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How political parties inhibit action on climate change

The world is in a parlous state. Most of us are aware of this but we are troubled because there is little, certainly not enough, coherent response. A recent TV program on Tibet revealed that the several major rivers, on which the economies of Pakistan, India and China, and the lives of their multitudes depend, are fed by the huge ice sheet centring on the Himalayas. A matter of real concern is that this huge ice sheet has markedly diminished, due to world climate change, along with the loss of ice at the poles.

Weather changes in our own country are a matter of concern, with drought in some areas and floods and severe storm damage in others. But these trials are minuscule compared with the increase in severe tornadoes in the USA, the devastation in Burma and the earthquakes in China.

The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, writes that the future of our planet is in our hands:

This is a key moral issue of our time. Just as we have had to say sorry to Indigenous people for the way we treated them in the past, and to the victims of child sexual abuse, we must also repent of our self-centred abuse of creation.

With the planet, and us, in serious danger, what are we doing? In our parliament, (our major operations centre for the war on climate change) the party leaders dither about whether we should cut the excise on petrol by a few cents, completely ignoring the truly urgent need to reduce usage (not prop it up), to act effectively to reduce greenhouse carbon emissions. Are we ready for the unavoidable radical changes which alone could avert greater disaster? If this were a house fire, the smoke alarms would be screaming.

Meanwhile we are shipping out vast quantities of coal and gas to feed the fires of economic development in developing world economies.

Since all this adds hugely to climate change, should we do it? To add to the problem, our government has probably no say in the matter, as energy interests have been largely invaded by foreign investment and this is continuing. And let's not forget that, historically, where traders go their armies follow if there is any danger to the investors' interests. We urgently need effective global government since these problems are now out of the control of 'democratic' national government which has lost the plot.

What all this points to is that there are looming political dangers ahead if we would seriously tackle the devil of climate change. Party government is ridiculously under-equipped to deal with these problems, when we think about the furore over, as yet minor, fuel costs, and the silly suggestions (of 5 cents less excise) to soften the blow. The rising cost of fuel, and food, is hurting because we have always spent up to the limit (and beyond)with lifestyles which have been built on cheap imports from the very places which have imported our energy resources, accelerating global warming.

While many are taking small steps personally to save water and minimise use of resources (petrol and electricity), without leaders acting as statesmen and calling for the big changes which alone can make a dent in the problem, we will get nowhere. The democratic immaturity of our party political structure is coming home to roost.

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Hybrid engine now spinning like mad

Back on to the spin about the $35 million Camry Hybrid "not a subsidy" though "not a picture opportunity" handout,  check this out for a laugh...

"Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen told The Australian newspaper today that the subsidy (Whoops!) only served to bring the announcement forward.

"It would have happened regardless and we wouldn't bring it to market unless we're going to make money,'' Mr Breen said.

Today the company issued a carefully-worded statement on the issue.

"The (commonwealth and Victorian state) governments' critical support and strong desire to introduce new environmentally-friendly technology and promote increased innovation within the Australian automotive industry enabled Toyota Australia to develop a case for a locally-built hybrid Camry,'' the statement said.

"Toyota's decision to build a hybrid Camry in Australia was based on various business considerations.

"However, the governments' support was a critical factor in securing local production.''

- AAP

Is a subsidy. Is not a subsidy.

Was not decisive to the investment decision. Was decisive to the investment decision. 

Oh, Kev-in. Fer Chrissssssakes....

I bet they get along just fine

Fiona: "Just out of interest, Eliot, does that put the two nations in the same category overall as far as you are concerned?"

Jesus no. Chavez may be a criminal and buffoon, but he's not as venal, depraved and backward as the House of Saud. However, I bet they get along just fine.

Fiona: Thank you for the clarification, Eliot.

Buffoonery and depravity

Eliot Ramsey: "Chavez may be a criminal and buffoon, but he's not as venal, depraved and backward as the House of Saud. However, I bet they get along just fine."

Interestingly, the US administration seems to get along fine with one, but not the other.

Petrol at 5 cents a litre - in Venezuela

Here's an approach to global warming and petrol rationing that won't get much of a mention on the Green Left end of the spectrum...

"It (petrol) costs just 12 cents per litre in Saudi Arabia and just five cents a litre in Venezuela."

Fiona: Just out of interest, Eliot, does that put the two nations in the same category overall as far as you are concerned?

Timing is everything

Richard: "I wonder what Kev was drinking at that New York nightclub, Eliot?  Oh, that's right, he can't remember.. "

A doctor in the Four Corners clip points out memory loss as being an important outcome of prolonged binge drinking, along with difficulties with lateral thinking and problem solving.

