UNPRECEDENTED firestorms in parts of Queensland, drought across the west of NSW; tropical style hurricanes in Sydney… and still the Federal government sits on its hands fiddling at the edges while Rome burns.
The reactionary elements of the Liberal Party still deny climate science and they hold the rest of the party hostage. Even Malcolm Turnbull was unable to move on one of his strongest reasons for being in politics. The community is supposed to accept the fossil fuel industry and its large, opaque political donations have no influence in decision making.
Fortunately, it is our youth that’s taking the issue seriously. The future is in good hands. Our young people have demonstrated a better understanding of the issues and what needs to be done. The school students’ School Strike 4 Climate Action was reported internationally. The BBC reported: “The idea started with Milou Albrecht and Harriet O’Shea Carre, both 14, in the state of Victoria”.
The BBC report made Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comment look foolish. He told Parliament: “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”
Harriet O’Shea’s response put him in his place: “The climate change emergency is something we have been thinking about for a long time. We wrote letters and did different things but they never seemed to make a difference”.
Exercise of political power from our teenagers is something our community should value with pride. Many of these young people may not vote in the next election. However, they will certainly be at the polling booths at the following election. No doubt Twitter and other social media has gone wild – and this will influence election outcomes.
Federal Minister Matt Canavan is of the view “the best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue.” The retort was priceless – suggesting that, with an election looming, it will be Matt Canavan that is looking for a new job.
Contrast the lack of action of the Federal government with that of the ACT government under Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
The ACT has provided serious leadership in setting goals and targets to address climate change. In August, 2015, Barr made the commitment that “Canberra will be the first capital and the largest city in Australia to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025”.
By August this year, Barr was able to present an improved, revised outcome when entering negotiations with the Federal government over the National Energy Guarantee. He announced “the ACT has been a leader in Australian climate policy for over a decade. We will be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity in 2020, and have driven the establishment of new major wind and solar facilities in the Canberra region and beyond, creating thousands of new jobs in the process”.
His long-term vision was being realised. The rhetoric was about the future. It flies in the face of the easy political put down of “politicians can only think as far as the next election”.
Three years ago he announced: “The government will continue to divest the ACT investment portfolio of high-carbon-emitting companies and sectors – all without costing the Canberra community one cent in lower returns.
“For a city striving to become the ‘knowledge capital’, this policy is the right thing to do”.
It was not about sacrifice, but about predicting a renewable economy. “We’ve already seen a 400 per cent increase in renewable energy jobs in the past five years, and there will be more to come,” he said.
Although the rhetoric for Labor governments across Australia has been clear, the conservative governments are still bound by their reactionary elements and by their financial commitments. On this issue they remain stultified by the worst sort of inertia.
The future is fraught. Around the world there has been an explosion of governments of the extreme right. However, in Australia, hope is on the horizon.