Latham's Law

Latham’s law

8 May 2020

11:00 PM

8 May 2020

11:00 PM

Feral Abacus versus Godzilla

Paul Keating christened him the Feral Abacus but now John Hewson has become a Doomsday Clock. As chairman of the grandiose ‘Commission for the Human Future’ he reckons it’s five seconds to midnight. The Commission is a self-appointed group of 40-odd (very odd) alarmist academics who believe the world is about to end, literally. If global warming doesn’t get us then pandemics, nuclear war, ‘chemical pollution of the Earth System’, ‘refugee crises’ and ‘the planet’s Sixth Great Extinction’ most certainly will. Amazingly, this is what passes for scholarship at the Australian National University, which hosts the Commission. Hewson’s hysterical predictions are like watching a poorly made 1960s apocalypse movie. You don’t know whether to laugh, or laugh even louder. It’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes meets Godzilla, Invasion of the Astro Monster. April 1 is several weeks ago, so I can assure readers the following quotes are real, drawn from the Commission’s March 2020 report, Call to Action on Global Catastrophic Risks. Like all political fruit-loops, the academics are not lacking in ambition, declaring, ‘The Commission for the Human Future has been set up by concerned citizens of the Earth to alert humanity to the nature and scale of the combination of ten catastrophic risks that face our civilisation.’ But already, one issue has us on the ropes: ‘Unless a global emergency response is implemented to reduce carbon emissions, civilisation as we know it will collapse.’ Such melodrama seems out-of-step with Hewson’s own preferred mode of transport. Having seen him whizzing up and down the M5 in south-west Sydney behind the wheel of a large gas-guzzling jalopy, surely he should have converted to Fred Flintstone-style pedal power by now. Or at least purchased one of the electric vehicles Zali Steggall refuses to buy. How else can the world be saved? The transformation in Hewson’s thinking has been remarkable. He used to be Australia’s highest profile advocate for free market economics. Now he condemns ‘an economic system that incentivises GDP growth and ignores its negative impacts.’ He’s more worried about ‘the existential emergency facing humanity’. As we know from his time as opposition leader, Hewson is a big manifesto man, a lover of sweeping policy recommendations. Today he is working on a Green-Left hippie equivalent of Fightback. Instead of wanting to gut Medicare, abolish environmental regulation and kick-start economic development, he has reached some very different conclusions. He’s an advocate for increasing the powers of the United Nations, slashing defence spending and lowering economic growth and consumption. Hewson even wants to ‘develop a new science for humanity, the science of human survival and wellbeing’. Last time I looked, medical, chemistry and engineering science had done a pretty good job in improving Western society over the past 200 years.

Yet Doctor John longs for a simpler time, where ‘The world learns from its First Peoples about how to care for the land, the sea and the ecosystems that sustain life.’ It’s time to phase out anything that arrived in Australia post-1788, especially if it runs on coal, gas or oil. This is indeed an ambitious project, especially among the palatial country estates of the NSW Southern Highlands, where Hewson lives. Woomeras and boomerangs are to be our preferred way of accessing food, instead of whipping down to a Bowral eatery for white-linen table service. As if the education system hasn’t been politicised enough, Hewson and his Commissioners want to make it greener, with ‘preschools needing to develop in their students a strong emotional attachment to the planet.’ Yes, those cute little four-year-olds, ripe for adult political manipulation. They should be emotionally bonding with their sandpits and paddle pools, instead of just playing in them. He’s always been a big thinker, our Doctor John. How reassuring that someone who couldn’t explain the impact of GST on a birthday cake has now mapped out a plan for the survival of the planet’s 7.8 billion people. I can hear them cheering on the streets of Karachi, Damascus and Mexico City. A strange trend is emerging in Australian politics, with former Liberal party leaders joining the Doomsday Cult. In his recent memoir, Malcolm Turnbull reflected on the 2020 bushfire season and its connection to climate change, by asking, ‘It looks like the end of the world, but what if it doesn’t just look like it, but is?’. Yet Turnbull also admits in the book to mental illness, as he struggles to get the balance right ‘between healthy self-confidence and narcissistic egomania’. Perhaps like Hewson, he sees an apocalypse around every street corner, with visions of himself saving the world in a single bound. In the United States, these two ex-Members for Wentworth would be known as ‘Preppers’, stuffing their homes full of lima beans, tofu and toilet paper in anticipation of perpetual disaster. Coronavirus is just the beginning. Perhaps that’s what they are doing at the harbourside mansion, with Hewson and Turnbull bunkering down together. If the dunny paper runs out, they will have plenty of copies of Malcolm’s unsold 700-page book in reserve. Once supplies of A Bigger Picture are exhausted, they can fall back on Tim Flannery’s classic The Making of Sydney Dam-Level Predictions. This is the problem with doomsday cults: they are only as good as their last hyperbole. We were told it would never rain again but then it bucketed down in February. We were told the Murray-Darling was finished but now it’s flowing freely. We were told rising sea levels would destroy coastal areas but at the harbourside mansion, life goes on unaffected. Thank goodness for Pandemic Man and his Wuhan bat soup: the doomsdayers needed something new to maintain their insanity. As ever, though, the true Human Future will be a story of adaptation, invention and progress. While the Preppers are hiding in basements, bottling their urine and redrafting their 27th version of the National Energy Guarantee, the rest of us will soldier on, caring for our families and optimistically trying to leave a better and more prosperous Australia for our children.

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