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Australia's aid infrastructure fixation won’t be a boon for the Pacific

More than a belief in miracles to get out of this climate mess

Phil Fitz
Fitzpatrick - "For Morrison and many of his cohorts empirical science is something they view with scepticism"


TUMBY BAY - I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but if the people of the Pacific believe that the Australian government will do anything meaningful about climate change they are sadly mistaken.

Australia currently has a conservative government with an undeclared core of climate change deniers in its ranks.

If that isn’t discouraging enough it is also led by a prime minister who is a committed Pentecostal Christian who believes in miracles and God’s will.

One of those miracles enacted by God was letting him win the last unwinnable federal election. He is now prime minister because God put him there.

Roughly translated this means that he believes that climate change has been imposed on the world by God for unexplained reasons that should not be questioned.

For Morrison and many of his cohorts empirical science is something they view with scepticism.

If you don’t think this is true you should go out and count the number of Pentecostal Christians protesting about inaction on climate change. At last count their activism was zero.

You might also note that Pentecostals are strong supporters of the United States president, Donald Trump. Trump’s view of climate change is exactly the same as Morrison’s predecessor once removed, Tony Abbott. That view is that climate change is crap.

Morrison is so convinced that fossil fuels are a gift from God that he took a piece of coal into parliament to show it off.

Rather than pressing issues like climate change Morrison’s attention is a lot more focused on something he calls religious freedom. He currently has minions in the dungeons of his government beavering away on legislation to that end.

Of course there is religious freedom in Australia, but Morrison wants to elevate to a special place as a special freedom - whatever that's going to mean.

We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. The writing on the wall has been there ever since Tony Abbott charged into government yelling slogans about carbon tax.

Abbott is also a committed Christian. The Christian view is that the world is divided into those who believe in God and those who don’t. It is a classical “them and us” view.

This is why it was so easy for Morrison to shrug off the inherent cruelty that he inflicted and continues to inflict on asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are “them”, not “us” and treating them badly is fine.

Dividing humanity in this way is one that is easily accepted by right wing governments. Donald Trump is busily demonising Latin American migrants in much the same way that Abbott and Morrison demonised boat people trying to come to Australia.

Believing that God is the ultimate arbiter of what happens on Earth is an incredibly dangerous delusion because it suggests that we are powerless to intervene in things like climate change.

The people of the Pacific are staunch Christians so why should they be worried about climate change?

Perhaps it is the rising sea levels lapping at their feet.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

This fanciful yarn that Morrison et al is promulgating that Australia is a low carbon emitter is patently untrue.

Australia exports huge amounts of carbon emitting fossil fuels. It is the third biggest exporter after Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Australia is an integral part of the huge emissions from countries like China.

The Pacific countries know this and that's why they are asking Australia to stop opening new coal mines rather than asking it to speed up its transition to renewables.

Australia could become the renewables capital of the world given its sun and wind but it matters little if it still keeps exporting coal.

Neither the Liberals or Labor are willing to wind back on coal mining because it props up our economy.

The economy is much more important than the health of the planet it seems.

Philip Kai Morre

Many Christians, especially Pentecostals and fanatics, confuse themselves with scientific knowledge and miracles.

Even natural disasters, including climate change, famine and diseases are attributed to the act of God as punishment because we sin a lot.

Pentecostal Christians pray for miracles to heal a sin person or get immediate assistance and blessings.

Some years ago in Lae, Christian pastors prayed for several days to God to raise Joseph Kigal from the dead. They forgot their fundamental duty to only pray for God's will to be done and not your will.

We don't have to force God to do something in our favour. Dying is born to eternal life and we don't have to question God why such a good person died so young.

A revivalist Christian living with HIV was told not to live on drug treatment because she had been recovered already by God's healing powers.

Pastors prayed over her and baptised her in deep water. All her sins and sickness including HIV AIDS had been chased out as the work of the devil.

After some months of living without treatment, the poor women's health was worsening, her weight reduced, she had no strength and was about to die.

She was rushed to the hospital and got blood tests again only to know that she had not miraculously recovered as claimed.

A businessman went bankrupt after declaring that God blessed him, so in return he paid pastors every fortnight. By paying pastors and doing church work, he thought God will bless him more with an abundance of wealth without knowing God gave him common sense to control his cash flow.

