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Once a year at about this time, my blog takes a back seat to tax preparation. This year has been onerous because we have been away from our files for a long time and our situation is complicated. I’m pleased to say the work is almost done and I should be able to produce more frequent posts for the next nine months, anyway. I owe the title of this post to Tim Flannery, who wrote the book on the subject.

Australia woke up to a new government. I suspect that some of those supporting Tony Abbott never went to sleep, so woke up may not be the best phrase. Australians like to PARTY when it comes to victory, either on the playing fields or after an election. According to Tony Wright, who writes for Melbourne’s newspaper of record – “The Age,” the Coalition’s election eve blowout at the Four Seasons hotel in Sydney was a thousand strong, beefed up by circulating trays of wine. When Kevin Rudd’s concession speech came on television (which was carried live in the ballroom of the hotel) two enthusiastic young, blondes leapt on stage hoisting a large banner saying “It’s time for Tony.” The women hollered and gyrated as if they were on M.T.V., drowning out Rudd’s voice and revving up the crowd.

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Abbott gave a brief acceptance speech, noting with some satisfaction that Rudd had actually conceded defeat during his fifteen minute speech, just in case anyone was in doubt. Afterward, during the Abbott family photo session, a young man rushed the stage and managed to insert himself into the group before being tackled by security police.

It is just the seventh time in Australia’s electoral history that the government has changed. So, what does it all mean? I’m not a political junkie by any means, but it looks to me like the country is getting ready to take a step back to the time of Abbott’s political patron, John Howard. By most accounts, this was an election fought by two unpopular politicians. The younger people in this land seem to have been completely turned off by the negative campaigning and the focus on personalities, not policy. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke had this to say: “I really believe this is an election lost by the government rather than won by Tony Abbott.”

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Julia Gillard’s role in all this cannot be discounted. By agreeing to help topple Rudd from the helm and take over the reins of government, she created a profile of a Lady Macbeth, a politician misogynists loved to hate. Australia has more than its fair share of women haters. Rudd’s comeback and his treatment of others cemented the image of a party whose leaders were more concerned with stabbing each other in the back than leading the country to bigger and better things. Abbott has committed his party to scrapping both the carbon tax and the mining tax and to stopping the influx of immigrants who arrive on these shores seeking asylum. Turning back asylum seekers seems to be the extent of his foreign policy.

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Australia uses the preferential method of voting in elections. This means that voters are required to number the candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference. To win, a candidate needs to secure an absolute majority, or 50% plus one, of valid votes cast. If a candidate does not secure an absolute majority of primary, or first preference votes, then the candidate with the least number of primary votes is eliminated and his/her votes reallocated in accordance with their second preferences. This process continues until a candidate has secured 50% plus one of the total votes. Hence, a winning candidate’s majority may be comprised of primary and preference votes. The system ensures that the candidate who is most preferred or least disliked will win.

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“Until mid-2014, the Senate will remain under the control of Labor and the Greens. Control could then pass to a mix of the Greens and small parties of the right. They might vote with the Coalition to repeal the carbon price, but if Labor holds firm, that is no certainty. But it’s not hard to see them blocking the Coalition’s plans to scrap the government contribution to low-income earners’ superannuation, or to cut $1 billion a year from tax breaks for small business.”

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The quote above is from Tim Colebatch, economic editor of The Age. According to him, the economic outlook has worsened for China, India, Indonesia, and the developing world… The world is not becoming riskier, but the risks are shifting closer to Australia. Australia’s economy is leaping from one phase of growth to another, with no certainty that it will grab the trapeze bar. Last week’s capital expenditure figures suggested that the mining investment boom is receding slowly, rather than being in free fall. But fall it will, and as Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens put it recently, ”it could be quite a big fall in due course”.

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Does this spell the beginning of the end for the “lucky country?” A writer by the name of Donald Horne branded the term in the consciousness of the country nearly fifty years ago. “In a hot summer’s night in December 1964 I was about to write the last chapter of a book on Australia. The opening sentence of this last chapter was: ‘Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck… I had in mind in particular the lack of innovation in Australian manufacturing and some other forms of Australian business, banking for example. In these, as a colonial carry over, Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.”

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Australia, Horne argued, developed as a nation at a time when Australians could reap the benefits of technological, economic, social and political innovations that were developed in other countries. Those countries were clever: Australia was simply lucky. In a land that is going to be profoundly affected by global warming, a country that could use all the cleverness and smart immigrants it can get, this election looks like a giant step back. At least Melbourne residents voted for Adam Bandt, a Green candidate. Good on ya.

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Well, the election has finally been announced. Prime Minister Howard drew the first blood by announcing a massive tax cut. Sound familiar? Current government policies are so reflective of the Bush administration that listening to political cant here is almost like being in the U.S. On the other hand, I see reflections of my other country, too — Canada.

This is a resource based economy. It is doing very well, thank you. As Tim Colebatch of “The Age” pointed out in a recent editorial, it is all because of China. These are boom times for economies the world over. Australia is doing particularly well because of China’s demand for iron ore and coal. China is building a city of a million inhabitants every month. The woods of Tasmania are being raped so the Japanese can make more paper.

Canada is booming because its extensive deposits of minerals and the extraction of oil sands out in Alberta. They will make holes in the landscape visible from the moon. All to fuel the automobiles of its voracious next door neighbor as well new ones being built in China.

Both countries are living in the short term, ignoring their future citizens in favor of voters who live right now. Their political salesmen (bolstered by economists) seem to believe that economies can thrive with or without an environment. That intelligent people can actually buy into this notion utterly baffles me.

There are alarming projections for global warming in Australia. In just sixty years it could be five degrees hotter and 40 to 80 per cent drier than it is now. The Great Barrier Reef will be dead. A desalinization plant is in the works for Melbourne and the pundits on talk radio are testing the waters on nuclear power plants.

Like Canadians, Australians still earn most of their money hewing wood, drawing water, and attracting tourists. It is starting to dawn on people that even tourism may be in jeopardy here. Some tourists are starting to think twice about dumping carbon into the atmosphere simply to satisfy their curiosity.

The most obvious options for escaping the resource rut seem to have been deliberately neglected.  “Crystalline silicon on glass” was an Australian invention, but Australia (the land of inexhaustible sunshine) lacked the determination and political will to commercialize its invention. In 2004, CSG Solar purchased the rights.  The company is thriving in Germany, leaving Australia where it seems to want to be, in the backwater of the environmental marketplace.

It is time for a change. Countries such as this one can no longer afford to use up what is left of the planet’s resources to make ends meet, doing nothing to stop the acceleration of global warming. We can’t make the same costly mistakes, over and over until our only home rolls over one last time and says, “I give.”

The world can’t afford it.

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