Newsletter 413

Published November 1, 2021
PM outlines new climate initiatives for Glasgow

Watching the decline of the Australian media over the years has been a depressing experience. In the past, politicians that lied and fudged so relentlessly, showing themselves to be barely willing to deal with problems or pursue any constructive policies, would have been subjected to some rigorous criticism. Yet the coverage devoted to Scummo’s painful, secretive negotiations with the Nats on climate policy and the farcical ‘commitments’ that have emerged, would make anyone think that a great breakthrough had been achieved.

While one can hardly expect the Murdoch press, even with its new green enthusiasms, to adopt anything but a positive slant, but the rest of the media has been amazingly timid in not going in hard on this charade. Scummo believes he can control the agenda because he has been successful in his previous attempts.

To claim it as a triumph because you’ve (supposedly) committed to net zero by 2050 is a rather hollow boast when you’ve spent the past eight years with your head in the sand, only emerging to ridicule the science and make idiotical claims about how doing anything at all will usher in a jobs holocaust. As for the Nats, they are a moral vacuum posing as the saviours of rural Australia. One thinks back to National Party politicians of only a generation ago, and it’s apparent they were a more intelligent, more committed group than the current mob of unscrupulous opportunists who would do anything to curry favour with the likes of Gina Rinehart. The farmer is the least of their concerns, as shown by their willingness to aid and abet the transfer of land from small owners to huge companies in the Murray-Darling, and to promote mining over the interests of agriculture.

Scummo’s commitment to climate policy is nothing more than science fiction, based on the idea that we will achieve miracles through new carbon capture and hydrogen technologies that don’t yet exist. His techno-optimism is so pronounced the government is simultaneously approving new coal and gas projects that will drive up our carbon footprint.

The idea that we can go to Glasgow with an “unchanged” commitment to a 26-28 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, but a set of more optimistic “projections”, is doubly duplicitous. The only reason such projections are possible is because private citizens, state governments, farmers and big business, have begun to take independent action while the federal government has done nothing. Now Scummo is seeking to take credit for the small gains he has been undermining every step of the way.

One can only imagine the derision these ‘policies’ will gve rise to in Glasgow, and the damage they will do to Australia’s reputation. In economic terms we will be made to suffer through penalities and tariffs imposed on our exports. We will look like a callous, ignorant neighbour to the Pacific Island nations we are trying to lure away from China’s influence. Scummo has already established an international image as a liar, a toady to the USA, and a foreign policy dimwit who thinks he can impose his fantasies on the rest of the world. He will have to work double time to spin Glasgow into another triumph when he gets home. With a bit of help from a complacent media, who’s to say he won’t succeed?

The other bizarre piece of politics this week is the Coalition’s urgent attempt to ram through new voter ID laws that will only serve to block and discourage the poorest, most underprivileged sector of Australia’s population from voting. This is a solution to a non-existent problem, as voter fraud in Australia is utterly negligible. What’s disgusting is that it’s following the lead of Republican administrations in the United States that have bought into Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” as an excuse to rig elections, solidify their hold on power and brazenly trash the democratic system. There’s also an implicitly racist subtext because these new requirements will have a disproportionate impact on indigenous people in remote communities.

In America voting is not compulsory, as it is in Australia. Does this mean that those who turn up to vote without ID and get turned away will subsequently be fined? Any number of questions about this bill remain unanswered. One that everybody seems to be asking is: “Why is it OK for Christian Porter to receive a million dollars from an anonymous source, but imperative that registered voters prove their identity in order to be allowed to act in accordance with the law?”

This week’s column was meant to return to the Art Gallery of NSW for the first time in months, where I  marvelled at the inactivity that seems to have set in during lockdown. The only reviewable show was The Way We Eat, which features mainly Chinese artworks on the theme of food. There’s a slightly arbitrary feel to this exhibition but it seems a miracle of organisation alongside the gallery’s drawcard-of-the-moment: Matisse Now, which could politely be described as amateurish. Anyway, you’ll have to wait until next week, as a last minute page crisis meant the review has been held over, so – as per my agreement with newspaper – I have to hold the piece for a week as well.

That leaves only the movies, where I’m reviewing another horror flick while preparing for an avalanche of new releases in November. Scott Cooper’s Antlersis a highly proficient piece of filmmaking that wears its themes on its sleeve, making nods towards indigenous issues, child abuse, ecological catastrophe and the pandemic. I wonder if any Australian director is up for a horror movie on our nation’s contribution to the Glasgow conference?