All posts by Brian

Brian Bahnisch, a survivor from Larvatus Prodeo, founded Climate Plus as a congenial space to continue coverage of climate change and sundry other topics. As a grandfather of more than three score years and ten, Brian is concerned about the future of the planet, and still looking for the meaning of everything.

Political panic or dynamic leadership? Morrison’s bushfire response

That’s a screenshot of an advertisement put out on Twitter, which you can see here authorised by S. Morrison for the Liberal Party to spruik what the Australian Government is doing to in ” response to these terrible #bushfires“.

If you scroll down a bit you will see this:

Katherine Murphy lets fly in Scott Morrison’s political ad is a bizarre act of self-love as firefighters battle to save Australia:

The prime minister’s promotional video was staggeringly objectionable and highlights his failure to lead

It really is hard to keep up with a prime minister who declares one minute disaster management is predominantly a state responsibility, and he won’t be running over the top of state premiers, and then, seemingly, five minutes later, calls out the ADF reserve, deploys military assets and procures more water bombers than anyone asked for.

This kind of plot twist is dizzying stuff in normal conditions, let alone in the middle of a disaster, when the prime ministerial norm is generally one of steadiness and consistency.

Perhaps it was Scott Morrison’s own demonstrable lack of clarity about what his government was, or was not, doing, in response to Australia’s catastrophic summer of bushfires that prompted his communications team to pump out a promotional video – on one of the most perilous days of the disaster – outlining today’s initiatives.”

That was Murphy just warming up.

Perhaps surprisingly news.com.au gives a quite dispassionate account in Scott Morrison slammed after tweeting 50-second ad spruiking new bushfire measures.

That piece ends with Morrison’s own account of the woman at Cobargo refusing to shake his hand and other people yelling at him. Essentially he says there is a lot of emotion around, and the fact that he was the ‘first senior leader’ to enter the town made him a target for people’s anger and fear.

The ABC’s account rounds up criticism from all directions, labelling the ad ‘absolutely obscene’ and ‘It’s like being ‘sold to’ at a funeral’.

More importantly:

‘The Australian Defence Association (ADA) — a public-interest watchdog of Australian defence matters — said on Twitter the video “milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires” was a “clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs”.

The ADA website notes that “politically expedient Government announcements” featuring the ADF “is always wrong”.

On the radio Morrison is arguing that earlier he took the position that fire-fighting was a state matter, and that he had been responding to their requests. Now, he says, they were not asking enough and the situation demands actrion, so he is acting.

However, his style appears to be totally non-consultative, ignoring the appropriate protocols. As John Davidson said on another thread:

” He also said somewhere that he was doing what he was doing without listening to the premiers. The big man has taken over AND IT WILL BE DONE HIS WAY!!!

Sounds like out of control political panicking from someone who doesn’t know how to lead. “

This David Rowe cartoon from mid-November seems apposite:

When people with expertise wanted to meet with him he refused. Now he just goes ahead regardless, although on radio he said that calling in the reserves was planned in November. The Guardian has a useful chronology from May 2018 of how the issue developed over time, although they could have started with scientists’ warnings which Penny Wong says she was given when in government prior to Abbott’s ascension to power in 2013.

Moreover, Australia is already majorly on the nose overseas on matters relating to climate change. An article in the New York Post written after the Cobargo incident – Australia fires: Scott Morrison chased out of scorched town by angry locals – is worth a read, with the PM being called a “scumbag” and told to “piss off”. It gives a full report of the video seen here that went viral.

Paul Bongiorno had already written Morrison’s leadership off in The summer Scott Morrison’s leadership broke. Bongiorno details how Morrison continually gets the decisions, the optics and the words wrong. Whatever political capital he had from the election has been squandered.

On New Year’s Eve we had the PM telling us what a great place Australia is to live when a debate raged as to whether the fireworks should be cancelled and the cricket authorities are spelling out the protocols about who decides whether the players can still see the ball for the smoke. Well before that time the PM had become a bit of a joke. The first comment on this Mumbrella piece says “Morrison is no leader, he couldn’t even lead a choko vine over a dunny wall.! “

Laura Tingle asks a reasonable question in Are the bushfires Scott Morrison’s Hurricane Katrina moment that he can’t live down?

Reflecting on a photo of himself surveying some of the damage from Air Force One, George W Bush said:

That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.

“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Tingle dismembers the Government’s shallow, perfidious and contradictory climate ‘policies’.

A price we have paid is a general lack of trust in politicians and the institutions of government, which the right side of politics have trashed in Australia over the last 10 years. Joe Hildebrandt comes up with an unusual analysis which nevertheless is built around the central point that we’ve had Liberal and Labor powerbrokers treating the office of the prime minister as a personal plaything and the electorate with contempt in the process. The notable exception, he says, has been Anthony Albanese, but than he says Albo has been attacked by the lunar left for not attacking Morrison.

