December 13, 2014


Tweets using the understated hashtag #auspol trended the most on Twitter in Australia during 2014. Which just goes to show that, despite masses of disillusionment, disinterest and downright cynicism among Aussies about their pollies, in certain circles politics is still a hot topic. Having decried Twitter for years, I find it useful, now I'm on it, for several reasons, but especially for venting during a week such as the last one, which was a truly extraordinary newsweek.

Jeff Seeney channels King Canute (#climateactionnow)
The Deputy Premier of Queensland has ordered Moreton Bay Council to remove all mention of 'theoretical' climate-change-related sea level rises from their regional planning documents. This must be the most obvious denial of climate change in a while. Usually, LNP anti-science disinformers shroud their scepticism in woolly, action-evading witterings. While there is nothing to indicate that steadily increasing human-generated carbon emissions are not having an impact on the climate, there is a whole stash of evidence suggesting the opposite. So beware, those of you planning your dream home on the Bay: you will have to do your own research about the risks of ever-higher tidal reaches in future.

You might like to consult a draft CSIRO discussion paper*, details of which were revealed by the ABC this week. It warns about the high costs of damage done by extreme weather events. Its concern is that poor – or perhaps head-in-the-sand – planning will leave Australia increasingly exposed to bushfires, inland flooding and coastal inundation in a warming world.

The New South Wales government is not guided solely by dogma rather than science, however. There is a Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and they have collaborated with the NSW and Australian Capitol Territory governments in detailed climate modelling**. Parts of northwest New South Wales – places such as Bourke and Moree, where we were in August – are expected to experience as many as 40 more days a year of temperatures reaching 35 degrees, by 2070.

Australia is Fossil of the Day, again and again and again… (#idiotabbott)
Following on from its G20 embarrassment, Australia garnered yet more international opprobrium in Lima at the COP20 climate change talks. Awarded by the Climate Action Network (CAN) – consisting of about 800 international environmental and climate justice organisations – the Fossil is given to those countries considered to have done most to block the progress of negotiations. This coincided with the Climate Change Performance Index 2014† rating Australia the worst-performing country on a list comparing the 58 nations that together are responsible for 90 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that 'Six out of ten of [sic] Australians think Tony Abbott's Direct Action policy has left the country with an inadequate response to the problem of global warming, according to the latest Fairfax Ipsos poll.' This preceded a new analysis†† by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) claiming that Australia's current programme for future emissions will come nowhere near enabling the pledge it made in Copenhagen to cut five per cent of its 2000 level of emissions by 2020.

The branding of the Queensland Police Service (#hereweJohagain)
Above-average temperatures in southeast Queensland have produced serious storms in the last couple of weeks. But nothing like as ferocious as the outrage let loose on social media once the cat was out of the bag about Queensland police cars bearing the logo of big mining company Santos.
They may well have been part of an Outback road safety campaign, and there may have been only two police vehicles involved, and other commercial partners as well as the company putting essential water supplies at risk in the Channel Country of Far West Queensland, but Minister for Police Jack Dempsey completely missed the point as he defended the indefensible, hugely perturbing issue for anyone with half a brain. So, if you get pulled over on the Bulloo Developmental Road by a police car that may be principally engaged in Outback road safety but isn't going to ignore motorists infringing traffic laws, what do you think when you see Santos emblazoned on the vehicle? I know what I'd think. That the police might be influenced by the interests of their sponsors, that's what.

Imagine: 'Officer, I was just stopped at the side of the road taking a photograph (of a gas well, for my travel blog). Oh, I see you have the name of the gas company on your car…Are you the state police or do you work for the company…?'

Political hypocrisy knows no bounds (#liesandhypocrisy)
I vividly remember the extent of the Opposition's indignation and vitriolic criticism of Julia Gillard's introduction of carbon pricing, having famously announced prior to the 2010 federal election that there would be no carbon tax on her watch. Expediency soon ruled the day and she had to make deals with minority parties and independents in order to govern.

I also well remember Tony Abbott selling himself in the lead-up to last year's election: no broken promises; grown-up government, and a list of policies safe in LNP hands. His assertion that there would be no cuts to the ABC was the tripwire in his case. He has finally had to eat humble pie, although at first he had downgraded the ABC promise compared with repealing the carbon tax and stopping the boats. Cutting funding to the much-loved and highly valued ABC was necessary for balancing the budget, the final component of Abbott's retrospective big three promises. Expediency struck again, but it cuts both ways. Either it is acceptable for politicians, regardless of their political colour, to change their minds and policies as befitting altered circumstances, or it is not.

The damage has been done, however. Abbot simply cannot be trusted. He misjudged the popular support for the ABC and no amount of grovelling can redeem him now. He had no mandate to slash their funds, just as he had no mandate to take his climate change denialism to the extent of rendering Australia an international embarrassment, first at the G20 and now in Lima. So hopefully he's #onetermtony.

Not enough has been made of his gross hypocrisy, however. I don't suppose it will be by a massively right-leaning press (top). But this week he has added to the charges while defending his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. There is much disquiet in Canberra about the extent of her powers. I have noticed her sitting with him in places you would not expect, from Parliament to the United Nations, which is disconcerting. Abbott has criticised her critics by attributing their motivation to sexism. Do you remember how he reviled Gillard for playing 'the gender card'?

The beauty of hashtags is that, used wisely, they can be concise and incisive, witty and amusing. A Twitter 'storm' certainly makes the people's feelings felt. Sometimes, however, hashtags are dropped in far too liberally, in a #childlike fashion. Then they become #simple #irritating and a complete #wasteoftime.

As for the nature of the news this week, observe the writing on the wall. #youhavebeenwarned.
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  1. Nice summary! I have joined Twitter and enjoy it, though I read posts more than I tweet them.

    Conservatives in Australia and the USA have sown the seeds of their own doom by making science (SCIENCE!!!!) 'left-wing'. It's just a matter of time until they're shown up on all sorts of things, but especially climate change.

    The QPS logo thing really bothers me. It gives off the impression that they are security guards for corporate interests rather than working for the public. I've also had an issue with all the shootings they've been responsible for lately. I know they have a dangerous job and I'm not sure what I would do in their situation, but there's something about numerous people being gunned down in their own homes that doesn't sit right with me. Controversial opinion maybe.

  2. well i totally agree with you. i've been counting the killings by police this year and i think the numbers are very disturbing. i believe there should be an enquiry, an independent enquiry, not the police investigating themselves. i think the police would like more frequent training – it's only once a year according to a former police trainer on the ABC a few weeks ago – but the government won't fund it. he also explained that they can't be trained to shoot to maim rather than kill, not in stressful situations. i think the heightened security these days means they are more likely to read a situation as confrontational, a word they use a lot when defending their actions. it's all very disconcerting. i still can't get used to them all being armed all the time either; just not used to it, i guess.