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Abbottalypse Now

Tony Abbott intends to trash Australia on behalf of the super-rich.

by George Monbiot

His views have changed, but don’t expect Tony Abbott to acknowledge this, let alone apologise to Australians for misleading them. In 2009 he maintained that manmade climate change is “absolute crap”. Now he says “I think that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution.” But he has merely switched from denying global warming to denying the need to act on it.

Abbott is following a familiar script, the 4 Ds of climate change inaction, promoted by fossil fuel lovers the world over. Deny, then defer, then delay, then despair.

His Direct Action programme for reducing emissions is incapable of delivering the cuts it promises, absurdly underfunded and surrounded by a swarm of unanswered questions. Were it to become big enough to meet its promises, it would be far more expensive than a comparable carbon trading scheme, which Mr Abbott has falsely claimed would incur “almost unimaginable” costs. But it won’t be big enough, because he refuses to set aside the money it requires. Direct Action is a programme designed to create a semblance of policy, in the certain knowledge that it will fail to achieve its objectives.

Why? The answer’s in the name. Coalition policies begin with Coal: getting it out of the ground, moving it through the ports, stripping away the regulations that prevent mining companies from wrecking the natural beauty of Australia – and from trashing the benign climate on which we all depend. The mining boom in the world’s biggest coal exporter has funded a new, harsher politics.

Like the tar sands in Canada, coal has changed the character of the nation, brutalising and degrading public life. It has funded a vicious campaign of mud-slinging against those who argue for the careful use of resources, for peace and quiet and beauty and the health of the living planet. Australia, like Nigeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, suffers from a resource curse.

To those four Ds you can add an R: retreat. Like Canada, Australia is slipping back down the development ladder, switching from secondary and tertiary industries towards primary resource extraction. Note Abbott’s disparagement of what he calls a “restaurant-led economy” in Tasmania, and his intention to replace it with the businesses that preceded it: logging and pulping, mining and unregulated fishing. A 21st-Century nation is returning to a 19th-Century economy. It makes no financial sense, but mining and logging corporations are more powerful lobbyists than restauranteurs and eco-tourism companies.

That R also makes the difference between coal and coral. If, as we can expect, Tony Abbott allows a massive expansion of the coal port at Abbot Point, which means the dredging and dumping of 3 million cubic metres of material inside the Great Barrier Reef marine park, it would threaten coral, dugongs, turtles, dolphins and much of the rest of the reef’s profusion of life. If it happens, it will be a simple declaration that nothing – not even the Great Barrier Reef, on which so much of Australia’s image and revenue depends – will be allowed to stand in the way of extraction and destruction.

Abbott will dump coal onto the bonfire of environmental protection lit by some of the state governments. He intends to cut what he calls “green tape” – the rules that protect humankind’s common heritage from greed and selfishness – and withdraw the federal powers that are often the last line of defence against state governments captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate.

None of this is to suggest that Labor has distinguished itself on these issues. The announcements of the past few weeks look like a last minute scramble to help voters forget its record of vacillation and cowardice. Labor’s failure to protect the natural world ensures that Abbott’s philistinism is harder to contest. As usual, it’s only the Greens who have consistently been advocating responsibility and statesmanship.

It’s been bad enough under Gillard and Rudd. If Tony Abbott is elected, the natural wonders that distinguish this nation will gradually be rubbed away until it looks like anywhere else: a degraded landscape and seascape, supporting just a few generic exotic species.

The country will be run exclusively for the class to which Gina Reinhardt, Clive Palmer and Ivan Glasenberg belong: the one per cent of the One Per Cent. Forget the pious rhetoric and nationalistic bombast. Abbott’s policies are really about removing the social and environmental protections enjoyed by all Australians, to allow the filthy rich to become richer – and filthier.


  1. It really is very embarrassing to be an Aussie, I sincerely apologise to the rest of the world for the fact that the sheeple of Australia will vote this idiot in.
    In case anyone doesn’t know, the Murdock press has the country anesthetized in some sort of consumer spending/celebrity worship stupor.
    Lots of work to be done.

  2. How powerful the old illusionists trick of “freedom of choice” is. Just like in magic when people are “free” to make there own choice to pick something (vote) but really the magician (the powers that be) has got it rigged so they will pick what he wants no matter what. Then the illusion becomes so much more powerful and impossible for the audience (general public) to believe.. We get to choose between 2 choices to run our country. (the illusion of freedom of choice) which is not much of a choice! It’s like being told ok you can choose a punch in the mouth or the stomach free choice! Any way it’s not hard to make them squabble and bicker and call each other names and make out like they want whats best for the people and country. And while this soap opera is going on people get caught up in the hype and forget each time they voted all those promises made by the previous government were all BS. They are all just puppets in a show the elete pull the strings. We will never get what is needed through governments which is localised decision making and localised ownership. Because they would have no power then to do as they please. change will come through grass roots movements brought on by the people. So for things to change people must change, if everybody stopped mass consumerism, and dependancy on the industrial world, How much power and influence would the rich and elite have on us and the environment?

