Whereas some billionaires (Sir Murdoch, this time you are not the only one I’m addressing) might feel happy with the program of Australia’s new Demolition government, more and more people seem to understand that there was more than promises (or threats) to Mr Abbott’s radical assault on our environment. The question is: where does it lead to?
So far things have been way too easy for the new government, mainly due to a complete abstinence of the ALP, which after the loss at the elections seems to have totally disappeared. Even busier with internal fights than before, their representatives apparently don’t care much about what is taking place. Wait and see is the strategy for the moment. Why not go with the flow, when it all seems so easy?
The jobless rate is dropping, investors are investing, and the Australian Dollar is on the rise. What better could we wish for?
Unfortunately, above trends are only part of the story and if one looks a bit closer, they will find that the current development probably won’t last too long. One of the main reasons for large investments in Australia is amoral behaviour. What Abbott and Co are playing with is unethical investment that brings big profits for a few at a high cost for nature and society. By further dismantling already weak environmental legislation, the Coalition government is attracting all sorts of investors who find good grounds to do in Australia what would be unwanted or even illegal in other countries. The planned East West Link in Melbourne is the best example for why quick approvals of questionable projects is against all rational, moral and legal ground and why corrupt and incompetent state governments shouldn’t be given too much autonomy, particularly if they don’t even understand to enforce applicable legislation.
While Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are meant to protect the environment from unjustified harm, in Australia they have ever since been seen as a bureaucratic burden for new developments. EIA is a tool that has emerged in the late 1960s as a reaction to a radical overexploitation of natural resources with the aim to assess possible “significant” and thus unwanted impacts on the environment by a planned development. The first EIA legislation has been introduced in the US in 1970 and similar laws are now standard in most countries, for several decades in Australia as well. However, I would argue that in Australia they have actually never been correctly implemented and been a farce for the bigger part. EIA legislation here is a mere alibi; assessments are done with a focus on approval of the planned development, not on a proper assessment and evaluation of possible impacts. Further decommissioning of EIA procedures by the Coalition government is simply proof of the lack of willingness to protect the environment. The only value of natural resources down-under is seen in exploiting and selling them. And of course, where a “one-stop-shop” manager is offering bargains, buyers will flock to in thousands. “Come on in folks, it’s clearance sale!”
However, playing with amoral behaviour is playing with fire. Even if the next border is far away and Australia well protected by vast water masses that separate us from our neighbours, climate change won’t be stopped by military power. Last week, bushfires have caused the loss of 208 houses in NSW and while they can’t be directly attributed to climate change, we all know that climate change will increase the risk of uncontrollable bushfires and other natural disasters. The consequences are obvious: besides of huge material losses, insurance costs will increase. In Europe, businesses and private household have seen sharp increases in insurance costs as a consequence of repeated flooding over the past few years, in some cases insurances even refuse to cover repeatedly affected buildings. It’s only a question of time until similar actions will be taken in Australia.
That’s not all, though. Technical adaptation to climate change will cause more economic burdens that affect poorer households comparatively more. And if that wouldn’t be enough, reading in-between the lines, we might find that after all our jobs are not as secure as might be expected, since a dropping jobless rate could have other explanations than a new wave of business development.
All in all, many are agreeing that the current situation is very unstable and unpredictable. Those who trust their feelings will remember that it’s usually very misleading to be floating with a strong current. Once we’ll find ourselves heading straight into the next tidal wave, it will unfortunately be too late to swim against the strong currents to find a way back out.