Green Left Weekly's $250,000 Fighting Fund Appeal: Real-life hollowmen

July 26, 2008

When federal environment minister Peter Garrett paid a visit to a Sydney public primary school last term he discovered that the school had installed enough solar panels to supply three-quarters of its electricity needs.

Did Garrett recognise the obvious good example here and rush back to convince his dear leader, Kevin Rudd, to do the same with the country and make a serious public investment in renewable energy? No. But he did spot a fab media opening and eagerly rang the school to book in a second visit last week to launch a "Solar in Schools" program! The media would be invited, of course.

The local press rolled up and the former rock star activist had his media shots. But he was taken aback when an 11-year-old student took him to task over the energy wasting $2 billion desalination plant being built in Sydney by the Iemma Labor government.

Garrett fobbed off the student with the patronising suggestion that she should get her parents to put a rainwater tank in their backyard and leave the more "complicated" issues to governments.

A couple of days later, Garrett was with Rudd and the rest of the federal cabinet for another media opportunity, making empty promises to Indigenous elders in Arnhem Land.

Labor was going to ensure that Aboriginal rights get recognised in the constitution. Beaming smiles. Gifts. Handshake. Click-click-click. Another colourful front-page story.

But the very next day, the promise got shunted to the Promises For the Distant Future box. The priority today, Rudd insisted, would be carrying on with the racist Northern Territory intervention that the former Howard government introduced. The fact that the elders of Arnhem Land were trying to voice their objections to the NT intervention was lost in the media spin.

These politicians are even more outrageous than the characters in the ABC TV series, The Hollowmen, a cutting satire about politicians. Santo Cilauro, who writes, producers and stars in The Hollowmen, says the series was inspired by his observations of former PMs Paul Keating and John Howard, as well as current PM Rudd.

Real-life hollowman Garrett may have snatched a good photo opportunity at the Sydney public school but he will not be thanked by the children when they grow up into a deepening environmental catastrophe. Garrett and the Rudd government will be remembered as the who politicians tried to sell the community a pollution permit scam as the "solution" to the climate change emergency.

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