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Reflections on the lack of a revolution in Australia

By John Töns - posted Monday, 9 September 2013

No doubt there is someone who can state with great precision the exact moment the Australian electorate became disillusioned with both major parties and cast around for a new illusion.

Perhaps it was Don Chipp seeing the appalling state of Australian politics that he felt the need to keep the bastards honest.  Overtime those honest brokers had an animal farm like metamorphosis and we could no longer distinguish them from the bastards.

Others since have come, lingered and eventually gone much the same way.  At this election you may have seen those wearing the badge: “Rudd gives me the Shits but Abbot scares me shitless” probably an apt summary of the mood of the electorate.


Apart from the likes of Anthony Green who seems to take orgasmic delight in the whole process of elections many Australians see elections as an unwelcome intrusion into their lives; deep down they know that for all the bluster it will make precious little difference whether we have a Labor government or a Coalition Government.  (Curious aside Abbott vowed he would not make a deal with the minor parties so does that mean he will remain aloof from the Nationals?)

My misgivings are nothing new – Harold Wilson acknowledged that there was very little difference between the Labour Party and the Conservatives but went on to claim that the minor difference between them was of critical significance.  Since then Britain has seen New Labour and we have seen Rudd Labour further blurring the distinctions between the parties.

Yet as a country we are facing major challenges – we are far from  self sufficient.  In 1788 the fledgling colony came close to collapse being saved at the 11th hour by the supply ship Sirius.  Today with a population of 23 million and all the trappings of prosperity we are no less vulnerable.  We have created a society that assumes that we will be able to transport food to where it is needed.  Yet we have a transportation system that relies on oil which in turn has to be imported.  Furthermore despite the optimistic forecasts of the oil industry there will come a time when the energy required to extract the oil; will be greater than the energy that we can get from oil.  The advent of peak oil and the decline of fossil fuels generally has created a lively debate among those who model the impact of CO2 emissions – there are those who claim when you factor in the decline in the availability of fossil fuels we will not  reach the 4 degree warming predicted by some climate scientists.  It would seem that we will either fry to death because of CO2 or we will starve to death because we have not begun to make the transition to a society that is not dependent on oil.

Yet it need not be so – there is a great deal of exciting research going on around the globe not just with alternative forms of energy but in the development of new materials.  Perhaps if our prime ministerial contenders were not lawyers or diplomats but say quantum mechanics we might just open our eyes to new possibilities.

The problem seems to be that the challenges we face do not admit to an easy solution that can be encapsulated in a sound bite.  Even the Greens who one would have thought should have a better intuitive understanding of the challenges we face resolutely refuse to take leadership to engage the community about a debate of how we can future proof our communities.

So our political debate is a patchwork of meaningless banalities.  Politics and political reporting is virtually indistinguishable from the way we report on sport.  Two teams oppose one another and the supporters of each team is convinced that their team is the best possible team and that anything that happens that reduces their team’s chances is an outrage.  Those of us who do not support any team look on with bemused indifference for we know that irrespective of which team wins nothing will change.

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About the Author

John Töns is President of the Zero Carbon Network a network established to promote clear thinking about the issues associated with climate change. In addition to operating the only zero carbon boarding kennels in South Australia he is also completing a PhD at Flinders University in the area of Global Justice. John is a founding member of a new political party Stop Population Growth Now.

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