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Climate: the problem that dare not speak its name

By Lyn Bender - posted Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Whatever happened to climate change? It seems to have disappeared in a puff of smoke. From the outset it has been made clear by both major parties, that in this election, the war will be fought on the most minor fronts that can be constructed. The refugee problem, that is the political headache it engendered for the ALP, if compassion was allowed, has largely been taken off the agenda , at least until after the election. The refugees have been disposed of in godforsaken camps in Nauru and Manus Island. Big advertisements that forbid entry by boat to our golden land have sealed it off as an election problem

Now at last we can attend to the real and important issue of today, which is - The domestic Economy.

Only twelve per cent of Australians say that climate change is one of the most important issues for this election according to a Morgan Research poll . Sadly it seems that day to day expenditure trumps the fate of the world, in the famed 'kitchen table' politics of Australia.


The economy, has emerged in polls ,with demographic and voter variations, to be the most important issue identified by Australian voters. But even this issue has been cut down to size. It remains divorced from its determining global and environmental parameters, and shrunken to the size of the annual or rather the pre election domestic budget.

Psychologically the electorate seems to have retreated to the defence mechanisms of displacement and avoidance. Anxieties, fears, anger and disappointments are displaced for example ,onto refugees, who are depicted as invaders and costly threats to 'our way of life.' The political dialogue avoids discussion of the complex issues. By focusing on the small stuff, we avoid talking about the truly big stuff. But what is the real threat to our way of life?

Its climate change stupid.

So although it is early days in the long road of the election rhetoric, the die seems caste.

Few politicians seem prepared to mention the climate word.

The ABC program Sunday Extra asks the question. Whatever happened to climate change? Not the phenomenon. We know it hasn't gone away. In fact it's getting worse. But what happened to our concern and appropriate anxiety?


The first debate between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott largely repeated the same mantras. Abbott vowed to stop the boats [in  case you hadn’t heard this] and to create jobs by scrapping the carbon price immediately. Kevin Rudd offered a positive economic vision that includes all in this fair land , except for Refugees unfortunately. He ended on another positive note with his vow to bring in a bill for same sex marriage rights in his first hundred days.

Despite being the most significant threat, to our existence now and in the not so distant future, rising emissions and rising global temperatures are featured in inverse proportion to their importance. Being the greatest threat to survival of human and non human living creatures, future generations, eco systems, food sources, water, oceans, cities, habitable land and indeed the viability of the planet and therefore of the economy of course ; it goes to the end of the voting ticket.

Politicians, no doubt advised by marketeers 'to stay positive' dare not speak its name.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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