Unprecedented disasters – again

Queensland and New South Wales have recently suffered greatly as a result of literally flooding rains. Queensland Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk claimed In just two to three days, Brisbane received about 80 per cent of the rainfall it would normally get over the whole year. The same weather system went on to devastate eastern New South Wales a few days later.

We could spend time analysing Defence Minister Peter Dutton setting up a GoFundMe webpage to seek donations for his flood affected electorate of Dickson in Brisbane’s outer north, which may be illegal under Queensland law. Dutton was justly criticised by a large number of commentators and false contributors to his funding effort, most of whom reminded him that governments are there to fund the recovery from natural disasters.

We could also attempt to work out why Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Dutton’s abysmal knowledge of how government works. His motherhood statements while defending Dutton were all about the magnificent level of immediate Commonwealth Government grants to those adversely impacted while not admitting the value of the grants per person hasn’t changed since 2006! Doesn’t that logically negate the need for Dutton’s GoFundMe page? It was claimed this funding is apparently separate from federal/state funding to start the rebuilding phase after the dust had cleared (or in this case the water went down).

While 2022 hasn’t started very well for South-East Queensland and New South Wales, the Commonwealth’s Department of Home Affairs Disaster Assist website lists 44 ‘natural disasters’ in 2021 (that’s almost one a week) from floods through cyclones to bushfires. While journalistic licence probably influences the adjectives that surround the reporting of natural disasters, more and more of them are being called ‘unprecedented’. One definition of ‘unprecedented’ is never done or known before and arguably receiving around 80% of your annual rainfall in two or three days is unprecedented. But there has to be a cause for ‘unprecedented’ rainfall, or ‘unprecedented’ storms, cyclones, bushfires and so on.

It’s not just bad luck. It’s climate change.

As has been seen by recent events, Australia is ill-prepared for a changing climate. If the past couple of years has taught us nothing else it should have taught us to listen to the experts. When Australian Governments were doing so, COVID was broadly contained in the community until State Governments could get their countermeasures into place. This wouldn’t be the first time we have criticised the Federal Coalition Government for ‘showboating’ on the states’ efforts. At the end of 2021 — when Morrison and fellow political traveller NSW Premier Perrottet decided to throw caution to the winds — hundreds of thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths ensued, a significant number of the infections and deaths being in areas where the federal government was responsible such as aged care.

Yet the experts have been warning about climate change since the 1970s. In 1990, the federal ALP government were discussing a 20% reduction in emissions, only to be outflanked by the Liberal Party! Years later, The Conversation reported then Environment Minister, Ros Kelly, brought a package to Cabinet,
Her initial cabinet proposal seems to have been for a commitment without caveats, but this was unacceptable to resources-minded ministers. As treasurer, Keating was reportedly instrumental in modifying the text to demand that:
…the Government will not proceed with measures which have net adverse economic impacts nationally or on Australia’s trade competitiveness in the absence of similar action by major greenhouse-gas-producing countries.
Australia did eventually listen to the experts, Eventually there was an emission reduction program legislated, implemented by the Gillard ALP Government in the early 2010s. It was scuttled by the Abbott Coalition Government, amid clams of $100 lamb roasts and the complete wipe out of Whyalla in South Australia. Morrison, Dutton and Frydenberg were all ‘senior Coalition MP’s’ in the Abbott era.

So we’re back where we started from. Australia is being affected by more ‘unprecedented’ weather events. The Morrison Coalition Government is the latest in a long list of predominately conservative Coalition Governments who have done little to engage with our country about the need to reduce the emissions of carbon into the air. According to the IPCC, Australia is coming close to irreversible change to our climate in most part due to ignoring the experts who have been telling us for the past 50 years that we have a problem!

As the ABC suggests, now is the time to talk about climate change and how we can mitigate it — not sometime when there is no natural disaster to be concerned about. There is no guarantee there will be a time in the future when there is no natural disaster. After all, South-East Queensland has just lived through the second ‘1 in a 100 year’ flood in 11 years! We had a natural disaster almost every week last year.

Ironically, the current high price of petrol may be inadvertently helping the environment, because the government isn’t. If the increases are sustained, consumers will look for methods to reduce the cost of transportation. As The Conversation suggests a logical reaction to higher fuel prices is to trade the large SUV or dual cab ute in on something smaller and more efficient. Certainly, the smaller, more practical car may not make it to Cape York or tow the van around Australia — however most of the larger SUVs or utes in Australia never do that either. Again, we have no leadership from Morrison’s Coalition Government here — even the USA has emissions and fuel consumption standards for vehicles.

We need a government that will lead a conversation about not only climate change but accountability and working with others to achieve an outcome that benefits our society now and in the future. Instead the Coalition seems to ignore the problems and hope they go away. Time and time again the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Coalition Government has ignored the increasingly urgent need for emissions reductions. Morrison talks about nuclear submarines and increasing the size of the defence forces as desirable to protect Australia. Surely he’s missing the elephant in the room by ignoring climate change.

What do you think?

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Ken Chapman


Successive conservative (?) governments have driven the country to the wall.

A coalition of red and green is the only thing to salvage what's left.

How many Rabbits do I have if I have 3 Oranges?