Category Archives: Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Cheap Grace and Climate Change: Australia and COP26

It was not for everybody, but the shock advertising tactics of the Australian comedian Dan Ilic made an appropriate point.  Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a famed coal hugger, has vacillated about whether to even go to the climate conference in Glasgow.  Having himself turned the country’s prime ministerial office into an extended advertising agency, Ilic was speaking his language.

The language was promoted through sponsored imagery in Times Square, New York, with advertising space purchased by a crowdfunding campaign of considerable success.  Billboards featured the prime minister as a “Coal-o-phile Dundee”, mercilessly mocked Australia’s climate policies and responses to the murderously scorching bushfires of 2020.

It had begun modestly: a target of $12,500 to fund a few billboards in Glasgow during COP26 as part of the project JokeKeeper: Shaming Australia’s climate inaction, described as, “Subversive comedy to ridicule fossil fuel supporting parties in the upcoming federal election.”

But the contributions gushed in, passing $160,000.  It was then that Ilic began to think even more boldly. On October 14, he announced that JokeKeeper was rolling “into New York City on the way to COP26 in Glasgow”.  New Yorkers were advised to head down to Times Square “to see our billboard wrapping the Marriot Marquis for a full 10 minutes.”  It also included a 3min20s loop viewable 3 times. “So you can keep track of it all we’ve made you a handy Bingo Card.” In simple terms, Ilic had secured a 10-minute slot on the 77-foot “Godzilla” billboard.  The headline parody: “Visit Australia, we’re rich in wind, sunshine and climate denial”.  For good measure, it features a kangaroo ablaze and koalas perched in a tree. Hug them before they vanish.

On CNN, Ilic was also ablaze.  “We have a PM who at the height of the bushfires took a holiday in Hawaii.”  Morrison was the sort of fellow who “always runs away from a national crisis.  We have to lead our leaders.”

Morrison is certainly one to run away from a certain target towards the sunset of vague aspiration.  His mantra of “technology not taxes” is one such example.  While few would disagree that technology will play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions, stimulating its development can come from, as Michael Keating puts it, implementing “policies to first encourage this innovation and then the take-up of the resulting new technologies.”

To aid what is essentially a non-policy, Morrison has his truculent junior Coalition partners.  The Nationals portray themselves as the party of opposition, despite being part of the government.  Former political advisor John Menadue sums up the somewhat perverse situation by remarking that a party which draws in only 5 percent of the national vote “is holding Australia to ransom on climate change.”

In a truly absurd spectacle, National Party politicians pontificate in favour of the fossil fuel industry, seeking a socialist-styled underwriting of its workings and policies that would chastise banks for not funding policies that rent the earth.  Their traditional base – the farming constituency – risks suffering the most from this suicidal adventurism.

Certain figures in the mining industry can only delight in such committed subservience.  Gina Rinehart, Australia’s wealthiest individual, has become the lumpy Boadicea of climate change denial, funding think-thanking endeavours that seek to deny anthropogenic change while keeping her influence strong with the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, former resources minister Matt Canavan and the current Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.

As owner of Hancock Prospecting, her interests in coal are global and unsparing, featuring such projects as an expansion into North America.  Her ventures into Canada’s Rocky Mountains have so far been frustrated by the governments of Alberta and the federal government but that has not stopped her from taking them to court.  She was undeterred by the 679-page report by the Joint Review Panel led by the Alberta Energy Regulator and the federal Impact Assessment Agency on her proposed Grassy Mountain project.  The authors had taken a dim view of potential effects of selenium pollution, threats to water quality in the Oldman River basin and dangers posed to the cutthroat trout.  The Australian, however, remains a devotee of both fossil fuel exploitation and litigation.

Earlier this month, Rinehart revealed to students attending her old Perth school St. Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls, how the recipient of a wealthy mining fortune can diminish science and embrace a stubborn parallel reality.  In her 16-minute long video showing a modest command of language and much footage of herself at school, she wishes to set the record straight on the lunacy of climate change, though the ABC tells us that only portions of the production were shown to those tender school minds.  “Rationale should ask, why does the media in general and those they influence now call for reducing carbon?   More questions spring to mind.  Please be very careful about information spread on an emotional basis, or tied to money, or egos or power seekers.”  A marked, if unintendedly accurate self-portrait, a warning for all those around her, if ever there was one.

Rinehart continues her lesson, reflecting on an education free of propaganda (because Australian school curricula were obviously free of that) and full of analytical thrust. “It concerns me greatly, that the current generation of school leavers and attendees, too often miss such important basics.  As too often propaganda erodes these critical foundations.”  Rinehart, it should be remembered, has a psychological profile befitting many a dysfunctional Roman emperor, with demanding and suspicious children to boot.

With such characters in the fossil fuel consortium, Ilic has his dark comedic scripts written for him.  The billboard effort in Times Square has as its target something the German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace: the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.  And cheap grace is precisely the sort of thing the Australian delegation at Glasgow will be offering in spades and tailings.

