observation from the number of people clapping in the audience, that the audience was heavily stacked to the right. I asked if I could bring two other Labor supporters with me but was told there were no more seats – so I’m not sure how come there were quite a few vacant seats around me.Follow @Vic_Rollison
While the Abbott government continues to swing their wrecking ball, it would appear many people are waking up to just how extreme-right this government is. ‘Australia must be destroyed’ by Tim Dunlop is a good summary of the unfolding horror. Although I am usually keen to contribute to the growing chorus decrying the daily onslaught of right-wing ideological mayhem being imposed by this secretive, chaotic and incompetent government, I’m trying to look past this current disaster, by thinking about how this situation happened and how we can stop it ever happening again. #OneTermTony.
Abbott’s electoral success was mounted on a foundation of invisible villains that triggered a selfish ‘dog eat dog’ reflex in sections of the Australian public. Abbott made up reasons why people should be scared of a Labor government and then promised to save them from these fictional threats. From government debt. Electricity bills. Asylum seekers arriving by boat. The instability of minority government. ‘Wasteful’ government spending. Unions. It takes a pretty incredible propaganda machine to convince workers that unions are bad and Gina Rinehart cares about them. But, with the help of the mainstream media, that is what Abbott managed to do.
The Liberal Coalition’s negative message invited people to make a choice between two opposing camps – Abbott’s promise to look after the individual or Labor’s promise to look after the community. Abbott painted Labor’s ‘benefit to the community’ message as being wasteful and bad for the economy, while promising that his new open-for-business-cutting-red/green-tape agenda would bring prosperity back to nervous post-GFC capitalism. I’m sure deep down most Australians would like to think they care about their community. But when push comes to shove and they’re scared about their own futures, it’s not surprising that many voters believed what Abbott wanted them to believe – that a Liberal government was a silver-bullet to solve all their individual problems. And importantly – that it was a smart idea to vote selfishly. Even when in fact cost-of-living pressures didn’t exist, and even when the Australian economy was in fact Triple-A healthy, Abbott purposely attacked an already fragile consumer confidence, and then seized on the resulting insecurity of individuals and encouraged them to push their concern for the community down the ballot paper. Sadly the majority dutifully complied.
Knowing this is unhelpful if you don’t learn something from it. But that’s what the Labour Movement needs to do. Bill Shorten are you listening? I have a suggestion as to how Labor can use Abbott’s strategy to Australia’s advantage.
Not before time, wealth inequality is becoming a significant political battle for progressives worldwide. This is because thinking-people are starting to recognise the growing gap between the very rich and the rest of us is too big to just be called a gap. It’s becoming a gulf. In this article, Ben Eltham suggests that Bill Shorten should make the fight against wealth inequality a key pillar of Labor’s political narrative. Other commentators have suggested the ‘public good’ should be the new umbrella message encompassing the left’s political agenda.
I agree with these suggestions. Labor has always been for the community benefit. Think NBN, Gonski, PPL, NDIS, Mining Tax and Carbon Price. So the party’s policy platform won’t need to change much to accommodate a further emphasis on social mobility and a reduction in the gap between rich and poor. Unions are important in this message, with worker’s wages and entitlements a key factor in defending against a greater gap between the share of profit between labour and capital. Quality education and healthcare are also strong Labor policies crucial to social mobility. On top of this, inequality of wealth is an easy platform from which to judge Abbott’s government. No matter what Abbott promised to do for Australian people of all incomes, asset status and net-worth, it’s very easy to draw a straight line from every single one of his government’s policies, to an acceleration of the gap between the super-rich haves and the growing number of have nots. Abbott is not for workers at SPC, Holden or Toyota. He is for Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Rupert Murdoch. His treasurer just this week repeated the catch-cry of pro-income-inequality cheerleaders: a rising tide lifts all boats. Except no, it doesn’t. So yes, highlighting wealth inequality is a good strategy for Labor. But I don’t think it’s enough. Why? Because those who understand and care about wealth inequality are already Labor voters. Labor needs to remember what they learnt from Abbott’s success and appeal to people’s individual anxieties. And this is where the two strategies combined could just be a political master stroke.
Put simply, Labor needs to communicate to voters that a strong community, with a wealthy and large middle-class is good for everyone. That is, an individual is better off in a situation where he or she belongs to a community of similarly better off people. So no longer do we have to either vote for the benefit of the community or the benefit of the individual. By voting Labor, you can have both. The public good is good for everyone.
