As the ‘miracle’ Morrison government settles into its new term of office, Australians are expecting significant developments in public policy. As Michael Keating writes in his review of the Australian National Outlook Report for 2019 by the CSIRO and its partners, the Coalition was re-elected ‘with almost no policies’, except for inequitable tax cuts and minimal climate policies. Australia is at a crossroads, according to the report, and, to prevent a slow economic decline, needs to deal with problems arising from technological change, the rise of Asia, threats from climate change, inequality, low and stagnant wages, high housing costs, unemployment and persistent under-employment, and infrastructure not keeping pace with population growth.
Many Australians, including Coalition supporters, are dismayed at Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Former Australian ambassador John McCarthy considers that “no international issue is as emotive as asylum and refugee policy. No single policy question is more responsible than this for the debilitated state of federal politics”. We have diminished ourselves since the Vietnam exodus, when “we were leaders in international refugee policy”.
The IPCC has warned that temperatures will rise by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius within 80 years, dramatically altering climate, melting much of the great ice sheets, increasing sea levels by 2 to 5 meters, flooding low-lying areas with their megacities and great river deltas, displacing populations, and damaging food production, with cascading effects through the earth’s life support systems.
Nevertheless, Australia is currently the biggest coal exporter, supplying 37 percent of global coal markets which are adding huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Australia is also the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) which further increases greenhouse emissions. The prominent British economist, Adair Turner, urges strong intervention to avoid a ‘climate catastrophe’: ‘Zero net CO2 emissions by 2050 at the latest should be the legally defined objective in all developed economies’.
A significant new report was released last week on the Australian National Outlook by the CSIRO. In this article, I summarise the report’s discussion of the key challenges and policy choices faced by Australia, which will affect us over the next fifty years.
The report finds that: “Australia is at a crossroads. Stride towards a positive outlook filled with growth, or face a slow decline.” “The world is changing, and Australia will need to adapt much more rapidly than in the past, if it is to keep up.”
- New technologies are transforming industries and creating new ones
- Asia’s continued rise is shifting geopolitical and economic landscapes
- Environmental impacts and biodiversity loss, with climate change are seen as a significant economic, environmental and social issue for Australia and the world
- Inequality, stagnant wage growth, and high house price increases have left many Australians feeling left behind
- A growing and aging population is placing increased stress on Australia’s cities, infrastructure, and government services, and there is some evidence that Australia’s educational performance is falling
- Trust in public and private institutions has fallen sharply.
I have just come home from the cinema, having watched the documentary 2040. This should be compulsory watching for everyone, especially politicians, for, no, there is no reason to believe that this must be the future, and that there is nothing we can do about it. There is a huge amount we can do about it that will improve the lot of us all in all aspects of our lives. But it means a different attitude, a different mindset, and willingness to change.
But it will be the future if we stay with current policies.
Since the Australian federal election in May returned a Conservative government, claims are being made by the energy minister Angus Taylor and the resources minister Matt Canavan that they now have a mandate to do the irresponsible thing, to stay with current energy and climate policies.
They have no such mandate.
With 12 coal power stations in Australia closed since 2013, a full transition out of coal is coming.
Around the world, governments and stakeholders are considering how to implement a “just transition” from coal to clean energy – a transition that’s fair for local workers and communities in coal regions. Some coal-producing nations, such as Germany and Spain, are delivering major just transition packages. Other nations are less successfully trying to navigate social conflicts around the transition, such as Poland and South Africa.
The current debate about the Government’s tax package introduced in its April 2019 Budget includes issues about prudential budgetary management and fairness across the income levels affected by its various proposals. Fairness alone is sufficient grounds for its rejection.
The unfairness of the package is most evident in the treatment of low-paid workers, such as the cleaner of the lowest minimum award rate in the Cleaning Services Award, who does not receive a Living Wage. Yet, in a perplexing decision, the Labor Opposition announced that it will support that part of the package which includes provisions which prejudice the lowest-paid workers. From the perspective of the cleaner on the lowest award rate in the Cleaning Services Award, both the 2018 changes and the changes now proposed are unfair. The lowest award rate for a cleaner throughout 2018-19 has been $768.10 a week or $40,079 over the year. The National Minimum Wage has been $719.20 a week or $37,528 over the year.
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Pope Francis has been calling for us urgently to address social problems of extreme poverty, inequality, and threats from global warming.
This unit examines the responses of Pope Francis and other leaders to recent economic crises and extreme free-market views, often termed neoliberalism. The unit reviews world development efforts, especially the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and debates about growth and sustainability. It also considers aspects of trade, aid, and debt, as well as how to eliminate hunger, increase food production, and manage population growth.
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Pope Francis addresses the seventieth session of the UN General Assembly 2015.
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In a major address at the United Nations, Secretary-General António Guterres warns of the dangerous threat posed by climate change, and points to the massive benefits climate action will generate. He calls on leaders to take up the challenge, and expresses hope that today’s young people will usher in a new increasingly green future. The Secretary-General announces that he will convene a Climate Summit in September 2019 to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda, naming respected climate leader Luis Alfonso de Alba as a new Special Envoy on the issue.