February 8th 2020


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Sensible environment policies can counter extremists

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bushfires: Never let a good crisis go to waste

CANBERRA OBSERVED Submarine build gives us a sinking feeling

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION Bill Mark II a shade better but still faulty

OBITUARY Wilson Gavin: Requiescat in Pace

WORLD AFFAIRS Central banks move to dictate climate policies

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump impeachment will end with a whimper

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia considers a Magnitsky-type law

SOCIETY The optimist vindicated? Er, no!

LITERATURE AND SOCIETY The poetry of Distributism

ASIAN POLITICS Changing of the guard: Taiwan votes

HUMOUR Legal X-clamation points and that

MUSIC Is there a way to virtue via the sublime?

CINEMA The Authentic Mr Rogers: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

BOOK REVIEW How little, low-tech militias stay under the radar of huge, high-tech armies

BOOK REVIEW First novel dips into depths of medical murder-suspense genre

POETRY

LETTERS

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

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COVER STORY
Sensible environment policies can counter extremists


by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, February 8, 2020

While the bushfires have allowed the green-left media to regroup on climate change after the issue fell flat at the federal election, if the Morrison Government articulates a coherent environmental policy dealing with pollution and water needs, it can defang the environmental extremists.

Meanwhile, the Earth, rather than heading for catastrophe,
just keeps getting greener.

Climate change failed to be the deciding 2019 federal election issue, with 80 seats swinging against Labor and only 33 to Labor in outer metro, regional and rural areas. Even in the “greener” inner-metropolitan seats, as many seats swung against Labor (22) as to Labor (22).

Labor locked itself into the failed “climate-change election” based on polls that failed to rate jobs and the economy as higher-priority issues.

Inflammatory headlines claiming that the Christmas period bushfires were, “unprecedented”, a “wildfire apocalypse” “consuming” Australia, have been green attempts to retake the political high ground.

It was also an opportunity for the media to profitably sell video of the huge fires to media outlets globally.

Elements of recent government policies have pointed in the right direction:

  • Highlighting pollution issues, particularly polluting plastics in waterways and the oceans.
  • Dedicated funding for research on recycling.
  • A parliamentary inquiry and proposed royal commission, with a focus on fuel reduction and improved management of forests.
  • Assisting Pacific-island states in a way that counters Beijing’s push in the region.

However, the Government’s policies are often piecemeal and lack a coherent approach to environmental issues, reflecting divisions in its own ranks that Labor, the Greens and environmental extremists exploit.

A coherent policy must start by directly challenging the extremist view that is expressed in maps showing in red the earth heating and, by implication, becoming a dying wasteland.

Yet NASA satellite mapping of the earth’s vegetation shows exactly the opposite is occurring. The earth is “greening”, with plant coverage growing 5 per cent over the past two decades. More plants means more insects, animals and food.

Historically, naturally warmer periods in the Earth’s history have meant more food, cultural flourishing, and greater political stability, with fewer mass migrations and wars.

Second, the Federal Government should tell Australia’s bushfires history, as documented on the Victorian Government’s schools’ Bushfire Education webpage. It shows that the recent fires are not unprecedented. A far worse fire back in 1851 (pre-industrial revolution) killed one million sheep when it burnt 5,000,000 hectares, 11 times the area burnt in the 2009 Black Saturday fires. (See page 4 of this edition of News Weekly).

Such education should include a history of how indigenous Australians almost constantly burned for fuel reduction, to enhance native species and food production.

Third, an annual national audit of actual fuel-reduction burns against set targets should be published. This will ensure state governments are held accountable for hazard reductions and for proper fire-risk assessments across the regions, particularly as more people live in bushland areas. Some states have been cutting their budgets for management of forests.

Despite the recommendations of the 2010 Victorian Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday fires, over the past three years Victoria has reduced fuel in less than one-third of the area recommended. Worse, the Andrews Government has announced that it will soon lock up all the states’ forests to logging, which means fire access roads will close over and old, dying trees will be left to add to forest fuel loads.

Fourth, most people do not regard the Earth as “dying” because of climate change, but they do want sensible environmental policies. These should include priority research into compostable/biodegradable plastics (Belgium and Austria have national standards); and domestically produced sugar cane-based biofuels to reduce particulate matter air pollution from vehicles.

Fifth, Australia is dry yet water rich, requiring more reservoirs to conserve water from wet periods. The Australian population has grown 70 per cent since the early 1980s, but reservoir capacity has risen by 9.5 per cent only. There have been no major new dams for east-coast capital cities, while the equivalent of six Sydney Harbours is being taken out of agricultural production each year under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Sensible, well-articulated policies will go a long way in dealing with the environmental concerns of most Australians.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.




























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