If this isn’t an 'appropriate' time to get political about climate change - then when the hell is?

Clare Rigden
Columnist
Bushfires are burning across NSW and QLD. Photo: AAP

Just tell it to us straight. Stop bullshitting. Own up to the fact we’re in deep, deep trouble. That’s my message to politicians today as fires rage across two states, dams are bone-dry, and the word “catastrophic” is being bandied about like it’s no big thing. 

It is. It’s a REALLY big thing. 

So tell me this, be-suited politicians of Australia – what the actual fuck are you going to do about it?

Sorry for my language, but watching Gladys Berejikian on ABC News Breakfast this morning made my skin crawl. To sit there and say, “There's no doubt drought has contributed to the conditions ... But I don't think it's appropriate to get into a political argument as to what the causes are at this stage” made my blood boil.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian spoke about the fires this week. Photo: Getty

Um, excuse me, but if now is not the time...then when WILL it be? 

Things have changed. Fire chiefsthe weather bureau, scientists – heck, even card-carrying LNP/Nationals voters on the ground, standing in the middle of their burnt-out farm sheds know – we have a big, big problem. Most people agree that climate change is creating the conditions that cause these severe bushfires. So when will policy makers cut through the spin and own up to the fact that our climate policies are woefully, ridiculously, bountifully ineffectual; that things are only getting worse, that cutting funding to fire services is miopic, and that if we’re not at the coal-face, staring down the yawning, black abyss of this epic problem, we’re totally and utterly 100 per cent stuffed.

As one Twitter use, Joel Werner, said today - Gladys is right, the time isn’t now. It was ten years ago when a CSIRO report predicted we’d be in this exact predicament a whole DECADE AGO. That was the time for politicians to do something. But did they? Nup.

Just once I’d like a politician to sit there, face-to-camera, and say, `Yep. We’re screwed. We need help. We needed help yonks ago. We need to all band together and figure this out. We need money. And patience. And a whole lot of creative ideas. We need bi-partisan support for policy change. And we need to do it now – HELP US!’

I know this is grossly oversimplifying things – figuring out ways to combat the effects of our rapidly-warming planet is complicated. The world’s best brains are working on it. It’s expensive. And very, very politically tricky. But surely THIS is the tipping point? Surely THIS is the time that People-In-Charge start cutting through the political spin and admit they need help. 

Where are the grown ups? Where are the sensible people? Who’s going to tell us what to do?

Not Gladys B, apparently. Or Scott Morrison, with his “thoughts and prayers.” Gladys says her first priority is to “keep people alive and properties safe” – but surely the single best way to do this is to start to work at both a State and Federal level to formulate some sort of sound climate plan? To declare a climate emergency? To start the serious work of doing something about it? To bloody well say, yes – we can do more. And I intend to start making things happen. Right now.

Just last week I was watching a report on 7.30 about the increasing problems Armidale in New South Wales is having with its water shortages. It’s got so bad that lovely residents in town are now resorting to taking sippy cups and flasks full of their OWN tap water, and lovingly feeding it to the beautiful old heritage-listed trees in their park, currently shrivelling up and browning away as every day passes. Following this story, 7.30 then interviewed a lovely gent called Rick Bennett, whose video of him ya-hooing in his undies on his farm, celebrating the first proper rainfall his property had had in yonks, went viral. 

Fire burns near the small town of Deepwater in Glen Innes, Australia. Photo: Getty Images

I tell you one thing – if you want to know whether the climate crisis is real – ask a farmer. Better yet, ask Rick Bennet. Sure, his chat with Leigh was friendly and funny, but this guy had a very real, very serious message at the end of his pow-wow.

Face to camera, he stared down and said, almost nonchalantly, “We were five weeks from being completely out of water and that would have really been the end of us; that would have been the end of our race and we would have had to sell everything.”

Just like that he admitted he was five weeks away from being utterly, completely stuffed.

Let that sink in, Gladys. If Rick can sit there and face the harsh realities of his situation unflinchingly, then so can you. Take a leaf out of his book – tell it straight. Tell us now. Start to demand change. And bloody well start figuring out how on earth we’re going to get ourselves out of this sorry old mess.

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