We already know that America’s shrinking middle class, growing population of working-poor and 1% of filthy rich individuals is not good for 99% of the country. As Nobel Prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglizt said:
“Our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth.”
It’s not hard to understand why a community is damaged when there is a small number of people taking the vast majority of growth for themselves without sharing it with everyone else. Wages are stagnant, unemployment is rampant and poverty is widespread. The uber-rich can afford affluent lifestyles, but how will they maintain this wealth if they don’t have a consumer market rich enough to afford to buy their products and services? Yes, the super-rich are using money to make more money, but speculative markets are unproductive and don’t benefit the wealth of everyone else. If someone who works at Walmart can’t afford to shop at Walmart, Walmart’s market disappears.
Labor needs to tell people this story. They need to explain it in a way that voters understand. They need to start by reinstating the lost value that it is wrong to be greedy. And that people who don’t feel good about themselves unless they are richer than their neighbour are part of the problem, not the solution. They can then go on to show that wealth re-distribution and social mobility isn’t just good for the country. It is good for the individual too. Labor needs to work out how to say this in a way that connects with individual anxieties, and then they need to say it again, and again, and again. Every time Abbott’s policies contradict these principals, Labor has an opportunity to say it even louder.
If Labor can get this right, it might not just be a winning strategy for 2016. It might be a policy platform that the likes of Abbott will never find a way of destroying ever again. Surely that makes it worth a try? And who knows, we might just save the world.Follow @Vic_Rollison
It’s all so very predictable. In his usual sloppy and insipid way, Tony Abbott is trying to bring on an industrial relations war with unions by blaming SPC Ardmona’s request for government assistance on over-generous wage and employee entitlements in the company’s Shepparton factory. Even when SPC Ardmona corrected the record by releasing their workers’ enterprise agreement, and even when local member and self-appointed SPC guardian, Liberal MP Sharman Stone called Abbott out for lying about the issue, Abbott still trudges forward seemingly unwounded. On behalf of his mates at the top end of town, Abbott is working towards their end goal, where business owners can treat their workers however they want, and can pay them however little they want. It’s all the workers’ fault if they complain, because apparently they should feel gratitude for having a job at all. And this despite that fact that that workers’ share of national income has been falling since 2000.
Despite the growth in their share of the national income, business owners and shareholders still want more. Always more. One way to get this is to reduce wages by any means possible. This is why business owners obviously want one objective of any wage negotiation between unions and business to be the removal of penalty rates for working unsociable hours. As chief friend of business and foe of workers, Tony Abbott has embraced this mission; his government has asked for a major review of workplace awards to assess whether minimum terms and conditions, including penalty rates, are still relevant.
I’ve recently come across a local example where a business owner’s displeasure at having to pay penalty rates generated bad publicity at what happens to be my local pub – the Bombay Bicycle Club. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there at a mid-week pub quiz or for a weekend beer and curry. Recently, the pub has undergone a major renovation, with the addition of a large car park and upgrades to the drive-through bottle shop, main bar and restaurant area, a new beer garden complete with fake palm trees, and a meticulous refresh of the incredibly flamboyant British Raj Indian theme. I don’t know how much the building works and interior decorating must have cost, but suffice to say they would have spent more money in the female bathrooms than I am currently spending renovating my whole house.
This article on news.com tells how the pub owner erected an expensive mounted wooden menu in the public bar. This showed how much the meals would cost if he multiplied them by the 2.75 award rate of loading his staff receive for working on a Sunday. It doesn’t take an economist to work out the flaw in this argument, because of course labour costs are just one of many cost inputs that make up the supply of a pub meal. After a backlash on social media, the sign was taken down. The owner was quoted as saying:
“Again, WOW. The sign has been removed. Have read all your comments. I will keep my opinions to myself in the future.”
Apparently the business owner was surprised that his clientele weren’t impressed with his attitude. It’s not clear how his staff, the ones earning penalty rates for working on a Sunday, felt about having to work on what used to be a day of rest, under a sign saying they weren’t worth the extra cost.
However, there is another sign that still hangs in the pub which didn’t make it into the media reports. As a further example of the attitude of the owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club, the clientele are thanked on their way out of the pub with this enormous mounted and framed sign:
Take a moment to read all the things this owner resents having to pay. He’s got all the taxes he can think of up there (even the ones he’s not directly paying, like the Carbon Tax (sic)). He’s also got what would appear to me to be business expenses of his own choosing, including interest on an overdraft and website expenses.
