So, what’s the plan, prime minister?
8 July 2020 at 2:14 pm
David Ritter considers what Scott Morrison has in store for everyone who will be alive in 2040, and puts forward a vision of what the country could look like if we change course.
It is not an unreasonable question to be asking of the democratically elected leader of a free people.
And it is the question that underpins the fury of the climate strikers; the desperation of the homeless, unemployed and insecurely employed; the sadness of our teachers, artists, academics, journalists; the mystification of our clean energy entrepreneurs; the panic of our scientists; and the bewilderment of all who crave competent national leadership.
So, let’s put the question: if Scott Morrison honestly pitched his vision for Australia in 2040 what would the country look like?
Thinking on a score of years or so can be pretty confronting. Unless something knocks me over, I will be in my late sixties. My eldest daughter will be in her early thirties and her little sister in her late twenties. As I sent them off to their local school with their cheese sandwiches and apples this morning, thinking about the elapse of that much time in their lives is a hard thing to contemplate. But it really makes me want to know what Scott Morrison has in store for them – and for all the kids and everyone who will be alive in 2040.
Based on the current course, let’s take a look at what the Morrison-topia of 2040 might be like – what could happen if present trends deepen and continue.
First, given that the federal coalition has no plans to take any meaningful action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions now – and Morrison has stacked the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) with fossil fuel executives – let’s assume that Australia remains a climate and energy policy black hole in 2040. If the global community has started taking rapid action to stave off the worst of climate change then Australia is left horribly politically and economically isolated.
The alternative is that the world has not acted, and Australia is being torn apart by extreme climate damage which will only get radically worse. The reefs, the forests, agricultural production, wildlife and our human security are vanishing all about us. Australia’s mainland cities will be hit by 50 degree days, killing unprecedented numbers of us – I guess I will be in the more vulnerable age range by 2040 – in our own homes.
Now let’s expand the vista of Morrison-topia. If the current policy trajectory continues, there might be a whole complex of detention centres on Australia’s northern periphery, holding tens of thousands of people fleeing climate damage, conflict and hardship.
The dirty fossil fuel sector will be largely doing what it wants, with the remaining public servants spending their time “problem solving” for the big polluters.
The ABC, SBS, CSIRO, BOM, the universities and other public institutions have been fully privatised and broken up. There is no public funding for art and culture. On the other hand, weapons manufacturing is an expanding sector and Australia is now a proud exporter of high-quality killing machines.
Naturally, the job-seeker payment remains at 2020 levels so that Australians are “incentivised” to seek work. Most Australians have become unable to access stable employment. Apart from the continued rise of “bullshit jobs”, large numbers of us can now access nothing except the endless insecurity and exploitation of the gig economy. The permanent underclass is desperate and growing.
The great thing is that this appalling vision is not inevitable – but it is where we could end up if we stay on the same tracks.
Fortunately, Australia can change course – the signs of a different future wink at us like an indicator of the direction we should be taking. Just this year, Adelaide has celebrated going 100 per cent renewable and South Australia is on track to reach its target of net 100 per cent renewables by 2030 under a Liberal government. Jobs in battery making and other hi-tech manufacturing are on the rise, with projections that a renewables-led COVID-19 response would see these skyrocket.
I know the 2040 that I want – it is an Australia Remade as the best version of us.
In this 2040, we harness our trademark sunshine and Roaring Forties winds with cheap renewable energy and bask in our clean air, clean water, regenerating planet and an economy rebuilt on modern clean technology and an ethic of care. Dangerous and dirty fossil fuels have joined the under-the-bed slops bucket and the asbestos fence, consigned to the dustbin of history.
In my 2040, our great public institutions have come roaring back, better than ever, with proper funding and non-partisan governance. Fair social security guarantees a decent life for all Australians. Our universities, media, arts and culture, scientific institutions, and schools guarantee a flourishing, healthy and fulfilling civic realm. Public trust has returned to our Commonwealth.
Helpfully, the filmmaker Damon Gameau brought his vision of 2040 alive in the film of that name that hit cinemas last year – and he asked the audience to imagine their own version of that year. Ever since watching Damon’s film, I can’t step out onto my suburban street without imagining what the bird song, resurgent urban gardens, and clean sleek electrified transport could be like, if we just went ahead with the solutions that we know already exist.
So Mr Morrison, what’s your 2040?