Getting lost: Turnbull, Flannery, #auspol and #climate – precisely no belling of the cats

This afternoon, with 2300 other punters, I watched a Get Up (1) webinar/discussion between Tim “The Weathermakers” Flannery and Malcolm “I will not lead a party that is not as committed to climate change as I am” Turnbull.

Below are some random thoughts/not rising to the level of theses (though I will say that these guys interpreted the world and the point is to save it).

Flannery is clearly shit-scared. Several times (I lost count, but it was more than five) he talked about impending catastrophe/catastrophic impacts. He still hedged it with “last chance to save” but this is the guy who has been saying “last chance” and “critical decade” for more than ten years (in fact, there was even a report, ten years ago, called “The Critical Decade.” Well, that went well… )

Shit-scared is good – as St Greta says “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic…” But surely you should/could mobilise your fear to demand (of ourselves) that we do things differently, that we structure our meetings/events etc differently, that we demand MORE of hosting organisations, that we don’t just make the same exhortations….

Malcolm, well, I’ve seen Malcolm a bunch of times of late (the ABC has him on speed-dial) and he’s in full score-settling mode. I’ve seen him talking about the idiocy of gas-led recoveries and the danger of frontier carbon taxes. I’ve seen him baiting Paul Kelly (the fossilised hack, not the singer). I’ve seen him mostly in his forensic Malcolm lawyer mode.

I’ve yet to see him do more than trotting out the lines (repeated today) about the states being ahead (he likes boosting Matt Keane, the NSW Environment Minister – I think he knows it sends his old foes apoplectic), about the speed of the renewables transition (generation, storage) and what other countries are doing. I’ve seen him saying there is a troika of Liberals/Nationals and media (i.e. Murdoch’s gang) and the “vested interests”.


Malcolm you’re a smart guy, by all accounts. Tim, you’re defo a smart guy.

Let’s take the stuff you say as given. It’s part of the landscape. It has been for 30 years, give or take.

No need to take up everyone’s bandwidth. Start by answering the question











If you don’t have answers to that, if you don’t have new answers beyond exhortations for more of the same with some added listening, that actually talks about the mistakes groups have made and how to be less likely to repeat them in future (maybe starting with Get Up), maybe step back until you do?


(1) Yeah. Get Up! Mmmm. That top-down clicktivism-y style of endless mobilising that never actually adds up to movement-building, and failed spectacularly last year. I went to one of their events in Adelaide that was explicitly supposed to be about building connections etc and it was pitifully bad and worse than useless. Haven’t really been able to take them any more seriously than Avaaz or 38 Degrees since then. It’s basically a neoliberal model of citizen “engagement” and the chickens have come home to roost. So it goes.

5 thoughts on “Getting lost: Turnbull, Flannery, #auspol and #climate – precisely no belling of the cats

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  1. Well, Marc, I also sat in on that session yesterday, and my response to this rant is: You arrogant prick.

    Tim Flannery has been observing the change in the climate as it has ravaged Australia over the last nearly thirty years, and been doing everything he can to wake the people and the politicians up to what is happening and what needs to be done.

    In 1995 I was a subscriber to the Sydney Film Festival, and one of the perks of the position was that each of us got a copy of his book The Future Eaters in our gift package. He has been making films that clearly showed the environmental degradation of the landscape and getting them onto television.

    When the coal-ition government axed the Australian Climate Commission, he and others formed the Climate Council in 2013 as an independent, fully community-funded organisation, which investigates and provides in-depth reports on environmental issues, of which he remains the head, and I remain a supporter.

    He knows the importance of what he has been trying to convey. No wonder he’s scared at the inaction that has been resulting.

    Malcolm Turnbull probably joined the wrong party when he decided to enter parliament, but he did it in an effort to make a difference. He was hobbled at every turn by the hard right, particularly the ‘o’er vaulting ambition’ of the ex-Queensland-copper, Peter Dutton, formerly of the most corrupt police force in Australia. He has no regard for anyone except himself and his ambition.

    In addition, there’s the ex-salesman, the happy clappy Scott Morrison, who isn’t a climate denier, he’s a climate disaster enabler, because he is wishing end-of-days to come, when he can be raptured up with his loved ones into the arms of God. Why would he want to do anything to save the planet?

    So Turnbull walked on eggshells, and, like Malcolm Fraser, excoriated for his role in the dismissal, who, on retirement, redeemed himself by his outstanding role in support of human rights, has now come out to call out the government for its lack of concern for our people, our country and our planet.

    The ones to attack are those who were not there: The Labor Party – too weak to spell out the situation to their members and the workers involved in the fossil fuel industry.

    When BHP closed down in Newcastle all those years ago, it was expected that the town would collapse. It didn’t, because they had a plan to redeploy the workers in ways they wished to go. If Joel Fitzgibbon had an ounce of real concern for the mine workers, he would see that their jobs are about to fall off a cliff, and would be moving heaven and earth to find a way to transition them into other employment, or retirement, or a business venture, or whatever suits their needs. But he’s another with ambition, and hopes he can topple Albanese. And if the latter doesn’t get off his tail and take action soon, that may well happen.

    I’m 82, with 7 grandchildren (I know – a bit over-zealous on the baby-making back then), and I have been working tirelessly at trying to get the message out so my grandchildren have a future ever since I retired 20 years ago (was a workaholic before that, so no use to the movement at all).

    You will get nowhere railing at lack of success. We are getting through. 80% of Australians are with us on the matter of climate action needed. We just need decent candidates who are prepared to do a Zali Steggle, and challenge the big guys, and provide true leadership and a means of getting a sensible response to this problem through legislation to encourage the growth of the renewable energy sector and with that the transport sector, to assist farmers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through soil regeneration and whatever other means they can, to cut the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, etc., etc., etc.

    And then we need to start to draw down the gases already in the atmosphere and the seas.

    So stop aggrandising yourself at the expense of people doing their best to change the way things are going now. I’ve been reading your opinions for some time now, and criticism and jeering seem to be a bit part of your repertoire.

    Get over yourself.

    Margaret Lee

    1. Oh dear, poor Margaret.

      You say you’ve been “reading my opinions for some time now”. If you actually had, you’d know that it is all about learning from mistakes.

      You’d also know that I’ve been writing about and studying this history o Australian climate change for a long time, and – as per the actual evidence in the blog post above – am very clearly aware of the history. So telling me things I am already very aware of seems like a waste of your time and mine.

      But your rage and your fear (understandable fear, it’s true) have blinded you to all this, and you have instead set up a strawman and attacked that. Understandable, but fairly useless as a contribution to a discussion, no?

      You say “You will get nowhere railing at lack of success”.

      Perhaps try to read the post again. What I am saying (and I put it in caps, but maybe you were so angry you couldn’t see it) is “what do we need to do differently?” After 30 years of failure, I don’t think any reasonable would think that is an unreasonable question.

      Not that you will care, but I am actually heavily involved, with others, in trying to do climate activism in my adopted city that doesn’t just keep doing it the same way groups have been doing it so far. Because what we have done has not worked. I can’t put it simpler than that.

      It was so nice to make your acquaintance. Hope your grandkids admire having a grandmother who can’t actually read a blog post and sets up strawmen rather than engaging with substantive issues.

      Marc Hudson

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