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Waking up to Climate Change Dinosaurs

Morning listening on October 13.  Australia’s Radio National.  Members of the Morrison government are doing their interview rounds with the host, Fran Kelly.  We enter a time warp, speeding away into another dimension where planet Earth, and Australia, look different.

The first interview, with Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, is filled with the sort of rejigged reality that is less mind expansion than contraction.   It is easy to forget that she is a member of the government.  She tells listeners that her constituents and the electorate she represented were not interested in climate change or its effects.  A bold, quixotic reading.  They were also the “most marginalised” and vulnerable in Australia.  This would be a fascinating take for those in the employ of Rio Tinto and other mining giants.

McKenzie (“Fran, Fran, Fran,” she implored with adolescent petulance) was all for those in rural areas, claiming that, “We have been able to avoid very bad outcomes for our country.”  Environmental catastrophe, imminent impoverishment of the farming sector due to climate change, are evidently palatable and digestible outcomes.  Interest, suggested McKenzie, should instead be shown for those workers who, in erecting solar panels, ended up mowing the grass underneath them.

Much of what the Senator said had already been given an airing in The Australian on October 10.  She lamented that the Business Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation and the Minerals of Council had wobbled on the issue of “net-zero emissions” and how embracing such a policy would “hit our regional export industries, and people living in the lowest socio-economic electorates in the country”.  She proudly admitted that her party had been “intransigent during this long debate”, making them unpopular as dinner-party guests.  “We have been doing our job for the people who sent us to Canberra.”

Praise was heaped upon the environmental vandal’s resume.  “We avoided a carbon tax; we have overseen record growth in mining and agricultural exports; and we have pushed for technology solutions, while remaining committed to being careful stewards of the Earth.”  With stewards like these, who needs genuine ecological criminals?

The second interview does little to steady listeners.  It is with a minister whose portfolio, at least in Australia, has been emptied of all meaning, let alone relevance.  A little time with Environment Minister Sussan Ley, and you can be reassured that the Great Barrier Reef is thriving, that the Morrison government is at the forefront of conservation efforts, and that Australia is the greenest of citizens.  Such views can be expressed alongside the fact that Australia has one of the highest extinction rates of species in the world.

These morning encounters with the climate change dinosaurs form the backdrop of whether Australia will even send its prime minister to COP26.  Going to Glasgow has become as fascinating for the press and pundits as the fact that a climate conference is taking place.  Morrison has even convinced the national broadcaster – he boastful of coal’s merits to the point of bringing in a lump to show fellow parliamentarians – that he has “signalled his own climate conversion”.  The evidence?  Remarks made in February 2020 at the National Press Club that “our goal is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”.  Hardly a conversion.

A fairer portrayal of this is the fact that Morrison is finding himself being mugged by an increasingly unpleasant, even horrific reality.  He has tried to impress some of this upon his Coalition partners who function in the narrowest belt of reality but has found it mightily difficult.  The Nationals remain proud of their efforts in killing off prime ministers and their plans, be it the emissions trading scheme, the National Energy Guarantee, or the carbon tax.  Environmental ideas, it has been known for a long time, go to the Nationals party room to die, along with their defenders.

To be convinced about the merits of “net zero”, party members will have to be bribed by the deep purse commonly known as the Treasury.  The price for one of them, Keith Pitt, current Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, is a AU$250 billion publicly funded “loan facility” for the mining sector.  For McKenzie, it is an undertaking that targets be suspended in the event regional areas were harmed.

Pitt’s suggestion, given a nudge along by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, is all the more remarkable for what it entails: a massive public subsidising of the fossil fuel sector to spite wicked banks who have withdrawn investment.  Senator Matt Canavan, has defended this version of fossil fuel socialism.  “Global banks that want to control who has a job in Australia should be locked out of our country.”  By all means, let Australians “pay higher interest rates but that would be worth it to protect our independence”.  This, despite his constant clamouring that “net zero means higher energy prices for all”.

There would also be a delicious irony to this, given that such a fund would benefit the business interests of Australia’s current bugbear of choice, the People’s Republic of China.  Even as the Australian government beds itself firmly down with the United States for any future conflict with Beijing, such a transfer of cash, as Michael West points out, would benefit gas pipelines operator Jemena and Alinta Energy, and Yancoal Australia and coal miner CITIC Australia.  And that’s just a small spread of potential beneficiaries.

As things stand, it is a wonder Prime Minister Scott Morrison is even bothering.  The Australian delegation in Glasgow is bound to be poorly briefed, confused and barely able.  The coalition government, still weighed down by fossil-fuel fantasists, will continue to be engaged in a battle of such stunning incoherence any undertakings on carbon neutrality and change can only be regarded as unreliable and disingenuous.  As McKenzie and a few of her lobotomised colleagues would have you believe, climate change is something that happens to other people.  In the meantime, fossil fuel socialists the world over, unite!

