On Monday, while 16-year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg delivered a blistering speech to the UN Summit on Climate Change, Australia’s Prime Minister was at a Chicago McDonald’s checking out “Smart Drive Thru” technology.
I remarked to a colleague this morning, that if it wasn’t so horrifying, it would be funny.
There they were, the leaders of more than 50 countries making pledges to reduce their country’s emissions, and our PM couldn’t even be bothered to show his face. Even Donald Trump had the good grace to turn up, and surely that tells us something.
When questioned over his absence, Morrison said the fact that most leaders would be in attendance at the summit was reason for him to “speak through a different channel.” A channel, let’s be clear, that had exactly zero to do with climate change policy. (Unless cheeseburgers are likely to save us from imminent destruction).
“There’s a lot of people there this week and so I had the opportunity here to speak through a different channel,” he said, referring to his attendance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.”I was pleased to have the invitation and I was pleased to accept it,” he said.
But the most despicable part of Morrison’s conduct came this morning, when he publicly dismissed Thunberg’s accusation that global leaders were failing future generations, and warned that we should “caution against raising the anxieties of children in our country” when addressing the threat of climate change.
Morrison said children should remember that many countries, including Australia, had recovered after existential threats in the past, citing the formation of the United Nations after World War Two.
“Yes, we’ve got to deal with the policy issues and we’ve got to take it seriously, but I don’t want our children having anxieties about these issues,” he said.
“I say this as a parent, too: we’ve got to make sure that our kids understand the facts, but they also have the context and the perspective, and that we do not create an anxiety among children in how we talk about and deal with these very real issues.”
But as Thunberg described very clearly on Monday, the anxiety of young people is not misplaced. And it’s certainly not without context or perspective.
It’s a response to the fact that for more than thirty years the science behind climate change has been clear. We have known what it means and we have known what should be done. And yet leaders, especially from the world’s most privileged nations like the US and Australia, have failed to act.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones,” Thunberg emotionally declared to the summit’s leaders.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
Thunberg might as well have been addressing Morrison exclusively here, as he’s inarguably one of the worst culprits.
His entire election campaign revolved around the promise of broad-stroke economic reform, with zero detail. He dolled out unsustainable tax cuts left, right and centre while failing to address the glaring threat of climate change at all.
In fact, he doubled down on the destruction, maintaining his dogged support for the continuation of coal mining and Adani, despite calls from climate experts globally begging Australia to reconsider.
Moreover, as the leader of a coalition party that has built its entire electability on scaremongering tactics over the past 20 years– refugee domination, people smuggling, terrorism etc, Morrison’s hypocrisy in accusing Thunberg of triggering “needless anxiety” is truly staggering.
The Prime Minister says he wants to give children “reassurance” because the worst thing “we could impose on any child is needless anxiety”. I agree. But he fails to realise that any strain caused is not from activists like Greta agitating for change, but from leaders like himself, failing to do their jobs.