Climate Change

Energy Wasted Getting Angry At Greta Thunberg Spikes To Alarming New Levels

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 2:41pm in

The amount of energy used by people pointlessly losing their minds over a 16 year-old Swedish girl has hit new highs, after Greta Thunberg was awarded TIME’s Person of the Year award today.

The long-term trend has seen a steady increase in wasted energy over climate activist, but scientists noticed a huge spike today following TIME’s announcement. 

“It’s a startling increase. On the plus side, it doesn’t look like we will run out of this type of energy,” an industry spokesperson said.   

But some people have denied the link between wasted energy and Greta Thunberg. “I haven’t wasted any goddamn fucking energy on thinking about that annoying little twat,” one person wrote in the comments section of 48 different websites. 

Welfare groups have reminded people to look out for Great Thunberg-hating family members today. “It’s going to be a difficult time for them. In particular we have grave fears for Andrew Bolt. ”.


We Need a Hollywood President

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 6:51pm in

Climate climate change could cause human extinction by 2050. What would the president do if he or she were in a Hollywood action thriller?

Climate change is a health hazard—Stop work action over toxic smoke shows how to fight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/12/2019 - 9:10am in

Air pollution and
smoke has blanketed Sydney for days, as bushfires continue to burn across the
state. Up to 100 workers, members of the MUA, at Port Botany refused to work as
smoke reached hazardous levels last Thursday.

“The workers who aren’t in air-conditioned areas [were] stood down and sought to work through safety issues with the company and the regulator,” MUA Deputy Branch Secretary Paul Keating told the ABC.

The MUA convened a
port safety committee which called on the port operators to re-schedule all
outdoor work when smoke pollution reached levels on the official NSW government
Air Quality Index (AQI) described as “very poor” or “hazardous”.

Work also stopped
on the NorthConnex and M1 Pacific Highway road projects due to air quality and
visibility problems.

“At sites where there is a clear threat to well-being we are stopping work,” the AWU’s Daniel Walton told Nine Media.

In the ACT around 90 per cent of construction sites were shut down on Monday due to similar safety issues.

Under existing
industrial laws workers have a right to stop work when there is a serious risk
to safety. But asserting these rights requires strong workplace union
organisation. Even at Port Botany the stevedoring bosses tried to force work to
continue in hazardous conditions.

“Two companies have threatened our members with outrageous claims that it’s illegal industrial action,” Keating said, “but these are legitimate safety issues and under the safety laws workers are protected.”

The toxic smoke from the bushfires are an immediate health risk. We need our unions to implement policy to make sure that the risk to workers’ health is minimised.

The biggest concern is the level of microscopic particulates
or PM 2.5, which are so small they can enter the bloodstream and cause heart
attacks, lung disease and even cancers. Sydney’s air has become so polluted
that breathing it has been the equivalent of smoking between four and ten
cigarettes a day. In one area of southwest Sydney the toxic smoke was equivalent
to 34 cigarettes a day, as the AQI index hit 680.

Action around the immediate impacts also needs to be connected to the wider social threat the fires pose. The NSW Liberal government has cut funding for rural firefighters and cut back jobs and resources for land management and back burning.

The Liberals’ cuts have made it harder to fight these bushfires. But their unwillingness to do anything about climate change means that these fires are a sign of things of to come.

Almost the whole of NSW is stricken by drought and western rivers are running dry. Yet neither of the Liberal governments, state or federal, take climate change seriously. They will do nothing to fund the transition to 100 per cent renewable power under public control.

The federal government has recently folded environment issues into a new Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, to make it clear that its priorities are with agribusiness that has been robbing the water to boost their production and profits. Both governments are still considering sinking tens of millions of dollars into extending the life of coal-fired power plants (like the ageing Liddell power station) rather than renewable energy projects that can create jobs and cut carbon emissions.

Strike back for climate

As the statement
from the MUA put it, “Catastrophic climate change is real, and is right now
having an effect on workers on the job.”

Climate change is a
class issue—the worst impacts are going to be felt by workers and the poor.
Those already working in unsafe or dangerous conditions are at particular risk.

When workers at Port Botany refused to work in the dangerous smoke the bosses threatened them with fines because they were taking illegal industrial action.

Workers need the right to strike—to both fight for protection against toxic smoke, heat stress and other immediate effects of climate change and to fight the root cause of climate change—the Liberals and the corporate bosses who want to maintain business-as-usual and their profits while NSW and the planet burns.

