“China threat” a distraction from climate change, economic inequity

Mar 16, 2023
Extreme close up to a Australian 10 dollars note. Polymer currency of the Reserve Bank of Australia

Whilst much has been made of the extremely intemperate attempt by the Channel Nine newspapers to stir up fear against China, and their lauding of the AUKUS agreements and the massive amounts to be spent on nuclear submarines, little has been said about how this has been a distraction from fundamental issues the country is facing. Not the least of these is the refusal of the Labor government to implement policies that would take it away from the disastrous years of the coalition government.

A week ago with the publication of the Red Alert we had a massive exaggeration of the so-called China threat. Now with the announcement of the AUKUS agreement being given full steam ahead with a likely minimum expenditure of $368 billion over a thirty-year period, we are given the answer to the China threat. All done without being addressed in parliament, and with complete bipartisan support except from the Greens.

Arguably this decision and Labor’s absolute timidity on dealing with economic inequity and climate change must persuade even the most loyal Labor supporter that this government is scarcely better in terms of policy implementation than its predecessors over the nine previous years. Except that it may not be so corrupt. The Albanese Labor government came to power with high hopes, but these have now been almost completely crushed, the AUKUS agreement, and all it implies, being the final straw. As many commentators on P&I have said, we should be separating ourselves from the USA in matters China and pushing our own path of independent cooperation.

Yet given the saturation coverage of the China situation and AUKUS in the media, it has functioned as a wonderful diversionary story, concealing our real problems: climate change, biodiversity loss and economic inequity. Antonio Guterres has tried to warn the world constantly of the threat climate change poses, and we have seen the effects graphically in Australia and other parts of the world with the intensification of weather patterns over the past three years. Yet the government still allows new gas and coal mines and its Carbon Emissions offset scheme is not far away from greenwashing. Years before the eight nuclear submarines are delivered climate change may have ravaged the world much more savagely than any putative war between China and America, and brought about massive refugee flows caused by climate wars.

Then there are the alternatives on which the $368 billion could have spent. Australia faces a housing crisis, rental accommodation is now at a premium and homelessness is increasing. Labor is setting up a ten billion dollar fund, the return on which will go towards social housing. This is not even three percent of the amount that will be spent on the submarines. To this we might add that real wages have barely gone up in a decade, whilst interest rates have recently surged, yet the wealthy are still being given favourable tax treatment and the large corporations are making massive profits. Finally, our health care system is in a state of crisis.

How then can the Labor government be distinguished from the LNP when it was in power. Many voters thought the LNP under Morrison was so bad they wanted anything but it. Accordingly, they looked at the ALP government through rose-coloured glasses, believing it could never be as bad as the previous government. But now it must be seen by-and-large to be an extension of that government in all but name only. It is still wholly committed to neoliberalism and its response to climate change is tepid.

The contrived China threat has facilitated this foreshadowed massive expenditure of money and yet has taken away the real problems we face from the serious media treatment they genuinely deserve. Quel tragedie!

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