A Rational Fear Covers the Australian Bushfire Crisis (Video)

Australia doesn’t always make international headlines but this month, it has been hard to miss on the news. The country has been experiencing a devastating bushfire crisis.

Even before we left for our recent trip to the United States, the smoke haze was intolerable in our area and many had been affected by the disaster across our state of New South Wales. Some days are still smoky now but fortunately our city has not been on fire. Natasha and I had been watching the news and checking the Rural Fire Service app to see what was happening, however it wasn’t until we arrived in the United States that we understood just how big the disaster has been. On the ABC (US), it was reported on morning television that the affected land was equal to the surface area of 50 New York Cities.

I was staggered at just how many Americans were aware of the ongoing disaster. We also didn’t receive any of the expected questions about kangaroos on so on; instead, upon arrival we were asked constantly if our home and relatives were alright. We had to reassure a lot of people!

Without a doubt, climate change is playing a huge role in our current bushfire crisis. Like many others, I have been super-disappointed with successive governments’ approach to energy policy and addressing climate change. Over the years, both Labor and Liberal-National governments (our major parties) have failed to satisfactorily curtail Australia’s emissions.

Given the immense international interest in Australia’s current situation, I thought that I would share a fantastic, comprehensive video by comedic news site A Rational Fear. The team there has done a brilliant job of explaining Australia’s long-term political failure in conservation and energy policy. Narrated by Australian songwriter, entertainer and all-round genius, Tim Minchin, it fairly criticises both major parties and their efforts (or lack thereof).

Whilst it does exceed 10 minutes in duration, I strongly encourage you to watch it—whether or not you’re Australian. I’m sure that many people in other Western liberal democracies will be able to relate to the feeling of political disappointment. The Federal Government’s approach to bushfire relief certainly reeks of the same hopelessness that comes with the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ (when discussing the American gun crisis). I can’t help but feel that the current response is all that we can expect from a seriously conservative, Christian leader like Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Scientific evidence is naturally trumped by business interests and personal belief.

You can also view the video in its original post by talented writer/comedian/filmmaker Dan Ilic.

The Conversation: With cryptocurrency launch, Facebook sets its path toward becoming an independent nation

Writing at The Conversation, author Jennifer Grygiel of Syracuse University contributed this fantastic article about Facebook’s announcement of its new cryptocurrency, Libra.

This is a particularly powerful section:

Facebook’s entrance into the financial industry is a threat to democracies and their citizens around the world, on the same scale as disinformation and information warfare, which also depend on social media for their effectiveness.

It may be hard for world leaders to understand that this is an emergency, as they cannot see the virtual powers aligning against them. But they must huddle quickly to ensure they have – and keep – the power to protect their people from technology companies’ greed.

Grygiel goes on to describe how Zuckerberg is essentially building something similar to the Roman Empire, with a central bank, currency and himself as the corporate dictator.

Ever since reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I wondered what would come after the nation state. As our world becomes increasingly globalised, do we really face a future of megastates? It seems like we do, however we haven’t really considered the possibility that such nations won’t be national in the traditional sense. What if this dystopian future of surveillance—which is already upon us in many ways—actually gives birth to a new type of nation: the ‘corpornation’? Indeed, will we start to see ‘corpornational’ wars between Facebook and the likes of Google, Amazon and WeChat in the future?

This may sound ridiculous but people around the world are increasingly losing their belief in traditional institutions and political systems. The leaders of the future may be corporate rather than parliamentary.

My advice is simple: delete your Facebook account. Be a part of the open Web instead.

Rumination No. 36: Advance Australia… Yeah, Nah…

During this weekend’s federal election, Australia showed that it is a nation divided, indeed, a nation of great contradictions.

I believe that Australia generally sees itself as a forward-thinking nation—one of progressive ideas, innovation and the ‘fair go’. We apparently value equality and are early adopters of numerous consumer technologies.

Yet, when it comes to our politics, with the re-election of the Liberal-National Coalition, Australia has really shown the total opposite. Rather than choosing to wind down negative gearing and franking credits, in order create a more stable and equal housing market, Australia chose to maintain the status quo.

Instead of choosing parties such as Labor or the Greens, which trumpeted a clearer commitment to renewable technologies and electric vehicles, voters kept a man in office who once entered the House of Representatives carrying a piece of coal as a prop for Question Time.

Furthermore, Australia would like to consider itself to be a politically stable, developed nation, yet a government that has suffered the turmoil of three different prime ministerships has just been re-elected. Disunity apparently isn’t death, but in fact a benefit.

I am by no means a full-blown supporter of any given party, however I believe that this weekend’s election result is an embarrassment. Australia had the chance to start afresh with an entirely new government. Rather than progressive ideas and positive messaging, Australia fell for a scare-campaign from the right.

Somehow, with the constant carry-on from the Coalition and policy-free outfits such as Palmer’s United Australia Party, the nation has fallen for the idea that any investment in services, whether education, health or energy, comes at the expense of the economy. Surpluses are all that matter and any kind of spending is to be questioned. This may come as a surprise to some, but economic growth and new jobs can arise from investment in people.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Australia to get over this economic obsession. Let’s see where the next three years will take us.

Abbott vs. Turnbull: Republic Debate (1993)

The last decade has been an extraordinary (and disappointing) one in Australian politics, with tiresome leadership spills, the rise of the often unpredictable micro parties and forever-shifting policies, particularly when it comes to energy and sustainability.

Things move quickly and we’re already into the post-Turnbull ‘ScoMo’ era (cringe). Before we forget recent events between Turnbull and Abbott too quickly, however, it is important to remember that history has a habit of repeating itself…

I couldn’t help being reminded of this fact when I stumbled upon a video of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull on the ABC’s 7:30 Report back in 1993, debating the need for Australia to become a republic. Shared on YouTube by ABCLibrarySales, this great video shows that Abbott and Turnbull almost seemed destined to butt heads ideologically for the rest of their political careers.

As a side note, the question of Australia becoming a republic really doesn’t seem to have progressed since the 1999 referendum. The issue of a rebranded royal family with increasing popularity certainly isn’t helping things.

Antipodean Antics

Australian politics has now been a downright mess for a decade, with elected leaders placing more emphasis on personality over policy. Legislation on issues such as energy, immigration, communications and industrial relations (amongst many other things) has lacked any real direction or conviction. Essentially, we have been living with a revolving door of parliamentary mediocrity, with leadership spills in each of the major parties. This time, it seems that Prime Minister Turnbull of the conservative Liberal-National Coalition is facing the chopping block. This fantastic article shared by the ABC from The Conversation details how ideological division and a massive leadership vacuum formed in the modern Liberal Party