News from the front desk, issue 487: We need to trust our government and it needs to deserve our trust.

No amount of smooth talk about encouraging more “green spaces” as some kind of spotlight priority by the NSW Government Architect on Thursday, nor talk about a fuzzy net zero future, or Atlassian’s spanking new green tower at Central Station, can delete the truth of the covert and not so covert actions underway to undermine our core values and quality of life in this country.

The cuts – or life-threatening amputations – to the ABC, and the doubling of fees for the humanities at universities are carte blanche for the reactionaries running this country to open the flood gates of deceit and obfuscation.

They don’t want scrutiny. They don’t even want to be in the news. Even conservative people in the property industry have been complaining about the cuts to the ABC. There are better ways to save money, said one.

And on education, where does Australia go now with this failed privatisation experiment before us? What use are the universities now they’ve been forced to turn themselves into business people and spruikers instead of better thinkers and scientists, and suddenly have no budgets left to educate our best and brightest, or to attract the world’s great talent to our shores?

Australia will be left behind.

And while it’s good news that the government has thrown a $250 million support package at the Australia’s arts and cultural sector, it is still not reasonable to double the fees for the humanities degrees that primed eight of our prime ministers for the top job. It’s a disgrace. The humanities and the ability to think critically and creatively is more important – dare we say it – than even science, because without that bedrock of free thinking and critical analysis, science can be made a redundant force. Look at the world of climate denial. The science was innocent. The politics and manipulation of the message was guilty.

The danger is that our prime minister Scott Morrison and his peers are doing a POTUS. And at a time when POTUS looks cactus.

At least we can hope. The coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter movement, and so many of his countless crimes against sanity, if not humanity, are looking to take their tolls. But let’s remember there are a few mental decades of news cycles remaining between us now and the November election.

That the US president (whose name we still won’t intentionally mention in these pages because of his contempt for the planet and sustainability and his power to damage our agenda) is on the skids, as to be expected.

Morrison might have learnt from mistakes but now the stakes are bigger than ever.

His biggest potential mistake is to be too clever, to take his cues from manipulators like the POTUS and Machiavellians, who seek to manipulate the world in favour of the few, which is the true aim of the anti-climate agenda.

These are dangerous times.

Morrison will think all the cards are stacked in his favour right now. That’s the cabal whispering in his ear.

He’d be better advised to be humble and learn from the most resilient people on the planet. Which is We the People actually. Because dictators don’t last. People get sick of them. They tear down their statues. Witness the French Revolution, witness Me Too, Black Lives Matter… need we go on?

These are unstable times.

No one knows how to read them. Morrison no more than others.

Take these few thoughts that possibly best define our current economic world. They come from Adam Murchie, who’s fund Forza Capital buys inefficient existing buildings and fixes them up at little cost to run more smoothly and efficiently.

His view of the economy right now? Not one of his clients professes to know what’s going on. There are zombie companies surviving on government grants when they should be dead and buried, he told us this week. On his bike rides down the shopping Mecca of Chapel Street South Yarra, he has noticed one in three shops empty.

Property owners are seriously worried with empty or near empty buildings and people saying they don’t want to go back there. At least not full time.

There is a crazy stock market that defies all logic. And as part of this, and probably the cause, investor forums are “on fire” – stacked with gamblers who’ve been locked out of casinos and taken all they can out of their superannuation to play the stock market.

Amid this looming chaos, our governments are practising Newspeak, or singing straight from the neuro linguistic program songbook (spruiking 101), to say they support our Paris commitments or sustainability or clean energy.

They promise to fast track construction and an army of project by dropping “green tape” doling out blank cheques to the cabal instead.

But what we’re winding back are protections, not roadblocks. The roadblocks are our checks and balances.

If we’re going to survive this pandemic and the economic chaos threatening to join the ecological catastrophe that was already clawing at our doorsteps pre-Covid. we need to work together.

We need the most amazing pact of trust between people and government we’ve ever seen.

Looking to the POTUS and Machiavelli will not cut it this time, Mr Morrison.

You need to empower the most resilient and powerful machine we have in our country, our communities.

This snippet (again from the ABC… what can we say… it’s always the ABC) illustrates what’s at stake. In Greece, said this program about our recent history, people are so mistrustful of government they don’t pay taxes.

A vast 45 per cent or so of the economy is black. It’s ironic, isn’t it, in the country that gave us democracy (and what happens when democracy goes rogue and edges towards anarchy).

It’s why German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to extend just a smidgen of fund to the people of Greece after the GFC (and lending them squillions, which is neat trick if you want to pick up the assets your borrowers can no longer afford, but that’s another story) instead of a lot, which in a normally functioning tax system would allow the country to rebuild and grow its tax base and public infrastructure again.

By contrast, Germany, said the program, is made up largely of small businesses run by families or small groups of investors who have been doing the one specialised thing for years, but are the best in the world at what they do. And carry next to no debt. They pay taxes. They largely trust their government.

It’s not surprising that the latter is far more resilient and self-sustaining; its workers far more likely to be life-long employees and to keep their jobs in a downturn. And no surprise, Germany is doing its bit to save the planet.

Where the action needs to happen

At Eveleigh rail yards on Tuesday we called in for the opening of a vast ground scraper – all 8500 square metres in one floorplate. Enormous quantities of steel, glass and other raw materials converted for our pleasure and our profit.

It rammed home how this industry of ours has to be, needs to be, absolutely the biggest focus of our fight for the planet: for efficiencies in embodied energy, in operational energy, and more than anything in saving and reusing and never sending to landfill the massively valuable product of the earth.

