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How do we survive in Morrison's Australia?

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From the editorThe incredible shrinking prime minister continued to shrivel and wither throughout the
 

SundayFocus

January 5 · Issue #24 · View online
Your weekly wrap of national affairs, society, culture and politics, published by UnionsACT.

From the editor
The incredible shrinking prime minister continued to shrivel and wither throughout the week, producing the kind of gaffes and astonishing insensitivity that will surely haunt him long into his tenure and beyond.
But we must go on, despite the ineptitude of Scott Morrison and the collection of ghouls and incompetents he calls a ministry. In this issue we take a look at some of the things we can do to adapt to our “new normal” of hot and dry conditions, central to which is finally accepting and learning from First Australians’ ancient stewardship of this land. There’s a reason they survived and flourished here for 100,000 years.
Also, if you can afford a few dollars a month and you’d like to keep reading interesting left-wing news and opinion, please think about subscribing to SundayFocus. Alternatively, consider buying a Gift Solidarity Subscription or a Yearly Gift Solidarity Subscription for a friend.
Enjoy the issue!
Guy Mosel, editor

The new normal: Surviving Morrison's Australia
by Guy Mosel
An elderly woman died on Thursday night after being exposed to bushfire smoke on the tarmac at Canberra Airport.
Air pollution levels in Canberra over the past week have been the highest of any city on Earth – about 20 times the level deemed hazardous for human health. Relatives said the woman had just landed on a flight from Brisbane and suffered respiratory distress when she exited the aircraft.
This was the first recorded death linked to exposure to the toxic bushfire smoke blanketing densely populated urban areas. It won’t be the last.
That this fire season, the most hellish the country has ever endured, is a product of catastrophic changes to our climate and ecosystem is undisputed, despite Scott Morrison’s sickening she’ll-be-right downplaying of the whole thing.
But prolonged and intense fire seasons are not the only things to which we’ll have to adapt as climate change bites. (And it will bite, not matter what we do. Even if every nation was to meet its Paris targets that would merely prevent things getting worse – it wouldn’t undo the damage already done.)
Australians are going to have to get used to a new normal: a hotter, drier, less abundant continent. But as bleak as that sounds, the good news is that there are things we can do to adapt to a less hospitable environment.
Here’s how we can respond to some of the biggest challenges:
Longer and more intense fire seasons
Assuming that Morrison remains incapable or unwilling to take a leadership role on fire responses, the states, who are all far more progressive than the federal government when it comes to climate change anyway, could professionalise the rural fire services, investing in training programs to transition workers from fossil fuel extraction jobs into fire mitigation and response roles.
We also must be putting First Australians in leadership roles when it comes to managing our ecosystems. As Nat Cromb in IndigenousX writes about the fires:
“They are the consequence of failing to heed to warnings from First Nations all around this country, failure to indigenise land management and implement it with control of the First Nations that can read country.” 
Poor air quality
Reducing the severity of the fire season through better and more proactive fire prevention will help reduce particulate matter in the air but drier, hotter conditions will mean more fires regardless.
The ACTU has issued revised health and safety guidelines which reminds workers that under Workplace Health and Safety laws they “may cease or refuse to carry out work if they are concerned about a serious risk to their health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard, and are protected from dismissal”.
The government should also consider introducing a national rebate scheme to encourage all individuals and businesses to purchase air purifiers for homes and offices. Air purifiers can be effective at filtering particulate matter out of the air, although they’re unsurprisingly hard to find at the moment.
Increased temperatures and heatwaves
We might not be able to stop it getting hotter, but we can be smarter about how we respond to the heat.
Houses and multi-dwelling developments should be designed to maximise insulation and reflect heat, provide green space like rooftop gardens to give shade and produce oxygen, and use water features to cool common areas. The National Construction Code must reflect this.
We also need to cool our cities. Councils have a huge role to play here by reducing traffic flows, decarbonising public transport, creating and maintaining more public parks, planting more trees to provide natural shade and installing more public water bubblers.
Hotter conditions also mean that we need to rethink our work lives. Not only should there be no outside work of any kind during the hottest times of the day, we could consider this crisis an opportunity to explore a move to a four-day working week and more flexible working arrangement for all workers.
Prolonged drought
If you’ve read Dark Emu (and you really should have by now because it is superb) you’ll understand how important First Australians’ management of the land was for their agricultural success, and just how destructive the introduction of European techniques, crops and livestock have been to the Australian ecosystem.
Even before the climate began to change our continent, the driest on Earth, was not suited to growing cotton and rearing cattle, both of which are hugely water intensive. Agriculture like this must be dramatically wound back and we must leverage the knowledge of First Australians to transition to an agricultural economy based on native species.
And while there’s not much we can do about the rain, there is a lot we can do about how we manage water, including wasting less and capturing and recycling more, especially in cities where most water is wasted and most rain runs off into the ocean.
Read more
This wrap-up of the global reaction to Australia’s bushfire crisis shows just how out-of-touch the Morrison government is, while this piece from The Intercept is a fascinating insight into the terrifying choices faced by one holidaying family caught in the panic.
The week in review
Bad news… Energy and science writer Ketan Joshi breaks down the way climate deniers are now turning their attention to denying the disastrous effects of climate change. The meme that’s now emerged is that the fires that have raged across the country for four months are actually the product of coordinated arson by “greenies” and “alarmists”. Just like “globalist” conspiracy theories and the obscene logic that because our emissions are so small (they’re not) eliminating them can’t possibly make a difference, you can expect this latest disinformation campaign to be used by the Morrison government to continue to forestall meaningful climate mitigation activity.
Good news… The apparent doctoring of Sydney Council reports by Angus Taylor’s office is now the subject of an Australian Federal Police investigation. NSW Police referred the matter to the AFP on December 20, following an investigation by the State Crime Command’s Financial Crimes Squad. For those of you who’ve forgotten what this is all about: Taylor supplied documents – later shown to be doctored – to The Daily Telegraph which showed that Sydney Council had spent millions on interstate and international travel in 2017-18. The actual amount was around $6000.
Bad news… A billion dollars. That’s how much the Australia Institute reckons Australians wasted on unwanted gifts at Christmas. According to the survey more than seven million of us expected to receive gifts we would never use, which is pretty galling given that the survey also shows that half of us don’t even want any gifts at Christmas.
Good news… This is one of those “good that it’s happening, but bad that it needs to happen” stories. The Merivale pub group is being sued for the $129 million it pinched from 8200 staff over several years, capping off a year of countless reports of large-scale institutional wage theft by some of Australia’s biggest corporations. Alan Fels has backed calls by Labor senator and former TWU secretary Tony Sheldon to use artificial intelligence to detect wage theft.
Bad news… Amazon has threatened to fire at least two employees who publicly criticised the company’s environmental policies. The workers are leaders of a group of Amazon employees who, during September’s climate strike, accused Amazon of contributing to climate change by supporting gas and oil extraction projects. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest o̶l̶i̶g̶a̶r̶c̶h person with over $160 billion in personal assets.
Longreads
The economic case for increasing Newstart
Will Brexit bring the Troubles back to Northern Ireland?
The death of the good internet was an inside job
For your bookshelf
Corporate Power in Australia, by Lindy Edwards
Finding My Place, by Anne Aly
Plots and Prayers, by Niki Savva
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