During the first painful months of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, New York City found itself at the epicenter. By the end of March, just two months after the transmission was first reported, 30,000 New Yorkers were infected; April 6, 2000 had passed away.
As an Australian living and working here, my thoughts naturally turned to home. Caring for loved ones was of course paramount, but there was something else: huddled in our apartments, day after week after month, dismayed at how the US response to the pandemic had been overwhelmed from day one by politics and partisanship, I found solace and great pride in the way Australia’s federal, state and territorial governments have implemented science-based and compassionate policies.
The leaders of both parties stood up first and foremost to save lives, and Australians rallied to the task of looking out for each other, even if it involved personal inconvenience or sacrifice. Thanks to these early measures, fewer Australians have died of COVID-19 since the epidemic than continuing to lose their lives to disease in America every day.
This, I thought – and still believe it – is the Australian Way.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison now uses this phrase to mark his climate change plan as he travels to Glasgow for the COP26 talks – and I dispute the hijacking.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a climate expert. I lead an NGO dedicated to the fight to end global poverty with a dedicated policy team focused on climate and environmental policy. But working with political leaders and their statements over the years, I have come to understand something about the text and the subtext – and that what is not said is often more revealing than what is said. ballast.
In a short column defending his plan, the words “bushfire”, “flood” and “drought” are not mentioned. Scott Morrison. What keeps coming back to the place is “but”.
According to the Prime Minister, Australians want to act on the climate, but not if it means higher energy prices. Rural and regional communities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, but there is nothing we can do about mining and agriculture. Climate change is a threat, but it is also an opportunity. Australia must act, but only one side of politics can come up with a credible plan.