Australia Day or Shame Day?

Posted on January 26, 2015

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Today is Australia Day, a national holiday marking the arrival of The First Fleet to establish a penal colony on Terra Australis in on January 26, 1788.

There is plenty to celebrate in this nation with an overall standard of living ahead of most of the world. But there is also a darker side to things.

First Fleet arrival 1788

First Fleet arrival 1788

January 26 also marks an invasion. The continent was claimed under the terra nullus doctrine which in basic terms means it was not already inhabited. Except it was inhabited – by Indigenous Australians. And the succeeding history towards that First Nation was awful. They were dispossessed, driven out of their lands, treated as less than human. There were massacres and all sorts of inhuman treatment that were simply written out of most of our history in the twentieth century. It took almost 200 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to even be accorded actual citizenship in Australia.

Overall Australia’s history in regard to the First Nation has been shameful. While steps have been taken in the right direction, the gap between Indigenous communities and the rest of the country is appallingly big. Are we doing enough to assist? I doubt it. And governments on both sides of politics are equally culpable.

For a nation that was established by invasion, an illegal acquisition, Australia’s current treatment of more recent refugees trying to arrive by boat is truly shameful. Refugees fleeing oppression, war and other horrors are being thrown into off-shore camps in appalling conditions. Both sides of politics have been culpable in these camps being set up and maintained but things have clearly become worse under the current governmental regime. The Abbott government has gone to considerable lengths to try

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

and maintain secrecy about what has been going on. It took courageous whistle-blowers to let us know what was really going on and how much of a cover up had been going on. We now have instances of refugee status being refused with claimants being forcibly returned to their point of origin with our government ignoring international advice about the dangers to those people.

Scott Morrisson

Scott Morrisson

People have been returned to places of danger with one confirmed case of a person being murdered by those oppressive forces he had been trying to flee. His blood is on the hands of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and former Immigration Minister Scott Morrisson. Nor was there any real signs of repentance. We have even been blatantly lied to in respect of things such as what medical facilities were being provided. The United Nations has condemned the conditions of the Manus Island facility but there is no real sign of our government taking any meaningful action in respect of a UN report detailing the many, many shortcomings and problems that needed to be addressed. But is that really so surprising considering we have a Prime Minister who has publicly questioned why Australia is still even a signatory to the UN conventions regarding refugees?

This very high standard of living comes with costs. A big cost is environmental impact. Our per capita contribution to things like climate change emissions is among the world’s highest. We have an obligation to at least match that detrimental world impact with off-setting remedial actions. But instead our government has put in place its Direct Action policy, a policy that saw dismantling of infrastructure which supported things like reduction of damaging emissions. Rather than ‘direct action’ what we actually have is a ‘do as little as possible’ policy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made his real intentions towards climate change very clear on a trip to North America. He blew off meetings with the likes of the International Monetary Fund to instead head off to Canada. During his Canadian sojourn, the media focused more on his quite public gaffe in mispronouncing ‘Canada’. For reasons that escape me, much less attention was paid to the much more sinister product of that trip. After being closeted in a meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister, Abbott emerged to announce they had formed a new alliance to combat climate change action. Their express stated objective was to combat, ie block, remedial climate change actions around the world. They made a public call on other conservative governments around the world to join them.

I am not aware of a single government anywhere in the world making any statement of support for that alliance. Since then it appears to have been flushed away into the sewers with the rest of the excrement. However that stunt makes Tony Abbott’s mission quite clear – to STOP as much climate change remedial action as possible. He has even declared that it is Australia’s destiny to continue providing the world with coal in order to continue fossil fuel electricity consumption. His government is attempting to reduce Renewal Energy Targets. The Minister who holds the portfolio overseeing things like RETs has defended the reduction of those targets by declaring he knows better than pretty much everyone else on that issue. For those who might question that statement, I still have his email where he makes that claim.

John Howard

Former Prime Minister John Howard

Tony Abbott’s mentor, former Prime Minister John Howard, at least had the political savvy to try to hide his climate change denying beliefs until he had left politics (or more correctly, kicked out by his own electorate in 2007). Tony Abbott has however been quite straight forward. He has made it very clear he wants all climate change remedial action STOPPED. However his phenomenal hypocrisy has seen him claim to really be an environmentalist. So in yet another issue of vital importance, we are regressing rather than attempting to take the present chance to become a world leader in climate change repairs.

Australia’s record in these key matters is dismal to put it mildly. And while we have the same people from both sides of politics running things, I cannot see any real chance of positive change. If anything we currently seem destined to continue going backwards.

On reflection, I do not see a lot to celebrate this Australia Day.

Ross sig

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