Maurice Newman The Spectator Australia 27 May 2023
For years, the Australian public has been subjected to an unremitting narrative that the Great Barrier Reef faced an existential threat from climate change. Last year a UN-backed mission concluded the world’s biggest coral reef system should be placed on a list of endangered world heritage sites saying, climate change presented a ‘serious challenge’.
Who knew that last year, to very little fanfare, the Australian Institute of Marine Science found, despite six serious bleaching events since 2016, coral cover was the highest it had been in its 36 years of monitoring? Certainly not the Australian public. An Australian Environment Foundation survey of 1,004 Australians found only three per cent were aware of this reality.
Following a relentless campaign of formal complaints by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the Australian Communication and Media Authority obligingly censured a segment on Sky News’s Outsiders programme for failing to mention that the reef’s splendid recovery was still at risk.
Perpetuating the image of a threatened Barrier Reef is critical for those who see global warming as a vehicle for social change. They worry that the AIMS report could lead impressionable adults to question the claims of climate change ‘experts’, thereby undermining the credibility of emissions abatement policies.
Australia’s state broadcaster, the ABC, is a serial worrier. Despite its declining audiences, it remains a reliable and important megaphone and a go-to for like-minded political advocates like the Bureau of Meteorology. It dutifully carried the AIMS report along with an environmentalist’s warning, ‘that unless fossil-fuel emissions are drastically cut, the reef remains in danger from rising temperatures and more mass-bleaching events’. In other words, don’t be misled.
Fear is an important weapon in the centralist’s arsenal and the ABC, and the mainstream media generally, are willing accomplices in uncritically spreading it. That’s not a conspiracy theory but reality. In this echo chamber only one view is allowed. After all, weighty issues like global warming, healthcare, education and pronouns are beyond the ken of most ordinary people and should be left to experts.
Thomas Jefferson was right. ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’. That vigilance is visibly absent. Indeed, bribed with their own money and falling prey to a divisive political agenda, the public has become ever more obedient and dependent upon government. Likewise business. With the media ideologically aligned, carrots and coercion are deployed to control it. Political careerists conflate their desire for power with the national interest and recruit like-minded bureaucrats to further regulate an already over-regulated society. It’s a self-perpetuating coalition which thrives on controls and complacency.
Australia may not yet be China where there is a facial recognition camera for every five people, but as government expands, Australia’s political class is demonstrating an insatiable taste for power and, with it, a growing contempt for the rule of law.
For example, during Covid-19, governments seized extraordinary powers when they employed apps and QR codes to collect personal data. It was on the basis that information gathered was for ‘public health purposes only’. It would be destroyed 28 days after collection.
We now know that the Victorian government lied about access and tried to suppress a secret Supreme Court ruling which confirmed personal data did not have ‘absolute protection’. Then acting premier, Jacinta Allan, reassured Victorians that the government’s repeated and deliberate attempts to hide the information were to avoid a ‘baseless scare campaign’– never wrong, never accountable.
Still, there was no public outrage. Nor in South Australia when it was revealed its government had secretly kept personal data beyond the mandated four weeks. Nor in Western Australia after its police had used this information as part of criminal investigations. Where is that data now?
Contempt for the law and disdain for civil liberties thrived under Covid. Doctors who put their professional judgement ahead of health bureaucrats’ advice were threatened with disciplinary action if they undermined the national vaccination programme. Contrary views, however well-credentialed, were characterised as sourced from anti-vaxxers’.
Now it has come to light that the regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, knew that vaccines carried greater risks than it disclosed. Rather than ‘undermine public confidence’, it withheld vital causality data from health professionals and the public. This included hiding the deaths of two children, aged seven and nine, who died after Pfizer vaccinations.
In such an environment, wherever political authority can be established or expanded, it will be. Like the new monetary policy board which will politicise the Reserve Bank and deprive it of its traditional independence. Just one more subtle level of control.
Not even the justice system escapes political influence. The trial of Cardinal George Pell and, the ACT’s Sofronoff inquiry into the conduct of criminal justice agencies, demonstrate how the political vibe can override the presumption of innocence and the rules of evidence.
With their parents and grandparents behaving like frogs in slowly boiling water, seemingly in denial of the unrelenting intrusion of government into every aspect of their lives, younger generations believe this is the way things are around here. Indoctrinated in the classroom about their evil colonial heritage and the prospect of an uninhabitable planet and, the need for a more ‘caring’, and a ‘fairer’ society, they accept big government is good whilst believing that capitalism leads to selfishness and environmental destruction.
Banking on continued public complacency, Australian governments have gone where, outside of emergencies, they have never gone before. The blurring of lines between the major parties along with a divide-and-rule political agenda have created a de facto one-party state where opposition to the continuing erosion of civil liberties is not tolerated.
But in the end, even boiling frogs start to jump. When that time will come is difficult to determine. However, whenever it will be, Covid emergencies and climate change directives may have so weakened the public’s resilience and determination it may be unable to escape the pot. In which case, investing in facial recognition camera makers may be a wise precaution.
1/ Cover by Sarah Dudley, illustration by Ben Davis