The ultimate conservationist? The looming crisis for Abbott | RenewEconomy

The ultimate conservationist? The looming crisis for Abbott

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Abbott and Senator Ludlam’s recent speeches got plenty of attention – but for diametrically opposing reasons.

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The Conversation

 AAP/Alan Porritt

AAP/Alan Porritt

Two political speeches that grabbed the most attention last week were those of Greens senator Scott Ludlam and prime minister Tony Abbott. Both were quite peculiar but for diametrically opposing reasons.

Perhaps timed for this weekend’s Tasmanian state election, Abbott gave a “let’s help Tasmania” speech to a room full of appreciative forestry workers, while Ludlam pursued a kind of ode to everything that he saw as wrong with the current government to an almost empty senate chamber.

Abbott received applause during his speech, and Ludlam only silence.

Yet these speeches were also covered by mainstream and social media, where the reception they received was abruptly reversed. Only a few news outlets bothered making a clip of Abbott’s speech, with tweets and social media recommendations numbering in the hundreds. As of today, Ludlam’s speech has passed an astonishing 710,000 YouTube views.

Ludlam’s speech dealt with a wide range of issues that are core to the agenda of the Greens: asylum policy, anti-mining, anti-privatisation, same-sex marriage, manufacturing workers. It was a broadside against the Abbott government ahead of the Senate re-election contest in WA that is not looking promising for Ludlam.

However, Ludlam returned to green themes the most – renewable energy, nuclear power and climate change – to put to Abbott:

Your only proposal for environmental reforms thus far is to leave minister Greg Hunt to playing solitaire for the next three years whilst you outsource his responsibilities.

It is “bitterly obvious”, Ludlam said, that these responsibilities have been handed to the agents of “predator capitalism” rather than the public interest.

Abbott’s speech to the Australian Forest Products Association was an impassioned clarion call to another kind of environmentalism. It was a call to people who work on the land who are seen to be in touch with “mother nature”, a nostalgic view that assumes a respect for the natural world.

Abbott begins with an account of timber craftsmen: those who can create wonderous objects of beauty out of the forest. People who work with timber, who know the value of “working with one’s hands” are the “ultimate conservationists”, he said. He continued:

Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do.

And here the speech is most revealing of the Abbott government’s philosophy of nature. Enjoyment of “nature” is not an aesthetic matter but an economic one. It is economic, because “nature” is assumed to be an inert and abundant resource to be “husbanded”, which is how 18th century enlightenment thinkers constructed discourses about “nature”, assuming that “man” has very little impact on the natural world.

Thus these forests are said to be “locked up” from such enjoyment – namely logging.

We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.

This is why Abbott consistently throughout his speech attacks what he calls the:

…green ideology, which has done so much damage to our country over the last couple of decades.

The green ideology is deemed to be anti-enjoyment, in two senses, as it separates us from the resources to craft timber, but also from economic enjoyment.

AAP/Forestry Tasmania
AAP/Forestry Tasmania


Abbott was able to appeal to a largely sectarian audience. Most of them have been part of very effective management strategies in the Tasmanian forest industry that has allowedWorld Heritage listing of the pristine areas in the first place.

But the problem for Abbott began as soon as he walked out of the chamber of applause. To begin with, the forestry industry in Tasmania, where the Abbott government is proposing to “unlock” 74,000 hectares of World Heritage listed forest, is not exactly an economic bonanza. It employs, directly and indirectly, far less people than are about to lose their jobs at Qantas.

And as far as romanticising it as a resource for craftsmen, 75% of trees logged in Tasmania go to woodchips at a price barely competitive with chips from southeast Asia.

Forestry Tasmania, which oversees public native Forests, reported a A$64 million gross net loss for the 2009-12 period, and it is widely viewed as a declining industry. If any part of the World Heritage forests lost their certification, Tasmania would have trouble selling its timber anywhere on the world market.

But the much larger issue here is how such a policy conflicts with “Direct Action”: a policy with no program for carbon pricing, a green army of underpaid, unemployed people, whosemain carbon mitigation reform is the carbon sequestration offered by planting trees. Yes, planting trees, not logging them.

It might be just as well that Abbott’s speech has been largely “locked up” within the auditorium of the forestry workers given the Abbott government is now on a collision course with its responsibilities at the G20 meeting in November. This meeting is being hosted and chaired by Australia in Brisbane, and member nations are pushing for climate change to be very high on the agenda.

The international pressure for climate change action will be exquisite in Brisbane. It would be difficult to invent a more awkward contrast between Australia’s domestic myopia and the international momentum on climate action.

Globe International assessment of the climate mitigation strategies of 66 countries rated Australia as the bottom of the barrel. Headed by former Thatcher government minister Lord Deben, the Abbott government’s climate policies are described as:

…so unintellectual as to be unacceptable; I mean it is just amazing.

Australia is identified as the only country on earth to be winding back national climate legislation.

How Australia is going to chair a meeting that is starring climate change as a priority item will be excruciating to watch. And if Greg Hunt or Tony Abbott have to give a speech, that would be amazing.


