1. Australia Day 2020
Australians seem to like doing crazy things on Australia Day, like pie-eating competitions and wrestling crocodiles. This time an innocent lamington-eating competition went horribly wrong when a Hervey Bay woman choked and died.
Laura Tingle asks seriously As we approach Australia Day, do we even know who we are as a nation?
She says this year:
- we seem to be surpassing our usual ration of clichés about beaches, barbecues, and revelling in our egalitarian ordinariness.
Of course these days we pay at least some respect and recognition to Indigenous Australia, while skirting around the controversy of what they think about the marking of our national day on January 26.
But this year there are more than just the usual clichés about Aussie-ness. We have drought and fire and rain all at once, and on a scale that has made the world sit up and take notice.
She says the Bridget McKenzie sports rort affair of political bad behaviour seems an appropriate cliché for what we are, or what we tolerate, these days.
The bushfires have changed the way we see ourselves, but instead of a sensible conversation everything morphs into the culture wars.
Speaking of culture she says we need to talk about whether culture actually matters to us.
- Recent research has highlighted how the Federal Government’s spend on culture in its broadest forms — everything from film and music to museums and local events — has fallen in the last decade, and fallen as a share of the total spend by different levels of government.
The Federal Government now contributes 39 per cent of total government spending, down from 45.7 per cent a decade ago, while state and territory governments contribute 34.8 per cent, up from 31.9 per cent, and local governments contribute 26.2 per cent, up from 22.4 per cent.
To the Feds it’s more about jobs than it is about creativity and telling our stories. So we are:
- spending half a billion dollars expanding the Australian War Memorial, while cutting the funding of many of our other museums and galleries, [which] suggests a certain lopsidedness in what it is we value remembering these days.
Our natural landscape may have become a vast barren and bleak place this summer.
But we have to ask ourselves whether our cultural landscape has to be that way too.
Someone pondered the other day whether, if we had no such thing as a public library, any government would consider spending a buck on such an idea.
In Oz I think the answer is self-evident.
2. Brand Australia takes on a new look
Laura Tingle’s column also appears in the opinion pages of the AFR. On the front page last weekend they highlighted:
A burnt-out landscape. A war zone of dead wildlife. Unbreathable air. A smoke-damaged vintage. A laggard on climate change. Advertising alone won’t repair Australia’s image problem.
In tourism, and in food exports, Australia has traded on its clean, green image. Now the Government is going to shovel $76 million of the bushfire aid into tourism advertising, with $20 million persuading us to take holidays at home.
That is the incomparable David Rowe in the AFR where they tell us:
- The government now faces disruption within its two biggest export markets behind coal and iron ore: tourism and education. Tourism employs one in 13 Australians and is worth $152 billion a year, where international tourist arrivals account for $45 billion of that figure – second only in export earnings to mining. The international student business is just behind tourism, contributing in excess of $38 billion to our annual bottom line.
According to Tourism Australia, 1.42 million people visited Australia from China in the 12 months to September 2018, spending $11.5 billion.
Greg Jericho says he loves the sunburnt country but If you love Australia, climate change should scare the hell out of you. Moreover, Scott Morrison’s stance on climate change makes it harder for future governments to undo his damage. This is the shape of the task that would face an Albanese government to repair the damage of the Morrison policies, given that, according to the science, you can’t just ignore all the emissions that should not have been released during the Morrison delinquency:
You can’t call yourself clean and green if continue to pollute with greenhouse gases unabated.
3. Coronavirus strikes
Seems the problem comes from eating, or getting too friendly with bats and snakes.
Here’s where Hubei Province is:
The are locking down Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, and there was talk of locking down the whole province, nearly 60 million people. Some are questioning whether the official figures are underdone. The authorities are taking emergency action to build two extras hospitals in a matter of weeks.
Clearly our tertiary education industry could be impacted. The virus may be the 2020 ‘black swan’ event.
The blessing with this one is that it is not inherently deadly, like ebola or the bubonic plague. However, it is highly contagious on the person-to-person basis.
This site monitors its spread, showing that cases have occurred all over China.
4. Environment now our top worry
The environment has now catapulted to the top of the list of Australians’ biggest worries, leapfrogging cost of living, healthcare and the economy, writes Jessica Irvine in the SMH:
Something to think about from Ipsos researcher Daniel Evans:
- “When we unpacked the reasons why Australians selected the environment, people mostly attributed their worry to climate change, drought and bushfire. Some linked these topics, and others discussed climate change and drought in relation to natural resource management failings related to water and bushland. Comments were also made about waste, consumption, population growth and plastics.”
Participants were asked which political party they felt was best able to address their environmental concerns.
Generation X, Millenials and Gen Z’ers ranked the Greens highest, while Baby Boomer and Builders nominated the Coalition.
No age cohort put Labor first to manage the environment.