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Our Man in Washington: Morrison’s Tour of Deception

It was startling and even shocking.  Away from the thrust and cut of domestic politics, not to mention noisy discord within his government’s ranks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could breathe a sign of relief.  Perhaps no one would notice in Washington that Australia remains prehistoric in approaching climate change relative to its counterparts.  Being known in his own country as “Scotty from Marketing”, he just might pull it off.

Besides, a security compact with the United States and the United Kingdom had just been cemented, one promising Canberra eight submarines with nuclear propulsion.  That these promised to be eye-wateringly expensive and available sometime in the 2040s, were they to ever make it to water, was a point not even worth considering.

In the US press, Morrison was careful to toe the line of the partner made supplicant.  On CBS’s Face the Nation, he was asked whether the US and its allies were moving towards conflict with Beijing.  “I don’t think it’s inevitable at all,” he chirped, claiming that it was “in everybody’s interest” that we all co-exist. But this “happy co-existence” was premised on keeping China in the box or, as he preferred to put it, a committed role of “free nations like Australia” and others in the Indo-Pacific region to stay vigilant.

On climate change, he was also pressed on having not “given a timeline” on placing Australia on the path to net zero emissions. He admitted this to be the case and vacillated.  Slipping back into advertising mode, Morrison said that “performance matters” for Australia.  The net zero target was being pursued, and would be achieved “preferably by 2050.”  The usual half-baked assurances followed: Australia’s record was “strong”.  “We’ve already reduced emissions in Australia by over 20 percent since 2005.  We committed to Kyoto. We met that target and beat that target.”  As for the Paris target?  Not an issue: Australia would romp it.

At that point, CBS’s Margaret Brennan could only observe that no country had actually delivered on such targets.  Hardly a problem, came Morrison’s reply to the bubble’s bursting.  “See, it’s one thing to have a commitment, but in Australia, you’re not taken seriously unless you’ve got a plan to achieve the commitment.”  This was delightful coming from a Prime Minister who has no plans to speak off when it comes to dealing with climate change.  In fact, Morrison’s tenure has been marked by an absence of plans on any major policy decision.  When any have been proposed – the vaccine rollout being the conspicuous example – they have been spectacular failures.

In a press conference given on September 24, Morrison pursued his favourite theme in colouring Australia’s lamentable contribution to the global climate debate: technology.  Australia is never the laggard in Morrison’s environmental cosmos.  Developing countries, he insisted, should be the priority, which was another way of saying that they were the problem.  “If we want to address climate change, then we need to address the change that is necessary in developing economies, so they can grow their economies, build their industries, make the things the world needs.”  For any difference to be worthwhile, “we’ve got to make a difference everywhere”.

Such a slanted view found its mark.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was taken by a flight of fancy in thinking that Morrison was doing something special. In welcoming the Australia prime minister to the Capitol, Pelosi considered the AUKUS security pact “pretty exciting” and thanked Morrison for showing “leadership” on the issue of climate change.

The next day, Pelosi latched on to Morrison’s remarks about the Paris targets in her weekly press conference with candy-grabbing enthusiasm.  Both the UK’s Boris Johnson and Morrison were “so exuberant about the urgency of addressing the climate issues.”  But it was the Australian who impressed with his slogan “We Meet It and We Beat It.”  That was enough for the Speaker: “they’re leading the way, and that’s what we all have to do” namely “meet our emissions responsibility and our financial responsibility to other countries so that when we leave COP26, having fulfilled our obligations to the Paris Accords, and then go further.”

Such glaringly superficial assessments can be put down to the fanfare that accompanies visiting dignitaries from freedom land’s outposts.  Morrison was particularly fortunate on that score, winning over his hosts with a shameless slogan that sounded hopelessly electoral and starkly mendacious.

Which takes us to the next point: Pelosi and company have proved to be something of a sounding board for the next Australian federal election.  Morrison’s action on climate change will be minimal, but that will be irrelevant in a number of electoral battlegrounds.  Having a slogan, writes Sean Kelly, a former advisor to two previous Australian Labor Prime Ministers, will be acceptable to “a remarkable number of people, as an acceptable substitute for reality – just as it was in America last week.”  The Australian Labor Party, still languishing in hopeless opposition, have every reason to be worried.

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Morrison’s Dangerous Fantasies Represent a Danger to Australia’s Future

Australia has just caused surprise among its friends, concern among its neighbours, and an overtly hostile reaction from the Chinese with its announcement that it was scrapping the submarine deal it had signed with France and replacing it with a scheme, cooked together with British and American allies, to buy 8 nuclear powered submarines.

The scheme as announced was extraordinarily short on details. There is apparently at least 18 months of negotiating ahead before the contract is even signed. After that there will be a lengthy delay, estimated being at least 10 years in length, before the first submarine is ever delivered. By that time, who knows what the state of the world’s geopolitical system will be. One can be assured that the Chinese, against whom the plan is obviously directed, will have taken multiple steps to ensure its own safety.

