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News from the front desk: Issue No 190

On lock-ups, taxes, Panzers and the Paris thing

8 May 2014 — In the view of one person in the lock up for the Victorian budget, the greenies weren’t happy. His call was that, “Oh well, they’ve had it good for 10 years; now it’s infrastructure’s turn.”

That about sums up the sectarian wedge that has been driven deep into the Australian community on climate and sustainability.

The danger is it’s starting to look as deep as the divide that came with the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, or like the anger politics of the IRA and other civil wars.

It feels like a civil war.  Or even an invasion, Maybe it’s what it felt like to be in Paris when the Nazi Panzers rolled in.

Boom boom boom boom.

But is it?

In recent weeks we’ve had the three amigos of the apocalypse (yes, they’re looking for a fourth). The Commission of Audit, with its nasty anti-climate anti-everything agenda; the gathering storm on clean energy from the Feds and the VicGov, which has fallen directly into line but has held out some appeasement crumbs to the greenies. See our article on this.

But let’s ignore those emerging gorges or gouges and look on the bright side. Let’s try to find some commonality (and maybe hijack the agenda; turn the Vichy into Victory. Or just the Roman letter for five, for that matter).

Back to lock-up man. Does he really think there is a difference between smart infrastructure and a green agenda?

Does anyone actually want a dumb road that will only invite more traffic and will before long clog up the city? Or smart infrastructure that delivers dividends to the economy and the environment?

What about taxes?

We all hate taxes right. And the talk from the three amigos is all about extra taxes or levies or costs. But there are two kinds of taxes – the mandatory and the self-imposed. And maybe we owe the talk of new taxes for shining the spotlight on all the taxes we impose on ourselves voluntarily.

If we build dumb roads and fail to create smart public transport, it’s possible we’re slugging ourselves a levy on the cost of production– through lost time or extra fuel costs. Call it a tax.

Waste energy, resources or people and hey presto, there’s another voluntary tax.

In Victoria, the citizens have just been slugged $15.4 million to clean up the mess that grubby Stone Age industries foisted on the Latrobe Valley when the Hazelwood power station went up in smoke. Another tax – this one from lack of care and proper maintenance.

Property owners and managers understand the need to avoid voluntary tax when they consider how best to manage their building assets.

A.G. Coombs’ Bryon Price made this clear in his seminar presentation for the 1200 Buildings program in Melbourne this week. The aircon kit can be highly resilient, he said; it’s generally well built, tough, and if you ignore proper maintenance for quite a while it’s possible the temperature will dutifully remain at 21 degrees for quite a long time before any of the tenants notice.

But what you’re doing is shortening the life of the kit by maybe 10 years, Price noted.

And when the thing collapses on a weekend and you have tenants turning up to work on the Monday it’s hard to resist replacing like with like, which means you don’t buy the new efficient model that could save you huge amounts of money in the medium terms.

Another tax.

Anyone see an analogy with the planet there?

So in one way you have to hand it to the current crop of governments and audit commissioners that want to be Conan the Barbarian with taxes levies, cuts and so on. We should thank them for turning the spotlight on taxes and before we complain about the taxes and cuts they want to impose, we should cut out all the voluntary taxes we sting ourselves.

Good housekeeping and good maintenance – what a bright idea.

US says climate change is here now

US government gets it. Its report this week, Climate Change Impacts in the United States, is a powerful look at the massive taxes on us all that we are about to face from climate change.

In many ways the report signalled the time for talk was over, it was time for action on climate change as the impacts shifted dramatically from the distant or mid-term future to the present and is impacting now on human health, natural ecosystems, built environments, and existing social, institutional and legal arrangements.

The report is a wake-up call for Australia and challenges the Australian federal government to face reality and join with its most important ally in tackling the global issues coming from climate change.

While President Barack Obama goes on a roadshow to deal with sceptics, the key questions have shifted from whether climate change is occurring to whether society can manage the challenges.

