Leading article Australia

Smarter than a sea sponge

18 May 2019

9:00 AM

18 May 2019

9:00 AM

What a relief. It turns out Democratic representative for New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was just joking when she said in January that that ‘the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change’. ‘You’d have to have the social intelligence of sea sponge to think it’s literal,’ she tweeted this week, adding that it was just ‘dry humour + sarcasm.’

Oh dear. If only Ms Ocasio-Cortez had explained that a little earlier, a few of our home-grown climate catastrophists might have stopped hurling eggs during the federal election with quite such zest and realised that the joke — if not the yolk — was on them.

But the utterances of the meteoric millennial, who only assumed office in January and is already known as AOC, are treated with the gravity and attention worthy of a latter-day JFK.  Admittedly, when she declared that the world was going to end and then spluttered in amazement that for her opponents, ‘your biggest issue is how are we going to pay for it?’ explaining, ‘like this is the war, this is our World War II,’ it didn’t have quite the ring of ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’

Still, it’s a bit unkind to suggest that Labor’s Bill Shorten is no smarter than a sea sponge just because he took her at her word. The poor man clearly didn’t bother to cost Labor’s climate policies in the certain belief that the apocalypse would be upon us in 12 short years unless he littered the landscape with wind turbines and electric car chargers, and he didn’t want to risk meeting his maker and looking like a cheapskate. Former Labor environment minister and Midnight Oil front man Peter Garrett might also wish that AOC let him in on the gag. He fell for her Churchillian tones and called for Mr Shorten to create a ‘war’ cabinet and declare ‘runaway climate change a bona fide national emergency’.

No prizes for guessing that the first casualty of the climate war is truth. Just before the 2007 federal election, Mr Garrett admitted that Labor had no intention of sticking to its election commitments; ‘once we get in, we’ll just change it all,’ he confessed to a journalist. This time around, the song remained the same; he called for Labor to leave open the prospect of ramping up its climate policies and declare an immediate moratorium on all coal, oil and gas developments. In his poverty-stricken utopia, the government will provide ‘regular and clear information’ on the progress of climate change through weather reports, a state of the carbon budget report, and a natural set of accounts alongside the current budget.

But there’s a breed of Green totalitarians who won’t be content to simply bore Australians to death. Throughout the campaign there’s been an unseemly melange of tyranny and ignorance on display. Renewable investment tycoon and candidate for Kooyong Oliver Yates took aim at the ‘the Murdoch press’ accusing it of threatening the nation’s safety and security by attacking anyone who seeks to curtail the coal industry and doing so in such a ‘corrupt’ way that it should already have had its ‘licence to operate’ removed.

It will be unwelcome news to Mr Yates that the press in Australia is not actually licensed. Here he was dreaming that we were back in the merry old England of good King Charles, when parliament legislated to prevent ‘frequent Abuses in printing seditious, treasonable and unlicensed Books and Pamphlets’ by regulating ‘Printing and Printing Presses.’ Unfortunately for Mr Yates, the Act was not renewed in 1695 — oops! he must have been asleep in that history class — and thereafter the courts had to rely on treason, seditious libel and blasphemy laws to execute unwelcome critics. Worse still for Green tyrants, all attempts at licensing the press in Australia — from Governor Darling in the 1820s to former Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012 — have failed.

But hope springs eternal. The Greens leader Richard di Natale wants the definition of hate speech expanded to include all the columnists he hates at New Corp — let’s hope he doesn’t read this august journal. Former adviser to Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and host of Insiders Barrie Cassidy asked Mr Shorten whether, if elected, he was ‘planning retribution’ on News Corp, or as he put it, ‘are you going to go after them?’.

Disappointed that Mr Shorten didn’t immediately take the bait, he persisted, ‘But you might become Prime Minister — you can come after them. You’re going after multinationals on taxation. News Corp, you can specifically target them.  Is that in prospect? You could change media laws?’. Mr Shorten didn’t raise an eyebrow at Mr Cassidy’s unseemly thirst for revenge, he simply promised that the ABC would be ‘everywhere.’  And that’s the nub of the problem; the danger of Green zealotry is in the zeitgeist. The catastrophists have created such a climate of conformity, that few dare question their increasingly absurd prognostications for fear of being branded denialists. Trouble is, that risks making all of us hostage to decision makers rendered no smarter than a sea sponge.

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