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was not short of hyperbole in announcing the deal. He described the relationship with the United States as the “forever partnership”. As the old joke goes, there are only two forever’s, death and taxes. Morrison’s words are reflective of an unfortunate tendency among Australian politicians. They are inclined not to look at the map when making grand geopolitical statements.

Australia is a thinly populated European nation that sits at the southern end of the Asian landmass. In keeping with its geography, the bulk of Australian foreign trade is conducted with those same Asian neighbours. Ironically, China is by far Australia’s largest trading partner, followed by Japan.

The British are yesterday’s men when it comes to Asia having finally been forced to give up its holding in Hong Kong that they took by force from China in the 19th century. The United States likes to project itself is an important figure in the Asian scheme of things. As the recent debacle in Afghanistan showed, however, American influence in the region is marked by one rebuttal after another.

With the possible exception of Japan, United States influence in the region is rapidly fading, notwithstanding its provocative sailings in the South China Sea and its overt support for the island of Taiwan. It is conveniently forgotten by Western commentators that from 1949 to 1972 the island of Taiwan held China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. There was no suggestion then that Taiwan was a separate country. It could hardly have claimed to be, yet retaining China’s seat on the Security Council.

Now, Taiwan is making noises about becoming an independent country, something that the Beijing government has declared to be totally unacceptable, and which they will prevent by the use of force if necessary. It would be very unwise for the West to ignore the determination of the People’s Republic of China to recapture its rebellious neighbour. It would be equally unwise for the Americans to underestimate the Chinese level of determination and attempt to defend Taiwan from returning to the control of the mainland.

It is into this fraught situation that the Australian government is being inexorably drawn by its latest agreement with the Americans. Although the Australian media are almost completely silent on the point, one of the consequences of this new agreement with the Americans will be an increase in the number of United States military holdings in Australia. They already control the operation of the spy base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. It was former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam‘s intention to close the base that led to the coup against his government in November 1975.

The United States has operated a baleful influence upon Australian foreign policy ever since. There is absolutely nothing in the latest announcement of Australia buying United States designed nuclear powered ships that will do a single thing to reduce that influence. Quite the contrary.

The current posturing by the Australian Prime Minister will do nothing to alter that reality. Together with his defence minister, Peter Dutton, who has been a failure at each of his previous ministerial postings, they are both talking loudly about the wonderful future of Australia. They are either too vain or too stupid to see that this latest deal does more than any other single decision in recent years to entrap Australia in a subservient role to the United States.

As Scott Ritter writes in RT: “This is a story of geopolitically driven military procurement gone mad”,1, pointing out that this deal “further exacerbates the existing geopolitical crisis with China by injecting a military dimension that will never see the light of day.”

Ritter goes on to seek answers to problems he sees as being associated with the announced purchase; for instance, first of all, how much will it cost?  Secondly, how will Australia operate advanced nuclear power systems when it has no indigenous nuclear experience to draw upon? And how does Australia plan to man a large nuclear submarine when it can barely field four crews for its existing Collins class fleet.

These are legitimate questions to ask, yet the timid Opposition Labor Party seems paralysed by them.

As Alan Gyngell points out2, the United States’ expectations of Australia’s support in almost anything going, whether it involves China or not (although that is the greatest danger) will grow. It represents an application of responsibility to ensure the ongoing welfare of the Australian people. By the time the submarines are delivered, if at all, the present generation of political leaders will be long gone. The damage they are doing will last a lot longer.

  1. US-UK-Australia Submarine Deal is a Dangerous Joke, 18 September 2021.
  2. Australia Signs up for the Anglosphere“, September 19, 2021.
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Reluctant Acceptance: Responding to Afghanistan’s Refugees

Do not for a minute think that this is a kind, heart-felt thing in the aftermath of Kabul’s fall. True, a number of Afghans will find their way to Germany, to Canada, to the UK, US and a much smaller number to Australia.  But this will be part of the curtain act that, in time, will pass into memory and enable countries to return to their harsh refugee policies.

Britain’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is none too enthused about welcoming high numbers of Afghan refugees.  “We have to be realistic in terms of those that we can bring to the country and resettle in a safe and secure way while giving them the right opportunities going forward in resettlement.”

This waffly formulation has yielded the following formula: the UK will accept a mere 20,000 staggered over five years.  Only 5,000 will be admitted in the next year, after which, presumably, the situation will resolve itself.  “What are the 15,000 meant to do,” asked Labour’s Chris Bryant, “hang around and wait to be executed?”

However inadequate Britain’s response has proven, Australia’s approach remains without peer. Every excuse has been made to delay, to obstruct, to prevent an orderly transfer of Afghan interpreters and former security personnel out of the country.  The Morrison government has become a specialist prevaricator, waiting for the horse to bolt before even finding the barn.  Instead of bothering to use strategic common sense and see the writing on the wall for the Afghan government based in Kabul, it waited months before deciding, abruptly, to close the embassy at the end of May only to then suggest it would need to put in Australian personnel to assist in the evacuation.