But there’s something missing from the sign. There’s one major thing that the clientele of his business are paying for, which the owner has conveniently neglected to include in the list. No, I’m not talking about the cost to our community of the pokie machine addicts who no doubt helped fund the exorbitant renovations (the pokie lounge is open from 9:00am until midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and from 9:00am until 3:00am from Thursday to Saturday). I’m talking about the profit. The profit the owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club pockets at the end of a long day’s work by his staff who make a tiny fraction of what he does. Of course I’m not saying that the owner doesn’t deserve this profit. It is his business and he has taken the entrepreneurial job-creating risk of developing it. But what gap between the workers’ wage and the owner’s profit is our community comfortable with? Isn’t this the question at the heart of any negotiation between labour and capital?
I have a message for the owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club, which comes via Elizabeth Warren in this clip I have linked to many times on this blog. You’ve built a business, and it’s a good business, so well done. But you did not build it on your own. Your staff run your business and they do an excellent job. They make great food, they serve it efficiently and they keep your business running at a profit. If your staff weren’t educated, they couldn’t run your business for you. Their education and training was paid for by tax-dollars. The roads that your customers drive on to get to your pub were paid for by tax payers. The police who come and arrest drunk and disorderly clientele are paid for by tax payers. The firemen who would come if a fire started in your kitchen are paid for by tax payers. The hospital that you would go to if you had a heart attack is paid for by tax payers. The economy that you rely on to provide enough wealth for the community that they can afford to go to your pub is run and managed and regulated by tax payer funds.
I wonder if it’s ever occurred to the owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club that most of his clientele are workers.
When I spoke to one of the staff at this pub, they said the owner treats them well and it’s a good place to work. This is good to hear, and somewhat surprising considering the attitude displayed on the board. However, what’s most important about this example is that the business owner is making it very clear that without an award that legally entitles his workers to a minimum wage, including penalty rates for working outside of normal hours, his workers wouldn’t be receiving their current level of compensation for the work they do. These workers would have no hope of negotiating individual pay deals with this boss without the help of their union of workers.
What would happen to these workers if Tony Abbott gets his way and smashes collective bargaining? What happens if minimum pay rates are put at risk? Some bosses who value the contribution to their business that each of their workers make would still pay their staff fairly. But I expect many others, like the owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club, wouldn’t. I expect that those who resent having to pay their staff to work abnormal hours are very likely to resent paying them at all.Follow @Vic_Rollison
When I first saw mention on Twitter of the March in March, I’ll admit I was sceptical. Thoughts of a very small number of trucks driving into Canberra, and Alan Jones getting all hot and bothered filled my mind. The last thing Australian progressives need is our own ‘Convoy of no consequence’. However, as the March in March organisers have got more organised, and as events across the country grow in number, I realised that of course I have to March in March, and in fact it would be totally hypocritical of me not to.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter, or reads my blog will know that I spend a lot of time complaining about the Abbott government. Prior to the election, I spent hours crafting new ways to plead with the electorate not to elect the wrecking ball. And since the election, I’ve spent hours commenting on the damage strewn in the path of this wrecking ball, basically saying ‘I told you so’. In many ways, the Abbott government’s first four months have been much worse than even I predicted. I thought he would go about his disastrous promises to repeal the carbon price, to destroy the NBN, to undo the mining tax and that this would be bad enough. However, it would appear that Abbott is in much more of a hurry than we realised to reward his fanatical right wing ideologues, to give jobs to the boys, and to bring about John Howard’s vision for Australia much quicker than even Howard had the balls to do. The country is now speeding at a terrifying rate towards a Tea Party utopia. And this is before the Commission of Audit has even released their report. In a nutshell, Abbott has handed over control of the country to rich business owners. We have rich business owners controlling all kinds of policies, from environmental protection laws, to welfare policies such as work for the dole, to industrial relations and taxation. And Abbott doesn’t seem to mind if he causes a war with Indonesia, as long as he stops…the…boats.
Part of the problem with this all getting so quickly out of hand is that progressives have had little time to react. It is clear that Bill Shorten is doing his best to rise above the messy chaos of the Abbott government, and to avoid the harsh negativity that is Abbott’s brand of political campaigning. I can see why Labor is taking this softly softly approach. The by-election in Griffith is also clearly Federal Labor’s priority and a win there would be great for the party’s morale. As Napoleon Bonaparte is often quoted as saying – ‘never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’. However, I believe that when the Abbott government is making so many drastic changes, and each and every one of them is detrimental to the community, but beneficial to Abbott’s rich mates, it’s not a good time for those who disagree with Abbott’s approach to sit on our hands and let him wreck the place. Hence why Marching in March is a good idea.
