The recent rush of activity around climate change has led some to suggest that the Federal Government has finally got the message on the perils of global warming, but history indicates such optimism is misplaced. The Government's announcements of the past month are just more of the window-dressing and stalling tactics that we have had to endure for more than a decade. The Government's strategy on climate change has been simple. Deny it and muddy the waters on the science for as long as possible, while providing large subsidies to the fossil fuel industry under the guise of greenhouse programs.
Giving free rein to the market very often leads to an erosion of moral values””the work we have done on youth and pornography and on the sexualisation of children is an illustration of that. So here's a real contradiction in the heart of conservative politicians; it astonishes me that a moral hard-liner like Tony Abbott can resolutely refuse, time after time, to reign in the market forces that exacerbate the problems he complains about.
Our national myth is that of the stoical farmer battling the elements and never succumbing. But the $1 billion plus in drought relief granted over the last few years is an expensive means of sustaining an anachronism. Sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind, and that means refusing to pretend that if we can get marginal farms over this hump everything will return to normal. Instead of another round of drought relief, both the taxpayer and the marginal farmer âˆ’ not to mention the land itself âˆ’ would be better served by a one-off scheme to close down farms that are not viable in a drought-prone continent.
The Government argues that encouraging people to work longer is also helping them do something for their own benefit. However, increasing the retirement age is asking people to contribute time at a life stage when time is scarce. For boomers, being compelled to work later means that individuals are giving up something - time - that they cannot retrieve. With superannuation, individuals will get it all back, and more, at a time when they feel that they will need it most. It has only been 14 years since the introduction of compulsory super. It is evident that it is transforming not just retirement incomes but the relationship between citizens and government.
Steve Irwin created a new genre of documentary called "nature nasty" which rejects attempts to portray animals in their natural environment going about their usual activities. Instead, it goes in search of the most dangerous, poisonous and bizarre and provokes animals into extreme behaviour.
Irwin's death provided a trigger for a gratuitous outpouring of hatred directed at the "elites" who found his antics embarrassing, especially when they were represented as authentically Australian. In the present political climate every event is turned by right-wing cultural warriors into an excuse to attack the imagined enemies of John Howard.
Under a voucher scheme, government funding would be provided on a per student basis to the school of parents' choice, whether public or private. The amount given to each student could be the same (flat-rate vouchers) or could vary (differentiated vouchers). Vouchers could also be confined to particular students (targeted vouchers). Jennifer Buckingham, from the right wing Centre for Independent Studies, claims these findings are astounding and that it is difficult "not to be persuaded" by the evidence on vouchers. It is fair to say that the most fervent advocates tend to look only at evidence that supports their position.
The government's industrial relations changes were always going to be controversial, but it has done itself no favours in establishing a regime that is overseen by government agencies that are politically compromised. Until the Office of Workplace Relations and other similar agencies are truly independent of government, employees are justified in suspecting that there is no longer an independent umpire overseeing the workplace.
Green consumerism such as that advocated by Tim Flannery privatises responsibility for environmental decline, shifting blame from elected governments and industry onto the shoulders of individual citizens. The cause of climate change becomes the responsibility of "all of us", which, in effect, means nobody. It is obvious why a government that wants to do nothing finds such an approach appealing: it can pretend to be concerned while protecting powerful business interests.
The Federal Government's plans to repeal the cross-media ownership laws are due before Cabinet in the next few weeks. There is little doubt they will get the tick of approval and then slide through parliament - thereby ensuring greater concentration of media ownership and a loss of diversity in Australia's media. The Australian media is already heavily concentrated by OECD measures and the government proposal would only make it worse. Removing the cross-media laws would lead to a carnivorous feast until the lions of the industry have more than a lion's share.
In the last minutes of the 1997 Kyoto conference on climate change, Australia extracted a vital concession by insisting that countries be allowed to include emissions from land clearing in their greenhouse accounting. The Government knew that land clearing had declined sharply since the accepted base year of 1990, so even before the ink was dry, Australia's emissions had fallen by 5 to 10 per cent. The shift of government research funding from renewables to geosequestration and the recent interest in nuclear power suggest that the Government's strategy is to actively delay any moves to temper the growth of Australia's emission's for 20 years or more.