The number of humanitarian visas currently being offered is a paltry 3,000.  This is sharply lower than the number of Vietnamese accepted by the Fraser government after the fall of Saigon in 1975, which one estimate puts at 60,000.  In 2015, 12,000 places were offered for Syrians fleeing their country.  The Morrison government, in contrast, finds expanding Australia’s resettlement program beyond the current 13,750 places something of a heresy.

Behind the compassion argument, one constipated at best, is a marked reluctance to actually open the doors to the Afghans.  A good deal of this can be put down to the fact that Afghans have made up a sizeable complement of those maritime arrivals Australian politicians so detest as “illegals” deserving of indefinite detention in its system of Pacific concentration camps.  Many actually fled the Taliban to begin with, but that did not make immigration authorities any softer.

As the Saturday Newspaper appropriately described it, Australia’s antipathetic refugee policy has induced “a kind of moral numbness that puts decisions outside the reach of logic or decency.”  Prime Minister Scott Morrison could never be said to have been taken by surprise: “he was already in the grip of indifference”, one “necessary to live with the refugee policy he has spent years shaping.”

Despite the fall of the coalition-backed Afghan national government, Australian government officials did little to reassure the 4,200 Afghans already in Australia on precarious temporary protection visas that they would not be sent back when the time came.  Australian foreign minister Marise Payne offered an assessment on national radio that was far from reassuring. “All the Afghan citizens who currently are in Australia on a temporary visa will be supported by the Australian government and no Afghan visa holders will be asked to return to Afghanistan at this stage.”

One dark reminder of the brutal, and distinctly non-honeyed approach of Australia’s authorities to Afghan refugees comes in the form of a refugee and former member of an Afghan government security agency who aided coalition forces. For doing so, he was attacked by the Taliban.  He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 after having suffered a grenade attack on his home and being the recipient of various warning letters from the militants. For his efforts, he was sent to Manus Island, where he was formally found to be a refugee in 2015.  In 2019, he was moved to Australia for treatment during that brief window of opportunity under the now repealed medevac legislation.

In total, he has spent eight years in detention, desperate to help his family out of the country.  He had previously asked no fewer than three times to be returned to Papua New Guinea.  “Every day Afghanistan is getting worse,” he writes in an email to his case manager from the behemoth that is the Department of Home Affairs.  “My family is in a dangerous place and I need help now please.  If you wait I will lose my family.  Why do you wait?  The Taliban want to kill my family.”

The email, read in open court, forms part of a case the plaintiff, given the pseudonym F, has taken against the Australian government, seeking his release.  He argues that his detention prevents him from “moving my family out of Afghanistan to a safe country to save them from the Taliban.” The nature of his detention prevented him “from doing anything to help” his family.

On August 3, 2021, the Federal Court judge Rolf Driver dismissed F’s claims that his detention was unlawful and refused an order “in the nature of the writ of habeas corpus requiring his release from detention forthwith”.  Judge Driver did find that the man was “a refugee and requires resettlement”, ordering mediation between him and the home affairs minister.  While Australia was not an option for resettlement, the applicant should have his request to return to PNG “acted upon”.

Morrison’s ministers are full of excuses about Australia’s unimpressive effort.  Defence minister, Peter Dutton, has constantly reiterated the idea that processing the paperwork is a difficult thing indeed, because some of the visa applicants cannot be trusted.  Having aided Australian and other coalition forces in the past, they had proved flexible with shifting allegiances.  “I’m not bringing people to Australia that pose a threat to us or that have done us harm in Afghanistan.”  With such an attitude, shutting the door to the suffering, even to those who were part of the coalition’s absurd state building project in Afghanistan, will do little to trouble an unformed, unimaginative conscience.

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Call in the Khaki: The Australian Defence Force and COVID-19

Towards the latter part of July, Australia’s unimaginative Prime Minister Scott Morrison received a request from the police commissioner from the state of New South Wales.  It was a query on whether personnel from the Australian Defence Forces might aid in patrolling eight local government areas in Sydney subject to pandemic restrictions.

The NSW police minister David Elliot explained their function: the soldiers would be aiding the police with “extra capability when it comes to ensuring compliance”.  They would mainly be directed to a “very active small minority … that think the laws don’t apply to them.”

Morrison, in addressing the parameters of the deployment, stated that ADF personnel were “there to support authorised law enforcement officers in New South Wales”.  As in the case of Victoria last year, they would “support and assist […] doing many tasks from driving vehicles to supporting logistics to assisting communities by checking on the welfare of the people, checking in on people’s isolation.”

Writing in the Spectator Australia, Pete Shmigel was unimpressed by the lack of clarity in the deployment, the details of which remain secret.  “Indeed, it’s difficult to be clear if the ADF is patrolling with the Police, or providing some forms of logistical support, or acting as welfare officers, or being Uber drivers.”

