Can the body politic ever be freed from entrenched beliefs?
How many of you despair of our politicians? How many of you fume at the incoherence of the positions they take? How many bristle at their intransigence, their stubbornness, their adherence to outmoded dogma that is no longer supported by the facts? How many of you have a feeling of hopelessness about their conduct?
We watch incredulously as they appear on our media to announce their intentions, to denounce their opponents, to avoid answering questions, or simply to gain exposure. And they do this seemingly oblivious of the palpable disregard the electorate has for them, and the scorn that voters heap upon them every day. They often refer to ‘the Canberra bubble’, as if somehow it is occupied by others, not themselves. Yet it is they
who exhibit the behaviour we might expect of those disconnected from the daily reality of ordinary folk.
Take the recent conference called by PM Morrison to discuss the present severe drought. Its object was laudable and the timing appropriate. It offered the opportunity to review the factors that are creating the unprecedented drought conditions we are enduring, to reflect on what the future might hold, and to consider how we might better prepare for future droughts. There was an elephant in the room though – climate change. Being a central issue, it ought to have been the focal point of the discussion. But the proponents could scarcely mouth the words. Pressed by journalists, Morrison turned on his usual loquaciousness, ducking and weaving to avoid the connection between the drought and climate change. The words eventually tumbled out, diluted in a torrent of obfuscation.
The only explanation I can give is that his, and the Coalition’s denial of the reality of global warming, creates a dissonance that renders words such as ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ verboten. Like an ecclesiastic being forced to utter blasphemy, to use obscenities, or to denounce long-held and cherished beliefs, Morrison is so repulsed by these words that they struggle excruciatingly to escape his lips.
How can we ever hope for a rational approach to the enduring and recurrent problem of drought when a major factor in its genesis is shunted onto a back road because of ideological roadblocks?
In recent weeks there has been a number of authoritative reports from reputable scientific bodies, not only documenting the reality of increasing greenhouse emissions, but also the extent of steady rises in global temperature, in sea levels, and in ocean acidification, which have already occurred and will continue to do so. Yet these reports have been ridiculed by the so-called Environment Minister, Melissa Price, and ignored by the Coalition and the PM. The message seems too indigestible for them to stomach. So wedded are they to coal, that they cannot bring themselves to contemplate a world without coal-powered electricity generators. The fact that renewables are overtaking fossil fuels economically, and will soon replace them, seems impossible for them to accept. Entrenched beliefs block their thinking and distort their reasoning. They behave like clerics wedded to their catechisms, chanting them mindlessly. All the while industry cries out for a coherent climate policy, and a previous Liberal leader, John Hewson, insists that it’s irresponsible not to have one.
What hope is there that change can ever take place?
When Kerryn Phelps won the Wentworth by-election, she said it was “a victory for democracy”, and signalled “a return of decency, integrity and humanity to the Australian government”. Laudably, she imagined a change in the behaviour of politicians towards what we expect of them. But what hope is there?
Writing in The Conversation,
Clare Wright, Associate Professor of History at La Trobe University, said: ”As well as taking a progressive stand on social issues, Phelps vowed to represent all those who were disgusted by the internal brawling and destructive power plays of Australia’s elected officials.”
She continued: ”One commentator rejoiced that people who were ‘tired of the spineless and incompetent politicians who are intent on destroying the joint’, were finally getting their moment in the sun.”
But it will take all of Phelps’ considerable skill and persuasion to dent the intransigence of PM Morrison and his party members on the subject of global warming. They are wedded to fossil fuels as ‘part of the mix’ of sources of energy, no matter how much damage they continue to inflict on the environment.
PM Morrison and the Coalition are permanently shackled by their climate change ideology.
The Coalition’s entrenched beliefs don’t stop with climate change. They contaminate every discussion of refugee policy.
There is rapidly gathering momentum in the electorate towards bringing to Australia the residual refugees on Nauru. It will prove to be irresistible. The government will have its hand forced.
Morrison’s though is still choking on what to do with them when they return. The New Zealand option, while an obvious solution to sensible voters, is anathema to Morrison, who is gripped with the entrenched belief that such a move would be an invitation to people smugglers to resume business, as they would then be able to bribe people to pay good money to board their boats by promising that they will eventually be able to get to Australia, even if by the circuitous route of a third country, in this case New Zealand. The obvious parallel though – the resettlement of refugees in the US – seems to Morrison not
to constitute a rationale for people smugglers to induce people onto their boats. His logic escapes me!
So here is another example of a government and its leader shackled by ideology, petrified that any move to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees will ‘open the floodgates’, encourage people smugglers, and result in flotillas of boats arriving on our shores. The government’s fear is heightened by opinion polls that show that voters overwhelmingly want the Nauru refugees repatriated here, but they still want strong border protection! Morrison and his immigration people simply don’t know how to achieve both. They have created the desire in the electorate for ‘strong border protection’ with all their exaggerated talk about hordes of refugees invading our shores in waves of Indonesian fishing boats. Now they have to deal with the feelings among voters that they themselves have shaped with their menacing rhetoric. They simply don’t know how!
We are left disillusioned and feeling hopeless because our government is so shackled by ideology that it can scarcely move, so immobilized by fear of contravening its entrenched beliefs that it cannot solve our nation’s problems, so sterile of ideas that it cannot think clearly, plan strategically, or put into action the changes the nation desperately desires and needs.
Is it any wonder voters despair?