  3. I totally agree with Carolyn. I am living in India which is bad because it is ignorant, but not nearly as bad as Australia which is just going fast in the wrong direction.

  4. Yes, yes and yes George. Total agreement.

    The problem is, there is no valid or viable choice on which to make an ethical vote and I am sure that the state of Australian politics is not much different to any other ‘nominally’ democratic society.

    Until there is a sane option, I refuse to take part in the process. Oh, I turned up to vote today because it is my legal, compulsory duty of citizenship to do so and I don’t have $75 or whatever the amount of the fine is to pay for not voting. I registered my protest by writing on my voting papers the message ‘THIS IS A CIRCUS AND I WILL NOT VOTE FOR CLOWNS’. Not that I expect any one to actually read that but it made the effort of having to go and cast my vote worthwhile.

    My view is that if everyone refused to vote until politicians started talking sensible actions, they would have to rethink their ideas and do something to convince us that they have our best interests at heart if they were serious about holding the reins of power. None of that is going to happen of course, a) because people can’t think beyond the current way of doing things and b) because it would require a great deal of selfless effort and disruption to oh so comfortable lifestyles.

    So the country and the world, unwilling to force or work for real change (not just change of party), gets the way of life that it deserves.

  5. Bernie, you had The Greens. Pity you didn’t know they are totally ethical, consistant and poor, because they don’t take donations from big money. They epitomise change for the betterment of our planet and all life upon it. Not achievable unless they’re supported.

  6. Bernie, don’t you realise that the coalition doesn’t care about non voters? The *only* way to truly protest against the major parties is to vote for a party that has some reasonable policies – every primary vote that a minor party gets *tells* the major parties they are doing something wrong, and that to gain that vote in the next election they need to shift their policies.

    If you feel the duopoly is too right wing, vote left wing – that’s the *only* way to truly protest.

    There are some good politicians out there, they just need your vote to show people believe in their policies (next time!).

    Disclosure – i voted Greens.

  7. I was told I could only use a pencil to fill in the voting form which immediately confirms to me this whole system is completely false, and democracy to not chosen by the people. I cannot sign a legal document with a pencil yet I am told I can only use a pencil to vote for a government that can go to war on other people in the name of democracy.
    The system will keep using us until we make the moves necessary to stop using the system, until then we will be given the governments that the system desires.

  8. I didn’t intend to reply to any comments referring to my previous comment but I suppose I shall have to now in order to clarify my opinion.

    1. If I were to vote in the election, that would imply that I support the current system, which I don’t, because it is leading us down the wrong path and operates only in the interests of the system. The system depends on our complicit support and, without that, it would die.

    2. If I vote, it doesn’t really matter who I vote for since political power and government is a meaningless facade to give the illusion that ‘free’ people really do have choices.

    3. Ethics and politics just don’t go together. There are no truly ethical political parties, and yes, I have in the past supported the Greens.

    4. Any party that advocates continued economic growth and prosperity (debt) as opposed to de-growth and simplicity does not possess the sort of vision that is needed to rightly direct the course of nations or the world.

    5. Central government has not served us well and in fact only became necessary as society became ever more complex and the powerful realised that they would need some way of controlling the populace by blinding them with the illusion of liberty and happiness while indebting them to the system and extracting from them the ability to accumulate real wealth (not debt-based) and with it the power to direct their lives in ways that might be truly meaningful or to become rebellious. We need to see that we are trapped in, and to escape from, that snare.

    5. The only government that is truly necessary should exist at the local community level and should exist solely to help organise the community resources, not suck those resources out of the community. This is the situation we are going to end up with no matter what happens in the future, if we end up with any sort of society at all, so this is where we should concentrate our efforts. We can no longer afford to support central government at any level from city through state, national and regional to the whole world.

    That is why I cast an informal vote.

  9. I am Canadian but I have been living in Spain for 15 years now. I cannot vote in Spain because I have not asked for the spanish citizenship. So I never vote, neither in Spain or in Canada because I don’t believe in the dual parties that govern Canada or Spain since democracy exists in both countries. But I am frustrated with both the conservative parties, governing in Canada and in Spain right now. I don’t see any option, they always win (the pseudo left wing and the conservative right wing). I din’t know that there is a fine for not voting in Australia. That makes me think seriously! Bacause I would be paying fines every 4 years for not voting, since my majority of age 27 years ago.

  10. Never before have I cried whilst reading an article like this but I cried for the deep shame I feel for having this moron in charge of our country. Sadly though I can understand why many voted toe Libs in. Labor have made themselves an absolute laughing stock. Promises for no carbon tax then introducing it, several leadership challenges, the bickering and bitching in parliament and every other embarrassing act that we have seen from the government since Howard was voted out. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t all perfect either but at least we didn’t lok like complete morons on the worlds political stage. Now, for the first time even I am ashamed, deeply so by our politicians. I voted greens and for the DLP in the senate (because I personally know one of their candidates and I know he truly gives a crap about coal mining and more) but sadly the results were in before the first vote was cast. May the nation wake up to the pillaging we are about to undergo so we can vote out BOTH the top parties next election (and may it be sooner rather than later).

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