Ashamed to be Australian?
Australia ranks 53rd in the world in population, but sixth in the world in the CO2 produced by its electricity industry; it has 0.3% of the world's population, but produces 1.2% of the world's greenhouse gasses; it is well up among the worst greenhouse polluters on the planet. Australians are producing the greatest amount of greenhouse gasses, per capita, of any OECD country – even more than the people of the USA. This is not just a crime of our government, most individual Australians are similarly culpable.
Excessive and unnecessary consumption is also rampant in Australia. It too adds to greenhouse emissions.
Perhaps the greatest cause for shame is that most Australians don't seem to care much. In 2012 the Federal Labor government was doing little to reduce greenhouse gas production, while the Liberals wanted to do even less. With the despicable Abbott Government, the cause for shame was even greater.
The Liberal-National coalition was re-elected to government in 2019/05/18; apparently mainly because many Australians, particularly in Queensland, think that jobs and the money coming from the coal industry is more important than the future of the planet.
Australia's Liberal COALition government; a sufficient cause for national shame
Mid 2015; Abbott GovernmentLiberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott was doing his best to support the declining coal industry that is one of the main causes of climate change, ocean acidification and of millions deaths each year due to air pollution. He is also doing all he can to destroy Australia's wind power industry.
Mid 2016; Turnbull GovernmentMalcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Liberal Prime Minister. In regard to action on climate change, nothing has improved (but at least we don't have to cringe every time our PM says something in public.
September 2018; Morrison GovernmentThe Turnbull government has been replaced by the Morrison government. Prime Minister Scott Morrison demonstrated his love of coal by waving a lump of it around in parliament during the Turnbull government.
PM Morrison appointed Angus Taylor as Energy Minister. Mr Taylor already had a reputation for having very little respect for the truth in his apparent hatred of wind farms; certainly in his first few weeks as Energy Minister he continued with his lies and seemed to extend his hatred of wind power to all forms of renewable energy. What a low ebb Australia has sunk to!
On December 18th 2009 Australia was awarded the Fossil-of-the-day award at the Copenhagen climate change conference for pressuring our Pacific neighbours for higher levels of greenhouse gasses than they felt should be aimed for. In early 2010 the Rudd Government was doing next to nothing to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production rates and in April 2010 PM Rudd put off his proposed carbon trading scheme until at least 2013. Many parliamentarians in the federal Parliamentary Liberal and National parties are so abysmally ignorant that they believe (or at least claim to believe) that humanity has nothing to do with climate change. The excuse for not doing anything is often that we are too small to make a difference; an entirely fallacious argument.
One of the few bright points was when Julia Gillard, during her period as Prime Minister, introduced a carbon tax, which passed through Parliament in November 2011.
The evidence for the seriousness of anthropogenic climate change
has been convincing for several decades, is now irrefutable, and the body
of evidence is continuously increasing; yet the number of
Australians who believe that climate change may not be caused by humanity was
around 50% in early 2010 and was also increasing – due to a
disinformation campaign run by the big greenhouse polluters.
The Australian Greens is the only political party that has a policy that
takes climate change as seriously as the problem deserves; less than
10% of Australians vote for the Greens.
How stupid are my countrymen?
Both of the major Australian political parties seem to me to be morally empty, their interaction with the Australian people revolves around how they can win more votes and get into, or hold onto government. I doubt that the word 'ethics' would mean anything to any of their senior members. They seem to be serving only themselves, the wealthy of this country, the big corporations, and the USA.
Why do Australian governments involve our country in the 'American Way' in international relations: bombing and terrorising to try to achieve short-sighted national aims?
The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2015
Image source: German Watch: The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2015
Note Australia's position; second last of 61 nations.
In the above report, the comment about Australia in the Climate Policy section is:
"Since joining the "very poor" group last year, Australia has lost even more ground and now comes in last together with Canada and Turkey."
A very informative article on the Iraq War of 2003 is given in Wikipedia.
The photo below shows red stringybark trees in
Spring Gully Conservation Park
One way we can all reduce our climate change impact is by minimising our driving and by driving a car that is no bigger than we need.
