Art Essays

Newsletter 264

Published December 8, 2018
Speaking truth to power

It was a sign of just how far the Morrison government has strayed from reality that when 15,000 children took a day off school last week to protest inaction on climate change, MPs lined up to make arrogant and condescending remarks. According to Resources Minister, Matt Canavan, who has led the charge to lend a billion dollars to the Adani group so they can build a controversial coal mine, the students should “learn how to drill for oil and gas” as protests will only land them “on the dole queue”. The foppish Senator James McGrath mocked a spelling error on one of the student placards. The thuggish Craig Kelly suggested they give up ice-creams for 12 months “because the dairy industry is such a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”

These spontaneous comments showed how much the government really cares about young people and the kind of future they are facing. It may be convenient to ignore all warnings about climate change if your sole focus is propping up the declining profits of the miners who are your mates and donors, but it’s obscene to show so little responsibility for the welfare of the next generation.

Young people are naturally idealistic and deserve to be applauded for their concern for the environment. The government, on the other hand, should be too ashamed to say anything, so compete and total has been their inaction on this issue. Those schoolchildren protesting today will long remember the reponses they received and will never be able to bring themselves to vote for the Coalition. Insult and belittle the voters of the future and watch your support base continue to dwindle.

Craig Kelly, in particular, is hardly a great role model. His major career distinction was as a rugby player. In parliament he has never been anything but a back-bencher, but has played a leading role in undermining this government. Now his own electorate wants to replace him with a more moderate (ie. more representative) candidate, but he has been preserved in office by the decree of the Prime Minister, in defiance of the Liberals’ much touted “democratic reforms”. Reactionary, treacherous nongs like Mr Kelly are a blot on the political landscape. It’s foolish to call such people “conservative” – they conserve nothing and wreck everything. Some of the 8 year-old schoolchildren protesting last week would make far better MPs.

I don’t want to sound unduly partisan, but why was it only the government who were reported saying these stupid, patronising things? Labor doesn’t have to speak on any topic, just let the government keep tearing itself apart and surge to power in March.

This week’s art column looks at Awavena, the extraordinary new virtual reality work by Lynette Wallworth, at Carriageworks. Set in the Amazon it tells the story of a woman who aspires to be a Shaman. It’s a very short season, and probably already booked out, but this piece is so unique it would be criminal to let it go without comment. Wallworth is one of the most important artists in Australia and it’s time she was given her due.

The film column discusses The Children Act, in which Emma Thompson plays the role of a high court judge caught up in the kind of life-changing crises that author, Ian McEwan, likes to inflict on all his lead characters. It’s a very watchable movie, although I had a few reservations. Perhaps a special screening might be arranged for the Morrison government so they can see the respectful way that Judge Thompson deals with the rights of children.