Cumberland Mayor Steve Christou was similarly put out by the deployment of military muscle, even if it would lack arms or any official powers.  In terms of demographics, the Cumberland district he represents was one of the poorest; residents “already feel picked on and marginalised.”  They were unable to “pay the mortgage, the rent, the food or work.  Now to throw the army out to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue with these people.”  To make matters worse, many were refugees whose experience with khaki clad personnel would have been rather different to those of many Australians.

Christou has good grounds to be worried.  The military can hardly count as pandemic specialists, nor can they be seen as ideal agents of public health control.  Certain fields of public endeavour should treat military incursions with the due consideration of a lengthy barge pole. But the formula has been repeated across the globe. The symbolic force and connotations of having military participants is a signal warning to the public that they should behave.

Parts of Sydney are not the only ones exposed to this military flavour.  The entire country has since faced a distinctly military flavour in the COVID-19 response.  While Adam Kamradt-Scott, an authority on global health, suggests that militaries, with their preparedness for war, have “extremely good logistics” otherwise “lacking in civilian equivalents”, the ADF has historically resisted a public health role.

The presence of military personnel, notably in terms of the vaccination program, is strong. In April, the Morrison government appointed Commodore Eric Young of the Royal Australian Navy as Operations Coordinator from the Vaccine Operations Centre.  In making the announcement, Health Minister Greg Hunt recalled the role played during this pandemic crisis by other members of the ADF, including the contribution of Commodore Mark Hill, who was involved in the Aged Care Response Centre in Victoria.  He also thanked those “thousands and thousands of Defence personnel who’ve assisted with contact tracing, with testing, with vaccination teams that have been out in particular parts of Australia”.

In June, Lieutenant General John Frewen joined the public face of the national COVID-19 response as head of the vaccine taskforce, known bombastically as Operation COVID Shield.  “The National COVID Vaccine Taskforce,” stated Morrison, “will help ensure as many Australians are vaccinated as early as possible within the available supply.”  In a matter of days, the General began assuming a prominent role that had the effect of displacing the civilians present. In effect, he had assumed the responsibilities previously held by the retiring health associate secretary Caroline Edwards.

The move also served to create confusion in the media pack.  When asked by Guardian Australia about what exactly his role was, the response was classically bureaucratic.  The health minister’s office was the first to be contacted about clarifying this new, nebulous role.  Those queries were quickly directed to the Department of Health.  The department, in turn, pushed those queries off to the Prime Minister’s office, only to have those same queries referred back to the Department of Health.

A curt statement was eventually issued from a spokesperson for COVID Shield, achieving little by way of clarification.  “Lieutenant General Frewen is a senior officer in the Australian Defence Force,” it began, banally.  “LTGEN Frewen is currently seconded to Operation COVID Shield as Coordinator General and remains an Officer of the Australian Defence Force.  More information about this role can be found in the Prime Minister’s 4 June 2021 National Cabinet Statement.”

This threadbare response went on to outline that further details on Frewen’s responsibilities as coordinator general of the taskforce could be found at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 on June 21, 2021.  Frewen did not give much away before the Senators, though he did tell the committee that his reporting lines were directly to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health.  He also provided briefings to the national cabinet and was to “engage” with the relevant secretaries.  In terms of influence, he claimed to “have direct operational control of all relevant assets and resources across the Commonwealth and I’m also responsible for communication with the public and engagement with the states and territories, health providers, and other key stakeholders to ensure the most efficient and effective distribution of the vaccine.”

The meetings came, as did the military brass and photo shoots, prompting remarks that Morrison had simply “outsourced” the pandemic response only to hide behind military uniform.  Former Labor deputy prime minister Wayne Swayne was all thunder at the spectacle.  “How pathetic it is to see Morrison rollout Generals on TV to camouflage his failure to purchase the quantity and the quality of vaccines urgently required to protect Australia.”

Australia’s resort to the military in these pandemic times is unexceptional.  When found short in their civilian deployments, the authorities in many countries have called upon the armed forces to provide assistance.  But the pressing concern when using such personnel, notably in instances where their roles and positions are unclear, can only trouble the purists of accountability.  For Morrison, the move is very much in the tradition of mass distraction and excuse.  If more things go wrong, blame the medically inexpert Lieutenant General.

The post Call in the Khaki: The Australian Defence Force and COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals

He seemed frustrated.  While Scott Morrison’s international colleagues at the Leaders Summit on Climate were boastful in what their countries would do in decarbonising the global economy, Australia’s feeble contribution was put on offer.  Unable to meet his own vaccination targets, the Australian prime minister has decided to confine the word “target” in other areas of policy to oblivion.  Just as the term “climate change” has been avoided in the bowels of Canberra bureaucracy, meeting environmental objectives set in stone will be shunned.

Ahead of the summit, Nobel Prize laureates had added their names to a letter intending to ruffle summit participants.  Comprising all fields, the 101 signatories urged countries “to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal.”  Governments had “lagged, shockingly, behind what science demands and what a growing and powerful people-powered movement knows: urgent action is needed to end the expansion of fossil fuel production; phase out current production; and invest in renewable energy.”