Many workers joined the global Strike for Climate on 20 September. We need more workers and more unions to join the protests for climate action to step up the fight.

The post Climate change is a health hazard—Stop work action over toxic smoke shows how to fight appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Gladys Tells Sydney To Forget The Smoke And Just Lay Back And Think About The Light Rail

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/12/2019 - 8:40am in

Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has told residents of Sydney to forget about the smoke permeating through the city and instead lay back and think about the pending opening of the long awaited light rail.

“The people of Sydney need to stop dwelling on the negatives of the city and look at the positives,” said Premier Berejiklian. “We have wonderful beaches, casinos, RSL’s, stamp duty revenue and now a new light rail that might open next week.”

“What’s Victoria got? Trams and only one casino, pfft.”

When asked what she would say to those who are suffering due to the ongoing smoke in the city the Premier said: “If you are struggling to get out and about, why not go somewhere that’s air conditioned, like the Casino or an RSL.”

“You can stay in any pokies room in NSW as long as you want, well as long as you keep gambling. Who knows you might even win some money. Talk about every smoke cloud having a silver or in this case gold coin lining.”

“Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to shoot a few Koalas, those lazy buggers are just asking for it.”

Mark Williamson

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

Join the Fight!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/12/2019 - 8:04pm in

It didn’t surprise me that Scott (“Duterte Knockoff”) Morrison and his errand boy Christian Porter reintroduced the Union-Bashing Bill on behalf of the big end of town. Like I said, Morrison is waging a class war on unions and workers and he will not stop willingly.

What did surprise me was that they rammed it through the Lower House of Parliament the week following their initial failure, before parliamentary break. You have to give it to them: the bastards know what they stand for. We could learn that from them.

----------
(source)
So, we workers will have to fight the disciple and his teacher. Email from the Australian Unions Team,

The Philippines is ranked as among the ten worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. Trade unionists are routinely arrested, union offices raided, and unionists have even been killed. The latest police crackdown targeting unions[1] and human rights defenders occurs amid a broader climate of government repression in the Philippines.

Through the process of ‘red tagging’, unions are labelled as fronts of an underground armed struggle movement and the arrested activists are routinely alleged to be in possession of firearms and ammunitions planted by state officers to justify fabricated charges.

We are calling actions to coincide with Human Rights Day to stand in solidarity with unionists in the Philippines and demand that President Duterte stop the killing, attacks and red-tagging of unionists and activists. Will you join us?

----------
(source)
As our land burns and our cities choke with the smoke, as our rivers dry out and life turns into ashes and the Sun itself reddens, we also need to fight against the same enemy, now for action on climate change.

“Burnt koala after Lake Cathie fire
near Port Macquarie. Posted 30 Oct 2019, 5:58pm” (source)
We are fighting against the Beast, which looks uncannily like its mythological counterpart. It’s called class war, folks.

Coalition Reverts To Mayan Calendar To Meet 2030 Emission Targets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/12/2019 - 8:17am in

morrison map

The Australian government has declared that it is certain to meet all of its obligations to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 after officially adopting the Mayan calendar.

“The great cycle of the long count component of the Mayan calendar ended in the year we used to call 2012, meaning that the current year is year 7, giving us another 2023 years to get our shit together,” announced Angus Taylor, minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. “I reckon by then we’ll be pissing around on solar powered floating surfboards like the Jetsons or something, so woohoo… mission accomplished.”

The Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has enthusiastically embraced the assimilation of the Mayan calendar.

“The Mayans set several days of the year aside for human sacrifices,” (editor: Check this, I thought that was the Aztecs? Writer: Mate, who cares, no-one ever reads this far into the article) said Mr Dutton. “Granted the Mayans fattened up a couple of teenagers and let them have a fantastic time for a year before cutting out their hearts, whilst we put our sacrificial victims on remote islands and deny them urgent medical treatment.”

Scott Morrison has announced that millions of dollars of funding will be available to strengthen the walls of all government buildings to enable them to hold up those big round stone calendars. Times of high and low tides will be chiselled onto the backs of the calendars.

Peter Green

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

Which way from here? That depends on where we want to go. Our choices now will determine our future.