Before I sound like one of the smug anti-outrage twitterati, who seem to be popping up all over the place being anti-anyone talking about anything on Twitter that wasn’t originally started by themselves, especially if it has something to do with Feminism or Racism, I want to make clear that there is a place for outrage on Twitter, but there also has to be a place for taking our outrage offline as well. There’s only so much activism that can be produced via social media and blogging. We also need to remind ourselves that we are mostly preaching to the converted on forums such as this and on Twitter, and perhaps to a lesser extent on Facebook. Mostly, my time spent on social media is time spent sharing my passion and outrage with other progressives who are just as passionately outraged by the Abbott government as I am. Taking our message to the streets will help us to reach a much larger audience, hopefully those so disengaged with politics that they don’t even know what Abbott has been up to and won’t know until they see some people on the news getting upset about it.
Abbott’s political end goal is to destroy collective bargaining, to destroy government owned infrastructure and services, to promote greed, to disregard the cost of the greed on the environment and to ultimately leave our country with a small, ineffectual and utterly corrupt government which hands the nation’s wealth to a rich few. If you are as concerned about this end goal as I am, I encourage you to keep Tweeting, to keep sharing information that helps us to better coordinate our activism, but also to get out on the streets and March in March. The one advantage workers have over their capitalist bosses is numbers and unity. Let’s use our numbers and our unity to show Abbott and those who support him that we’re not giving up that easily.Follow @Vic_Rollison
If Australia can’t champion progressive reforms that make our country a better place for everyone, not just a few rich people, who can? If we can’t grow a collective will to restore dignity to the impoverished, to welcome desperate families from war torn countries or places of depraved persecution, to have an economy that provides stable jobs, and not just profit, what country in the world can possibly expect to beat us to it?
Australia Day is a good day to reflect on the privilege of being Australian. I’m not saying this is the best country in the world. It’s the only country I’ve ever lived in, so I’m not one to judge. But I can judge my own life experiences and say that I am incredibly lucky to be Australian. We are a rich country, we have (in the most part) a very pleasant climate, our cities are not overcrowded, we have a stable economy which has been growing for over 20 years, we are mostly employed, and mostly living relatively comfortable lives. Yes, there are many Australians struggling to make ends meet, but we also have a social welfare system which is designed to look after those in the community who can’t look after themselves. This social welfare system is by no means perfect, but at least we have one. That puts us way in front of many other countries in the world.
Yet, with all this luck, if the election of Tony Abbott is anything to go by, Australians are not just ungrateful for our luck, we’re petty, mean and completely and utterly selfish. Abbott played to this side of our national character, targeting our lowest common denominator to whip up fear about what can only be described as #FirstWorldProblems.
Stop.the.boats. Why? Because a very small number of refugees, who have nowhere to else to go, are looking for a safe haven, and happen to choose Australia as that safe haven. We’re not talking tens of thousands of people. We’re talking about tens of people at a time, several thousand across an entire year. A completely manageable number, a miniscule percentage of our rich population, and an amount which has no impact on the residents of Australia. None. Yet in a recent poll, 60% of lucky Australians wanted the Abbott government to treat asylum seekers more harshly. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the cruel and sadistic country.
Axe.the.tax. Why? Because Australians are gullible enough to believe big polluters who say they are fighting against the Carbon Price for the good of the community, when really it’s for the good of big business profits. Because Australians believed Tony Abbott when he said climate change was crap. Because Alan Jones is apparently a credible expert on climate science. And the big one – because an increase in our electricity bill, however small this amount was when compared to the cost of our lifestyles, was just too much to ask, regardless of the compensation the government gave us to soften the very small blow. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the selfish and greedy country.
Open.for.business. Why? Because Abbott promises to get rid of that horrible nasty red tape and green tape that was only put there in the first place, apparently, to annoy capitalists. Except it wasn’t. Except every single regulation ever produced was designed for the betterment of our community, to protect us from the greed of big business. Environmental protections ensure that profitable activities don’t destroy our environment. Red tape like occupational health and safety laws are designed to increase the likelihood that Australians don’t die at work. Red tape like minimum wages, like the 8 hour work day, like paid maternity leave, like sick leave, like holiday pay, are the only thing that ensures business owners can’t treat workers like slaves. Or would you prefer to remove all this regulation, and let companies like McDonalds pay their staff $7.25 an hour for a 36 hour work week? That’s $261 before tax. But rather than see ‘regulation’ as the necessary protections for workers to stop business owners from taking advantage of them, Australians are happy to vote for someone who vows to repeal as much regulation as he possibly can (in fact 1,000 pieces in one day). Note that Abbott is consulting business to decide which laws will be scrapped. Business. Not workers. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the determined to make the rich richer at the expense of the workers country.
