The National Party has ceased to be a political party in the ordinary sense of the word. Instead it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of big mining and energy lobbies.
Students of the arts of war are given to admiring the military genius of those who were defeated, even where they were wicked men of evil causes — in every sense of the word servants of what Scott Morrison seems to call “the evil one.”
Robert E Lee may have been a fine general — a better one perhaps than George McClelland — but he was a significant slaveholder, in no sense benevolent towards them, who fought for the continuation of slavery and any claim that he was a man of honour can be sustained only if one thinks that slaves, in general and including his own were not people with human rights to whom one ought to behave honourably.
Likewise there are many admiring textbooks about the military skill and boldness of German generals, particularly but by no means exclusively on the eastern front. These tend to deprecate the arts and powers of the Russian generals and men who ultimately defeated them, if at appalling cost. One can read military biographies of some of the professional soldiers which either pretend that they were simply ignorant of the ethnic cleansing and murder talking place in their rear, or that they made clear their strong disapproval at the time. The military caste could always affect a certain distaste for Hitler and his machine, but its effectiveness came from all the cogs, including most of the population, knowingly turning in the right direction.
Their soldiers may have been very effective — even, in one sense only of the word, “good” soldiers — but their struggles do not ennoble them, their courage does not forgive or forget their role as witting and willing executioners of children, women and men, including Jews, Romany, the disabled and Russians, or as instruments of a policy of military aggression and conquest.
There is never a moment to ignore the fact that they were “baddies”. It is amazing how many folk who pretend that cultural relativism is a terrible product of a secular age insist that those who enabled or stood by while Jews (or Aborigines, or Black soldiers) were murdered, have to be judged by the standards of the time. In time, of course, we cease to hold modern Germans and Austrians to account, but we do not forgive or forget the past. It has become past because the nations have been reconstructed. A new and young population was uninvolved and has been brought to understand the horror of what happened. Determined, if not always completely successful, efforts were made to wipe out the malignant political philosophy, to find and punish the worst perpetrators of mass murder, and some reparations were made. Germany these days is a far better international citizen than many countries, including Australia.
It is with this in mind that one must acknowledge that Barnaby Joyce, the National Party and a few of the more notable “characters” of the coalition are playing a blinder in resisting any national effort to do something serious about climate change.
The fact that they are outplaying everyone does not make their cause good, or deserve them any applause. They are on the wrong side — a morally odious one.
History will condemn them. It is unlikely to forgive those of their coalition partners who used their corrupted motives as an excuse for not doing anything themselves.
The Nationals’ efforts are more successful because of the skill with which they are engaged in deception operations, not least in conveying an impression that they might be more “reasonable” if only someone could persuade them of the necessity of doing the right thing. Money, particularly money they do not have to account for, has been known to cause National conversions — even among those who wave the cross around.
Nor should one pay any attention to the occasional pretence that their primary concern is for the position of farmers, already suffering an unfair burden because of measures already taken, according to Joyce and the Nationals, or the effects of recent inclement weather, including bushfires, or droughts, or floods. The interests of agriculture are mere rhetorical flourishes for modern Nationals.
Barnaby Joyce is not interested in winning a debate, least of all by facts, logic and an irresistible chain of reason, insight and evidence. When a sincere and honest argument is sought to be made in this manner — in parliament or on the stump — his aim is to deflect, distract, deny or descend into rambling, verbless and unintelligible nonsense. He is not interested in being “persuaded”.
What Joyce, and many of the other Nationals want, is inaction and delay. They actually know that climate change is happening.
They actually know that it is seriously hurting some of their traditional constituents, not least farmers and people in rural and regional communities. They know it is getting worse, primarily as a result of human activity, not least from carbon emissions.
They also know perfectly well the economic, social and moral arguments about reining in emissions, and the arguments that Australia, as a rich and energy rich country has a particular duty to act. They understand that Australia is a major polluter with a deplorable record of emissions reduction, and that our energy exports make a major contribution to pollution abroad. Broadly, none of them are in the least surprised by the latest evidence, issued by scientists this week, that the problem is worsening, and that the time to take any sort of effective action to reduce the rate of increase in temperature is running out.
Evidence is not the problem. Nor is the science. Thirty years ago there were politicians and tame doctors — whose descendants are now in Parliament — who expressed doubts right to the end about the link between tobacco and lung cancer. As often as not it is those from just the same seats today who claim moral, social, economic and scientific doubts about the link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions.
Joyce will sometimes acknowledge that there would be moral arguments about doing something, arguments he pretends to respect. But, he will explain with a pretend right to similar respect, he is worried about jobs — jobs in regional Australia that might be in peril if action is taken to limit the use of coal. But he has never manifested any interest whatever in transition schemes, in reskilling regional Australian miners, or in alternative technologies and industries which could remake rural Australia, and in a more sustainable way. His anxieties for regional jobs are closely linked to the interests of the hydrocarbon industry — indeed the most shameful aspect of the modern National Party (of which one of my grandfathers was a founding member) is how, these days, it always prefers the interests of extractive industries when they clash with the interests of agriculture, farmers or the health of rural Australians.
A pressing national problem, which ought to be of as much concern to city-dwellers as people from the regions, is that the National Party has ceased to be a political party in the ordinary sense of the word. It is has become instead a wholly-owned subsidiary of big mining and energy lobbies, most of whom are not even Australian.