Australia lurches from one crisis to another

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Cartoon by Mark David/@mdavidcartoons.

Here in Australia, the “Age of Crises”, mentioned in the subtitle to Keeler’s Rethinking Islam and the West, has suddenly become starkly apparent.

The drought has been devastating the inland for years. Several inland towns are now running out of water while that scarce resource is being sold off.

A Singaporean food company will sell 89,000 megalitres of water sourced in Australia to a Canadian pension fund. A Chinese-based company has approved to operate a 96m litre a year water mining project in southern Queensland, at a time of historic drought.

We have witnessed bushfires in rainforests and the burning or starvation of over a billion native animals. Millions of hectares have been destroyed, thousands of homes and 34 human lives have been lost.

The regional economy will take years to recover. And this year’s bushfire threat has not yet passed.

Canberra went from terrible air pollution due to bushfire smoke, to huge damaging hailstones, then back to threatening bushfires with a few days. Melbourne and Sydney temporarily became the most polluted cities in the world.

The nation witnessed people being rescued by the navy in Eastern Victoria, with major highways closed for long periods.

This has been followed by torrential but patchy rainfall, flash floods and the threat of at least one dam collapse. Meanwhile, our national Government continues its generous support for oil coal and gas, with taxpayer subsidies and soft taxation policies.

For example, in 2020 our gas output will probably outstrip that of Qatar which gets $26.6 billion in tax while Australia gets only $600 million. ExxonMobil Australia has a total income of $42.3 billion over the past five years. It has not paid one cent in income tax in this country. 

While supporting these contributors to the climate emergency, the Government engages in climate emergency denial.

The School Climate Strike movement involving millions of people around the world, was supported by some 300,000 Australians late in 2019. These demonstrations were ignored by the Government. 

 Just why this might be seems clear. 

The Byline Times reported:

'Since 2011, mining and energy corporations have donated $8.4 million to the conservative Coalition’s state and federal branches. Comparatively, the Labor Party, which accepts climate science, has received only $2.8 million.'

Alongside these climate emergency-related crises, we have a series of problems related to falling respect for our Government and a growing threat to the continued legitimacy of our political institutions.

Government corruption – sports rorts and “changing sheds” debacles– saw a quarter of a billion dollars used to shore up Coalition votes in the last Election, while Newstart remained below poverty level. 

The most recent outrage is a threat to place more welfare recipients on the debit card, which has already devastated many families.

Then came the Coronavirus, which created an outburst of anti-Chinese racism, the re-opening of Christmas Island for the quarantine of Australians returning from China and loud groans from those businesses and educational institutions dependent upon the Chinese market for their clients.

We wait to see how the needs of business weigh against the safety of the nation in the minds of our rulers.

If any doubts remain as to the importance of taking political action to deal with the lies and corruption facing us in Australia today, then we are lost.

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

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