In a world of Trump and Brexit, it’s hard to think of any country more of a mess politically than the USA and UK. Well, Australia is definitely trying their hardest to keep up. This isn’t a brand new series of events for Australia either. There have been 6 different Prime Ministers in the last decade; a number of whom were never elected in federal elections by the Australian people.
This time, after just about fighting off a leadership challenge by Peter Dutton earlier this week, PM Malcolm Turnbull attempted to reunite the Liberal Party after his narrow victory, but within days a new leadership challenge was looming. Ministers that had backed Turnbull after his leadership victory had changed their minds again and backed Dutton, triggering another leadership vote. Despite Dutton bringing the challenge, he was beaten by Scott Morrison, the man Turnbull had named as Treasurer.
On Friday night, Scott Morrison was sworn in as the 30th Australian Prime Minister despite not being voted in by the Australian public. In a statement after a number of calls for a general election by other MPs, the new PM doubled down that there will be no election until at least 2019, which means the Australian people will have to wait even longer before they get any input on who should be the Prime Minister.
Just as a reminder, this is the same Scott Morrison who brought a lump of coal into Parliament just last year and argued that the opposing left-wing parties had an ‘ideological and pathological fear of coal’…
The Rebirth of the Right Wing
What’s happening in Australia is similar to what is happening in a number of countries around the world. Like much of Europe and the West, the rise of nationalism and right-wing parties has gained real momentum in recent years and the story is no different in Australia. The ‘One Nation’ party led by Pauline Hanson has grown over recent years under policies targeting immigration and the acceptance of refugees into the country. When things aren’t going right in a country, people and, increasingly so, politicians look to blame immigration. The people with a strong voice (who are generally to blame) blame those with the weakest, who can’t speak up for themselves.
Under the pressure of growing far-right wing groups entering politics, the Liberal Party have become increasingly conservative in order to avoid losing voters to parties moving further right. It’s a gamble that led to Brexit and has led to a number of nationalist leaders winning elections across the European continent. Rather than stand up and denounce the dangerous rhetoric, Conservatives are shifting their alignment in an attempt to avoid losing voters to the more extreme parties like One Nation, and it’s producing dangerous results.
Take the UK for example. The global financial crash of 2009 led to austerity measures under a Conservative government to try to reduce spending and reduce the country’s debt. Austerity typically targets the poorer of society, hence why those living in poverty and relying on food banks in the UK has increased (The Independent, 2018). Austerity cuts have also targeted the NHS; funding is been cut and an increasing number of contracts are being awarded to private healthcare suppliers (just part of the Tory privatisation plan), yet the public is told that the problem is too many migrants travelling to the UK to make the most of free healthcare.
Political In-Fighting Overshadows the Climate Disasters
Australia is in crisis at the moment. Climate change is affecting millions and damaging a number of industries that could lead to the loss of billions of dollars in revenue. But the Liberals are too busy fighting between themselves…
New South Wales is currently experiencing a drought that has lasted nearly a year. Farms have been devastated and have relied on the import of water in tankers to feed livestock. Whilst there is some rain forecast over the weekend it is not expected to be enough to play a significant role in easing the water scarcity in the northern regions of New South Wales.
The Great Barrier Reef, one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world is disappearing at an alarming rate due to coral bleaching. Rises in ocean temperature in the region are causing the huge areas of the reef to bleach and become lifeless. As the impacts of climate change increase in frequency and intensity, the Great Barrier Reef will be put under increasing stress and it will be a race against time to save one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Climate change is taking a grip on Australia and those in charge are doing very little to tackle it. Now, with the man claiming that left-wing politicians fear coal is in charge and the outlook for any policy that aims to tackle climate change looks increasingly unlikely. Those that have been an elected to the Australian Parliament have been very slow to deal with the looming disasters that climate change will contribute to. Too many of those elected officials don’t believe that climate change is the cause of the extreme weather and biodiversity disaster, despite a number of events happening right in front of their very eyes.
The leader of the Green Party, Richard Di Natale, made a passionate speech on the state of Australian politics and that the Liberal Party are tearing themselves apart whilst the country deals with the effects of climate change and other important issues in Australia. Arguably a voice of reason in a room full of crooks.
The Unsustainability of Politics
Political instability like this is highly unsustainable. Economically, the value of the Australian Dollar has dropped enormously in the last week. Australia is experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand, yet very little is being done to tackle any of it. The Liberal Coalition would rather fight for leadership than serve the people who elected them in the first place. Is it any wonder why so many people are disillusioned with politics?
So until at least 2019, Australia will be stuck with a man they never voted for as Prime Minister with a coalition government that has torn itself apart over recent days. There may be a new Prime Minister in Canberra, but it will be months before the Australian Government can steady itself. The effects of climate change will continue to be felt by many Australians, yet nothing will be done becuase there is no stability in government. Climate change is always seen as a future problem, but if we don’t act now, things will get much, much worse.