The Sydney Morning Herald published audio on July 19 from a Liberal Party function in Sydney at which former Western Australian state MP Michael Sutherland described anti-fracking campaigners and refugee rights activists as "a bunch of cockroaches". He also attacked local councils that support refugee rights or have divested from institutions that further the extraction of fossil fuels.
Sutherland lost the seat of Mt Lawley in the landslide defeat of the Liberal Party in the recent state election. Clearly bruised by the loss he said: "My seat was an inner city seat and these people were crawling all over the seat, so, it's a big problem."
He is now vying for a WA senate vacancy. There are two things that are worth noting in his rambling diatribe.
First, the campaigns against fracking and for refugee rights are putting the heat on politicians like him and should give us encouragement to push on.
Sutherland was speaking on a panel specifically about combating anti-fracking campaigners. The fierce resistance by communities across Australia to the unconventional gas industry is one of the bright spots in Australian politics.
Likewise, the bipartisan refugee bashing of the past 16 years is driven by politicians and not voters. A poll commissioned by the Australia Institute last year found 63% of Australians believe people who have a genuine claim for asylum and arrive by boat should be allowed to settle in Australia.
Public opinion on the issue is not fixed. The anti-asylum seeker policies of the Coalition and Labor are not a response to public opinion, but an attempt to mould it through a deliberately created and incessant campaign of racist distraction.
That politicians and mainstream media have to work so hard to demonise refugees confirms that most people support a compassionate approach when given the facts.
Sutherland's bitter complaints about councils signing up to be "Refugee Welcome Zones" and divesting from fossil fuels is also confirmation that this is a winning strategy. Local government taking a stand on these questions is symbolic and not decisive in itself, but it erodes the aura of bipartisan "respectability" and "common sense" surrounding the inhumane treatment of refugees and the slavish service to the fossil fuel industry that define Australian politics.
His complaint that "The 'cockroaches' are the greenies and activists — they have infiltrated ... local councils wherever they can", should be interpreted as an invitation to get your local government to actively declare its support for refugee rights and to divest from fossil fuels. There are plenty of examples and campaign materials to help you get your council on board.
The second thing Sutherland's comments confirm is his complete contempt for his fellow human beings and planet Earth. Of course Liberal Party policies alone tell you that. These people don't pretend to give a fuck about anyone but themselves and their big business patrons.
Malcolm Turnbull is a slick operator, but fundamentally he is no different. People say Turnbull is not taking climate change seriously, but that misunderstands his response. He is an intelligent person who perfectly understands the consequences of runaway global warming.
Turnbull embodies the strategy of big business: downplay the seriousness of the issue in the public debate so they can continue to extract maximum profits from continued fossil fuel extraction, meanwhile prepare for the potentially massive social dislocation and resource shortage caused by global warming with repression and war.
That's what "preparing for instability and terrorism in our region" is all about. It's no accident that Sutherland's reference to other people as "cockroaches" has an echo in the language of regimes that have perpetrated genocide.
Of course cockroaches are just part of the amazing diversity of life on Earth with their own necessary function in our ecosystem. Famed for their resilience, they might survive the wave of extinctions that is already upon us. However it is clear that thousands of other species will not survive another century of capitalism.
It is our job to throw everything we have at limiting the damage and building a society that can better face the impending challenges. That means a society based on human solidarity and one that makes peace with the planet. Join us now.
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