His income was less and his spending was more and he went bankrupt. Praying for more never comes unless you work hard for it.

Climate change and ecological destruction is either natural or man made and not God's doing. Man has to control the environment that feeds him, supports him and shelters him.

Problems are created by us men and we know the solutions and yet we blame God, the devil and others.

Philip Fitzpatrick

There's a story going round that in February Morrison offered resettlement to climate change refugees from Tuvalu, Kirabati and Nauru in exchange for their maritime fishing grounds.

This is untrue. It was a harebrained suggestion from Kevin Rudd.

Philip Fitzpatrick

"When combatting climate change, it's good to have an ally like New Zealand in your corner. Together, we can save Tuvalu, the Pacific, and the world."
(Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji).

Philip Fitzpatrick

We live in tumultuous times. This is not something new. In the past it is difficult to find a period that was not tumultuous.

There are two things that make the current situation different to those in the past. The first is the global nature of our problems and the second is our ability to engage in wide ranging conversations across international borders thanks to social media.

In the past even major events like the two world wars were largely confined to particular regions with many people outside those regions effectively oblivious to what was happening.

This is not the case anymore. Today most of the world can and do follow global events. Thinking people want to know what is going on in other countries and how it might affect them.

In our own region many of those thinking people also follow what is going on in each other’s countries.

Notice that I said ‘thinking’ people. While Papua New Guineans and Pacific Islanders follow what is happening in Australia the interest in not generally reciprocated.

This is a shame because Australia’s insularity and disinterest will ultimately be to its disadvantage.

One of the things that interests the global community of thinking people is the recent lurch to the right in many countries, particularly the larger ones.

Bernard Corden disputes the old right/left dichotomy and suggests that the difference is now between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. I tend to agree with him.

That old ideological difference has been replaced by a new economic difference. Rich people are no longer necessarily conservative just as it cannot be assumed that poor people necessarily lean to the left.

As relatively poor people, Papua New Guineans and the other Pacific peoples have a vested interest in knowing what is going on among their richer neighbours. This is why they avidly follow the politics of Australia and New Zealand.

The type of governments in Australia and New Zealand can have a major influence on what happens in their own countries.

Australia’s emasculating of the Tuvalu communique on climate is a classic example. They now know that they are not going to get any help beyond tackling the symptoms of what for them is an existential crisis.

It has been suggested that Australian politics is not an appropriate topic for PNG Attitude. I would argue that Australian politics, including the type of government it has, is of crucial importance to the conversation that PNG Attitude promotes.

The blog is, after all, set up as a conversation to support and promote the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Just as those of us in Australia who subscribe to the blog want to know what is happening in Papua New Guinea, including and specifically its politics, those in Papua New Guinea want to know what is happening in Australia, including its politics.

If Australians and Papua New Guineans don’t know what the other is thinking how can they possibly relate to each other?

Papua New Guineans need to know what sort of person runs Australia, just as Australians need to know what sort of person runs Papua New Guinea.

As it happens one is a Pentecostal Christian and the other is a Seventh Day Adventist. This is important to know because it can determine how they govern.

That PNG Attitude is perceived as a left leaning blog is merely serendipitous.

It was set up by Keith Jackson who was once a member of the Australian Labor Party and who once stood for election under its banner.

That his blog has attracted a fair representation of like-minded commentators is no big surprise.

Chris Overland

Paul Oates is right to say that we who complain also need to offer practicable solutions to the various problems we describe.

In relation to climate change, I propose that our Australian Prime Minister start the ball rolling by acknowledging in a clear and unequivocal way that the rapid climate change now in evidence is largely a function of human activity since around 1750.

He might then usefully go on to say that even though Australia cannot solve this problem alone, it can at least begin the great task of ameliorating if not halting anthropomorphic climate change by committing to, for example, phasing out all use of fossil fuels to generate power by 2050 and to cease mining and exporting coal in that same period.

As a corollary of this, he could commit to the adoption of a range of renewable energy sources over the same period, partly funded by fixing a price on carbon emissions in their various forms.

Then he could announce hugely increased government support for rural industries to develop and implement sustainable farming strategies that will allow food production to continue in Australia and elsewhere besides.