Sign on a fence with and arrow logo and the word votePhoto via PxHere

We are in the last few days of the election campaign. An election which, without doubt, will be a defining one for the future of this country and possibly even the planet. It will determine whether we carry on with the economic and political status quo or whether we choose a different path towards a socially just and fairer economic system which also addresses as a matter of priority the challenges posed to the future survival of our species.  Growing political unrest caused by the last forty years of market-driven dogma has created huge wealth inequalities and is driving dangerous right-wing populism worldwide.

This might be just a national election, but the world is watching. Where we put our X in the voting booth this time around will be crucial. It matters as never before.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:

“For the duty of the truly democratic politician is just to see that people are not destitute; for destitution is the cause of deterioration of democracy’

Of course, he lived in a time very different to our own, but he believed that the best form of democracy was one with a more equal income distribution and that greater economic equality would increase the stability of the state and thus that of citizens.

The State has a crucial role to play in serving the public purpose or in other words creating the fundamental frameworks for a healthy society and economy which benefits everyone.  However, for the last forty and more years, economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. This has been facilitated by successive governments whose policies have been informed by an ideologically based dogma of privatisation, deregulation and an emphasis on ‘sound finance’ which, over the last nine years, has been at the heart of Conservative austerity.

It has also been enabled by politicians who have acted less in the service of the nation and more in the interests of corporations and excessively wealthy people who have influenced government policies in their favour through a network of lobbying and special advisors. Democracy has been undermined by those with the power and wealth to influence politicians and a media which continues to play a huge role in that subversion.

The ideological premise of trickle-down has been that the rich are the wealth creators, that tax cuts encourage investment in the economy and jobs which benefit working people and then, in their turn, brings in taxes to pay for our public services. We have been deceived with the lie trotted out over the years and even during this election campaign by Conservative ministers and even some on the progressive left that our public services are dependent on bringing in tax revenue. When in fact it is quite the reverse.

A healthy economy and all that means, from citizens having access to good education, quality healthcare and a protective welfare system, (not to mention other vital public services or businesses which rely on access to an educated and healthy workforce and the physical infrastructure for their businesses to flourish) depends on a government which has made a political decision to invest sufficiently in that public and social infrastructure to benefit both today’s and tomorrow’s citizens. It does not depend on a government checking on whether there is enough in the public purse to do so.

For well over a year now, GIMMS has charted the consequences of austerity in its MMT blogs. Yet, now we are now witnessing on a daily basis, like never before, its damaging effects on the very foundations of economic and social life.

Economic data published last month showed that the services sector slowed in the last quarter and the manufacturing and construction sectors contracted in November. The economy just avoided recession, with the weakest growth in a decade.  Whilst clearly the uncertainty over Brexit will have played a part, cuts in government spending over the last 9 years will have also played a significant role as businesses lose investment confidence and households tighten their belts due to rising household debt.

A study published by the Office for National Statistics on 5th December 2019 found that whilst Britain’s total wealth grew by 13% between 2016 and 2018, the wealth of the richest 10% increased four times faster than those of the poorest 10%. It also found that the poorest 10% of households had debts three times larger than their assets, compared with the richest 10% who have accumulated a stash of wealth which was 35 times larger than their total debts. The Wealth and Assets Survey carried out by the ONS also showed that in 2018 the top 10% finished up with 45% of national wealth while the poorest 10% held just 2%.

The shocking data underlines the growing wealth divide. A divide between those at the top who barely noticed the 2008 Global Financial Crash (or indeed profited from it) and those on low incomes whose real earnings have barely risen since the crash and who have seen their economic share of productivity decrease over decades. The very people who have paid the real price for austerity have, in fact, suffered a double whammy.  They not only are facing an enormous and increasing burden of household debt (putting huge stress on their finances exacerbated for those on low incomes and in precarious employment), but they are also reaping the consequences of brutal cuts to the public service sector.

Huge inequalities that have arisen as a result of the pursuit of this pernicious market-focused ideology along with a deceitful balanced public accounts narrative have not only driven a steam roller through our public services and vital welfare systems but have also impoverished millions leaving them floundering in insecure and low paid employment.

In the week that the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson apologised for backing the Coalition’s austerity policies during the Coalition years and whose economic spokesman claimed in a speech very recently that they are the only party of ‘sound finance’ (which sounds very much like more of the same), the news has been ever more damning about its consequences for the lives of working people, families, children and the elderly and our public infrastructure.

