Since the 1970s the Australian electorate has become increasingly disenchanted with the major parties. Lately this has accelerated. At the last federal election, the minor parties (including the Greens) attracted 36% of the vote. But this pattern is not spread evenly across the population; the minor party vote is a lot higher in regional areas. Overseas, this city/country divide was reflected in the Brexit vote, and in Trump’s election in the US.
What’s driving this, and what, if anything, should governments do about it?
One hundred percent renewable energy to power Australia? It sounds like a pipedream—unless you were in the audience at the Bermagui Institute Dinner at Il Passagio on 21 September to hear Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering at the Australian National University, speak about pumped hydro energy storage.
NSW Environmental Defenders Office CEO Sue Higginson paints a picture of EDO lawyers, haggard and caffeinated, racing between their office on Clarence Street and the Land and Environment Court on Macquarie Street, chasing “mining companies with the deepest pockets you can imagine” and “lawyers who lodge Notices of Motion at 1 am”.
It’s comical until you realise the gravity of the work. The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) concentrates its resources on the cases that other lawyers don’t take on. Important public interest cases. Cases where there’ll be a lasting or permanent impact on the environment, where governments haven’t followed the law. Blowing the whistle, holding governments to account.
I was at a meeting in Cobargo one Monday afternoon in August last year. A committee member was running late. Eventually she arrived, grim-faced; there’d been an accident at the stock crossing on the Bermagui-Cobargo Road. A little boy had been hit by a car after getting off the school bus.
The next day I heard that the boy, ten-year-old Noa Jessop, had died of his injuries. And soon it filtered through that another of my friends, Rosemary, had been one of the first at the scene, and that she’d performed CPR on the child while waiting for the ambulance.
It was pretty clear to scientists in the 1990s that man-made carbon emissions were causing climate change—it had started with the Industrial Revolution. Two plans of action were mooted. Plan A: reduce emissions (mitigation). Plan B: adapt to the changes. But we weren’t going to need Plan B, were we? The fix was clear, and there was plenty of time …
I was listening to a podcast of Richard Fidler interviewing Tim Ferguson the other day. You may remember Ferguson as one of the Doug Anthony Allstars. Long and lanky with a sweep of black hair across his brow, he was often referred to as ‘the good-looking one’—so he says, anyway. Fidler was an Allstar too, and that moody, misanthropic genius Paul McDermott was the third.
I’ve been watching Ferguson’s career a lot more closely since I learned he had MS. I bought his memoir, Carry a Big Stick (2013), and it was good to read about someone just getting on with it, despite. Lately he’s written and directed a movie.
Tim, I live in Yuin country on the East coast. The black and white communities here keep to themselves, in the main, and my contact with the locals is fleeting and superficial—a nod exchanged with the group who drink at a picnic table beside the carpark in Bega; a closer yet single-themed half hour a week I used to spend with kids in the literacy program at the school.
My strongest awakening, till now, was reading Kate Grenville’s The Secret River then stepping outside into an altered light, wondering for the first time what bloody events of dispossession may have occurred on my own half acre.
When I heard about Spill Simmer Falter Wither I thought, lovely, a book I’ll enjoy, then lend to all my dog-loving friends.
It’s not a long book. I finished it, breathed for a while, and went to scratch the heads of my own two dogs—both reprobates. The larger one has gained notoriety as the local chook killer and must now be kept on the lead at all times when off the property. Lucky it was only chooks, I guess. The other one, a terrier of some sort, once returned exhilarated from a run in the bush, snout and bib drenched in blood. We had to rinse him off at the tap in the cemetery before we could walk him back through the village.