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COPping it

As health political scientists, our most profound response to the Australian COP26 drama is one of baffled disappointment. For a country that regularly claims to punch above its weight, to meeting and beating targets, and to be in front of the queue, the level of unaccountable spin is inexorable.

Australia is a migration country, with a significant proportion of citizens and residents having overseas roots (which in itself raises significant issues, of course, regarding the ignorant continuation of the invasion perpetrated upon the owners of this beautiful land). You would expect that some proportion of these people with a global conscience would actively challenge and be able to shift the government’s views of the world. Shift from a global parochial pariah to an accountable global citizen.

But accountability seems to be the last thing that is on the books for the current government of this country. Neither accountability nor transparent good governance has been spotted anywhere in Canberra for a long time – I would claim since Julia Gillard. I don’t make this up – both print and social media regularly document and deride the grossly pitiful behaviors of our current political class. Self-interest, either for themselves or in thrall to pay-masters or cronies, is rife. The current rabble seems to be the unhappy, spoilt, and self-interested offspring of the Howard years – when aspirations for buying a BMW were coupled with a racist disregard for the rest of humanity and seeded as the centre of society both in parliament and in the public. Under Howards watch it became ‘unaustralian’ to be decent and strive for a collective ‘fair go’. Fast forward to COP26 and this new culture was put on show for the rest of the world.

That is the next frustration – the malevolent efforts of this government to distrust and ignore the science. Whether it is COVID-19 or climate change, there is a belief that expensive consultancy firms will more easily dance to the tune of ‘Canberra’ than those pesky independent scholars and intellectuals. We are too critical, too against the grain, to support lies and obfuscation. If all of those millions spent on consultancies and the mirage of the market would have been spent on higher education and a proactive, critical, intelligence-seeking national research strategy, the voices of reason would have been able to make a difference.

And maybe that is our ultimate anger, frustration and disappointment: that the cabal of the coalition runs this country through a belief in some sort of magical realism. A belief that wizardry, out of nowhere, will create technology that will save us all, and not just that, but miraculously just in time! Perhaps I should not be angered, frustrated and disappointed. Maybe I should just join the religious cult that is pervading this government. I would then firmly believe in The Rapture, and just before Planet Earth is first burnt to a cinder and then flooded, I will be taken away to Heaven, Nirvana, or – if Musk delivers – to Mars. Anything better than this Australia.

So if this is not the Australia we deserve, how do we create a better one without exodus and ill-conceived government lies and inaction? Read this post for a few things you can do, individually and as communities.

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