My question to Australians on Australia Day is this: aren’t we better than this? Or when we elected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, were we determined to prove that we’re not better than this? We are rich, we are comfortable and very few of us have anything but lifestyle problems to worry about. Yet, all it takes for us to elect a wrecking-ball Prime Minister, is for him to appeal to our pettiest, greediest, meanest selves. As I reflect on my love of Australia on Australia Day, I wonder whether political leaders on the left are thinking about how they can bring out the best in Australians, rather than the worst at the next election. I’m hoping they can come up with a way of convincing us to be better Australians, because I really want to believe that we are better than this.Follow @Vic_Rollison
The effects of climate change are not just a scientific model which may or may not happen sometime in the way off future. Climate change is in front of our eyes. As I write this, the temperature outside is 43.8 degrees, heading for a forecast of 46. This would make it the hottest day of my life and today Adelaide is the hottest city in the world. The weather, of course, is just weather and doesn’t in itself prove climate change is real. What does prove climate change is real is scientific study of the influence of carbon emissions on the world’s climate. Scientific consensus has monumentally smashed any sort of doubt by, at last count, showing only 0.01% of climate scientists questioning the validity of anthropogenic climate change as scientific fact. But, while the experts tell us climate change is happening, and while I experience for myself the changing climate in Adelaide which has seen us hit record after record, to a point where the weather maps are adding new colours to show new extremes, there is still far more denial of this science than is rationally possible, in a country where we all learnt to read at a very young age.
Whenever a conversation starts about climate change, whether it be on social media, in the mainstream media, in government, in the private sector or just around a neighbour’s BBQ, the deniers are there to take the discussion away from ‘how do we deal with this problem’, and divert it to ‘does this problem even exist?’ Like whack-a-mole zombies, the deniers have a pre-rehearsed line prepared for every occasion which they unwelcomely insert into every potentially productive discussion. I’ve put together this handy guide to your garden-variety climate change denier pests, who pop up all over our community with new ways to block action to save our planet:
FREE MARKETER DENIERS
The ‘climate change can’t be happening because it’s problematic to my free market ideology’ deniers.
It’s not a coincidence that some of the richest people in the world fund campaigns to spread doubt and lies about climate change. It’s also not a coincidence that it’s the free-marketers who form shady right-wing think tanks, designed to fight any sort of move by a government to combat climate change. To these free-marketers, environmental protection is just another way the government limits their precious free market, which in their minds, limits the amount of money they can extract from the planet the governments are trying to protect. Maurice Newman, Tony Abbott’s top business advisor, is a member of one of these secretive societies, as revealed in this piece by Graham Readfearn.
So let’s break it down to really simple language to explain why these people deny climate science. They are rich. They want to get richer. They are worried that if the government forces them to readjust their profitable activities to take into account the pollution their profitable activities cause, they might not be as rich as they were hoping to be. On the planet they are destroying. I don’t think a more ridiculous reason for denial could possibly exist. When you take into account the damage the changing climate is doing, and will continue to do, to their precious economy, as well as the planet where they spend their money, how can these so-called-business-savvy people not see that it’s in everyone’s best interest to take climate change seriously? How many profit-making tennis games have to be postponed before these people realise this is about them too?
The problem with these deniers is that they have the funds behind them to influence a lot of other gullible people who are, by their political affiliation with these types, liable to believe everything they say. Like the Tony Abbotts of the world, who need the money of well-known-climate-denial-funder Gina Rinehart to bankroll his election campaigns. What can we possibly say to these people to snap them out of this idiocy? How about we try saying ‘please stop blocking action to combat climate change. We all have to live on this planet. And this is where you make all your money’. An un-liveable planet would be a market free of profit I would have thought.
The ‘climate change might be happening, it might not, but if it is it’s not caused by humans and so there’s no point doing anything about it, I’m really not making much sense’ deniers.