Must say, I don’t know where or when that happened, or who the ‘lunar left’ are.

I was surprised at Tingle’s report on the scale of the fires:

“To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.”

As commenter zoot pointed out the New York Times has an excellent piece Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad. Just in is an excellent graphic explainer from the BBC.

Our problem is that at the UN climate talks in Madrid in December our stance not just a sad, irrelevant joke, we were actively obstructionist.

The world is watching. See also the BBC’s What is Australia doing to tackle climate change?

I think 2019 is the year climate change smacked us in the face. It’s time to act now, urgently and at scale, on immediate and longer term adaptation and mitigation.

On the latter, that should mean net zero CO2 by 2030 at latest, and 350 ppm ASAP thereafter.

Belated season’s Greetings

This year was a very strange year when almost nothing happened worth writing about, but we were busy all year, with some of the projects we’d shunted on from the previous year still not accomplished.

This year we seemed to be constantly busy but nothing too dramatic happened,  and in a way we were grateful for that.

On the day I wrote this the forecast was 39°C  for Brisbane and 43°C  for Ipswich. The weather/climate has certainly been unusual. In Australia we have had  record floods in the north, drought in large parts of the country, water being carted to inland towns, a huge fish kill in the Darling River system, horrific fires mainly in NSW and Qld, and then storms with supercells delivering destructive hail. It used to be “as big as golf balls”. Last week it was “as big as coconuts”.

We have been struggling to keep the main structure of our garden alive, while around the suburbs mature trees are dying. Here’s a golden penda photographed in April:

This photo is from 16 December:

Sad.

As an update, we had 84 mm of rain in all in December, and the tree is attempting to put out new leaves.

This is what our grass in the front yard looked like before the rain:

We’ve twice been out to visit my sister at the Carinya Hostel in Miles where she has settled well in the residential aged care facility. The 24/7 care seems excellent.

After the election we joined the Mt Coot-tha Branch of the Labor Party, and I joined LEAN (Labor Environment Action Network), a low-profile group that works within the ALP to help shape policy, and then keep the politicians honest.

On the basis of a submission I made I was encouraged to attend their national conference in  Sydney in October. My wife came along to help navigate the big city, catch up with her nephew and his wife, and take in an art gallery or two.

The natives were friendly and very helpful but after only two days we were glad to come back home. Being in Sydney was like living in a huge ants nest.

In January my daughter and granddaughter came to visit:

They are coming again next year in April, to help me celebrate my 80th birthday.

In 2018 we had a simple Christmas on our deck with the boys:

In 2019 it was just one.

Mark stayed with us from October 2018 until the end of January. Then the next day Alex moved in. By mid-year Alex had moved out, and Mark came back. In December he went to Chiang Mai in Thailand where he and his Thai teacher Waan awere writing their novels and hanging about.

So we had that ‘empty house’ feeling for about two days until we got used to it.

Other than that life continues as normal.

My wife sang in Messiah once again. I have one less yard in Brookfield to look after, and continue to blog, though my output has suffered because of my political engagement, plus everything seems to take a bit longer than it used to. This year over 100 posts were added. I think there are about 1400 there now.

We saw some brilliant movies, and went to GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) to see the exhibition of Margaret Olley and Ben Quilty.

Here’s the amazing portrait Quilty painted of Olley:

That one is from the interwebs.

So in an increasingly troubled world life continues to be good for us. And we continue to cultivate the four emotions worth having – loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

We hope you had a pleasant and rewarding Christmas/New Year and wish you health and happiness for 2020.

Weekly salon 15/12

1. Thunberg becomes Time Person of the year

From the ABC:


    Time lauded the 16-year-old from Sweden for starting an environmental campaign in August 2018 that became a global movement, initially skipping school and camping in front of the Swedish Parliament to demand action.

    “In the 16 months since, she has addressed heads of state at the UN, met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history,” the magazine said.

    “Margaret Atwood compared her to Joan of Arc. After noticing a hundredfold increase in its usage, lexicographers at Collins Dictionary named Thunberg’s pioneering idea, climate strike, the word of the year.”

Continue reading Weekly salon 15/12

Australia succeeds in reaching a new low in climate action

Australia succeeded in coming bottom of the class of 57 countries on climate policy, achieving a score of 0.0, ahead of the USA on 2.8 and Turkey on 4.8 in a race to the bottom. That is out of 100, where Portugal got 98.7 and Finland 98.

Internationally we are seen as ‘an increasingly regressive force’, so a negative score would have been appropriate. Continue reading Australia succeeds in reaching a new low in climate action

Weekly salon 9/12

1. Leading scientists condemn political inaction on climate change as Australia ‘literally burns’

    Leading scientists have expressed concern about the lack of focus on the climate crisis as bushfires rage across New South Wales and Queensland, saying it should be a “wake-up call” for the government.

