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Bulletin editorial- was the month for terrorist distraction and koala- killing RET solutions

By Maria Taylor

This past month we have been treated to PM Tony Abbott and his supporters perfecting weapons of mass distraction from really important issues.

Hang on, you say, what could be more important than saving you and me from “Death Cult” terrorism and getting the ABC to shut up or just become a total government mouthpiece and leave the country’s agenda to the Murdoch version of reality?

Important issues? Well there is youth unemployment, reportedly nearing 30% in some regional areas, guaranteed to get worse with timely withdrawal of funding for TAFEs and vocational education, as you do in a clever country; hospitals and schools are staring down the barrel of big budget cuts in two years time, (so lets not get too excited about the Baird government ‘surpluses’). Press releases have just lobbed in saying funds to both national parks and child protection services are being cut in NSW.

Since the beginning of the year 45 women, averaging two a week, have died at the hands of ‘domestic terrorists’. (You’ll find a report on domestic violence response in this region on p3.) Children have also died or been seriously abused by domestic terrorists. Our enquiries showed there is inadequate funding, support and particularly local shelter for women and children in crisis.

A lot more people are affected by sky-high housing costs  immigration and population, and even arts funding cuts (see our cover story) than by jihadi terrorism.

Climate change? The new Vice-Chancellor for the ANU, astronomer Brian Schmidt (profiled in the May issue of the Bulletin) is the most recent prominent figure to call our changing atmosphere “the great challenge for humanity during the next 100 years”.

There is the matter of avoiding climate catastrophes related to the continued burning of fossil fuels – with loss of life, health, shelter, and wealth facing our children and worse in other parts of the world – guaranteeing also many more wars and refugees.  The just-released defence white paper shows that the military gets that climate change is a significant security threat to this country.

But our elected leaders and their cheerleaders in the Murdoch press want us to focus our energies on being outraged at that mouthy Zaky Mallah and the ABC.

With such single-minded focus on distraction it seems action on our most serious problems will have to come from the citizenry.

An encouraging signal is when previous true believers start breaking ranks. And so we find a June a piece in the Fairfax media by Ian Dunlop a former industry oil, gas and coal executive and one-time chairman of the Australian Coal Association.

He writes of a fundamental failure of leadership that is leading to disaster. The federal government, all of industry and CSIRO top brass are criticised, not for ignorance, but for silence and wrong action. (More recently there has been an industry and union alliance call for significant action, finally).

Waiting for catastrophe to happen before accepting the impacts is “precisely what sensible risk management is designed to avoid”. He cites the moral and ethical dimensions of wilfully destroying our habitable ecosystems highlighted by the Pope. (Dunlop’s piece is Our elites have failed us on climate change, Canberra Times 22 June). In this issue of the Bulletin we also continue our interviews with religious leaders on climate action (p9).

So far the Labor Opposition under Bill Shorten has not distinguished itself standing up to the national security scare campaign or on the natural environment. The latest sad evidence was the cave-in on previous ‘never ever’ promises to keep the burning of native forests out of a chopped renewable energy target (RET),  passed by both houses of parliament with Labor agreement.

Don’t be fooled by the benign terminology of “waste wood”. This is logging industry jargon for anything that is not a saw log. Whole forests of wildlife habitat have been fed into the chippers as waste wood (hence the koala killing label applied by the Greens Larissa Waters).  Standing trees are worth more for carbon storage and catchment services than being moved from the chip industry to the furnace for a dubious energy supply.

Another big step into the past, this was a gift to the doomed (by the market) native forest logging sector that was just moving to plantations and job renewal there. Similarly, the commercial kangaroo industry is supported by politicians as a simple-minded nod to regional employment while treating our national icon like a ‘thing’ to be harvested and sold oversees – just as this country did with the koala 100 years ago.

We have just seen the unedifying spectacle of former Labor leader Kim Beasley now the American ambassador, lobbying against a California ban on importing kangaroo carcasses for meat and skins. What would we think if the US Ambassador to Australia came around hawking Bald Eagle feathers and claws?

The Bulletin will be taking a winter break in August, but we’ll be back for the spring in September. Stay warm and active!

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