When Nymboida in northern NSW was severely hit by bushfires last month, with homes blasted by the ferocity of flames and residents reduced to scraping through ash and rubble to see if any keepsakes of their lives had been saved, Prime Minister Scott Morrison thought it indiscreet to speak of the effects of climate change.
I asked one resident whether she would rather not talk about climate change. A resounding howl was her response. Of course they wanted attention paid to the issue at the core of the destruction, she said. It is an insult that the Prime Minister has concocted the ruse of not wanting to upset people, when really he simply doesn't want to upset his privileged position, in having the political support of climate change gainsayers, many of whom also happen to have financial interests in exploiting coal energy, which adds to the climate dysfunction.
The Sydney Morning Herald's political editor, Peter Hartcher, wrote on Saturday about the final week of Federal Parliament as 'life in the Canberra bubble', almost completely divorced from the harsh reality of millions of people affected by the bushfires.
'Australia, parched, baking, burning, is heading into an anxious Christmas and a joyless new year,' he wrote.
'It was all business as usual in Parliament. As if there were no accelerating national emergency. The disconnect is that it's not business as usual for the rest of Australia. ...
'The fires are a national emergency. They are an invitation to national leadership. And therefore they are an opportunity for Morrison to look beyond the 30 to 40 per cent of voters who constitute the 'base' to making common cause with the other 60 to 70 per cent of the community.' C V Williams - with quotes from Peter Hartcher SMH December 7-8. Image abc.net
Can We Talk About Climate Change now?
That’s what the fire chiefs asked. They’ve been asking for a while, it seems. The PM thinks it's crude to talk about an elephant in a room, while the room is burning. And I suppose it is. But he wouldn’t return their calls when they asked before - before the North Coast set alight. Before thousands of acres in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia were burnt out. Apparently he doesn’t think it’s ever the right time to talk about it. It’s too hard when we have so much coal.
And we can sell coal to other countries, which don’t think it's ever the right time to talk about climate change, or we can call it clean coal, or do whatever we can to have this tail wagging our dog for as long as we can.
As the fires rage it hasn’t been a very sophisticated discourse coming from our politicians. The Deputy PM called me an 'inner city raving lunatic'. I thought it was a rather divisive thing to say. After all, raving lunatics have to live somewhere and I don’t think we’re confined to the inner-city. The youngest member of the Senate called both the major parties arsonists, which was generally regarded as an inflammatory thing to say.
We all know that Australia has always burned; bushfires are not new phenomena to Australians. Some plants depend on fire for germination, so this is a country that has always known about bushfires. We regard those who fight the fires as heroes.
But it moves into a whole new dimension when our fire chiefs speak publicly about the number of fires and their intensity having increased so markedly. They say it’s getting worse because of climate change, but the PM doesn’t want to talk to them. So what does the PM have to say about things? Beyond thanking ‘good Aussies’ for being good humans, he seems to be depending on divine intervention. He offers his thoughts and prayers.
I hope his thoughts drift over what the fire chiefs have to say - just like the clouds of bushfire pollution, which have been drifting for hundreds of kilometres across country and city - and that he prays for the Almighty to deliver us a policy for dealing with climate change. Jim Piotrowski