There already are farmers busily finding new ways to apply often very old farming techniques and practices that are much more environmentally friendly than the current practices which rely upon using massive quantities of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. They are, of course, much in the minority.

A massive reforestation program is an obvious starter as part of the process of ameliorating the worst effects of climate change. This will have both climatic and aesthetic benefits for rural Australia.

This latter suggestion is incredibly important for PNG which has the capacity to become a huge carbon sink. Its peoples should be paid to not chop down rain forest, but to conserve it in the traditional manner.

PNG, get rid of the loggers! They are killing your land and your future.

Then we could phase out the use of plastics that are not biodegradable. And we could kill off the feral cat population while we are at it thus helping rescue our beleaguered native wildlife. Kill the pussy cats!

There are, in short, many things we can do now and at a marginal cost but insist on maintaining because it is inconvenient or more expensive to change our ways.

The trouble is we Australians collectively seem content to just sit here, fat, dumb and happy, without a clue about the sort of world our kids and grand children will inherit.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that denying the bleeding obvious always has consequences eventually, usually very bad consequences. Quite why we collectively remain oblivious to this singular fact is beyond my comprehension.

Paul Oates

With due respect to those who are remonstrating about injustices and ineffectual leaders, perhaps it would be better to start providing practical and achievable solutions to assist those able to deal with the recognised problem.

Otherwise, you may merely become part of the overall problem.

Corney Korokan Alone

Agree entirely with Mr.Chris Overland's comment.

"This helps explain why authoritarians claiming to know the answers to the world's problems are once again being elected to office by a disillusioned, ignorant and frightened populace" .

In a smart-everything driven world, it's unconscionable to see the paranoia of conservatism dancing unashamedly - completely devoid of any semblance of common sense and reality.

If that's not enough, attempts to gloss their hollow fallacies with superficial Christian sensibilities is reeking abominable stench to high heavens.

Bernard Corden

I can vividly recall the comments from Al Haig during his tenure as US Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan over Diego Garcia and the injustice to the Chagos Islanders:

"Just give me the word and I'll turn that tiny little island into a fucking parking lot"

Who are the terrorists?

Chris Overland

What passes as the climate debate seems to me to typify what is happening in our world today.

Those who occupy what might broadly be described as a conservative political position seem unwilling or unable to grasp the scale of the problem or its probably consequences.

Consequently, they are quite unwilling to contemplate the economic and lifestyle trade offs required, especially in the so-called developed world, to ameliorate the worst effects of the change process that is clearly and unequivocally occurring now.

Those who have what is called a progressive political outlook see the oncoming disaster but are apparently incapable of galvanising sufficient public support to induce governments to do anything meaningful.

Partly at least, this is because the progressive forces often are also the proponents of the sort of identity politics around sexual preferences, ethnicity, and so forth that have so material assisted the resurgence of "white nationalism" that they despise.

Bernard Corden is right: the only occupants of the middle ground are indeed merely road kill of one sort or another.

This is all part of a bigger picture, which is the world's descent into a sort of collective madness.

We now live in an increasingly dystopian world in which a swirling maelstrom of hot button political, economic and social issues, leavened with a generous serve of rat baggery as well as truly sinister ideas, has destabilised the world order.

This helps explain why authoritarians claiming to know the answers to the world's problems are once again being elected to office by a disillusioned, ignorant and frightened populace.

Of course, they are merely the usual suspects: pretenders and charlatans whose simplistic nostrums actually make no sense at all and often contribute to the growing madness.

The unhappy role of PNG and other Pacific nations is to be the helpless victims of all this, just like they were during the 20th century wars that ended European and Japanese imperialism, replacing it with other, more subtle forms of tyranny.

So, the Pacific Islands Forum members may talk to their hearts' content but their words are just wind really.

The great and the good are no longer listening: they are too busy jostling for power, prestige and money to take any notice of a few tiny islands, far, far away.

Bernard Corden

There is no longer any left or right in Australian politics. It is top versus bottom.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people has degenerated into government versus the people.

Despite royal commissions and parliamentary inquires regulatory capture has ensured big business is the government.

"The only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow streak and dead armadillos" - Jim Hightower

Robert Wilson

Phil - I agree with much of what you say about the expectation that Australia does something yet no one else is putting up their hands or suggesting what they might do.