Deficiencies in the current climate change approach were noted: the Paris Agreement, for instance, makes no mention of oil, gas or coal; the fossil fuel industry was intending to expand, with 120% more coal, oil and gas slated for production by 2030. “The solution,” warn the Nobel Laureates, “is clear: fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.”

To Morrison and his cabinet, these voices are mere wiseacres who sip coffee and down the chardonnay with relish, oblivious to dirty realities.  His address to the annual dinner of the Business Council of Australia took the view that Australia would “not achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.”  Having treated environmental activism as delusionary, he suggested that industries not be taxed, as they provided “livelihoods for millions of Australians off the planet, as our political opponents sought to do when they were given the chance.”

US President Joe Biden had little appetite for such social distinctions in speaking to summit participants.  (Unfortunately for the President, the preceding introduction by Vice President Kamala Harris was echoed on the live stream, one of various glitches marking the meeting.)   After four years of a crockery breaking retreat from the subject of climate change, this new administration was hoping to steal back some ground and jump the queue in combating climate change.  The new target: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half from 2005 levels by 2030.

Biden wished to construct “a critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean energy”.  He saw workers in their numbers capping abandoned oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal mines.  He dreamed of autoworkers in their efforts to build “the next generation of electric vehicles” assisted by electricians and the installing of 500,000 charging stations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken laboured the theme of togetherness in his opening remarks: “We’re in this together. And what each of our nations does or does not do will not only impact people of our country, but people everywhere.”  But Blinken was also keen, at least in terms of language, to seize some ground for US leadership.  “We want every country here to know: We want to work with you to save our planet, and we’re all committed to finding every possible avenue of cooperation on climate change.”

A central part of this policy will involve implementing the Climate Finance Plan, intended to provide and mobilise “financial resources to assist developing countries reduce and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

While solidarity and collaboration were points the Biden administration wished to reiterate, ill-tempered political rivalries were hard to contain.  On April 19, Blinken conceded during his address to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that China was “the largest producer and exporter of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles.”  It held, he sulkily noted, almost “a third of the world’s renewable energy patents.”

Environmental policy, in other words, had to become the next terrain of competition; in this, a good degree of naked self-interest would be required.  “If we don’t catch up, America will miss the chance to shape the world’s climate future in a way that reflects our interests and values, and we’ll lose out on countless jobs for the American people.”  Forget bleeding heart arguments about solidarity and collective worth: the US, if it was to win “the long-term strategic competition with China” needed to “lead the renewable energy revolution.”

Others in attendance also had their share of chest-thumping ambition. The United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson was all self-praise about his country having the “biggest offshore wind capacity of any country in the word, the Saudi Arabia of wind as I never tire of saying.”  The country was half-way towards carbon neutrality.  He also offered a new target: cutting emissions by 78 percent under 1990 levels by 2035.  Wishing to emphasise his seriousness of it all, Johnson claimed that combating climate change was not “all about some expensive politically correct green act of ‘bunny hugging’.”

Canada also promised a more ambitious emissions reduction target: the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) would be reduced by 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  “Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan,” stated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “puts us on track to not just meet but to exceed our 2030 emissions goal – but we were clearly aware that more must be done.”

Brazil’s President and climate change sceptic Jair Bolsonaro chose to keep up appearances with his peers, aligning the posts to meet emissions neutrality by 2050.  This shaved off ten years from the previous objective.  He also promised a doubling of funding for environmental enforcement.  Fine undertakings from a political figure whose policies towards the Amazon rainforest have been vandalising in their destruction.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also threw in his lot with a goal of securing a 46 percent reduction by 2030. (The previous target had been a more modest 26 percent reduction based on 2013 levels.)  This did little to delight Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor.  “What Japan needs to do now,” he warned, “is to expand its options for technology.”  Any immediate bans on gasoline-powered or diesel cars, for instance, “would limit such options, and could also cause Japan to lose its strengths.”

Toyoda’s sentiments, along with those of Japan’s business lobby Keidanren, would have made much sense to Morrison.  In a speech shorn of ambition, the Australian prime minister began to speak with his microphone muted.  Then came his own version of ambitiousness, certain that Australia’s record on climate change was replete with “setting, achieving and exceeding our commitments”.

It was not long before he was speaking, not to the leaders of the world, but a domestic audience breast fed by the fossil fuel industries.  Australia was “on the pathway to net zero” and intent on getting “there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.”  His own slew of promises: Australia would invest in clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture.  The US might well have Silicon Valley, but Australia would, in time, create “Hydrogen Valleys”.

With such unremarkable, even pitiable undertakings, critics could only marvel at a list of initiatives that risk disappearing in the frothy stew.  “Targets on their own, won’t lead to emission cuts,” reflected Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic.  “That takes real policy and money.  And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”  Ahead of COP26 at Glasgow, Morrison will be hoping that the world remains divided and very much off course.

The post Virtual Bunny Hugging: Boasting About Climate Change Goals first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.