On 2006/03/18 I took a folding chair down to the main road (Clare to Blyth)
in front of my place for an hour and ten minutes to get a record of the
traffic going past. I should say that it was a Saturday and the day of a
state election – this would have had some effect on the mix of traffic.
I have tabled a summary of the traffic below.
|Number of occupants|
|Type of car||1||2||3||>3||Total|
|Large car with caravan||0||2||0||0||2|
|Large 4WD with caravan||0||1||0||0||1|
Notes on the tableMy estimates of car sizes go something like this: small, <1 tonne; medium, 1-1¼ t; large 1½ t; large 4WD, 2 t.
I did not record large commercial vehicles.
Some of the large 'cars' were utilities (pick up trucks) that had at least a partial load.
There were no pedestrians, bicycles, or motorbikes.
There were no busses (there are four busses a week available to pick up passenges going past my property).
4WD = four-wheel-drive = SUV
All the cars I saw, other than the utilities, could have taken at least four people, some could have taken eight. Apart from one or two of the utes, not one of the total 110 had a full load of passengers; 65% of the cars I saw contained only the driver. Not counting the towing vehicles, about 160 tonnes of vehicles went past carrying about 147 people; if the average weight of an occupant was 70kg that is 160 tonnes of vehicles carrying 10 tonnes of people (a payload ratio of only 0.0625).
If the people I recorded cared about how much greenhouse carbon dioxide they were releasing into the atmosphere why did 72 drive large cars and only three drive small cars? (Few of these people could claim to not know about the greenhouse/climate change problem. It had been well publicised for years. They would also have to know that vehicle emissions increase with vehicle size.) (See Eat half the cake.) Why were there no pedestrians or cyclists? (Clare is 5km away from where I did this survey; I frequently ride a bike, and sometimes walk, into town.)
This is another reason that I am ashamed to be Australian. On the other hand, I have no reason to believe that Australians are more selfish than are non Australians. Probably most people would behave in the same way if placed in the same situation. Perhaps I should say that I am ashamed to be a member of the human race?
The majority of Australians are well-intentioned, but they fail to look at the bigger picture, they don't see themselves as citizens of the world, with the responsibilities that go with that citizenship. In this way they are no different to those who have large families (often for religious reasons) in our overpopulated world, when they could choose family planning.
Can Tony Abbott be blamed for his irresponsible stand on greenhouse emissions when the common people are unwilling to modify their behaviours?
Of course this is not the only evidence that Australians give a very low priority to the environment. A low percentage of Australians vote for political parties that are strong on environment, and the major parties have found that they will get more votes by promising tax cuts or pay rises rather than by promising to do more for the environment.
Statements from celebritiesIn late November 2004 I started a campaign asking celebrities for short statements on how they felt about the Australian Government's stance on greenhouse and its unquestioning support for the belligerent policies of the US Bush Government.
Received from George Monbiot, 2004/12/02
George Monbiot is a UK journalist and author who writes on many issues of international concern.
Terry Lane, received 2004/12/18.
Terry is a journalist and well known in Australia for his weekly radio session, 'In the National Interest'.
Dr. John Yu, Australian of the Year, 1996; received 2005/02/21
So few responses was disappointing. The response from one person, who was a researcher attached to a university, indicated a fear that making a statement might prejudice the chances of further research grants from the government. Another person rang me and expressed equally grave concern to mine, but I did not hear from this person again.
It seems to me that there is a fear of speaking out against the government because of possible consequences.
A statement by Sir William Deane, former Governor General
From an article by Duncan Macfarlane in The Australian, 2003/05/30In a wide-ranging address at the University of Queensland, Sir William said the nation would "surely lose its way" if future leaders ran the country as badly as the present (Howard) Government.
He said untruth was evident in the children overboard affair when the federal Government falsely claimed in the lead-up to the November 2001 election that asylum-seekers had thrown their children into the water from their boats.
He spoke of "the denial of the fundamental responsibility of a democratic government to seek to safeguard the human rights of all its citizens, including the unpopular and the alleged wrongdoer in the case of two Australians indefinitely caged without legal charge or process at Guantanamo Bay jail."
