Wren's week: Climate change, neo-nazis and social media etiquette

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At least John's week ends on a positive note (Image edited by Dan Jensen)

This week, John Wren covers failure towards climate change issues, the St Kilda rally plus a public apology over a social media mistake.

Wren’s Week



It’s been a couple of weeks since my last column. I was on leave, like most of Australia. Yet there is still much to review.

True to form, the Government took out some garbage in the wee hours before the Christmas break when they thought we wouldn’t be watching. The most damning was the release of the national emissions reduction report, which showed that despite numerous claims to the contrary by Environment Minister Angus Taylor, Australia will miss its 2030 Paris targets by a very wide margin. It’s not even close. Senator Cormann said similar.

The Liberal Government, with its close ties to the fossil fuel industry and a hard Right bloc that largely denies man-made climate change has stifled Australia’s efforts in the area. Many go so far as to describe it as a hoax and a “Leftist plot”. I have asked the question: Why is climate change labelled a leftwing agenda item? Climate change is science. It affects all of us regardless of our political persuasion. I can only assume that because it takes a global cooperative effort to address it, that somehow confuses the issue with “international socialism”. It reminds me of the wealthy elite sitting in their castles while the Black Death raged in the villages around them, thinking it only affected poor people. That was until the flea-carrying rats entered the castle, of course, wiping them out, too.

The reality is that Australia will be affected more than most other nations by climate change and, although our share of the global population is tiny, we cannot expect and demand action from others if we do not take similar actions ourselves. The effects of climate change are with us now. The extreme weather events, dying rivers, migration of toxic jellyfish south are all symptoms of our changing climate. Australia must do better.

Last weekend, we had the unedifying sight of a hundred or so neo-Nazis gathering in St Kilda to parade their foul message of racism and intolerance. They were, of course, met with a huge counter-protest of many thousands holding a peaceful St Kilda picnic. The Nazis were led by Blair Cottrell, a media-savvy convicted thug, and Neil Erikson, an old-fashioned bovver boy who just likes to provoke fights. He was the one who provoked some African-Australian kids with a video camera the week before. The Victorian Police were also there in full to make sure peace was maintained. They made several arrests.

I have lived in Australia for more than half my life and never thought I would see Nazis so emboldened that they would emerge from under their rocks to proudly identify themselves to a horrified public. Further, a Federal Senator, Fraser Anning (albeit an appointed unelected Senator who got in on the One Nation ticket with only 19 votes then ditched them).

How have they become emboldened? Well, for at least the last five years, the Liberal Government has been making openly racist comments, particularly around Islam and, more recently, the so-called African gangs in Melbourne. They have been largely supported by horrendous articles in the Murdoch press and rightwing TV media — Channel 7 gets a special mention (they even did a puff piece on Cottrell last year). This ongoing message of intolerance has meant that many formerly well-intentioned Australians have wavered in their once egalitarian beliefs. That has opened the door for the racists to emerge.

As they say, if you dogwhistle enough, eventually the dogs will show up.

After a day or so, the benchwarmer PM Scott Morrison made a very weak comment on the St Kilda protest and, after much condemnation for it, came out stronger later in the week. The weakness of his response reflects his own responsibility for it. Morrison is an enabler of fascism in Australia. He himself has led the racist commentary in the past.

Having been forced to come out against racism the week before left the Government in a quandary. Since 2013, they have relied on it to divide and rule. This week meant they no longer had a strategy — but did they? Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton came out with a plan for a national register of sex offenders. Clearly, the thinking was “no one could possibly defend paedophiles — we are good to go”. How wrong he was. Such registers have been proven failures internationally as they enable vigilante mobs. Even children’s rights campaigner Hetty Johnston came out strongly against it.

Oddly, this wasn’t the only policy failure of Dutton’s this week. His stripping of Australian I.S. terrorist Neil Prakash of Australian citizenship has also been thrown into question. Dutton claimed he had legal advice that Prakash was a Fijian citizen. It transpired that the advice was wrong. The Fijians, in fact, claiming he was never Fijian. One would think Dutton, or his department, would have at least contacted the Fijians and asked them before their announcement. Clearly not. Muppets.

And finally, those who follow me on Twitter will know of my posting and the subsequent retraction about Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s personal life. I have made my public retraction and apology, and been privately thanked for it by Littleproud. What have I learned? No matter how well-connected and trusted one’s source is, one must have physical evidence of the claim. The Murdoch article on the matter was heavily slanted against me. The journalist has privately apologised to me for the bias.

I have been heartened by the support I have received. Over 900 messages both publicly and privately and still they come. I have been sent dossiers of scuttlebutt on many Coalition MPs, much of it damning. Five names are clear repeat offenders and get continual mentions from multiple sources. Even I was shocked at how many of them appear to be playing away from home. Many have asked me why I’ve not published it. It’s because I loathe hypocrisy. Joyce and Broad were fair targets. They portrayed themselves as defenders of “traditional marriage” and “Christian family values”. Both were fair game when it became obvious they didn’t live the values they tried to inflict on the rest of us. Many of those who have been named to me have never presented themselves that way — as such, who they sleep with is their own business.

What I will say to those politicians involved, you know who you are, is this: In these days of social media, every citizen is a journalist, every citizen carries a camera. You will get caught one day.

You can follow John Wren on Twitter @JohnWren1950.  

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