News from the front desk issue 436: Election, Saturday. By Thursday the gap in the polls had narrowed dramatically. It was getting close to neck and neck. The bookies had already called it and paid out on a Labor win. But you can’t always trust a bookie, no matter how many times they got it right in the past.
Late in the day news came through that former Labor PM Bob Hawke had died.
The impact on the election was unclear. Was it a reminder that the current leadership did not live up to Hawke’s, or was Hawke a stark contrast to the Coalition’s lack of moral fibre? Hawke never would have squibbed on Australia’s obligation to act on climate change just because our emissions were a small part of the whole.
It was pretty much the first tinge of emotion in an election season devoid of passion and engagement, almost cringe-worthy. But why?
A conversation between two people waiting at the lights on busy Bridge Road in Glebe early that morning offered a clue.
“It’s really different this time,” said one.
“There are so many independents. There’s Clive Palmer, One Nation, and … people like Fraser Anning, who in many ways is worse than One Nation.
“It’s so easy to get people to hate each other.
“People say [the US president] was elected by poor working class people, but it’s not true; they were educated people with good jobs.”
The words drop like a hammer. It’s not the disenfranchised working class that have created this lunar landscape of mistrust, lies and inaction on climate by major parties across the planet.
It’s the sophisticated elite, the spinmeisters.
They’ve used Cambridge Analytica, Putin, Julian Assange, Syria, the Far Right, the Institute of Public Affairs, the Heartland Institute, refugees, the fear of immigration, anti vaxers, and Ian Plimer (remember him?) to drive a wedge between facts and our survival instinct. The fight or flight adrenaline has captured and siphoned and redirected into blame of others.
Which means climate isn’t the only victim. There’s social justice, natural justice, privacy. Name your poison.
At our event on Wednesday this week, Happy Healthy Offices, it seems that people are falling out of unconditional love with technology and the notion that data will deliver a world we want. Yes, there are huge benefits to understanding our systems, natural and human, so we create efficiencies but who will be the biggest beneficiaries, who will own the data and what will be the cost?
Inventions and new technology usually start with good intentions. But this world of transparency is ironically a highly secret world. The property owners appoint experts to collect and analyse the data for better outcomes – how many users there are in a building, how many EV charging stations to prepare, and when the lifts should be at maximum capacity. But what if they hook into our comms devices and know everything else about us too?
One audience member said when she enters her local Aldi car park now the sensor tracks her entry and exit. Sounds easy, no more ticketing machine. Until she realised there might be a time in the future when she might want that information kept to herself. How does she know other people can’t access it, for a price perhaps, given we know you can’t easily delete your phone messages or browsing history.
Facebook listens to us, even when the app is not switched on, MC Ben Peacock said.
In a few months since we last took a dive into data world it looks like artificial intelligence has moved at lightning speed and left us fearful of what’s to come.
But who’s writing the road rules?
In the face of these massive challenges there is a sense that governments have outsourced themselves.
On climate it’s worse.
Tony Abbott, the former PM who gave the sustainability industry hell on earth during his reign, has scoffed at climate change and renewables.
During the election campaign he joined PM Scott Morrison in calling for all Aussie blokes to keep their petrol their HiLux. Bad luck Toyota quickly told them not to use their product in this way. Besides, all their cars, utes included, would be electric by 2025.
Out of this Mad Max world of roaring tradies, and obfuscation from PMs past and present, has come Clive Palmer.
With no particular policy or vision, he’s like the television character Rake, who’s elected to the senate on a platform of no policies – and wins on that basis. (Fiction writers invent the future, others bring it to life.)
Shamelessly he stands for government with unpaid bills of $70 million hanging around his head. He takes notes from the mining industry and his party sports a good looking young woman to spruik his party – evidence no doubt, of equality, diversity and sincerity.
