Welcome back to Parliament for the final time this year. Two more weeks of this stuff and then we’re finished for a summer that already feels like it’s been going a month. That’s assuming Anthony Albanese doesn’t keep his colleagues confined here at the end of next week, or even brings them back for another spell in December.
Wouldn’t want all those end-of-year “let’s all be best mates” speeches to get in the way of proper legislative business eh?
The job of a political journalist — not of course that I would know, since according to the national broadsheet I’m not a “real journalist”, and strangely proud of it — is somewhere between theatre critic and sports commentator. The main tasks of sports commentators are to tell you who’s winning and pretend something exciting is happening when it isn’t. That’s where it is closest to political journalism. Media coverage of politics is always about who’s winning and who’s losing, naturally, but the trivial and meaningless are routinely built up into events of monumental importance simply for the sake of pretending something significant is happening.
But you also need to appraise the performances of the principal actors (not to mention the ambitious walk-on players), assessing the conviction or otherwise with which they utter their lines, paying close attention to the effect not on professional observers such as oneself, who to use the immortal phrase “don’t know jack”, but the hoi polloi in the cheap seats at the back, from which vantage point scenery-chewing hammery or mindless repetition may look like the stuff of the Great Tragedians.
Once in a while, we’re reminded that this isn’t a show or a game that we’re watching. This morning the Prime Minister made an apology to the “Forgotten Generation” in the Great Hall in Parliament House. He was followed by Malcolm Turnbull. Both made heart-felt and emotional speeches, without political polish, the sort of speeches we can point to when people lament the lack of Australian political oratory. The tears and smiles and applause of those present who as children were abused in institutional care show how significant the actions of government can be, even in simply acknowledging those whose pain was ignored for so long.
This fortnight also sees some sort of climax in the emissions trading debate, another issue of more-than-usual gravity.
I don’t know about you (no, really, I don’t) but I’m utterly over the CPRS debate. It’s been a long road since early last year, when Penny Wong blithely called the Garnaut Review “one input” into the Government’s consideration, in effect spilling the beans, or giving the game away, or belling the cat, or whatever cliché takes your fancy. I’m now sick of emissions trading. Sick of Wong’s tedious droning, of Kevin Rudd’s sanctimony, of the Coalition climate denialists who make a virtue out of their own intellectual and emotional disabilities.
I’m sick of Barnaby Joyce and the National Party, so plum-stupid that they can’t even understand when the National Farmers’ Federation tells them it’d be a good idea to back the scheme. I’m sick of the rentseekers, the whingers, the sooks and Hookes, who preach the virtues of the market when it suits them but whose natural posture is of a hand stuck out, demanding assistance, and assistance in ever greater quantities, like blackmailers who just keep coming back for more.
And I’m sick of the media and their inability to understand what’s going on or their blatant support of denialists as part of an infantile ideological game. I’m fed up with ever more iterations of the CPRS that seek to obliterate, like an artillery shell aimed at an ant, any skerrick of carbon price signal, which is the only damn point of the entire exercise beyond the political gamesmanship of Kevin Rudd and Nick Minchin.
I’m sick, above all, of the vast gap between the farce being played out before our eyes and the real human and economic consequences of failing to stop the planet cooking, consequences I probably won’t see the worst of, but which my kids will.
Fortunately they and all the future generations who’ll really enjoy the fruits of out stupidity don’t get to vote now.
So I’m giving this elaborate production, this whole, interminable, mind-numbingly banal show, zero.
Let us hope that decades hence, the descendants of our current MPs — I mean their political descendants, not their actual kids, assuming the major parties don’t adopt preselection by hereditary right — will not have to stand up in the Great Hall and apologise for it. Apologise to the people who died of dengue fever or in bushfires, apologise to the families of the elderly who succumbed to heatwaves. Apologise to the tourism employees who lost their jobs when our great reefs died. Apologise to the farmers forced off the land as the Murray-Darling dried up. Sorry, dried up even more.
Apologise to the whole community because of all the economic opportunities we missed by locking our economy into some sort of carbon-era cryogenic freeze when we could have started the transition to the low-carbon economy that we will need to be in the future, now.
Hell, they may even apologise to all those foreigners who will die in far greater numbers than Australians because of the actions of developed countries like ours, one of the world’s premier carbon dealers on a planet unable to kick its addiction to the stuff.
Hysterical? Alarmist? Green religionist? If only. I’d give anything to see the Andrew Bolts and Barnaby Joyces of the world proved correct, to be shown that the whole thing is a left-wing con, the ultimate scam cooked up (ha!) by some lazy academics and watermelon greenies who accomplished what millennia of Illuminati and weird hand-shaking Masons and sinister religious orders failed to do — fool the world with a global conspiracy.
Because that’s the only basis on which our international position and the CPRS make any sense.