Are conservatives irrelevant in the 21st century? Jennifer Wilson reports.
The extraordinary Queensland election result saw former LNP Premier Campbell Newman lose his seat, and the ALP chuck an unprecedented Lazarus and rise, as gobsmacked as was anybody looking on, from its cold political grave. Newman’s government lasted just one term, after the largest win in political history by his party left the Queensland ALP with just seven seats. Now the voters have seriously turned. You could not make this stuff up.
In November, Victorians threw out their LNP government, also after only one term, and returned the ALP to power.
In NSW we have an election in March, and LNP Premier Mike Baird is likely apprehensive.
It’s early days, but what seems apparent at first blush is that increasingly, Australians don’t care for the conservative method of governance. In general, we don’t take to entitled, privileged bullies fattening themselves and their besties at the taxpayer trough while simultaneously stripping us of public assets, and grinding into the dirt those who can least afford any further grinding. Unrestrained self-interest does not go down well with the Australian public, it would seem.
Neither do we take to blatant liars in our governments, nor to arrogant, dismissive leaders who think power means they never have to explain, and account for their actions.
As all of the above traits are endemic in the current conservative personality, and as the voters aren’t willing to tolerate them for longer than one term, the LNP state and federal may well be looking at some time in the wilderness of opposition, having had a brief and turbulent taste of their utter lack of relevance to 21st century Australians.
The ALP ought not to become over-confident. All too often the party has shown an alarming tendency to go along with what are essentially conservative ideas, to the point where many of us have fallen prey to a chronic despair that has expressed itself in the phrase “There’s no bloody difference between the two major parties.” There’d better be a bloody difference, and if ALP politicians state and federal have any sense, they will be taking a good look at resurrecting the party’s core values, and listening hard to what voters are telling them.
Increasingly, voters appear to be willing to give governments only one chance. ‘Til very recently, our attitude was to give them a second go in a second term. We seem to be on the cusp of a significant change in that attitude. This may well have to do with retribution. If our major parties don’t give so many of us a fair go, why the bloody hell should we extend that generosity to them?
For mine, it would be a great advancement if politicians were as a first principle capable of remembering their job is to serve the people, and not the other way round. I don’t know how many arses need to get hit by the door on the way out before they grasp that fundamental article of their job description.
This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.
We are an apathetic bunch who would rather watch sport than talk politics. We would rather have a barbie than a bi-election. We would rather go to the beach than the polling booth. But push us too far and bear the consequences, as Campbell Newman found out this evening and as Dennis Napthine found out a few weeks ago.
I am 57 years old (same as Tony) and I have always had a passing interest in politics but, until Tony Abbott became LOTO, I was never passionate about it. He changed all that. Tony made me realise that I had to get off my bum and do something to help protect my country from the pillage and plunder that he is proposing.
I am just a middle aged woman in jammies but I cannot sit back and watch my country sold off to the highest bidder. In fact it isn’t even the highest bidder who necessarily gets the nod.
Tony Abbott views our assets as his to distribute to his mates as he pleases. He gives jobs to friends like Christmas presents like offering his close personal friend, The Australian newspaper’s Greg Sheridan, the plum posting of high commissioner to Singapore after the 2013 election despite him having no qualifications or experience to recommend him for the job.
And that same attitude was shown by Campbell Newman who so incensed the people of Queensland that they reversed the biggest election win in the history of the country to say piss off….enough is enough.
It is now up to every one of us to stand up to protect the country we love, to protect our children’s future, to protect the way of life our parents fought hard to provide for us. We can no longer trust politicians (if we ever could) to do what is in our best interests. We have to tell them no, you may not do this. Our common wealth is not yours to dispose of as you please.
To the people of Victoria, and even more so, to you amazing Queenslanders who delivered a result no-one expected, I say thank you. You have stood up in the first line of defence to stop the corporatization of our nation. You have slapped down those who think wealth and power gives them the right to dictate to us, to wring whatever profit they can from us with no thought to the consequences of their greed. I can only hope that the people of NSW show the same courage and determination to stop Mike Baird from destroying our farmland and water and gifting our public land to developers.
And to Tony Abbott, I look forward to your address to the National Press Gallery on Monday with gleeful anticipation.
Science that stands in the way of any commercial operation is not to be listened to.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has intervened to force the removal of all references to climate change-derived sea level rises from the regional plan of Moreton Bay Regional Council, a decision experts say could have wide ramifications.
In a letter to the council dated November 28, Mr Seeney wrote: “I direct council to amend its draft planning scheme to remove any assumption about a theoretical projected sea level rise from all and any provision of the scheme.”
The council is obliged by law to obey the direction.
Councils across Queensland are now worried they could face huge liabilities for failing to take climate change into consideration in local planning, and the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has sought legal advice on their behalf.
Some of the biggest coastal councils including Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Townsville have also incorporated the same assumption of a 0.8-metre rise in sea level by the year 2100 that Mr Seeney has ordered be removed in Moreton Bay.
The ABC understands the LGAQ today wrote to Mr Seeney seeking clarification of the implications for other councils, with particular concerns about future liabilities and insuring council assets.
The Council of Mayors of south-east Queensland also plans to write to the Deputy Premier with similar concerns.
On coming to office, the LNP removed a Bligh government requirement for councils to incorporate the 0.8-metre rise in sea level, putting itself at odds with the insurance industry and the majority of scientific opinion.
Moreton Bay Regional Council, which takes in many low-lying coastal suburbs north-west of Brisbane as well as parts of Bribie Island, had retained the sea level rise in its planning policies despite direct appeals from Mr Seeney.
Seeney intervened to ‘ensure rights of residents’
At a council meeting held today to discuss Mr Seeney’s direction, a report in the agenda noted that the Deputy Premier had previously called two meetings with the council to discuss the issue.