    Climate experts who spoke to Guardian Australia said they were “bewildered” the emergency had grabbed little attention during the final parliamentary sitting week for the year, which was instead taken up by the repeal of medevac laws, a restructure of the public service, and energy minister Angus Taylor’s run-in with the American author Naomi Wolf.

Continue reading Weekly salon 9/12

Has the climate tipped?

‘Tipping point’ is a metaphor, first used by science and the media about climate change from about 2005 as this article explains. The metaphor has become topical now because some of the most senior climate scientists on the planet have used it to warn everyone, just before the nations of the world meet in the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC meet in the first two weeks of December, as they do every year, this time in Madrid, to plan an international response to what was identified in the Rio Earth Summit as dangerous anthropogenic interference [DAI] with the climate system”.

The article, commentary rather than research – Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against – is freely available at Nature. The authors are Timothy M. Lenton, Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney, Stefan Rahmstorf, Katherine Richardson, Will Steffen and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber with the message;

    The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions.

Continue reading Has the climate tipped?

Westpac’s woes

To senior people at Westpac the AUSTRAC charges seemed like a minor technical glitch. Instead they’d been handed a grenade which exploded in their faces. The media portrayal has been of greedy bankers who would engage in anything to make a profit. This SMH editorial begins:

    After the royal commission into the financial sector last year, many pundits said that trust in banks could not go any lower. Westpac has proven them wrong.

    Less than a year after Kenneth Hayne delivered his report about rip-offs and illegal sales tactics by Australia’s most profitable financial institutions, Australia’s second largest bank has been pinged for breaches of money laundering and anti-terrorism laws, including facilitating payments to paedophiles in the Philippines.

The actual is a little more prosaic, as the editorial goes on to tell:

    Westpac’s latest failures raise different issues to the Hayne inquiry. This is not a case of bank managers ordering their staff to act unconscionably or flawed incentive payments. Westpac’s crimes here are arguably more those of omission than commission. It failed to implement and check the IT systems required to properly detect and report suspicious transactions. (Emphasis added)

Continue reading Westpac’s woes

Weekly salon 26/11

1. Scott Morrison perfects the art of hiding in plain sight

That’s according to Paula Matthewson at the New Daily. She says he’s doing fewer TV interviews and holding fewer media conferences than we’ve come to expect from a prime minister, but is bursting out all over on social media, where, she says, it will be almost impossible to enforce ‘truth’ online.

    No matter how welcome and overdue, imposing truth in advertising restrictions on Facebook will do nothing to staunch the flood of misdirections, deflections, mistruths and porkies that can flow through the other direct-to-voter channels. Continue reading Weekly salon 26/11

How do we prepare for the bushfires of the future?

Some are still suggesting that there is no direct link between climate change and Australia’s 2019 early bushfire season.

Adam Morton, Nick Evershed and Graham Readfearn did a factcheck at The Guardian. This graph shows that with summer about to begin 2019 was already streets ahead of anything we’ve seen in NSW since 1984:

Continue reading How do we prepare for the bushfires of the future?

Climate implications of the fire season

Anger has flared leading to has been more than a little trashy talk about bushfires and climate change. I would tend to agree with Phillip Coorey when he says (in the print edition) We can do without these dumb, nasty arguments.

    Apart from the United States, it is hard to think of any other educated country where this argument would be raging, let alone one as dumb and nasty as this one.

    The rest of the world long ago accepted climate change was a reality and grapples with how to combat it.

    Here, powerful people in media and politics with no qualifications or expertise whatsoever, continue to ridicule those women and men who have devoted their professional lives to science and fact with no ideological axe to grind.

David Rowe’s cartoon was priceless:

Continue reading Climate implications of the fire season

Aged Care in Australia: A Shocking Tale of Neglect

Aboriginal Elder Mildred Numamurdirdi, with GP Meredith Hanson-Knarhol, had to travel 800 kilometres to receive care.

    A sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.

The media release began as follows:

    The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report has found the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them.

    Commissioners Richard Tracey AM, RFD, QC and Lynelle Briggs’s AO investigation into Australia’s aged care system led them to describe the aged care system as “a shocking tale of neglect”. Continue reading Aged Care in Australia: A Shocking Tale of Neglect

Weekly salon 1/11

1. Sydney

The purpose of LEAN is to make concern for the environment and climate change an essential part of Labor’s DNA. I’d say with the roomful of awesomely talented people we had at Lane Cove, the prospects look bright. Certainly the ALP branches around and near the suburb I live in are already there. Mark Butler is held in very high regard by the people who know him.

Second comment, I’m from the Silent Generation, according to this listing. At the meeting there was a pleasing quota of Millennials, of Gen Y (born 1977-1995). I’d never encountered them in sizable groups before. I found that a cluster of Millennials talk very fast and laugh all the time. I saw an article recently (not this one) that said human speech varies culturally from just over four phonemes per second to just under six. That’s nearly 50% faster, and not what my brain is used to. Continue reading Weekly salon 1/11