These deniers will never admit that they are a product of the campaigns by the free market deniers because that would be inconvenient to their argument. What they don’t realise is that, as acting as the astro-turfing mouthpieces, or the tentacles of the great free-market-climate-change-denying-squid-like-beast, they often end up not just sounding like foot soldiers, but often like robotic climate denying software algorithms funded by free marketer deniers. But I don’t think they mind that they sound like lunatics who can’t string a thought together let alone an argument. Because this is part of their strategy. An example of the muddying-the-water climate denier can be found in this exchange:
You see how this one never out-right denies climate change, he just spreads doubt? So when we start talking about bushfires and how they are becoming more frequent and more serious due to climate change, these deniers question the link between bushfires and climate change. When we say climate scientists are in agreement of the facts, they say thousandaire climate scientists are part of a left-wing conspiracy to get more research funding. When we quote scientific evidence of a warming atmosphere, they say that the warming might be happening, but it’s not man-made. When we say it is man-made and we have to do something about it, they say there’s no point doing anything because there’s nothing we can do to fix it. And the argument goes around and around and around until the person who started the original conversation about the problem of climate change and what we should do about it ends up being so confused and so frustrated that they give up altogether.
This has happened to me on Twitter many times, and I know I shouldn’t fall for it, so I’m trying to stop. Let’s remember that the whole point of these deniers is that they don’t make any logical sense. They’re just there to divert attention from the urgent need for our community to do something about climate change. Whether they’re saying wind-farms cause headaches, polar-vortexes are not related to climate change, or they’re repeating crap they’ve heard Lord Monckton say while on his Rinehart-funded trip around Australia, we should just ignore and block these people whenever they pop up. Or ridicule. That can also help combat the frustration.
The ‘I remember when I was a boy it was really hot once’ deniers.
This type of denier is again related to the free marketer denier, but again incapable of admitting this link. Usually this link is a shared voting intention with right-wing political parties. Funny that. Are you seeing a pattern here?
The sort of thing you hear from these people is shown in the tweet below, from a radio presenter at 2CC Canberra:
As the climate trend keeps climbing upwards, you find that the historic temperature date they quote is getting further and further into the past. You almost have to feel sorry for them. Parton’s not even been able to say ‘it was hotter than it is today when I was fifteen’. He’s had to go back to the 19th Century, to a town in outback Queensland. Mark goes on to try to use the pretence of reasonableness to explain why he thinks climate change isn’t happening:
It’s fairly easy to combat these deniers. All you have to say is ‘no Mark, it’s not all about you. The weather in your back yard is not of itself evidence of a global climate trend. So what if there was a hot day in 1969 and you happened to remember it? It’s the trend that is important! Why is the trend on an upward trajectory if climate change isn’t real?’
Annoyingly, many journalists fall for this sort of denial, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not. It’s when they say ‘Adelaide experienced extreme temperatures today’ and instead of continuing this statement with ‘this is further evidence of the weather outcomes that we will see from a changing climate’, they stick their viewers’ heads back in the sand by saying ‘and it’s the hottest day since the 12th of January 1939’. Nothing to see here, move along.
The ‘I’m above all this climate change stuff because I don’t take anything seriously’ deniers.
Again, these deniers are related to free marketer deniers, but have just chosen a different tactic for expressing their opinions about climate change. Opinions they have no right to as not a single one of them has any scientific training, let alone expertise in climate science. These people’s chosen tactic is disdain delivered like a totally un-funny stand-up-comedian. Chris Kenny is the best example of this type of denier that I’ve come across. I wrote to him about this a year ago and his son has also weighed in on his father’s irresponsibility, but judging by this tweet, Kenny hasn’t changed since:
That’s right. Those pesky climate scientists are just over-exaggerating climate change, because, because… actually I don’t think Kenny has ever come up with an explanation as to why thousands of climate scientists would do such a thing. What do we say to these people? I find in Kenny’s case it’s best to laugh at him. Not with him. And to tell him he’s a puppet of his free marketer heroes/employer whose only achievement so far in life appears to be fathering at least one son who is nothing like him.
So there you have it. The first step to solving a problem is identifying it. These are the deniers we have to put up with, who are doing their best to delay or stop action to slow the catastrophic effects of climate change. These are the people the mainstream media call on to help them to show ‘balance’. These are the people our country elects to govern us all. These are the people who continue to get very rich from their denial, while poor people are the first to suffer from the effects of climate change, not having the funds to insulate themselves from harm’s way. So we keep fighting. We do it for our children. We do it for our global community. And we do it for ourselves. Because climate change is happening right now and we have to do something about it.