Lib-Lab budgets: Following the dodo on a race to extinction

May 17, 2013

After a week of being subjected to headache-inducing politicians posturing and spinning about the Great Budget Deficit, all that was needed was that speech from Richest-Australian-and-Walking-ATM Gina Rinehart.

Billionaire Numero Uno was only outdone by Billionaire-Would-Be-PM Clive Palmer, who successfully outflanked, on Q&A, Labor and Liberals from the left on the treatment of refugees.

My TV is smashed from all the things I've thrown at it. So it's time to turn off the light and sit in the dark for a while to think about What It All Means. All the blah-blah makes it hard to focus while empty Panadol packets glow mockingly in the corner.

Then the image that captures what all this really amounts to comes to mind: the dodo. The iconic extinct flightless bird in its cameo appearance in Alice In Wonderland as part of a “queer-looking party” who were all “cross, wet and uncomfortable”.

An argument about how to get dry ensues.

“‘What I was going to say,’ said the Dodo in an offended tone, ‘was that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.’

“First, it marked out a racecourse, in a sort of circle (‘The exact shape does not matter,’ it said,) and then all in the party were placed along the course here and there. There was no ‘One, two, three and away,’ but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so it was not easy to know when the race was over.

“However, when they had been running for half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out, ‘The race is over!’ and they all crowded around it panting and asking, ‘But who has won?’”

What has this story to do with budget week? The politicians and the billionaires attained their various objectives to a degree (they “got dry”) and, in that sense, all won as Lewis Carroll sarcastically has the Dodo declare: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

But really we are all losers from the budget debate, in more ways than one. The whole of Australia has subsequently been excised from all moral duty and human solidarity, but the biggest loss is another precious opportunity to do something serious about the climate change crisis.

The planet has now passed a dangerous climate milestone — one not seen for 3 million years. The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million, a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming. And we are racing towards 450 ppm, a widely recognised point of irreversible and catastrophic climate change.

We should not be having this totally misplaced discussion about a non-existent budget debt crisis (Australia's public debt is among the lowest in the world) and allegedly hard-done-by mining billionaires.

Instead we should be taking the mines and banks from the greedy billionaires, phasing out coal and other fossil fuels (they are in reality greater evils than the drug trade and “people-smuggling”) and investing hundreds of billions on the fastest possible transition to 100% renewable energy.

Or we could shed the tears for the hard-done-by walking ATM and follow the dodo on a race to extinction.

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