Shelter’s ‘Generational Homeless’ report found that a child becomes homeless every eight minutes; that’s 183 children losing their homes every day. It found that at least 135,000 children will be living in temporary accommodation on Christmas day.

‘Life in a B&B is horrible. There’s no room to do anything. I’ve been told off … for running in the small corridor. You can’t do much, you can’t play much. I don’t get to play that much. Sometimes me and my little brother Harry fight for the one chair because we both want to sit at the table. I find it really hard to do my homework’ says Will whose family was made homeless and now lives in a single room in a bed and breakfast in Ilford.

A leading charity Action for Children warned this week that some of the youngest children are facing a childhood crisis as almost one million under 10s from low-income families face a bleak Christmas lacking basics such as a heated home, warm winter coat or fresh food.

Research from the charity shows that after a decade of austerity and ongoing problems with universal credit, parents below the breadline are able to spend just £2 a day per child on food and struggle to afford nutritious food which is vital for their health and development.

The Dispatches programme ‘Growing up Poor; Britain’s breadline kids’ which aired on Channel 4 earlier this week exemplified the shocking poverty that exists in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Children sleeping in their coats in the middle of winter because they can’t afford heating; parents counting the pennies to see if there is enough money to feed the meter; a family living in Cambridge surviving on £5 a day in a wealthy city that houses eight of the 2000 food banks that have been set up across the UK in the last decade to alleviate hunger; and a teenager Danielle who is studying for her GCEs and self-harming housed with her family in a bedsit, with no savings and relying on a local soup kitchen and food bank to survive.

This is happening in 21st century Britain and yet it feels like we are being transported in Dr Who’s Tardis back to the streets of Dickensian times.  Our children are being denied a future by a government which has put balancing the public accounts above the health of the nation, its children who represent the future and the environment upon which they will depend for their survival.

At a hustings last week, the Conservative MP John Whittingdale was applauded by the audience when he claimed that Labour had left the economy in a perilous state and close to bankruptcy. Perpetuating the lie that austerity had been necessary to get the public finances in order, he said that careful economic management by the Conservatives meant that they could now spend on the NHS, policing and education. No acknowledgement was made about the damage that austerity had caused to our public services; those on low incomes and in insecure working; the huge rise in homelessness or the 73% increase in supplies being distributed in the 2000 food banks across the UK; the increasing numbers of hospital admissions for scurvy, vitamin D deficiency and other maladies associated with economy inequality and child food poverty; and no mention of the systemic problems with welfare reforms and the introduction of Universal Credit, along with a punitive assessment system which have led to many deaths.

We must continue to challenge the false assumptions about how modern monetary systems operate and demonstrate to the public that contrary to common belief government spending is not constrained by monetary resources.

Tackling existing and future inequality and saving the planet will not be constrained by the state of the public accounts or the national debt or whether government can raise sufficient tax or borrow on the markets but rather how it will manage the finite resources it has at its disposal to create the public frameworks and infrastructure to sustain a healthy economy and environment.

It is both a moral question about how a civilised nation should behave towards its neighbours near or far and how we organise our societies to create the optimum environment for all to live with dignity and without fear.

It is regrettable that creating fear and hate has been the modus operandi of governments, extreme political movements and the press. Without a fundamental shift in our attitudes we cannot hope to make the radical changes we need to create a fairer society and more importantly to survive.  A challenge to the political and economic status quo is vital if we care about our children’s future and that of many others around the world.

To reiterate the final paragraph in last week’s MMT Lens:

What are we so afraid of? A better future for our children? A more sustainable and fairer economy for all? Indeed, a planet for us to live and breathe on? What is not to like?

 

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The post Which way from here? That depends on where we want to go. Our choices now will determine our future. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

It’s Hammer Time! Cassetteboy’s Latest Video Against Boris Johnson

Mike put this up on his blog a few days ago, but it’s well worth repeating and publicising. Cassetteboy is another group of fun-filled pranksters like JOE, who produce satirical videos by carefully editing the speeches and actions of the great and not-so-good so that they appear stupid and nonsensical. They’ve done this yet again to our unfunny, murderous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to reveal how stupid, cruel and massively unjust his government and its policies are. They’ve edited it so that he’s reciting a description of his failings and injustices to the tune of MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Which, due to Johnson’s own massive deceitfulness and mendacity, has been changed to the chorus ‘Can’t trust me’.