I despair how unfortunate it is in this day and age to not be able to have a rational debate based on actual facts about anything without being labeled a "denier", racist, misogynist etc.

Doesn't matter what it is, if you dare argue against what is perceived right and proper or in vogue with the politically correct crowd at this moment in time you get abused, ridiculed, howled down and attacked for your beliefs.

Used to be we could have a robust debate with some civility and part company knowing you have been allowed to have your say and then go your own way in safety and not be treated like a pariah. That is the path society is heading and free speech is fast becoming a victim.

However, when the wheel turns and evidence can no longer be ignore, watch at the ducking and weaving from the main proponents pushing their ideology and fanciful visions! Look at how the greens Bob Brown is now a NIMBY about wind farms in his back yard.

Australia is a very easy target for people like Adern to start throwing accusations at and as is often the case, the accusers are total hypocrites. Lets see how she fares at their next elections!

Australia unlike many others did sign up to Kyoto, Australia unlike many others have reached and surpassed their targets and yet, are still being slammed for not doing enough.

I still wonder how anyone can expect Australia to miraculously stop the climate changing but then even by doubling our efforts, who cares about the ramifications for the ordinary (not rich) Australian people.

As David Attenborough says, make airline travel so expensive so that we the great unwashed cannot fly but will at least be able to sail when the wind blows and paddle when it doesn't!

Dave Ekins

Surely we can do better on this forum than indulge in pathetic self-loathing and disrespect. It is PNG Attitude, after all, not a blog for confused Oz lefties who still can't grasp how and why the election was lost.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree with all the comments.

I don't know what the Pacific leaders are up to challenging Australia on its abysmal performance on climate change or why they think this is more important than fixing all the other problems in their nations.

I don't know why we and them aren't planning now for what is going to happen. And by this I also include the root causes of the problem and not just the symptoms. I don't know why Morrison appears to be suggesting that tackling those symptoms is an adequate response.

Bruce Shapiro, speaking with Philip Adams on Late Night Live a few nights ago, described how most governments and especially the USA, stumble along making mistakes, perpetuating inefficiencies and "crossing wires" as a matter of course. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

Corney Korokan Alone

The version of Christianity that Trump sells and his band of followers stand for is not the version that is blindly subscribed to by all Christians, including those in the Pacific Islands.

Ill treatment of sojourners (immigrants), taking away health care benefits from the least among thee, blatant racism, bigotry and disregard for environmental protection in fact goes against the grain of Jesus's teaching and exemplary life.

The Jesus of the Christian Bible is a model figure of wisdom, care and understanding.

Daniel Doyle

I tend to distinguish between 'staunch Christians' and staunch church goers, where the church going has taken on a largely cultural rather than religious dimension.

Bernard Corden

The LNP did not win the last election.....Those who vote decide nothing, those who count the vote decide everything.

Another interesting fact, have a look who opened the Hillsong headquarters at Baulkham Hills in 2002. It was none other than John Hunt is a Coward.

Craige Brown

Climate change is not the big issue in the pacific as you well know. Corruption, poverty, disease, lack of maternal health care, lack of opportunity all bought about by poor governance (if any in some of our neighbours). The lack of resilience in our neighbours due to these systemic problems turns them in to perpetual mendicants ready to play the victim but never ready to take responsibility.

Paul Oates

What happens if you aren't a climate change denier and can only see a logical answer to what is happening?

If we can't change the rest of the world and that is still hooked on using hydrocarbons to cook their food, keep warm and charge and drive their electric vehicles, what's the answer to give to our Pacific friends?

Mass Migration from the low set nations to those nations that are lucky enough, so far, to have higher ground? If the results of global warming are already known and clearly anticipated, why are we not planning for the inevitable future?

Isn't this also a case of denying the obvious future, whether we like it or not?

If so, then who will take the slowly inundated nations peoples? Will those now dispossessed of their disappearing land have a choice and will they be happy about moving?

What the answer Phil? Preparing those Pacific friends for the inevitable? New Zealand might take a few and so might we. PNG has a lot of higher ground with more available water than most of Australia.

So shouldn't we just start planning now, for tomorrow? Our populations need to be informed, well in advance, in order to start accepting the inevitable.

The next question is: Will anyone have a choice on who goes where or will there be just a general rush, as in a natural disaster?

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