By the way, here's a picture of a Toyota Camry Hybrid already at the Altona plant in Melbourne. Like, totally unconnected I suppose...

Anyway, the main reason Kevin's in Japan is so he won't be photographed with the Dalai Lama who's in Sydney. Don't want to upset anyone in the Beijing head office.

Kevin's stunts are getting more expensive. More ridiculous.

Did you wonder why Toyota would agree to build a hybrid car plant in Australia for what by such standards was the paltry amount of $35 million?

Here's why:

Mr Rudd announced the subsidy yesterday in a news conference at Toyota headquarters in Japan.

Opposition industry spokesman Eric Abetz says comments from Toyota officials show the company would have begun hybrid car production at its Altona factory in Victoria even without the multi-million grant from taxpayers.

Reports in today's newspapers say Toyota had already decided to build a hybrid version of its Camry sedan and the announcement was due to be made "within months".

Indeed, they already do build a Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Other sources are disputing the reports that Toyota was about to build a Camry in Australia:

A senior source told the Herald the deal would not have occurred without the money. It was considered vital because it would help secure the production of the next generation of hybrids already being developed - cars that can be plugged into a power point overnight.

...but you have to wonder when this happens:

The president of Toyota, Katsuaki Watanabe, said the $35 million was very much appreciated but he was unsure how to spend it. He suggested it could be used to subsidise the cost of the car. "It was only recently that we heard about the amount so we are not sure how we will use it," he said.

So, he didn't even know about it yesterday? Doesn't know what to do with the $35 million?

But now plans to build a plant making hybrid cars in Australia? For $35 million?

Bullshit.

At the other end of the PR stunt scale, check out this Four Corners video Surfers on the Piss about the impacts of young people's binge drinking.

32 minutes into the clip, Kevin Rudd is announcing the launch of his 'alco-pops' and other initiatives to deal with youth related alcohol abuse.

Then, rather unfortunately, a journalist ask Kevin what causes youth alcohol abuse. Rudd admits sheepishly he "doesn't know" and that the question is "a hard one".

Professors Anne Roche from Filnders University and Wayne Hall from the University of Queensland are on hand to give Four Corners very fulsome explanations of what causes youth binge drinking.

But Kevin, announcing the "policy", doesn't know. Great.

Perhaps Kevin should have asked the Professors instead of his PR minders.

Richard:  I wonder what Kev was drinking at that New York nightclub, Eliot?  Oh, that's right, he can't remember..

Weak media leads to weak government

Basil, I agree that the world is in a bad way. It seems that we are not willing to make the necessary changes to meet the challenges of climate change, population growth and peak oil. I am not sure that democracy or party politics is entirely to blame. It seems to me that the democratically elected governments of Europe are the most advanced when it comes to these challenges.

I think we are fighting human nature: most of us fear change. The prevailing attitude seems to be "I'm alright Jack" There is little concern for the millions facing the current food crisis. We demand that our politicians fight climate change and the same time reduce the cost of petrol.

We are sitting on some of the world's largest supplies of natural gas, which could provide a cheap and more environmentally friendly fuel for our vehicles. Instead we choose to import oil from the Middle East. We should be demanding that our politicians take action on setting up the infrastructure so that we can change our vehicles to natural gas.

I think that the main reason our politicians are not making the necessary decisions is the fault of the mainstream media. The media should be asking questions on alternative fuels, not Fuelwatch or a 5 cent reduction in excise.

The media that are failing our democracy. We rely on the media to keep us informed and we rely on the media to ask the real questions of our politicians.

Give us better media and I believe we would have better government.

Re  John Pratt's worthwhile comments

Re John Pratt's worthwhile comments here including on gas, didn't we flog it all to the Chinese at bargain basement prices? Am sure Marilyn Shepherd mentioned it a recent post. Costello made a big deal of humming and hawing about "considering the national interest", but wasn't that because an election was due?

They've had a real battle there (WA) getting a bit of the stuff back for their own uses.

Last year Howard minister MacFarlane (one of those with a speech impediment ) grizzled about "market forces" when Carpenter attempted a manoeuvre concerning the problem, and after blowing up their processing plant last month it’s proving hard for Sandgropers to get enough gas to keep essentials going, till the thing is fixed (looked spec on tel, didn’t it?).

As for governments "being the problem", I have a fond prejudice that it is because all politicians are in the pockets of so-called developers.

John reckoned I was a "Luddite" for being suspicious of the latest NSW privatisation, in a recent Ian MacDougall thread, but history is littered with shonky antisocial deals since Ma Thatcher dreamed up the first ones a generation ago and the local economic rationalists followed suit; "monkey see, monkey do".