Source: The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Motorshack 6 years ago

    Just watched the Scott Ludlam speech, and it made me very sorry that I don’t live where I can vote for him. I not only agree with his policy choices, but anyone with that sharp a sense of humor has to be a better choice than the greedy, humorless idiots shilling for the One Percent.

    • Alen 6 years ago

      About time someone publicly voiced what everyone thinks and knows about the Abbott government.

      • Motorshack 6 years ago

        Yeah, well, unfortunately somebody voted them into office, and they probably are not all from Upper Middle Bogan. Although, if I understand your voting system, Abbot might have been everyone’s second or third choice and still have won the election. You would likely know far better than I, of course.

        I could say that I’m glad that I don’t live in Australia, but then I would have to admit that an amazing number of people here take Sarah Palin seriously, too. Also, we finally got rid of Dubya, and O’Bomber turns out to be almost as bloodthirsty, if not quite as brainless.

        Every country has bozos like this, and occasionally one of them manages to get elected.

        • Alen 6 years ago

          I’d like to belief that Australians are generally smarter than the Abbott government is portraying us to the rest of the world, and the population was basically duped into voting Abbott in. The constant negative media (with huge funding bases) from the miners against the mining tax and carbon tax spread so much BS about these that it was virtually impossible for the common public to know the true facts of these and their impacts, benefits..etc. Abbott managed to link these bad image to Labor and it was one of his principal election points. The Murdoch press was so biased during the campaign that again there was very limited opportunity for the public to have anything but a negative view on the Labor government.

          The fact that the entire developed (some developing) nations are increasingly adopting such policies as the carbon tax, should in essence be a clear view that this is in fact a reasonable and necessary scheme in the modern time.

  2. LM 6 years ago

    I just watched Scott Ludlam’s speech also and totally agree with Motorshack. Our current Gov’t is such a disgusting joke I feel like we have regressed 10-20 years. I have never voted Greens before but that’s about to change.

    • Motorshack 6 years ago

      So, you are in fact just what Ludlam predicted, a voter whom Tony Abbott has persuaded to vote Green. That’s really interesting. Good for you.

      I have to say also that I envy your voting system, which,I gather, allows you to list a whole series of preferences, and if your first choice does not win you can still have a say in the fate of one or more secondary candidates. Here in the U.S. we have a straight first-past-the post system, so usually a vote for a minor party is as good as a simple abstention. You might as well not vote at all, except as a way of registering a protest with no practical effect.

      Or rather, it can split the vote in a way that lets an underdog win after all. It is widely assumed here, for example, that Al Gore would have won the 2000 election except that Ralph Nader drew off a key slice of the left-wing vote, leaving Bush the winner – with a little help from the Supreme Court, and some corrupt Florida politics.

      • OneComeUnity 6 years ago

        This is PURELY my OPINION
        if Fact You Might Call it the RAVINGS
        to put BLAME in the HANDS OF THE BLAMERS.


        Budget Response 2 Govt.
        of the Day.
        THIS IS TO. Both of Your
        ‘2 Partys Preferred’
        YOU ARE
        to GIVE it (MyFUTURE)
        instead of Giving it back to Me;
        and the other BLOODY IDIOTS!!¡ ,
        who Keep BELIEVING IN A System!,
        that is SYSTEMATICALLY;
        Bloody Wrong☆***!
        Like I said BEFORE
        you’re just PUBLIC SERVANTs¡¡¡!!!
        YOU CAN’T HANDLE the JOB!!!¡,
        more TRUTHFULLY
        YOUR MATEs, in Big Business ALLPolitians
        Taking FROM OUR wonderful COMMUNITIES
        GIVING to your WAGE purse FIRST.
        I Want ANSWERS
        Another BLODDY EXCUSE! !!,
        DO NOT
        Not LOOK AFTER us AUSTRALIANS who KEEP PAYING 4 Your INCOMPETENCIES¡¡¡! Use the SAME Strategy on your WAGES SUPERANUATION your EXPENSES, etc., you NEED 2 reduce WASTED EXPENDITURE…please explain¿¿¿ Why Do you and the other CROWNIES , who are Boarding Private Jets, and driving Limos, with Cheaufers, NoLESS, EATING at Fine Restaurants etc., MAKING the COMMON MAN who pay your Way think ANYTHING WILL CHANGE; when you keep DOING THE SAME THING???
        COME and LEARN from a MOTHER, just how TOUGH the REAL WORLD IS when there is nothing left in the BUDGET even for FOOD AND OTHER ESENTIALS, like the ROOF OVER YOUR HEADS….GET REAL with YOURSELVES!!!¡¡¡
        You DON’T HAVE A SOLUTION so ASK SOMEONE WHO HAS a BETTER reality that what you are LIVING IN…come to Me; I’ll SHOW YOU HOW!!!, if you have the GUTS to ACTUALLY. RISE TO THE CHALLENGE; and Stop Blaming others for Your Inability to make ENDS MEET.
        Thank you for your EFFORTS, but if you were working for Me, you would habe been given your 3 strikes
        You WOULD BE
        and you would NEED RETRAINING. ..
        Your Boss
        Melissa Pearson

Comments are closed.

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