The world is burning, and all Australia has is a big stick

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The world is burning, and Australia is doing nothing but waving a big stick. No wonder the kids have gone on strike.

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As tens of thousands of people – the vast majority of them striking school children – gather around Australia to call for stronger government action on climate change, where were our top politicians?

The nation’s leader, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, was quite likely tucking himself into bed over in the US, looking forward to a week of bonhomie and back-slapping with fellow first-rate climate denier, US President Donald Trump.

He who brought a lump of coal into parliament and told us “don’t be afraid,” is not even bothering god about climate change, let alone making policy to try to slow it on its terrifying path. In fact, he has carefully constructed his US visit so he won’t attend the UN climate summit that will be held in New York from tomorrow.

While our kids listen to scientists talk in terms of “despair” and “climate grief” and feel compelled to make signs and march and yell, our energy  and emissions reductions minister Angus Taylor waves a big stick, and bemoans “shrill demands from aggressive activists” for unsettling business leaders.

In effect, Taylor is trying, with that big stick and his newspaper editorials, to bully the utilities into doing what the government has already chosen to do: ignore the science, turn a blind eye to the economics of new technology and future prosperity, and bury their collective heads deeper into last century’s fossil fuel economy.

While students and workers all around the country call for a quick end to fossil fuel burning – because that is what the science says must happen if we are to have any chance at this, resources minister Matt Canavan – the man who, we are told, charmingly introduces himself on overseas trips as “hello, I’m Mr Coal from Australia” – says environmentalists are “bullies and cowards.”

And in the same breath he calls engineering giant Aurecon “a bunch of bed-wetters” for distancing itself from Adani coal mining projects, including the massive Carmichael coal mine in north Queensland.

Just this week, one of the newest additions to the federal Senate, Northern Territory Nationals MP Sam McMahon, used her maiden speech to lash out at renewable energy, as “a hoax of immature technology replacing safe, clean, reliable and inexpensive power stations.”

Thankfully, she is not in charge up north, where the Labor government has just this week unveiled a comprehensive and uncompromisingly science-based Climate Change Response, including a massive solar push as the Territory aims for net zero emissions by 2050.

But she is not alone. Of the other “newby” Coalition members in Canberra, South Australia Senator Alex Antic came with up this convoluted mess in his maiden speech: “The reckless rush into the unproven, uncosted world of renewable energy in my home state represents both the deceased canary down a renewable energy coal mine – to coin a phrase – and a masterclass of failed policy from a failed former Labor government.”

Perhaps Antic should acquaint himself with the state Liberal government’s new policy – net 100 per cent renewables by 2030. And, like many of South Australia’s targets, it will likely be reached well before then.

And let’s not forget the memorable maiden speech from Queensland’s National Party MP Gerard Rennick who says we don’t need to worry about CO2 because immigrants are a bigger problem, something about over-stocking the paddock.

And while independent and sensible media outlets like The Conversation seek to give climate change the attention it deserves – and declare zero tolerance of climate denialist views – senior Liberal Senator Eric Abetz compares the academic website to a “totalitarian regime.”

“Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong couldn’t have put it better themselves. They’d be so proud,” he told parliament. “To so superciliously and arrogantly deny a voice to an alternative point of view is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.”

Is it any wonder there are kids taking the day off school by the thousands? Is it any wonder the schools these kids attend are themselves now condoning this action? Is it any wonder that more than 2000 major Australian businesses have also backed today’s climate strike, and are giving their staff a free pass to themselves attend?

Climate change is terrifying. And the only thing more terrifying is the people who hold the power refusing to do anything about it.

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