“Council noted the Deputy Premier’s concerns but indicated the inclusion of climate change factors, including sea level rise, based on the best scientific and technical information available to the council, was necessary in order to protect the council against legal liability,” the report said.
Mr Seeney told the ABC he had intervened “to ensure residents’ rights to build and develop their properties were maintained and not restricted by their local council”.
He said the Moreton Bay Regional Council’s decision to include the 0.8-metre sea level rise in their planning scheme had prompted complaints to council and the State Government and angry public meetings.
“Local member Lisa France was invited to attend these meetings and, on behalf of her constituents, brought the issue to my attention,” he said.
“I am prepared to protect the property rights of Queenslanders in other council areas should this issue arise again.”
Climate change intervention looks ideological: adviser
Dr Justine Bell, an expert on climate change adaptation in the University of Queensland’s law school, said the Moreton Bay move could have state-wide implications.
“We’re going to have more development in hazardous areas and more people who are going to be affected by sea level rise,” she said.
Dr Bell said Moreton Bay Regional Council had taken a “brave” stance on climate change in the face of the Government’s policies.
Councils in Townsville and the Whitsundays had also incorporated the 0.8-metre sea level rise prediction in their plans and would now be concerned, she said.
However, Dr Bell noted that Mr Seeney’s ruling “seemed like a bit of a backflip” after a letter from the Deputy Premier to Moreton Bay Mayor Allan Sutherland in January said “each coastal local government should proceed to determine the extent of coastal hazards in the manner that it considers appropriate and plan accordingly”.
Dr Bell said the decision to intervene put the state at risk of increasing its liability by making it more likely that development would take place in hazardous locations.
Donovan Burton, who advises governments, NGOs and companies on how to adapt to the effects of climate change, said the intervention “looked ideological” and would create liabilities for future generations.
Mr Donovan said even the 0.8-metre prediction of the Bligh government was “conservative” and lower than that of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
LGAQ president Margaret de Wit said there needed to be consistency “for all of the coastal councils”.
“We have obtained legal advice which we have passed onto those councils, including Moreton Bay Regional Council,” she said.
“The new planning development act the State Government is creating means the issue will be dealt with, but at the moment that’s only a bill.
“Moreton Bay Regional Council has been very concerned about the directions they have received. Councils in Queensland don’t have the level of indemnity of councils in other states, the same degree of protection.”
Mithaka people of south-west Queensland say the government has violated international law by failing to consult them over fracking
The Mithaka people of south-west Queensland have appealed to the United Nations to investigate the state government for opening up their traditional land to mining.
They accuse the Newman government of violating international law by failing to consult them over the removal of “wild rivers” protection laws in favour of shale oil exploration.
A submission to the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples on Thursday also says the dangers posed by chemical “fracking” threaten the Mithaka’s rights to a traditional culture entwined with the waterways known as channel country.
Mithaka representative Scott Gorringe told Guardian Australia the decision to go to the UN was “the first step in our last resort”.
The special rapporteur can question the Australian government over the Queensland government’s actions and formally raise concerns, as it did in 2012 over the commonwealth’s Northern Territory “intervention”.
Gorringe said the Mithaka hoped the UN referral would embarrass the Newman government into reassessing its “ideology led” approach that favoured economic growth while “ridiculing and devaluing the environmental aspects of this country and the cultural aspects of Aboriginal people”.
The Mithaka’s submission was prepared with the help of US environmental and human rights lawyer Martin Wagner.
Wagner said the Mithaka had “rights under international law to be meaningfully consulted and involved in decisions about the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands, particularly when that exploitation threatens their culture”.
Like other Aboriginal nations of central Australia, the Mithaka have a culture and oral history that through “songlines” codify knowledge of water sources among the red dunes of the outback.
Gorringe said former laws protecting rivers that feed Australia’s largest lake (Lake Eyre) and its major underground water source (the Great Artesian Basin) “had the support of every stakeholder except [oil and gas company] Santos”.
Santos is test drilling for shale oil and has flagged plans for $1bn investment and 300 fracking wells in the region.
Gorringe said the wild rivers laws were repealed and oil and gas prospecting licences issued amid “a Mickey Mouse consultation process” that “systematically ignored” the Mithaka.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to speak with this government about decisions made on our country… not a single face to face meeting,” he said.
“The only opportunity I’ve had to speak to a member of this government about it was when I rang in on an ABC talkback show and got [premier] Campbell Newman.”
Gorringe said Newman’s response was “what his response always is” – to cite support for development among northern Queensland Indigenous communities in Cape York and near the Gulf of Carpentaria.
He said thinking differed in channel country, which was “built on the back of cattle (farmers) and Aboriginal people – the two things that will suffer greatly with the damage of water”.
Gorringe said government rhetoric about repealing wild rivers laws to allow more irrigation for farmers was “a smokescreen” for a mining industry that would deliver it much larger royalties.
A spokeswoman for the natural resources and mines minister, Andrew Cripps, said government consultation over the western rivers involved “equal representation” from Indigenous groups, environmentalists, councils, graziers and miners.
“The Queensland government acknowledges that some people in the community had concerns in relation to potential resources development and the sustainable use of water in the channel country,” she said.
“There is also a clear desire amongst a number of community leaders and local residents in the same region for economic development and job opportunities.”
The spokeswoman said the oil and gas industry had “co-existed with Indigenous, grazing and tourism interests” in that part of Queensland since the 1960s “and we strongly believe that it can and will continue to do so”.
She also noted the native title claim of the Mithaka, who currently number 300 people, had “not yet been determined”.
The Mithaka’s submission says their claim, pending since 2012, still gives them procedural rights to consultation and cultural considerations over their land under a number of international treaties.