No ‘heedless’ is not a misprint; nor should it have been ‘headless’, although some might prefer that descriptor with poultry overtones! ‘Heedless’ signifies an alarming propensity so many politicians exhibit – the capacity to ignore evidence that does not align with their entrenched beliefs, their unshakable ideological position. And it matters not how important, or how alarming the evidence might be.
You will have seen the evidence to which I refer – the incontrovertible data that global warming is irreversibly destroying our planetary home. It has convinced the world’s climate scientists, countless millions of young people, now participating in protests here and worldwide, and the majority of the nation’s voters. Last year’s Lowy Institute Poll on Australian attitudes to the world and global issues for 2018 made one thing abundantly clear: support for climate action and renewable energy continue to grow.
In response to the survey’s questions on climate and energy, 59% of respondents agreed with the statement: “climate change is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.”
But public opinion has not impacted our decision makers, the very ones who are in a position to counter this existential threat to us all, indeed to every form of life on this planet.
Politicians are not unintelligent, nor have they been deprived of the vast flow of information on global warming that every day fills the columns of our newspapers, our online news services, and our radio and TV programs. Indeed, it would be a feat deliberately to avoid the tsunami of facts and figures about global warming that assails us continuously.
An editorial in The Conversation of 6 September begins: ”On a sunny day in Sydney last Sunday Tim Flannery, former Australian of the Year, appeared on a panel of international journalists convened to discuss the reporting of climate science. Kerry O’Brien kicked things off by asking about the prognosis. Flannery said he wouldn’t answer until the young people at the Sydney Opera House had been given a chance to leave. Things were so dire he feared for their mental health.”
Yet a cluster of federal politicians is able to ignore these facts, and their significance, even although attention has been directed to them continuously.
Who are they? Why is it so?
Let’s start with the one minister who ought to be best informed and most concerned, Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, who said in a recent interview that he ‘doesn’t know if climate change is manmade’. Questioned about the possible link between the unprecedented spring bushfires raging in SE Queensland and Northern New South Wales, he retorted that ‘the question is irrelevant’, and that ‘he was unsure about the causes of the climate crisis but wanted to give the country the tools to adapt’.
His position was supported by the Nationals’ deputy leader and minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, Matt Canavan, minister for Resources and Northern Australia, and Sussan Ley, the Environment Minister, all of whom denied the link, or downplayed it. What a collection of heedless politicians!
Yet the latest Newspoll shows that in the view of voters ‘climate change’ is now second only to ‘cost of living’ in their list of concerns. Writing earlier this year in The Guardian: Climate change is a burning issue (again) in voters' minds, Katherine Murphy says:
This piece of backroom intelligence shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the summer we are all still enduring. Record high temperatures, the hottest January on record; floods in some places droughts in others; and mass fish kills in ailing rivers.
Climate change is back as a vote-changing issue – top of mind for many Australian voters. Private polling conducted for the environment movement and for the major parties suggests community concern about climate change is currently sitting at levels not seen since the federal election cycle in 2007.
Since then unprecedented spring fires have devastated SE Queensland and Northern NSW. Fire fighters have never seen the like.
The drought that is killing agriculture and the livestock industry continues unabated. Farmers cannot grow crops, and are selling their animals.
Yet the Morrison government turns a blind eye to the prime cause of these tragedies: unremitting global warming resulting from continually rising CO2 emissions. Our PM keeps telling us that Australia will meet its emissions targets ‘in a canter’. That is blatant fraud.
The Morrison government has the largest collection of heedless politicians in living memory.
And it’s not only global warming to which they are heedless. The parlous state of our economy is another blind spot. In July we wrote The economy is sinking but where is the lifebuoy
and again in August Better economic managers
, both of which documented the mess our economy is in, but all we got from our PM and Treasurer was that ”The fundamentals of the economy are strong”
, a pathetic excuse for doing almost nothing to stimulate the flagging economy, despite repeated urging from the Reserve Bank Governor to use the abundance of cheap money to invest in large infrastructure developments to kick-start recovery. Of course Morrison and Frydenberg insisted that they were doing just that, but as we all know their ‘investments’ are decades away. These heedless men sit on their hands hoping their rhetoric will convince the plebs. Now, Frydenberg believes the most recent budget figures have given him licence to embellish his self-serving rhetoric, now redolent with 'aren't we marvellous' smugness.
I could go on and on exposing the listlessness, indeed the torpidity of the Morrison government, but need I say any more? To a minister they are heedless to the existential threats to this nation, both from climate change and from our listless economy, which is aggravating a longstanding impediment – inequality in all its dimensions, about which we wrote in mid September in: The yoke of inequality burdens us all.
There are no more significant issues that threaten our existence in the land we occupy than climate change and inequality. Yet our heedless ministers ignore them and watch us perish. The planet burns, the economy sinks, yet they find time for political games, sit on their hands, and talk themselves into doing nothing.
In 64 A.D. Rome’s emperor Nero is reputed to have ‘fiddled while Rome burned’. Morrison channels him today while we watch helplessly. The expression has a double meaning: not only did Nero fiddle while his people suffered; he demonstrated what an ineffectual leader he was in a time of crisis. Can you invoke an image more befitting PM Morrison?