The message is that a response to climate change will require massive co-ordination that crosses all boundaries public and private. Yes, the equivalent of a war footing:

For example, the implications of international arrangements need to be considered in the context of managing the Great Lakes, the Columbia River, and the Colorado River to deal with drought., Both “bottom up” community planning and “top down” national strategies may help regions deal with impacts such as increases in electrical brownouts, heat stress, floods, and wildfires. Such a mix of approaches will require cross-boundary coordination at multiple levels as operational agencies integrate adaptation planning into their programs.

The Fifth Estate has tried steadfastly to avoid the war analogy in relation to climate change since we sent out of first newsletter just over five years ago.

But it’s time.

This report points to the possibility that Australians will soon have to look to the US in ways unimaginable since the end of the Second World War.

The optimistic scenario is that the dreaded cultural imperialism of the US and it’s meddling foreign affairs policies since those days may turn around and become a major weapon of influence in the fight for the planet.

Hollywood, for instance, could come in very handy.

If you want to shock your socks off, watch the new series on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, by film maker James Cameron, featuring Harrison Ford.

Heading in a similar direction to the US government is China. News seeping out now is that the massive construction boom that’s fuelled the coal explosion in Australia is over and that China is now headed for a massive oversupply of residential towers in second-tier cities that are 30 per cent oversupplied with prices plunging. We all know what that feels like and how savage that can be on the national psyche. We also know that despite the economic pain, it gives a breathing space to their air and the earth, which in China is already poisoned and near death in so many parts of the vast country.

Yes it’s true that every threat opens up an opportunity. Those who want to profit from climate change are holding conferences and preparing strategic incursions into the Arctic.

They’re sharpening their political skills and hiring mind-merchants to shape our agenda.

In Australia it seems that the enemy has captured the entire federal government and pretty well nearly all of the states.

Our version of France’s Vichy government?

But we can do spin, too.

Let’s thank the Commission of Audit for the wakeup call that we needed to have. It painted a picture of a vastly changed future. It showed how dramatically this nation could change – overnight.

Thank you Commission of Audit. You have provided in your own way the wake up call we needed. You thought you were outlining a plan to shore up the welfare and resources of your sectarian interests by revealing a war footing that asks the entire nation to pull together and make the necessary sacrifice (to keep business as usual).

You are so right that change is on the way. We will all need to sacrifice. We think a pension age of 70 is bad? We think taking away universal health care, community and welfare support, scientists, innovation and higher taxation is bad?

We ain’t seen nothing yet, right?

Thank you for signalling to Australia what sadly needs to be signalled.

What needs to happen next is to harness this restructuring trajectory and shift it to a climate and sustainability agenda. Which in the end is a sound economic and social agenda.

It’s our birthday

The Fifth Estate recently clocked up its fifth birthday on 24 April, marked by a newsletter that coincidentally went out on that exact anniversary.

In typical TFE style we did not hold any big bang celebrations.

But let the (now) immortal words of Lou Reed be our marker: this is no time for celebration, this is no time for political unrest, this is the time, because there is no time.

Lou Reed – There Is No Time

This is no time for celebration
This is no time for shaking hands
This is no time for backslapping
This is no time for marching bands

This is no time for optimism
This is no time for endless thought
This is no time for my country right or wrong
Remember what that brought

There is no time
There is no time
There is no time
There is no time

This is no time for congratulations
This is no time to turn your back
This is no time for circumlocution
This is no time for learned speech

This is no time to count your blessings
This is no time for private gain
This is the time to put up or shut up
It won’t come back this way again

There is no time
There is no time
There is no time
There is no time

This is no time to swallow anger
This is no time to ignore hate
This is no time to be acting frivolous
Because the time is getting late

This is no time for private vendettas
This is no time to not know who you are
Self knowledge is a dangerous thing
The freedom of who you are

This is no time to ignore warnings
This is no time to clear the plate
Let’s not be sorry after the fact
And let the past become our fate

There is no time
There is no time
There is no time
There is no time

This is no time to turn away and drink
Or smoke some vials of crack
This is a time to gather force
And take dead aim and attack

This is no time for celebration
This is no time for saluting flags
This is no time for inner searchings
The future is at hand

This is no time for phony rhetoric
This is no time for political speech
This is a time for action
Because the future’s within reach

This is the time
This is the time
This is the time
Because there is no time

There is no time
There is no time
There is no time
There is no time

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