Scott Morrison’s Authoritarian Streak: Crushing Anti-Mining Protest in Australia

The Prime Minister of Australia is fuming.  Having made his mark on Australian politics by being the mining sector’s most avid defender, Scott Morrison was disturbed by the week’s events in Melbourne that saw clashes between police and protesters outside the sixth annual international mining and resources conference.

It made sense for the protesters to kick up a fuss at the big ticket event.  IMARC, as the site states, “is where the global mining leaders connect with technology, finance and the future.  It is Australia’s largest mining event bringing together over 7,000 decision makers, mining leaders, policy makers, investors, commodity buyers, technical experts, innovators and educators from over 100 countries to Melbourne for four days of learning, deal-making and unparalleled networking.”

The welcoming note from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was enthusiastic and distinctly not green in colouring.  This was a chance to celebrate what Australians do best; no, not sustainable energy, nor technologies of ecological soundness, but boast “world class talent in the resources field”, “a sector that continues to grow and provide jobs for many Victorians, especially in country areas.” The Australian economy was inseparable from the resources sector, “creating jobs and driving investment”.

An ideal opportunity had presented itself for climate change protesters who converged on the Melbourne Convention Centre.  By the third day, the patience of the cordoning police had worn thin.  The blood was rushing, the red haze had descended.  Batons and capsicum spray were deployed.  Over sixty protesters were arrested.  “I haven’t seen this kind of aggression before,” observed Emma Black, a self-proclaimed seasoned veteran of the protest scene.  Channel 7 journalist Paul Dowsley was more than bemused by being jostled by officers.  “Incredible. I was obeying their direction to move to another area.  I’m stunned.”

The response from Victoria Police was dismissive: “In this case, the reporter involved did not follow police instructions to move away from the area.  This was a safety issue and Victoria Police believes an appropriate amount of force was used to move the reporter from the area.”

On Thursday, the anti-mining protesters turned their attention to the PwC’s Southbank offices.  The conduct on the part of officers preventing disruptions to arriving delegates had been zealous enough to pique the interest of the Professional Standards Committee.  In the words of a police spokesman, “Protesters have raised several concerns in relation to the police response during the protest.  These concerns have been noted and are being assessed by our Professional Standards Committee.”

A sense about where that investigation will go can be gathered by the next remark.  “A number of groups have engaged in more deliberate tactics including blocking disabled access… and ignored police directions.  These protesters have been dealt with swiftly and effectively by the police.”

Another police statement addressing the second day of the blockade stressed that, “Whilst we respect the rights of people to peacefully protest, the unlawful action taken today is a drain on police resources from across the greater Melbourne.

The protesters proved sufficiently disruptive for Prime Minister Morrison to suggest a dark force at work: the “Quiet Australian”, that fictional confection he never tires of, is under siege.  But what from?

In a speech to the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, Morrison suggested that a “new breed of radical activism” was harrying those in mining and businesses associated with it. “I am very concerned about this new form of progressivism… intended to get in under the radar but [which] at its heart would deny the liberties of Australians.”  This breed of activism was “apocalyptic in tone, brooks no compromise, all or nothing, alternative views not permitted – a dogma that pits cities against regional Australia, one that cannot resist sneering at wealth creating and job creating industries, and the livelihoods particularly of regional Australians including here in Queensland.”  The wedge politician par excellence.

Morrison was a touch too keen to inflate the level of threat posed by such groups, who are “targeting businesses of all sizes, including small businesses, like contracting businesses in regional Queensland.”  This was far more serious than a “street protest”.  (The distinction in Australian law and policy is rarely made, in any case.)

His suggestion was as simple as it was authoritarian: protesters seeking to disrupt the chain of supply should be punished as saboteurs.  They, he stressed, were the undemocratic ones, the silencers.  His government, he explained on Melbourne radio 3AW, had “already taken action against their cousins who want to invade farms and we put legislation through to protect our farmers from that type of economic vandalism.”  Instead of taking credit for having sparked interest in such protests, indifferent as he is to those obscene and rarely said words “climate change”, he was going to take credit for crushing the dissent, putting the outrage to bed.

It was enough to disturb Katharine Murphy of The Guardian. “As he rails against activism, Scott Morrison is turning a bit sinister, a bit threatening.” The prime minister had treated Australians to a spectacle of complaint “against intolerance while in the same breath foreshadowing his own bout of government sanctioned intolerance – the type where police might be involved, and people might be bundled away in vans.”

As in other countries where fossil fuels and natural resources reign, Australia is hamstrung, an aspiring banana republic in the deceptive guise of a first world country.  Environmental pressure to alter their influence is not just seen as a matter of dissent but a threat.  To go green is to turn gangrenous.  To worry about environmental ruin and human causes is to be, in Morrison’s view, “indulgent and selfish” rather than responsible and cognisant.  A true upending of logic, and a potentially imperilling one.  Rather than confronting it, Morrison’s solution is drawn from the tradition and precedent of history: to protect resource industries, call in the police.