As we head into the next part of this century, we need to go back to first principles (And if 2020 so far failed to convince you the world has changed then you must have been lolling on a Hawaiian island somewhere.)

What do we actually need?

What is the very best, most efficient use of our resources?

How do we measure it?

And where are the economists who can map out the cascading multiples of impacts our vast investment will deliver?

The PM has forked out money for the construction sector. In the face of the 1 million jobs at stake (contrasted to the pitiful number of jobs in the coal industry) you can hardly blame him.

But as we said recently he’s let the marketing spin and political optics cloud the evidence-based decision making he should be using.

He’s given most of the HomeBuilder grant to the rich folk who can afford to do a reno for between $150,000 and up to $750,000. Or those who are building on greenfield sites.

The same economic value could just as easily be derived from retrofitting our existing homes and focusing on the housing of those who need it the most.

What sort of blatant favouritism is that?

Yes, true, but the logic is even more nefarious.

He’s worried that if he gave that grant to truly needy people at the bottom of the pyramid, who are struggling to stay warm this winter (which is often so much harder than staying cool) they might spend it on insulation or solar panels or batteries.

He might be afraid of copping the same ridiculous attacks launched on former PM Kevin Rudd for the insulation scheme.

And he’s afraid that the Daily Tele and what’s left of the Alan Jones posse will attack his support for renewables and less fossil fuels?

The truth is Morrison is captive to two cabals: one in the fossil fuel industry and the other in the construction and development industry that gives the fossil fuellers their biggest market.

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  1. That’s more like it Tina… an informative post bound to erupt the opinion/s of the opinionated, but you’ve offered a view through your lens with this one, and I feel oddly privileged. I mean spruking ‘trust’ for our leaders in the same breath as providing supporting keynotes why we shouldn’t, is counterintuitive but also hopeful.

    While what you’ve presented is an enormously problematic and multi-faceted issue, at the very foundation germinates greed, fear, corruption and treason. How do the wider community trust in that.? How do we trust in a history of decision making tied to agendas devoid of well being for the masses? Where do we find experts in their field who cannot be bought or bribed or steamrolled by a party?

    So here’s where I’m aligned: power to the people. Empower our young/er punters with an actual understanding of policy and (perhaps) more importantly, that their sheer numbers determine the swinging vote. Reach them. Educate them. ‘Nudge’ them. Do whatever it takes to massage their contempt for the hand they’ve been dealt and redirect that massive amount of energy.. into POWER.

  2. A brilliant article Tina – it should be widely distributed and read.

    There are so many areas of failure in leadership, honesty, integrity and intelligence in the LNP both in government and opposition over the past 24 years (and more) that have held us back in so many ways.

    In the case of the ABC outright lies even as late as yesterday with Scotty from Marketing claiming there have been no cuts in funding – LIAR!

    Keep fighting the fight. Let us hope that the example being increasingly shown by the people and business adopting pragmatic, science and fact based behaviour to their energy and materials needs will eventually lead us to the right solutions despite the hateful ideology driven “leadership” of the conservatives.

  3. The lack of trust in the government/s is well deserved. Very interesting article. I do have a question though, what can we, as citizens do that we have not already tried? How can our collective voices be heard, outside of election times?

    1. We can feel so powerless to change the world, it’s hard. But I was once asked to do a talk on exactly that topic and when I thought about what so many people around me were doing I realised we all have two sources of enormous power. One is personal, the power to weave into conversation in whatever way is appropriate the people around us our thoughts or feelings about climate and sustainability. Endorsing as part of our herd that we want to survive and we want all the living things on this beautiful earth to survive. The power of “nudge”. So in shops asking when they are going to get rid of that horrible plastic packaging in a polite friendly way, understanding that the person serving is probably onside, asking them to send the message up the line to their boss.
      The other is what I called “the power in our pocket” to use our purchasing and investing power (through our superannuation choices if nothing else) to make sustainable choices. There are many more options today than four or five years ago when I was prompted to collate these ideas…and the surveys say most of Australia and the world now gets it.
      If politicians refuse to change, it’s a wasted opportunity of precious time but rest assured they will be forced to eventually when their cabal starts to lose power as they are right now. With gas for instance, it seems to me they are patting the gas industry on the back with the energy road map, reassuring their little mates all be well, but noone wants to use gas anymore.
      The pollies will be forced to change when the weight of public opinion forces them, as more advertisers pull their content from the Alan Jones radio show and force him to resign. When big consumer brands like Unilever promise to be more sustainable in their packaging and sourcing. When even the big fossil fuel and mining companies promise to make their processes more sustainable. Yes the latter and some of the other is marketing spin, but so what? It means they are picking up on the dominant trends and I find it thrilling because they themselves are signaling they KNOW they in existential trouble, or they wouldn’t bother.
      There is so much good news, what we are still missing is time. So acting with our personal power of “nudge” and using the “power in our pocket” needs to be as fast and furious as possible. And beyond that… well, it’s important to do our best and then be happy with that.
      Besides you never know what nature has in store. With the pandemic, we’ve just been handed an enormous “get out of jail card”. It’s shown us we can radically change and survive and apart from the horrible consequences, we can even like some of the new possibilities that can be vastly more sustainable than our past habits.

  4. Oh yes, well said but let me highlight some minor flaws. To say that the humanities degrees primed eight of our prime ministers for the top job might arouse doubt in the minds of some who dislike our PM’s. And the construction sector won’t support a million jobs,like many industries it’s capacity to employ in the house building is being diluted by technology, think flat pack house from China. But revamping existing houses is still a goer .