Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn: What’s Going on in Australia?

"JMP_3371 1" by Julian Meehan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today may well go down in history as the day that the final nail went into our planet’s already rotting coffin. A shock result  has returned the right wing Liberal-National Coalition to government in Australia. This is terrible news for everyone, everywhere.

Scott Morrison, the man to be returned as Prime Minister, is an avowed anti-environmentalist whose stunts have included bringing a lump of coal into parliament and declaring his opponents ‘coal-o-phobes’. A key tenet of his platform is his determination to slash what he deems ‘green tape’, in order to generate more jobs for so called traditional industries. In a country for which mining makes up almost 10% of GDP, and 58% of exports are raw resources, Morrison’s return to power looks likely to have disastrous and far reaching consequences for the entire world.

In 2011, Australia took steps towards reducing its emissions, with encouraging results. 2013 saw the country’s largest fall in carbon emissions for 24 years, and a study conducted by Australian National University concluded that the results would have been even more significant if consumers and businesses had expected the change to be permanent. Unfortunately, it was not. The Liberal-National Coalition repealed the tax in 2014, paving the way for an increase in carbon emissions and undoing much of the good work that had been achieved during the three short years the tax was in place.

We can expect more of the same after this election. The expected victor in this election, The Labor Party, built much of their campaign around what they called a ‘climate emergency’. Whilst it’s too soon to break down the factors that delivered this outcome, it seems safe to say that the Labor Party won’t be trying that approach again. What’s more, their sister parties around the world, including our own Labour Party, might look at this result and recoil from prioritising the climate emergency themselves.

This couldn’t come at a worse time, either. With the rise of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the United States, the situation is looking increasingly dire for the world’s environmentalists. Bolsonaro, who amassed widespread support amongst the illegal loggers and miners in the Amazon Rainforest, has recently announced he will be rolling back environmental regulations in order to clear up space for a tourist resort. Aside from the long term impact, the very act of deforestation on this scale is expected to create emissions equal to those of the entire United States by 2030. The worst of the consequences from Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement are yet to come, but will no doubt be catastrophic.

Much like in Brazil and the United States, Australia’s woes extend beyond the ongoing climate emergency. Morrison has invoked the recent Christchurch mosque shooting, carried out by an Australian, to argue for cuts to immigration. Some of his supporters are demanding a return to the immigration policy of the 70s, which flat out refused entry to non-whites. One senator has called for a ‘final solution’. Increasingly, these attitudes are being normalised and filtering into the mainstream.

Without a doubt, many of Australia’s problems boil down to the continued poisonous influence of the Murdoch press, which is as powerful in Australia as it is in the United Kingdom. Some initiatives look as though they’ve been lifted straight from a front page of the Sun, like the ‘Dob in a Druggie’ scheme encouraging citizens to use a new online tool to report drug dealers. There’s something deeply alarming about seeing how much power is being exerted by those who hold these views.

Not only do right wing leaders create environmental collapse, environmental collapse creates right wing leaders. We can’t keep pretending that it isn’t changing the world. The global south will be the first to suffer the impact of climate destabilisation, and it’s going to create millions of refugees if vast swathes of the world become inhospitable, or simply sink. If the reaction of the western world during previous refugee crises is anything to go by, we’re only going to see our politicians drift ever rightward. Usually, this means further away from the solutions.

In a country that has, this year alone, been ravaged by bush fires, flooding and even millions of fish turning up dead, the popularity of this cavalier attitude towards the environment is as baffling as it is ominous. The press is providing an uncritical platform to neo-nazis and Christchurch has showed us the the real world implications in horrifying detail. We can but hope the Australians, and the world, see sense, sooner rather than later.

Words by Charley Weldrick


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