Some would say these policies are bipartisan, but all that proves is that whatever else politicians disagree about, the one thing they share in common is a nose for a buck.

"Frarm par ol' Nad Ludd",

Sorry, John.

Turnbull's smart incision on petrol prices

Don't anybody get me wrong please. I think (as a swinging voter) that Brendan Nelson is a better politician than Malcolm Turnbull. It's just that Nelson has allowed himself to be stampeded into the populist move of trying to lower petrol prices by dropping excise, and transferring the pain elsewhere. Not a real smart on pain, in medicine or anything else, but now he's stuck with it. He can't back off without humiliation, and Turnbull and the government know it.

Turnbull appears to have perceived the fundamental weakness in Nelson's sort of short term thinking, and moving to deliver Nelson an environmentally friendly coup de grace, has written a piece for the SMH that even Bob Brown might grudgingly endorse. He says:

"... recent work by the International Energy Agency suggests carbon prices as high as $200 a tonne (equivalent to nearly 50 cents on a litre of fuel) would be required in order to achieve a global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to 50 per cent of today's levels by 2050.

All of this means that the key objective for policymakers must be to ensure a transition with as little pain as possible to an economy that is less carbon-intensive and in particular less dependent on oil and, where it uses oil, uses it much more efficiently.

Whether or not fuel should ultimately be included in the scheme and, if so, whether the additional carbon cost on fuel should be offset by cutting fuel excise, are questions our policymakers will confront after the release of Professor Ross Garnaut's draft report and the Government's green paper next month."

No prizes for guessing what Garnaut's draft report will say. Turnbull says with the Greens that petrol price hikes are actually what the planet needs - without, note, actually saying it.

The pain when it comes, Dr Nelson, will be like having both legs amputated without anaesthetic.

Democracy demands listening to idiots

BasilSmith : "But there is no doubt at all that there is no room for divisive, adversarial government if we would have any chance of successfully meeting the demands of a worrying future."

I'd have thought an adversarial system was the cornerstone of democracy. Isn't democracy meant to be about the fight of ideas? There really is a number of issues where a compromise will never be found, which I always believed to be the reason for the vote existing.

Facing up to the future with hope

Today, a friend mentioned to me his concern about the fate of our succeeding generations – in the world we are going to leave for them. One can only agree with his concern.

The pressure on diminishing resources, the decimation of rain forests, exploding populations and climate change challenge our faith in the future, if we really think about it – which many seem to not do. But appearances must surely be deceiving.

It is clear that much needs to be done. It is also clear that there needs to be a much greater unity between government and people to enable a sufficient dedication of every one to the solution of the problems. Many are, no doubt, constructively minimising their use of scarce resources; much, much more is needed.

World War II has given us an insight into the sacrifices and cooperative spirit that can be expected of the people when the heat is really on.

But there is no doubt at all that there is no room for divisive, adversarial government if we would have any chance of successfully meeting the demands of a worrying future. Party politics disunites us and destroys the community strength we need to muster to meet the challenges facing us – and succeeding generations. We certainly need non-partisan parliaments, whose objectives are of us all – not those of powerful minorities.

We are all in this. Pass the challenge on, and then let’s all pull together.

Depressing

Exactly Basil, and downright depressing. We have built our economy on demand for so many goods that are neither essential nor lasting. As I walk through the big malls I cannot see anything other than a towel, a bar of soap, a match and a candle, a few clothes one day, and food that I really need. Trouble is so many people depend on others buying all that stuff, particularly the Chinese and other growing economies. So we ship the iron ore, the coal and whatever else is needed to fire up those economies to produce a mountain of junk from plastic frogs to firecrackers, from calendars to coloured coffed mugs, from.....and so on ad infinitem. 

Reversing the dependence on the greedy rich buying junk is going to be nigh on impossible without enormous pain to a lot of people in those countries. 

I guess I am most depressed about the seeming endless talk and little action in regard to the Murray. No one seems to really address the issue of the future of those towns on the Murray which grew out of the irrigation industries. Take away much of the remaining water, and what is the raison d'etre for those towns? There are a lot of people along the Murray. If the river dies, then it will mean a big upheaval and not just for farmers. So more people in the cities, more cars and so it goes on with no one seeming to plan for that eventuality.

But on a brighter note, though I doubt it will help the poor old Murray, there looks like good rain moving into the western wheat belt. At least we can try and help feed the world with a good harvest. In our ninth year of drought we farmers will be hoping for a break this year. Few can hold on much longer.

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