Having lived in Australia for 8 years, being something of an election junkie and on top of that having had responsibility for the advocacy activities of a large community services organisation, I followed Australian politics very closely. And I’m not going to hide that I was glad to see the back of a government that has made some terrible policy decisions and some even worse political ones. The plebiscite on equal marriage, refusal to consider increasing JobSeeker, shutting down the Uluru Statement from the Heart, bringing forward divisive legislation on religious freedom are some examples. But the one that really did for them was climate.
Since 2019 (and before really), Australia really has been through fire and flood. I sat in my office in Melbourne at the end of 2019, unable to see further than about a kilometre because of the smoke from bushfires hundreds of kilometres away. I watch in horror just after we left this February as floods devastated parts of New South Wales. Even a few days ago Brisbane experienced torrential rain. And yet the government refused to take any real policy position, preferring instead to put up a report that says that as-yet-undeveloped technologies will deal with it all in the future. It created a false culture war, painting the issue as greeny inner city types who don’t know what they’re talking about imposing something on rural and regional Australia, when the reality is that rural communities were crying out for action just as much as the population centres.
And in the end, it is those inner-city constituencies that have rounded on the Liberals – Brisbane – BRISBANE!! – will have 2 Green MPs. The independents that ran in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth on platforms combining integrity in politics and respect for women with the need for climate action may hold the balance of power in the lower house. The Senate may have a progressive majority. Hopefully we will finally see some action in a country that has incredible renewable resource potential that has been unexploited for far too long.
To once again compare Belgium/Europe and Australia, there have been so many developments over the last few years. Starting with the sheer number of hybrid and electric vehicles and the charging points to make them viable, something that is almost unheard of in Australia. Much as I loath the electric scooters that are spread liberally along the pavements of Brussels, their prevalence and use is positive in terms of low-emission transport around the city. We put out 5 different types of rubbish – paper and cardboard/food/plastic/green waste and then everything else.
These things don’t happen on their own. The market won’t deliver the kind of behaviour change that this is going to require. Ironically the only steps the Australian Liberals were prepared to make were because their private sector buddies were requiring some kind of action.
I really hope this weekend’s election will be a real turning point for Australia. That it will start listening to the traditional custodians of the land, people that have lived and worked the land for millenia and have so much knowledge to provide. And that we’ll see a stop to the fake division about climate and see genuine action.