Suddenly all those lurid yellow billboards that have been popping up all over the known universe for what seems a year now, make sense. They’re like the larvae left by alien creatures in a Dr Who episode, now sprung to life with hundreds of live candidates, each with a head, two eyes and a mouth, filling double pages of our morning newspapers, smiling at us on television, seething in our cornflakes.
In no time, focus groups in Longman and other parts of Queensland have caught the virus and started reciting the Palmer mantra: kill Bill, kill Bill.
But while the sophisticated hate makers gave us POTUS, Brexit and Duterte, the corporate world is now taking from the political world to capture grass roots tactics.
Coca-Cola it emerged this week looks like it’s paying close attention to electioneering warriors like GetUP!, which, as every primary school kid knows uses the oldest trick in the book to swing an election result: talking to people.
In Abbott’s seat of Warringah, GetUp! promised to doorknock every house in the electorate, using an army of volunteers. This infuriated the former PM’s supporters who tried something similar of their own (Saturday will reveal whose grass roots were best.)
This technique savagely exploits old school human vulnerabilities like eye contact, live language and thoughts patterns which known to be permeable given the right emotional tone and temperature.
Coca-Cola’s goal is to reverse falling sales as people opt for healthier options.
So it’s a doing a GetUp! style campaign, sending an army of activists to Australia’s corner stores to convince customers face to face to drink more Coke.
It will also train the shop owners to sell more of its product.
We bet a big target will be kids, Coke’s future feedstock.
This comes after Coke’s loud advertising campaign to spruik its newfound slightly greenie vibe because it’s using recycled plastic in its bottles. This, after fighting the container deposit scheme for years.
We would like to ask Lendlease AMP, GPT and Mirvac if they are allowing the sale of Coke’s sugary and addictive drinks, implicated in obesity and diabetes, at their upmarket sustainable precincts on which they’ve spent a fortune to create a happy and healthy environment.
Nothing against sugary drinks – all’s good in moderation – but like wine or beer, shouldn’t these substances be sold only to consenting and informed adults and in appropriately licensed places?
Meanwhile dietitians and other health professionals struggle to contain the epidemic of diabetes and obesity. There are so many public policy tools that could be used given the appetite: urban planning that can limit the size and placement of supermarkets so small fruit and veg stores can survive the competition, rules over what can and can’t be sold as a food and where; good education or even labelling over the true content of good; better public transport which we learnt from our briefings on HHO makes people happier during the day, even though it can be annoying to use.
The front line professionals keep wondering when will we finally spend taxpayer money at the front end in prevention, instead of the back end mopping up the damage.
But of course we must have choice and freedom and so on. Yep, great. But it’s not a choice if you don’t know the full facts and consequences.
Is anyone still wondering why we’re jaded about the election?
And yet off to the polling booth we go on Saturday, those of us who are not among the 4 million people who have voted early. (What’s that about? Jadedness, maybe?)
On the conservative side of the fence, our readers know our views: the Coalition has been actively harmful to the environment and opposed the advance of renewable energy and a clean green economy.
Right now Labor promises better on climate policies and on social equity issues.
There is no doubt that Labor will squib on some of our best hopes on climate and the environment. Adani for instance. And there’s no doubt it won’t lift a finger to stop Coke from pushing its rubbish onto people at the corner store, nor from targeting children. Likewise for other vested interests.
But at least it might stop the active opposition to the flourishing of a clean and green economy.
The Greens are flawed – sometimes highly flawed – but they can be a strong ballast to flimsy commitments from other parties. Their job is clear and they’ve proved they can provide solid rational policies as a third force.
The independents, almost a party of their own now, are very useful in certain seats and many have stood to pick up on climate where the Coalition has dropped off.
We’ve stated often enough we don’t care who saves the planet – political colours are irrelevant; one day they will cease to matter.
Until then vote Greens first where possible, and preference Labor.
And regardless of who wins, in the end it’s up to us to keep agitating for change. It’s We the People who need to make our voices heard and respected, not just on Saturday but every day and in every way, and at every corner store.