The video begins with Johnson repeatedly stammering out ‘My, my, my’ and then

‘My Brexit is so hard

Makes you say

“Oh my word.

What about my job security?

Sick pay, healthcare and the economy?”

These are the things

You need to discuss

When I say

“Brexit won’t hurt you much!”

Remember the lies on the side of a bus,

I am a guy who you can’t trust.’

There then appears the caption ‘Sacked by the Times for lying’.

He goes on, singing

‘Can’t trust me.

Then another caption ‘Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for lying’.

Can’t trust me.

I promised thousands more police

But that’s less than we already cut.

If you trust me you must be off your nut.

I lied to the Queen to get Parliament shut.

I say the Tory party ‘Is the party of prosperity

But not for the 130,000 people killed by our austerity.

Nor for disabled people robbed of money and their dignity.

Or the millions of children our policies

Have left in child poverty.

Are those kids mine? probably not

But I won’t admit how many I’ve got’

Another caption here, ‘Wont admit how many kids he has’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

Then another caption: ‘Lied to the Queen to illegally shut down Parliament’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

‘The planet now is burning at a terrifying rate

And I don’t even turn up to the climate change debate.

And now let me say this, two of my biggest disgraces

Are of course that I’m homophobic and a racist.

Stop. Stammer time.’

The video then moves into footage of Johnson stuttering and stammering away, under which appears another caption, (Affected waffle, disguising genuine lack of preparation, competence and decency).

‘Stop. Stammer time.’

One more thing before this ends,

You don’t judge a man’, and the next voice is that of Donald Trump, completing the sentence, ‘by his friends’.

‘Our standards will fall with a bump as I align us all with Trump,

Allow the NHS to fail and off it to Trump for sale.

It will no longer belong to you though I say

That’s not what we’ll do.

Is that true? Here’s one way of proving if I’m lying

if my lips are moving.

Another caption: ‘Won’t apologist for racist and homophobic comments.’

‘Can’t trust me.’

And then the screen is filled with text showing his various failed and harmful policies.

‘Can’t trust me’.

The richest have tax loopholes

While schools can’t afford loo rolls.

We’ve failed the NHS and left the country in a mess and

To the best to fix it are myself and Rees-Mogg

Is like expecting dog shit to be cleaned up by the dog.’

The video ends with a black screen on which the slogan ‘Vote Boris Out’ is written in white text. There’s then the Cassetteboy jingle, the sound of someone sighing or snoozing, and a final scene of Johnson making a throat-cutting gesture at LBC.

The dialogue’s invented, but everything it says is true.

Vote him out!

Here’s the video.

 

 

 

Mysterious Vanishing Tories – An Import from Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/12/2019 - 8:30pm in

Okay, this is just hearsay, but it suggests what and who’s responsible for the Tory strategy of running away from interviews. And that person is their election strategist, Linton Crosby.

Thursday evening I put up a little piece commenting on the very low profile adopted by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Tories had been keeping him well away from the cameras and the microphones after he had massively put his foot in his mouth about the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire on LBC radio. Mogg was due to appear at a hustings in Midsomer Norton, but considering his record of not appearing in public, there was speculation that he wouldn’t.

Of course, Mogg isn’t alone in his reluctance to talk to the media. Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted a couple of remarks about other Tory candidates also running away. Like the one for Colne Valley, who apparently declared that he avoids meetings with a left-wing bias. The site reporting this is

https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/jason-mccartney-explains-hasnt-attended-17364450.

But be warned! It’s behind a paywall.

And the Sidmouth Herald also reported that a Tory down there had also pulled out of a hustings.

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/conservative-candidate-pulls-out-of-hustings-1-6406694

And last Wednesday Mike also reported how the Tory candidate for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, ran away from Channel 4. They wanted to ask him about a possible threat from Brexit, but this was obviously too much for the Tory’s delicate constitution.

Terrified Tories are running from media scrutiny

The Russians say that a fish rots from the head down, and that’s certainly true of the Tories. They only seem to be following the lead of their chief, our unfunny comedy prime minister, Boorish Boris Johnson. Johnson runs away from interviews at a rate of knots. he has signally failed to turn up to be mauled by Andrew Neil and ducked out of Channel 4’s climate debate. And to think that the Tories had the gall to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of being chicken.

