Friday, January 24, 2014

Turn up the heat on Abbott

Public ownership of the resource sector
can pave the way to renewable energy
Australian Services Union leader Sally McManus has compiled a list of 85 broken promises or other attacks on the Australian community by the Abbott government in the less than six months since the federal election. Prominent on the list are attacks on refugee rights, workers' rights, public services and the environment.

The latter include: abolition of the Climate Commission, abolition of the High Speed Rail Advisory Group and formal attempts to wind back world heritage listing of Tasmania's forests.

In addition the Environmental Defenders Office has been defunded and federal environmental law has been weakened.

At the same time, the Abbott government has approved Clive Palmer's ``mega coal mine'' in the Galilee Basin which seriously threatens the Great Barrier Reef. Linked to this, the government has also approved the largest coal port in the world which is actually in the Great Barrier Reef Heritage Area.

Taken as a whole, these decisions represent a conscious refusal to take the threat of catastrophic runaway climate change seriously. This should be a concern for all as 2013 was found to be the hottest year in Australia since records began. At a global level, it was the equal fourth hottest year since records began and the 37th consecutive year above the 20th century average.

Heat waves in just about every state are a reminder that this problem is real and not going to go away by itself.

This raises the question: is it too late to make a change. Complex system researcher Brad Werner addressed this question with an academic paper titled "Is Earth fucked?" at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December 2012.

"The bulk of Werner’s talk, as it turned out, was not profane or prophetic but was a fairly technical discussion of a 'preliminary agent-based numerical model' of 'coupled human-environmental systems'," it was reported.

"Active resistance by concerned groups of citizens, analogous to the anti-slavery and civil rights movements of the past, is one of the features of the planetary system that plays an important role in his model... if you’re interested in averting the scenario in which the Earth is f**ked—then, Werner’s model implied, resistance is the best and probably only hope. Every other element—environmental regulation, even science—is too embedded in the dominant economic system."

The Socialist Alliance election campaign for an expected re-election for the senate in WA will be conducted in this spirit of popular, grassroots resistance to the capitalist status quo.

We are aiming to "upset the apple cart" by calling for the transfer of banks and mines into public ownership. Even with governmental power, this policy could not be implemented without popular mobilisation at the grassroots level.

But these are exactly the kinds of measures required if we are to take the take the planet off our current crash course towards oblivion. These measures would go a long way towards breaking the political and economic power of the big corporations and opening up a pathway towards genuine democracy, social justice and environmental reform.

Averting runaway global warming would be reason enough to take this approach but it is worth noting – as McManus clearly shows – that Abbott's attacks are not limited to environmental concerns. Likewise, our policy of bringing mines and banks into public ownership is motivated just as much by social justice concerns. It is about transferring wealth, as well as democratic control, from the obscenely rich to the community as a whole.

[Alex Bainbridge is a Socialist Alliance candidate in the expected re-election for the senate in WA. This article was written as an Our Common Cause column for Green Left Weekly #994.]