Alluding to the federal Government's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, Sir William said young Australians must "make good our failure as a nation to do enough to help safeguard the world environment for future generations".
He said the Government must do more to reduce income inequality.
"There is the challenge to face up to the completely unacceptable yet growing
gap between the haves and the have-nots in this the land of the so-called
fair go for all," Sir William said.
"The plight of the disadvanataged, even in affluent Australia, is an
overwhelming problem which no one of us who has a voice to speak, or the
means to help, can in conscience ignore."
Reasons for pride in Australia?
What can you do to help change Australia for the better; so that you will not have to be ashamed of your country?
I believe a big part of the problem is that Australians (and Americans) don't, or can't, put themselves in the position of the people who we are oppressing. If we can make Australians see the situation from, for example, an Iraqi's point of view, or the point of view of a resident of Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu, who are at great risk from sea level rise, that would be a step toward fixing the problem.
Express your opinion, you can write to newspapers. Most people will either understand your feelings and sympathise with you, or will totally miss your point, but there may be a few who will start to think about it because of your letter.
My role-models are the students of one of the Melbourne universities, I think it was Monash. When they first started protesting against the Vietnam war back in the nineteen sixties I thought that they were close to being traitors. I gradually came around to their opinion. Someone has to be first, even if others think that person is a nut at the beginning.
Whatever you do, don't vote for one political candidate because you think that he/she is not quite so bad as the main party alternative. And party loyalty is a big part of the reason that we, and the USA, have the terrible governments that we are lumbered with. Look into all the candidates. Learn what the parties stand for. Perhaps join a political party, you can work to improve them from the inside. Find a candidate who you can respect. Vote smart. If all else fails, nominate as a candidate yourself (I have done so), or even start your own party.
Perhaps organising a few friends to put together some placards and demonstrate in front of your local MP's office might be more your style? The main thing is to do something! Apathy is as much the enemy as are bad politicians.
An example letter that you might like to modify and send to your local member if he/she is Liberal or National PartyThis is a slightly edited copy of a letter that I sent to my local MP and about 10 local newspapers on 2004/11/18. You can probably improve on it or think of other ways to prick someone's conscience. Be polite and not insulting; this can be difficult when you feel disgusted.
The Lancet article which refers to the 100 000 deaths among Iraqi civilians mentioned above can be read on The Lancet Internet site. You will have to register to read it, but this is a simple matter.
Produce an Internet page about your local politicianYou could write an Internet page on which you could record the letters that you have sent to your local Federal Member of Parliament and his/her answers.
You could improve on my example. Contact me at the email address at the top of this page if you would like me to help.
Email politicians about carbon; tell them coal has no futureI'm sure politicians are told all the time that they should be taking more action on greenhouse emissions. I believe that a different aproach is needed to get the message across. There are many reasons to believe that the coal industry has no economic future; we need to get this message to our politicians.
I suggest emailing them something like this:
Subject line: Economic futureA list of politician's names can be found on Wikipedia.
Their email addresses all have the form: email@example.com; for example: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Australians are exemplarySome Australians do care deeply about climate change and ethics in and outside of government. I suspect that they are usually unwilling to talk about what they do to reduce their greenhouse impact because they don't want to be seen as bragging.
Australian Greens Senators Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle were the only parliamentarians with the courage to stand up and criticise President Gorge W. Bush during his 23 October 2003 address to the joint sitting of both houses of the Australian Parliament.
On a much more local scale, Lorraine Saunders of Crystal Brook made a speach (see the box below) accepting the Crystal Brook Citizen of the Year Award.
I knew that Lorraine prefers to walk or ride a bicycle rather than drive whenever she can. I didn't know, nor did she mention in her speach, that she and her husband, Geoff, have 30 solar photovoltaic panels (1920 Watts) on their roof and have solar water heating. They are committed to minimising their environmental footprint. I thought that there were only two people who had any solar photovoltaic panels in my small town, but now I wonder how many others I do not know about. How many people buy 'green electricity' in Crystal Brook? I would love to know.
If a quarter of Australian parliamentarians had the ethical standards of Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle, if ten times as many Australians were as responsible as the Saunders, this country would be a far better place.