I was talking to a friend about this, and he remarked that it’s how the parties campaign in Australia. They don’t give interviews, just keep their heads down and smear each other. I don’t know if it’s correct, but if it is, it’s something that the Tories have decided to import over here. And the person most likely to be responsible for it is Linton Crosby. Before he become the Tories’ electoral strategist under Tweezer, he was one of the major electoral strategists for their equivalent Down Under. Now it seems that after destroying proper democratic debate there, he’s importing the same policy of silence and smear here.

But what does it say about the Tories’ style of government, that they just lie and smear their opponents from running away from real scrutiny and honest debate themselves? Would you trust such dishonest cowards in government?

We’ve already had Our Very Own Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/12/2019 - 5:12pm in


In good bookstores everywhere – at a very reasonable price

Cross-posted from the Lowy Institute Blog.

Instead of munching popcorn at the political theatre, citizens’
assemblies would give the community a chance to reflect.

In what we now see in retrospect as something of a political “golden age” – say from the early 20th century through to the 1980s or so – political parties were the institution through which the political aspirations of different sections of the community were articulated and conveyed to the commanding heights of government. Millions of members joined those parties, which were embedded in the community alongside churches, unions, and business associations.

Yet as Sam Roggeveen has described in Our Very Own Brexit, “hollowing out” has now inverted that process. Senior officers of the parties now comprise a political caste, the majority of whom secured their parliamentary position within their party’s career structure with scant achievements elsewhere.

Each party manages their “brand”, and politics has become a Punch and Judy show. We barrack for our side if we have one – or our point of view in innumerable improvised or staged culture-war skirmishes. We cheer and boo, tweet and retweet.

The governance that emerges from this is an uncanny mix of stasis and instability. Stasis because, at least when seeking their votes, each party hews to a small target strategy on policy while probing for ways to misrepresent and catastrophise their opponents’ policies and purposes. Instability because we the people so hate it all.

We tell ourselves that the pollies are only in it for themselves. There’s truth in that. But also evasion. They’re victims too. The lead players in the show could be living happier wealthier lives out of the madhouse. We fancy we deserve better than this as we sit in the stalls munching our popcorn. Indeed we do. Yet our clicks and our tweets – above all our votes – drive the whole system. Ultimately we decide who represents us and the terms on which they do.

The most significant achievement of Australian voters’ emphatic decision at the 2013 election was the abolition of carbon pricing, which had taken a decade of political struggle to be absorbed into the apparent political security of bipartisan consensus.

Whenever a political party offers a skerrick of leadership – whenever they depart, however cautiously, from their traditional “small target” or “comms” strategies of relentless manipulation and tendentious evasion, they’re easy meat for the scare campaigns and outrage machines of their party political and ideological opponents.

Roggeveen’s definition of what constitutes “a Brexit” for his purposes is situated within his own, and the Lowy Institute’s focus on Australia’s external relations. I would characterise the UK’s Brexit moment and the US’s Trump moment more generally as the point at which the electorate perpetrated some action that the overwhelming bulk of the political class regarded in their heart of hearts as crazy.

If that’s your definition, then just as Australia led the world in various aspects of economic policy – such as income-contingent loans, community strategies on AIDS, and the strengthening and targeting of welfare – our rendezvous with political crazy predates its moment elsewhere in the Anglosphere by three years.

For the most significant achievement of Australian voters’ emphatic decision at the 2013 election was the abolition of carbon pricing. Its demise has plunged our energy sector into crisis and dysfunction. And it’s rarely noted by the commentariat (why am I not surprised?), but it’s also costing our budget more than $10 billion annually and rising. 

Of course, simply painting the picture Roggeveen does is useful. Yet if he has any ideas about how we might fight our way out of this frightening situation, he’s not telling. Perhaps like so many others, he wants more “leadership”. Perhaps we need a hero – someone with immense political talents who, having clambered up the greasy pole, still wants to achieve something and retains the authority over their party, the parliament, and the community to achieve it.

But how likely is that in a political culture that almost never lets an act of leadership go unpunished?

The one thing that gives me some hope is the existence of another democratic tradition which has lain dormant in our political culture for centuries but remains healthy as a pillar of our legal system. Those empanelled on a jury represent us as our parliamentarians do. But they do so not by flattering us to win our vote, but more simply by being chosen from among us.

The makeup of a jury is more substantively representative than parliament, with far more of the young, the old, and the less well-healed. Selection by lot was a central mechanism through which the ancient Athenians secured the great political principle they called “isegoria” or equality of speech. It has been driven to extinction in the great political hollowing out.

