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Political leaders such as Premier Berejiklian are getting away with murder

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Political leaders such as Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian have contributed to the suffering of our planet (Image by Dan Jensen)

Australia's political leaders need to be held to account for their legacy of destruction of our environment and the death of the planet, writes Sue Arnold.

THE LOVE AFFAIR between NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire has provoked a huge public response.

Mainstream media response tends to support the impression that “our Glad” is as clean as they come and let’s face it, many of us have had experience in picking the wrong guy.

However, one letter in the Sydney Morning Herald summed up the feelings of a large contingent of the public.

Bob Edgar from Westmead wrote: 

Many communities will remember Berejiklian for her arrogance. Communities whose only crime has been to seek to preserve their heritage. Indigenous, colonial and natural heritage are routinely disregarded and destroyed. Community assets such as pools, parks, bushland are arbitrarily given over to stadiums, toll roads or high-rise. Community consultation is a one-way conversation. Adverse findings from parliamentary inquiries count for nothing.

A most accurate summary of the Premier. Her arrogance has driven off many communities. Letters, petitions, emails, phone calls are ignored. This has been the case since her inception as Premier. Apparently, the voting public is a bunch of zombies, undeserving of any response.

The hypocrisy shown by Berejiklian to the environment is legendary. Relying on spin and pictures of her clutching koalas, Berejiklian has done her best to portray herself as a person who cares for wildlife and the environment.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Under her leadership, the NSW Government has trashed the environment, community assets, democratic rights and legislation which allowed for public interest challenges.

But isn’t this grubby saga just another distraction from the real issues facing us all?

In the old world when integrity still existed, Berejiklian would have no choice but to resign. But not in our current experience. If Berejiklian goes, she’ll be opening the door for another clutch of anti-environmental pro-development Right-wing would-be Premiers.

Nothing will change.

Over the last few weeks, some very serious issues have been raised. Sir David Attenborough released his documentary A Life On Our Planet, which was so depressing in its message that Prince William had to turn it off as Prince George, aged seven, became too upset.

Recently, The Guardian UK published a message to the Western world from the Waorani tribe leader, Nemonte Nenquimo. The Amazon forest is her home.

Her message said: 

We Indigenous people are fighting to save the Amazon, but the whole planet is in trouble because you do not respect it. This is my message to the Western world — your civilisation is killing life on Earth.

 

As Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love – our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth – and it's time that you listened to us.

 

It took us thousands of years to get to know the Amazon rainforest. To understand her ways, her secrets, to learn how to survive and thrive with her.

 

When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land, and the first to hear her cries.

As the Amazon burns, on the other side of the world here in Australia, the destructive bushfires and drought mimicked the Waorani tribe’s living hell. 

Joelle Gergis, one of the dozen or so Australian lead authors involved in consolidating the physical science basis for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report’, exquisitely expresses the Australian grief.

Dr Gergis wrote the following in an essay which will be part of the anthology titled Fire, Flood and Plague, to be published by Penguin Random House in December.

The relentless heat and drought experienced during our nation's hottest and driest year on record saw the last of our native forests go up in smoke. We saw terrified animals fleeing with their fur on fire, their bodies turned to ash. Those that survived faced starvation among the charred remains of their obliterated habitats.

 

Recovering the diversity and complexity of Australia's unique ecosystems now lies beyond the scale of human lifetimes. What we witnessed was inter-generational damage: a fundamental transformation of our country.

 

Australia's horror summer is the clearest signal yet that our planet's climate is rapidly destabilising. It breaks my heart to watch the country I love irrevocably wounded because of our government's denial of the severity of climate change and its refusal to act on the advice of the world's leading scientists.

Another global Australia icon is in deep trouble. According to recent research, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral since 1995.

The researchers said:

“There is no time to lose — we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP.”

Australia is at a critical crossroads. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s population target for 2020 was 271,000, highlighting the old “jobs and growth” mantra — the only focus of our governments. But population growth has dropped dramatically with the pandemic and the benefits are evident.     

Population growth is heading to zero and experts say about 80,000 fewer houses will need to be built. That means habitats destined for destruction will survive a little longer.

Forests need not be bulldozed to feed an exponentially growing renewable energy industry.

Australia’s carbon emissions fell to their lowest levels in 22 years according to government data.

Emissions reduced by about 10 million tonnes to 518 million tonnes for the year to June compared to last year, the lowest level since 1998.

This is good news and should be a foundation for a significant change in the Government’s energy policies which need to focus on wind and solar. It's news that might give the Great Barrier Reef a chance to recover.

As Prime Minister of this nation, Scott Morrison has an obligation to represent all citizens and to lead us to a sustainable future. So, too, do all the states’ premiers and political parties. Yet there are no checks and balances when it comes to the ongoing destruction of the environment. No value placed on wildlife, forests, rivers and ecosystems. The national balance sheet fails to give our life support systems any economic value.

In the face of global concern over the continuation of life on Earth coming from scientists, Indigenous and religious leaders and an increasingly concerned public, Australians need to demand answers from the politicians and media.

How long will they turn a blind eye to a dying environment? What steps can voters take to force politicians and parties who refuse, in the face of damning evidence, to make the survival of our life support systems the primary political goal?

At what cost are we allowing these corrupt governments to stay in power? 

Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Murdoch media ownership would be an excellent start.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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