Australia is unjustifiably militaristicAny nation that spends more money than can be reasonably justified on armaments causes mistrust among it neighbours. They wonder whether aggression is being seriously considered.
At the time I wrote this section of this page Australia faced no more credible outside threats than most other nations.
While it ranked 53rd in population among the world's nations Forbs ranked it 12th in arms spending. Among the 15 nations with the highest arms spending there were only four that spent more per capita on arms than Australia: in order of decreasing per capita arms spending these were the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the USA.
Money that is spent on armaments is not available for education, health, emissions reduction, infrastructure, welfare and many other desirable services. The quality of life of the nation's people is degraded unnecessarily.
STATEMENT FOR THE MEDIA BY A CONCERNED GROUP OF FORMER SERVICE CHIEFS AND AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMATS
TIME FOR HONEST, CONSIDERED AND BALANCED FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES
This is fundamental to effective parliamentary democracy. Australians must be able to believe they are being told the truth by our leaders, especially in situations as grave as committing our forces to war.
We are concerned that Australia was committed to join the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and the deception of the Australian people.
Saddam's dictatorial administration has ended, but removing him was not the reason given to the Australian people for going to war. The Prime Minister said in March 2003 that our policy was "the disarmament of Iraq, not the removal of Saddam Hussein". He added a few days before the invasion that if Saddam got rid of his weapons of mass destruction he could remain in power.
It is a matter for regret that the action to combat terrorism after 11 September 2001, launched in Afghanistan, and widely supported, was diverted to the widely opposed invasion of Iraq. The outcome has been destructive, especially for Iraq. The international system has been subjected to enormous stress that still continues.
It is of concern to us that the international prestige of the United States and its Presidency has fallen precipitously over the last two years. Because of our Government's unquestioning support for the Bush Administration's policy, Australia has also been adversely affected. Terrorist activity, instead of being contained, has increased. Australia has not become safer by invading and occupying Iraq and now has a higher profile as a terrorist target.
We do not wish to see Australia's alliance with the United States endangered. We understand that it can never be an alliance of complete equals because of the disparity in power, but to suggest that an ally is not free to choose if or when it will go to war is to misread the ANZUS Treaty. Within that context, Australian governments should seek to ensure that it is a genuine partnership and not just a rubber stamp for policies decided in Washington. Australian leaders must produce more carefully balanced policies and present them in more sophisticated ways. These should apply to our alliance with the United States, our engagement with the neighbouring nations of Asia and the South West Pacific, and our role in multilateral diplomacy, especially at the United Nations.
Above all, it is wrong and dangerous for our elected
representatives to mislead the Australian people. If we cannot
trust the word of our Government, Australia cannot expect it to
be trusted by others. Without that trust, the democratic
structure of our society will be undermined and with it our
standing and influence in the world.
The list of those who have agreed to the text follows:
MilitaryAdmiral Alan Beaumont AC, former Chief of Defence Force;
General Peter Gration AC, former Chief of Defence Force;
Admiral Mike Hudson AC, former Chief of the Navy;
Vice Admiral Sir Richard Peek, former Chief of the Navy;
Air Marshal Ray Funnell AC, former Chief of the Airforce;
Air Vice Marshal Brendan O'Loughlin AO former head of Australian Defence Staff, Washington;
Major General Alan Stretton AO, former Director General National Disaster Organisation;
Departmental Heads and Diplomatic RepresentativesPaul Barratt, AO, former Secretary Dep. Defence and Deputy Secretary DFAT;
Dr John Burton, former Secretary of Dep. External Affairs and HC to Ceylon;
Dr Stuart Harris AO, former Secretary of Dep. Foreign Affairs and Trade;
John Menadue AO, former Secretary of Prime Ministers Department and former Ambassador to Japan;
Alan Renouf, former Secretary Dept. Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to France, Ambassador to US;
