When leadership fails

Australia is the hottest place on Earth right now. Bushfires are raging across the country destroying homes and habitats, smothering cities in smoke, and taking lives – two volunteer firefighters tragically died this week. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has been holidaying in Hawaii.

Yesterday he realised his mistake and announced he’s returning home.

The Chaser responded with this:


Earlier this month Australia went to the Madrid climate talks and blocked meaningful climate action. This prompted a lot of criticism from around the world: the French environment minister accused the country of cheating for wanting to use emissions credits from the past to meet its climate obligations.

If you want this carryover it is just cheating. Australia was willing in a way to destroy the whole system, because that is the way to destroy the whole Paris agreement.

But there is hope because others are stepping up to fill the leadership void. Former fire chiefs are planning a bushfire summit with or without the Prime Minister, Australian businesses, unions, and farmers want a zero-emission climate plan, and the opposition leader was snapped buying supplies for fire service volunteers.

I’ve never seen this before where so many others are doing what ought to be done by the government. It begs the question, how did the government become the government?

I don’t want to pretend that leadership is easy but being present during a crisis and adopting evidence-based policy are pretty fundamental requirements for a good leader. I still feel angry that Australians voted for this and feel ashamed to call myself Australian, hence the rebranding of my blog to a “New Zealander who loves cargo bikes”.

Climate change affects everyone. Even those who contribute very little to the problem or none at all (children of the future) will still bear the cost; a cost that is growing daily because every molecule of carbon dioxide we emit will need to be removed from the atmosphere. With each day and more emissions, the problem becomes harder and harder to solve and more and more expensive.

17 thoughts on “When leadership fails”

    1. I grew up in Australia but moved to New Zealand in 2005 and married a New Zealander and eventually became a New Zealand citizen. In many ways, my values align more closely with New Zealand than with Australia, especially now.

      1. Yes, environmental awareness is one. I could see that as soon as I moved to NZ in 2005. It was completely different in terms of acceptance of climate change. But it’s more than that. NZ is more socially progressive in many ways – from women’s rights to gay marriage to the anti-smacking law. Australia is falling a long way behind.

      2. Ah, yes – I notice the difference in social progression, too. It’s not that there isn’t a left wing faction there, but the right-wing just seem so very regressively right-wing. One thing I will say about Australia, though – they have some kick-arse animal rights activists! Although it’s cost a couple of those organisations their charitable status, unfortunately.

      3. oh really? Which animal rights organisations have lost charitable status? I am a bit out of touch with what’s happening in Australia other than the politics I see on the news here. It has been a long time since I lived there.

  1. I think recent events, not just in Australia but in the UK and the United States, suggest there’s a vacuum when it comes to leadership regarding climate change. I’ve also been thinking that our era has seen the rise of the “regular bloke” as national leader: that is, he gives his followers the impression he’s “just like them,” a down to earth person who drinks beer out of the can, plays golf , watches football (American or European, your pick) and “says it like it is,” when in reality he’s nothing of the sort and is saying nothing of the sort. These men are born into privilege and represent corporate interests, particularly those of the carbon industries. They lack empathy for the marginalized and actually couldn’t give a damn about the working class men and women who identify with them. It’s hard to watch as they dismantle government regulations meant to protect the earth’s natural resources (because they ‘stunt growth and cause unemployment’—a false narrative demonstrated over and over again); I seriously worry for my children and my grandchildren, who will face the consequences long after I’m gone. I admit I haven’t been following Australian politics, since we have our own conflagration here in the US: but the few Australians I know online did not vote for Scott Morrison and certainly don’t support his policies or lack thereof. I’m afraid things will get worse before Greta Thunberg’s generation comes of age and takes back our democracies. But I almost wish my generation would die off quickly or stop opposing policies regarding climate change.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard that said before but Scott Morrison sets a pretty low bar so the opposition must have been truly diabolical for people to favour the current leader. I find that really hard to accept.

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