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Op-Ed: Australia last in climate policy – What do you expect, with so many syllables in each word?

We’re neither baffled by the BS nor blinded by the science. We’re just going through the motions, and doing it very badly.

Night work at the Carmichael Coal Mine, Queensland , Australia on Septrmber 15, 2020. Source - Cameron Laird, CC SA 4.0.
Night work at the Carmichael Coal Mine, Queensland , Australia on Septrmber 15, 2020. Source - Cameron Laird, CC SA 4.0.

Rock bottom last, Australia is now the poster-idiot for climate inaction. The world seems surprised Australia is dragging the chain with climate policy. We’re not. There are two key factors in this situation:

  1. Australia’s relentless refusal to keep up to date with everything on principle. We only got color TV in the 1970s. Never mind a massive instant domestic market for it, the little brains couldn’t handle it.
  2. The stupefying Old Economy mindset, which has held back, lost or given away all Australian innovations since Federation. It was no accident that so much of Happy Feet was made in a garage in Melbourne.

Climate policy is the incarnate form of everything this mentality is incapable of understanding, let alone doing anything about. The Old Stone Age thinking is this:

  • We produce coal oil and gas.
  • We want people to buy coal oil and gas.
  • These nice guys in the sector give us dollar sweeties; therefore we follow them wherever they go.  

Embarrassing? Very. Useless? Utterly. This is regardless of facts.

We have a very high uptake of solar power, 1 in 4 households, and we’re still mindlessly glued to a fossil fuel power grid.  There’s not a hard fact in sight in our climate policies. Very real multi-billion dollar Green issues dominate everything from land management to reafforestation, preservation, desertification, water resources, etc. and we’re still following the 1950s  like a lost dog on all issues.

Any degree of complexity, let alone action in these areas is stonewalled. The stonewalling is partly genuine, horrifying ignorance, and partly accountancy. That’s the last 40 years or so.

Ideas move at glacial speeds, ironically enough. To beat up the metaphor, “melt” equates to liquidity. Any form of communication has to add up to a dollar sign. The only possible way to get this issue through would be to do it all on social media. That, if nothing else, they watch. If you called it #$climatepolicy, or #$sanity, someone might pay attention. At least they’d know they were supposed to pay attention.

The other problem is that climate involves both ideas and communications. You know, them word-things in them more than two-word sentences? Jeez, you’d go mad if you could be bothered trying. …Or were that honest.

The only permitted and generally accepted two-syllable word in Australia is “money”. That’s quite hard enough. Polysyllabic thinking, therefore, is difficult for Australian politicians and corporations.

This is a middle-class country at management level; suburbia to the nauseating level of sitcom mediocrity you’d expect.  They’re not so much stupid as unable and unwilling to focus on anything else.

The other side of this infuriating situation

If Australia’s “social leadership”, which is as brainless as any ridiculously rich collection of smug little wankers anywhere in the world, is a problem, there’s another side.

Go into any building in Australia and you’ll find more degrees than a thermometer and very different opinions from this antiquated perspective. The people don’t suffer from this obsolescent worldview or technical backwardness. Some of us can actually read, you know.

Australia’s heatwave in 2019

We also happened to notice a gigantic, unprecedented drought, about a quarter of the country going up in flames, and other subtle hints. Ain’t we observant?

There are some practical issues, too:

  1. Our energy costs went up enormously 5 years ago. Our coddled energy sector effectively got something like a 175% price rise for no identifiable reason. (That’s one of the reasons for the big solar uptake.)
  2. EVs can’t get into Australia due to our comatose support systems for them and incredibly high prices. That will change as the rest of the world is going electric, but it’ll take years. (We also successfully destroyed our own local car manufacturing industry a few years back.)
  3. Solar and other renewables are in second gear entirely thanks to the fossil fuel issues. Only 24% of our energy comes from renewables. We now rank 49th in the world, one point ahead of the US, in renewables. This is despite one of the biggest hydro power schemes in the world, too. (One thing we’re not short of is sunshine. We’ve even (gasp) heard of infrared.)
  4. There’s also the issue of competence, aka reducing the number of uncomprehending idiots involved. We’re neither baffled by the BS nor blinded by the science. We’re just going through the motions, and doing it very badly. Various efforts to reduce emissions like the Emissions Reduction Fund failed to do anything of the sort. Billions were thrown at this effort in particular. For a bit of slapstick, read this obituary from ABC Australia.

Meanwhile back at Illiterate Hicks R Us, Australian Version

One thing Australian governments are surprisingly good at is equivocal inaction. Whatever the issue, let it sit there; maybe “wait and die” will get rid of it. This is a traditional Australian government response to any sort of crisis, and it works. The people do usually die off eventually.

Put it this way – I wrote a book about Australia a while back. The working title was Wankers Wonderland, but I thought that was a bit too polite and ambiguous. Most Aussies don’t need to be told that when it comes to climate and everything else that we can do and aren’t even trying to do.

We are perfectly capable, and generally willing, dinosaurs aside, to do what needs doing. There’s a very well-known, very apt, Australian expression for where to shove a situation which involves us coming last at anything.

Get the message and get on with it, bludgers.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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