Today in Parliament Abigail gave a speech about the (very few) differences between the major parties — and the (very many) differences between them and the Greens.
The other day I was asked during a podcast interview why I chose to join The Greens rather than Labor all those years ago. On the face of it, my interviewer presumably thought perhaps the two notionally left-wing parties are not that different. I almost spat out my coffee at the question. In my view, at least, there is very little that is, in substance, similar between The Greens and Labor. At least not compared with what I see as the vast similarities between Labor and the Liberal Party. That is because what unites the Labor and Liberal parties, and what makes them so vastly different to any party that I would want to be a member of, is their unflinching adoration of the business as usual of late‑stage capitalism.
Sure, Labor might make the odd declaration of being a little bit less corporate capitalist than the next guy. It might occasionally spout the words "solidarity" and "comrade" and wax lyrical about workers versus the bosses, but the fact is that it is still a party absolutely wedded to the economic status quo. Its members have no interest in upsetting the apple cart when all the apples are their mates in the corporate sector showering them with donations, hosting them at fancy dinners and boosting their post-politics employment prospects. I spent a long time working within the more capitalist aspects of our current economic system. I have given our current economic model a long, hard look and assessed its flaws, and I found it wanting in its ability to tackle the most pressing issues of our time. I believe, without even the smallest doubt, that we will not avoid catastrophic climate change unless we make significant reforms to our economic system and the first step in that process is to get greedy profit-gouging corporations out of our democracy.
This year has seen record-shattering heatwaves, wildfires and floods, destroying lives in the United States, Europe, India, China and beyond. Here in Australia we are bracing for what could be one of the worst bushfire seasons we have ever faced. Just yesterday a scientific review by the Climate Council was released that points out the cognitive dissonance between Labor's stated commitment to addressing climate change and the pace at which it is moving. That dissonance is most clear when it comes to subsidising and approving new coal and gas, while also arguing that the party supports trying to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Leading climate change scientist Professor Lesley Hughes was reported as saying, "The two things are completely at odds with each other." Coal mine expansions and developments approved in Australia so far this year are expected to add nearly 150 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere over their lifetimes, which is equivalent to nearly a third of the country's annual climate pollution.
The Federal environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has, seemingly with a straight face, defended the opening and expansion of those mines. That is how disappointing Labor, tied as it is to the capitalist class, has been in the first months of government, both federally and in New South Wales. Why has it been so timid in taking any real action to protect the environment or tackle climate change? The only changes it is prepared to make are those that do not impact negatively on corporate interests. End coal and gas? Hell no, let's keep opening them up. Federal environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has picked her side, and it is the same side as the coal companies, as Labor argues in the Federal Court its right to ignore climate science when approving coal mines.
Does Labor listen to the endless reports that tell us that we must stop destroying our public native forests and that we must protect, repair, regenerate and manage them? Not likely, let's log away. It does not even matter that it is not profitable and, in fact, costs the New South Wales Government $20 million a year to engage in the shockingly destructive practice. As Polly Hemming, Director of the Australia Institute's Climate and Energy program, said:
Australia is already the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. But despite the dire warnings from the world's scientists and the clear language from the UN Secretary-General, the Australian Government is not only approving new fossil fuel projects, it is subsidising them and fighting in court to smooth their path.
Every day the Labor Government betrays future generations. Every day it makes the decision to continue that betrayal. Every day it is proven to be hypocrites. It says, "But hey, let's kill the cats. Let's make a really big deal about killing cats. Let's make it a big, front-page special. Look over here. Labor's doing something about the environment. No, don't look at that new coal mine approval. Don't look at that donation from the fossil fuel industry. Don't look at our lack of investment in renewables. Cats—they are the problem." But just leave the fat cats alone.