We’ve learned to distrust those competing for our votes, and those with different ideologies. But when we meet together in citizens’ juries, our trust in each other comes flooding back. For instance, when around 250 Texan citizens chosen at random deliberated in 1996 on various questions including whether they should pay between $2 and $5 more for electricity to increase renewables’ market share. With 52% agreeing before deliberation, 84% agreed afterwards, with such exercises making a material contribution to Texas – under Governor George W. Bush – leading many other states and installing 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy generation.

The evidence suggests that similar methods would have demonstrated a contrast between the opinion of the people, and their considered opinion on Brexit. In late 2017, 50 Britons randomly selected to exemplify the referendum’s 52:48 Brexit vote swung to 40:60 against after deliberation, with not one of them swinging the other way. Something similar happened in a deliberative poll in 2010.

And yes, what evidence we have suggests that this mechanism offers a useful means of tackling Roggeveen’s specific concerns. Just three months ago America in One Room brought together a “state-of-the-art scientific sample” of 523 Americans for a weekend’s deliberation in small groups on five critical policy areas. As the organisers reported:

There were dramatic changes of opinion. The most polarizing proposals, whether from the left or the right, generally lost support, and a number of more centrist proposals moved to the foreground.

And for those seeking to avoid our very own Brexit, there’s good reason to take heart. The deliberations elicited a more welcoming position on both legal and illegal immigration, mostly due to a softening from the right. Deliberation reduced support for cutting refugee intake from 37% to 22% with Republicans’ support dropping from 66% to 34%. Republican support for increasing skilled immigration rose from 50% to 71% (and overall support from 60% to 80%). Republicans also shifted from 31% supporting low-skilled immigration for industries that need it to 66%, with overall support for this policy rising from 53% to 77%.

My conclusion from all this is that if we’re to avoid our next Brexit, according to my definition, we need to bring citizens’ assemblies into our existing constitution to check and to balance our parliamentary representatives. But existing politicians who’ve worked hard won’t let go of any power they’ve acquired lightly. The beauty of this agenda is that huge strides can be made from outside the system.

A privately funded but independently governed standing citizens’ assembly could surface the considered opinion of the people alongside all those polls that currently measure their unconsidered opinion. And the evidence suggests that swings taking place in such a body would affect voters and, in consequence, their elected representatives. I doubt the abolition of carbon pricing would have made it through the Senate once a citizens’ assembly had twigged to the unseriousness of what was to replace it.

Given that and the fact that the Lowy Institute is one of Australia’s best-funded think tanks, I’d like to see it take the lead. It could do so with a citizens’ assembly focused on immigration along the lines of America in One Room.

Though we have a decade’s experience of advisory citizens’ juries which is very promising, we’ve barely begun to fill out the repertoire of political institutions according to this alternative way of representing the people. But it’s possible to reimagine virtually every political institution to which electoral representation has given rise according to the alternative logic of isegoria or equality of speech.

The Lowy Institute could fund a standing citizens’ assembly on immigration. It could announce its intention to fund a citizens’ assembly whenever any Australian government was considering any combat deployment of Australian troops abroad. It could fund a joint citizen’s assembly of (say) 25 Australians and 25 East Timorese to deliberate together on the relations between our two countries. Despite the tiny size of Timor-Leste, such an exercise could have a powerful demonstration effect.

Some enterprising philanthropists might replicate the experiment somewhere where it really could change the course of global history. They might convene a citizens’ assembly of Chinese and American citizens to deliberate in the first instance, on the impasse the two countries find themselves at on trade. But that could be a precedent for numerous similar exercises on subjects about which Roggeveen is anxious. And he’s far from alone.

It’s not hard to identify problems we’d have to take into account in pursuing some of these courses. I’d rather have seen a citizens’ assembly on Timor-Leste a decade ago. And the Chinese Communist Party might be able to exercise a stronger influence on the Chinese representatives than America’s government could exercise on its own. But such obstacles are always encountered where we explore new territory. They almost never render us powerless. This one could be ameliorated, though not completely solved, by secret balloting.

Personally I can’t see a happy future for any of us if we don’t set our minds and our hearts on evolving institutions that are a little more hospitable to what Abraham Lincoln so sublimely summoned up just by naming them: the better angels of our nature.

There’s a follow up to me and other reviewers by Sam here and a response by me.

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