Memo to Morrison: It is a climate crisis, stupid!
The SEARCH Committee joins all other progressive Australians in condemning the disgraceful position adopted by Prime Minister Morrison at the Pacific Islands Forum over the critical issue of climate change. Tuvalu’s prime minister, Enele Sopoaga, put it well: you are concerned about your economy; we are concerned for our people.
A crucial difference was whether to use the term ‘climate crisis’. After hours of intense debate, Australia succeeded in imposing the term ‘climate reality’. Morrison thereby betrayed not only the peoples of the Pacific Islands but Australians too.
Small Pacific Island nations might be the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ as some have put it; but Australia too is already and will increasingly suffer the damaging impacts of accelerating climate change. Defending economic and corporate interests, as Morrison sees it, is one thing; refusal to see the crisis for what it is will in the end threaten Australians and their economy, not just their Pacific neighbours.
Deputy PM then Michael McCormack added insult to injury with his patronising comments that Australia would continue to help Pacific Islanders by letting them work here picking fruit – the implication being that when their lands are engulfed by rising oceans they could transfer here in that role.
The Coalition government has long form on this issue. Who could forget that Peter Dutton, a powerful member of Morrison’s government, years ago was caught joking about the threat of rising waters for our Pacific neighbours, including Papua New Guinea. Morrison is cleverer than that but his denialist, do-little approach boils down to the same practical outcome for our Pacific neighbours.
Just recently, Environment Minister Sussan Ley went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and told everyone that the reef is in good health. She apparently didn’t want to see or know about the half of the reef that is already dead.
So the Coalition government continues to be the enemy of recognising ‘climate reality’ and acting accordingly. Every month and year of delay, of failure to act to the extent required, adds to the certainty that what now really is a climate crisis will become a climate catastrophe that could rupture the natural ecosystems on which human civilisation depends for its very existence.
That is the ‘climate reality’: inaction to date has brought us from climate change to climate crisis; and, unless humanity can declare a world-wide climate emergency and act accordingly, the crisis will become a catastrophe.
All the struggles for a better world require a habitable planet to live on. As Sharan Burrow, former ACTU President and now General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said in a recent speech: “There will be no jobs on a dead planet.”
The SEARCH Committee believes that the looming climate catastrophe is a crucial issue of our times. We ask all interested members to take part in the SEARCH climate action working group that our Executive Officer mentioned in an earlier note to members, and contribute where they can to SEARCH activities in this area as well as the diverse and growing broader movements.
In Australia and globally, the only answer to denial and inaction must be a broad and powerful people’s movement, operating in communities, workplaces, schools, universities and all the institutions of civil society. Such a movement must mobilise beyond the scale even of the Vietnam Moratorium movement of the early 1970s and the demonstrations against the looming Iraq war of 2003.
Australian school-children have joined the global movement initiated by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to take direct strike action, walking out of their schools and demonstrating for their right to a future world to live in and on. All progressive Australians and organisations should support their next action on 20 September (click here for details).
Climate change is but one of the crucial issues where the Coalition government is driving a reactionary agenda. It has already pushed through regressive tax changes; it is moving to further attack union and workplace rights; it still puts the interests of big corporate irrigators ahead of communities, the wider social interest, and the health of the Murray-Darling river system; it refuses to seriously consider the ‘Voice.Treaty.Truth’ demands of Indigenous peoples; and it threatens public servants and journalists who seek to publish the truth about government actions, even illegal and immoral ones such as the bugging of the Timor Leste cabinet in the interests of a fossil fuel corporation.
Progressive movements and organisations need to stand together in solidarity across these issues of concern in the fight for economic and social justice and to sustain Planet Earth.
Matt Kunkel, President
Jacquie Widin, Vice President
For the SEARCH Committee