Richard Woolcott, AC, former Secretary of Dept. Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ambassador to the United Nations, Indonesia and The Philippines;
Dennis Argall, former Ambassador to China;
Robin Ashwin, former Ambassador to Egypt, Soviet Union and Germany;
Jeff Benson, former Ambassador to Denmark and Iceland;
Geoff Bentley, former Ambassador to Russia and Consul General HongKong;
John Bowan, former Ambassador to Germany;
Alison Broinowski, former Charge d'Affaires to Jordan;
Richard Broinowski, former Ambassador to Mexico, Korea and Vietnam;
John Brook, former Ambassador to Vietnam and Algiers;
Ross Cottrill, Executive Director Australian Institute of International Affairs;
Peter Curtis, former Ambassador to France, CG New York and High Com. India;
Rawdon Dalrymple, AO, former Ambassador to United States, Japan, Indonesia and Israel;
Malcolm Dan, former Ambassador to Argentina and Chile;
Stephen Fitzgerald AO, former Ambassador to China;
Geoff Forrester, former Deputy Secretary Department Foreign Affairs and Trade;
Robert Furlonger, former Director General ONA and Head of JIO and Ambassador to Indonesia;
Ross Garnaut, AO, former Ambassador to China;
Ian Haig AM, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE;
Robert Hamilton, former Ambassador to Mexico, El Salvador and Cuba;
Cavan Hogue, former H.C. to Malaysia, Ambassador to Thailand, and United Nations (Security Council);
Roger Holdich, former Director General of Intelligence and Ambassador to Korea;
Gordon Jockel, former Chairman of the National Intelligence Committee and Ambassador to Thailand and Indonesia;
Tony Kevin, former Ambassador to Cambodia and Poland;
Peter Lloyd, AM, former Ambassador to Iraq;
Alf Parsons, AO former High Commissioner to United Kingdom, High Commissioner to Singapore, Malaysia;
Ted Pocock AM , former High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ambassador to France and Morocco, the Soviet Union, Korea and the EU;
Peter Rogers, former Ambassador to Israel;
Rory Steele, former Ambassador to Iraq;
H. Neil Truscott AM, former Ambassador to Iraq;
Ron Walker, former Special Disarmament Adviser, Ambassador to the UN, Geneva, Ambassador to Austria and Chairman of the Board of Governors IAEA;
Australia - a land of conspicuous, unnecessary and irresponsible consumption
Much of what is thrown out would be reused, or repaired, or continued in use, if it was available to people of third-world countries. Of course energy (mostly fossil fuel energy) is used to produce all these materials, with consequent greenhouse emissions.
Another problem is finding suitable places where it can all be dumped without resultant contamination of groundwater or runoff. This is becoming a major problem for Australian governments.
Wood and other biodegradable material dumped in landfill produce methane when they rot. Methane is, of course, a major greenhouse gas.
In Australia, people buy things they often don't need and then have to throw other stuff out to make space for the new stuff. Storage space for hire is big business in Australia and is used by people for the stuff they don't have space for in their homes but don't want to throw out.
The best feature of the curb-side junk collection is that people often put out their unwanted materials well before the scheduled pickup date and then other people, perhaps with less disposable income, can pick through the waste and take items that they can use. The photo was taken on 3rd April 2023, the pickup date is the week of 24-29 April. Some of what is in this pile had already been there for a week or two.
People in most Australian towns have a 200 litre bin that is emptied by local councils weekly. In Mandurah, and many other towns, another 200 litre bin of recyclables is picked up fortnightly. The curb-side waste collection is mainly for items that are too big to fit in the bins.
See too conspicuous consumption, also in Mandurah, of expensive yachts that seem more for show than for sailing.
Emissions; total or per-capita?
The greed of the corporate bosses and the wealthy
Many other related pages can be reached through the Australian Home page or international Home page
Useful linksWhich electorate do you live in?
Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives
What local papers are there?
IndexOn this page...
An Internet page about your local politician
Australia - a land of conspicuous and irresponsible consumption
Australians and climate change
Australia's greenhouse emissions
Example letter to Coalition politician
International relations the US way
International relations the humane way
Australia is unjustifiably militaristic
Pride in my region: Mid North South Australia
Reasons for pride in Australia?
Some Australians are exemplary
Statement by 43 former leaders
Statement by Sir William Deane
Statements from celebrities
Why be ashamed of Australia?