The end of the world as we know it

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===The source of party policies=== ===The source of party policies===
===The vagaries of pre-selection and factions=== ===The vagaries of pre-selection and factions===
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 +Candidates of political parties have been through a preselection process, during which factional deals inside the party may have been done. Some parties tolerate (even condone) practices such as branch stacking by people to get themselves preselected. Parties that conduct a transparent ballot of members have the best process, but the general public of course does not participate in this.
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 +A recent example of a long preselection campaign is that of Josh Frydenberg for the House of Representatives seat of Kooyong in Victoria, Australia. His campaign has run for several years and was characterised by media leaks and factional battles within the Liberal Party. On finally winning preselection, there is no comment from Mr Frydenberg on what he will do for the residents of Kooyong. It is regarded as safe Liberal seat, so most of the commentary was concerned with matters such him doing more fundraising and possibly becoming a minister in a future government.
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===Elections - substance or sideshow?=== ===Elections - substance or sideshow?===
===The party line in parliaments=== ===The party line in parliaments===

Revision as of 12:23, 24 June 2009

This article is a work in progress that describe the challenges and opportunities that we are posed by climate change and the need to live sustainability.

The topics to be expanded upon will be:

Contents

Where are we at?

In the 21st century the world has entered a time of great change. Following the industrial revolution, humans learned how to extract and use fossil fuels in great quantities. This led to an era of time of cheap and apparently abundant energy for keeping warm, artificial light, transport and creating electricity. First world countries in particular availed themselves of pleasures and benefits of using fossil fuels. Whole cities, indeed civilisations, came to depend on the use of fossil fuel for food production and transport.

In late 2008 the world's financial system collapsed. Inventive but dodgy financial products and practices were revealed as unsustainable and basically without value. The rot started in the United States with "sub prime loans" and Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs), but it soon spread across all countries.

Suddenly, the doctrine of free markets and unfettered capitalism collapsed. Banks, car companies, car dealers and even real estate interests were bailed out across the globe by governments who suddenly regained prominence and power, basically because they alone are able to print money and raise taxes.

In Australia, the government even handed out about $42 billion as an "economic stimulus" to assist the Australian economy through the world wide recession. However, a large proportion of this money - over 75% - was handed out as cash payments (around $900 per person) for them to spend at their own discretion. This was a missed opportunity to invest in the infrastructure and new green jobs we need for a low carbon economy.

Where do we need to get to?

It is clear that humans needs to both reduce carbon emissions, and draw down excess carbon already in the atmosphere, to provide the best chance of us regaining a safe climate future. The latest science indicates that climate change tipping points are now upon us, with large scale polar ice cap melting, increased frequency of severe storms, droughts and bushfires now evident.

Reducing the growth in emissions is not enough. Firm targets for emission reductions are required - providing a trajectory for the world to attain zero net emissions.

In a nutshell, the best targets for ensuring a safe climate future are:

  • 100% zero emissions energy by 2020
  • Emission reductions each and every year providing a trajectory to the 2020 target
  • Atmospheric CO2 levels in the range of 300 to 350ppm. The current level is 387ppm.
  • Immediate protection of all native forests across the world to keep the carbon they store safe.

Human behaviour and the psychology of change

Knowing about problems and their causes does not mean that people will take action to address them.

Democracy and the failure of representation

We vote for candidates who are supposed to represent us in parliaments. For example, they might say they are committed to taking action on climate change and feel very strongly about the issue.

After an election, a government is formed in Australia by the party (or coalition) with the majority of lower house seats in bicameral parliaments.

Once elected, your local member will accept your correspondence and even meet with you to hear your views. They will not however stray from their "party line", which clearly takes precedence to any local issues.

So we are not truly represented. Most of our letters and emails are discarded without ceremony.

I have written to local members of parliament and asked them to represent my views (as one of their constituents) in parliament. The response is quite often a party political position (sometimes in the form of a media release), rather than an acknowledgement of my view, or any commitment to convey it to their party of the parliament.

Party politics

Political parties often started with their identity and policies associated with a cause or vision. However, they have now evolved into political machines which have the primary goal of forming government either in their own right or in a coalition. These political machines spend a lot of time and effort in contesting and winning elections.

The consolation prize is opposition.

Conservative parties ("the right") such as the Liberal Party in Australia say that individual choice is a paramount concern. They surmise that the sum total of individual choices, perhaps in a "free market" (whatever that is) will yield the best outcomes for society and the country. They think that if many people get rich, some of their wealth will "trickle down" to lower echelons of society so everyone will benefit.

This theory is easily disproved when you observe that boom time economies such as the United States in the 1980s still include large socio-economics groups that do not participate or share the benefits. For example, unemployment among the black population of New York remained in double digit figures during this period.

Parties that are labelled as "left" or "progressive" on the political spectrum often purport to represent "workers", "working families" or even the "grass roots" general public. Some will have links with union movement too.

In the late 20th and 21st centuries these differences largely disappeared. The Keating Labor government implemented workplace and economic reforms that exceeded those a Liberal government could have achieved.

Political parties often have comparative small memberships, but they do expend some effort maintaining their "brand" and traditional support base.

Industry is one of the major influences on government. They buy influence through political donations. Even banks donate to major political parties. Industry also has the money and resources to both lobby government directly and run media campaigns that can win or lose marginal seats, and thereby influence which party forms government.

The source of party policies

The vagaries of pre-selection and factions

Candidates of political parties have been through a preselection process, during which factional deals inside the party may have been done. Some parties tolerate (even condone) practices such as branch stacking by people to get themselves preselected. Parties that conduct a transparent ballot of members have the best process, but the general public of course does not participate in this.

A recent example of a long preselection campaign is that of Josh Frydenberg for the House of Representatives seat of Kooyong in Victoria, Australia. His campaign has run for several years and was characterised by media leaks and factional battles within the Liberal Party. On finally winning preselection, there is no comment from Mr Frydenberg on what he will do for the residents of Kooyong. It is regarded as safe Liberal seat, so most of the commentary was concerned with matters such him doing more fundraising and possibly becoming a minister in a future government.

Elections - substance or sideshow?

The party line in parliaments

The blame game and adversarial contests

The tendency toward incrementalism and compromise

Case studies in perverse outcomes

Water resource management and supplies

Power generation and usage

The logging and woodchip industries

Transport - excessive carbon emissions

Housing and buildings - energy efficiency is still seen as optional and costly

Stakeholders and their interests

The Legislature (parliament)

The Executive (government departments)

The Judiciary

Education

Industry

NGOs

Scientists

Unions

The public (you and I)

See also


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