No marginal seats in the Roman Senate to worry about

Two big things were made crystal clear with the 2016 federal budget brought down last on Tuesday night. It’s an election budget and climate doesn’t figure in it.

In a major contrast to Labor’s climate focused policy announced last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his election whisperers have decided that it’s OK to forget about the issues driving concern among a growing number of people. People on the street. People on the land. People in business.

This was a conundrum discussed in interesting detail on Monday night’s QandA, aptly focused on political issues: how can the government/any government continue to ignore issues that even up to 80 per cent of people strongly endorse?

We’re not saying there’s 80 per cent support for climate action just yet, but the dial is moving upwards and the lower the priority climate is for governments, the higher that dial will rise. This was explained clearly by Stuart Clark, research director of polling company IPSOS in an interview with The Fifth Estate last week. If people feel the government is not acting on an important issue they will respond, he says. It shows in the polls.

We reckon the dial rises on action too. And there is action bubbling away at grass roots levels everywhere we look – privately and in business on all sorts of climate and environmental fronts – tackling energy efficiency, pollution, contaminants in our work and home lives, work practices, diversity, the way we treat each other.

Values are changing too. There’s a rising awareness that happiness doesn’t come through the chink of a cash register, driving fancy cars (or any cars if you are young), or palatial homes in the burbs. There’s rising support for same sex marriage and freedom from oppression and violence for women.

Yet more evidence of change is in where we put our money. In the past three years there has been a 400 per cent increase in ethical investment, the Responsible Investment Association of Australia says. Overall numbers are still small in proportion, but as the saying goes, for every person who picks up the phone to take action, there’s another 100 would wanted to but got distracted.

The airwaves after budget day had had plenty of anecdotal evidence that tax cuts are not as important as good government infrastructure. And that’s a picture increasingly filtering through the media in general.

These trends are all evidence that the momentum in history tends away from oppression and bad practice towards improvement. Sometimes that’s disruptive and uncomfortable.

If only we had time for an orderly transition to repair our environment.

We haven’t.

Which is why we desperately need government to pay attention and help us out – “us” being the growing numbers and sometimes the majority – of people who want change, even if it sometimes comes at a cost.

Of course government and politicians on all sides of politics would know all this.

Yet they continue to fail to take meaningful action.

As the QandA experts pointed out, what the dominant parties tend to do is focus on the 1.5 per cent of swinging voters who determine election outcomes. And that’s a place where the view can get badly distorted compared to mainstream is thinking.

So if you wonder why the government can ignore what it knows to be true and urgent, then that’s it in a nutshell.

The government is focused on this flaky bunch of people who – we’re led to believe – don’t care as much about climate they do the extra sandwich they can buy on Fridays if they earn $80,000 a year and can claim the only tax break on offer in Tuesday’s budget.

Well, that’s the argument. But who’s convinced?

There’s a mystery there. Who are those marginal voters? What do they want? How can we persuade them to join our side?

Perhaps these people too would choose to pay more taxes if they felt there was better health and education for their kids, or a better environment for them to grow up in. Maybe they would care more about environmental catastrophes if we could explain things clearly, without bullying or being patronising.

the way it is now they, we reckon they have way too much power.

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