Tuesday 15 March 2022

Scott Morrison’s Arc of Autocracy.

The news today was the spectacular anti-war protest by an editor employed by Russian state-owned Channel One.

The editor, identified as Marina Ovsyannikova, interrupted a news bulletin while on air. She also released a previously recorded video denouncing state propaganda and calling the Russian population to protest against the invasion of the Ukraine.
According to human rights groups cited by Reuters, Ovsyannikova was arrested and taken to a Moscow police station. Legislation recently adopted penalises such protests with up to 15 years imprisonment.

The Russian Federation is, as is well-known, and as Scotty from Marketing and all the soi-dissant adults in the room never cease to repeat, an autocracy.

Last November climate protest group Blockade Australia interrupted the rail line feeding coal to the Port of Newcastle, considered the world’s largest. Below is one of their protests.


There is only one person in that photo (an activist who identified himself only as Jarrah). However, according to the NSW Police Commissioner at the time, Mick Fuller:


Note well: up to 25 years imprisonment for putting one’s own life at risk. In Australia, a liberal democracy, protesters can get ten years more imprisonment than in Putin’s Russia, an autocracy.

So far, one Blockade Australia activist was sentenced to one year imprisonment. His crime? To climb on top of a train carriage, thereby presumably threatening the lives of “hundreds of people” – apparently.

Last year the Australian Federal Court ruled that federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a legal duty not to harm young people in Australia by exacerbating climate change when approving coal mining projects.

Overseas readers may find it hard to believe that ruling was received in Australia as something sensational. After all, one may wonder, would it take a Federal Court ruling for the Health minister to acknowledge his/her duty not to make Aussie kids sick? How about the Education minister? Isn’t it evident he/she has a duty to provide students with the best possible education?

In Australia, however, that ruling proved controversial and today, in an unanimous decision, the Federal Court overturned it: Ley, the judges ruled, has no duty to protect kids from climate change when assessing fossil fuel projects.

Madness? Australia is not an autocracy: here the law rules.

Leigh Sales interviewed today young Anjali Sharma, one of the students behind the duty of care case against Ley. As is her job, Sales did not spare Sharma any hard questions. My own impression, for what it is worth, is that Sharma gave very good answers, straight to the point. Judge by yourself.

Let me add something to one of Sharma’s answer: climate change will not spare kids in communities directly dependent on coal mining. Climate change does not work that way. It won’t forgive those who don’t believe in it or in some way contribute to it. In fact as we’ve been reminded recently, floods and bushfires often hit small regional communities harder than they hit big city people. That’s to say nothing of the direct effects of pollution coal-mining communities feel first-hand.

Ley was invited to appear, but declined.

Unlike in autocracies, in representative democracies the people’s representatives are accountable to the people.

True, in Russia high-profile dissidents and opponents of the regime have a disturbing habit of dying in mysterious circumstances (and I fear Ovsyannikova may have catapulted herself to that unenviable position: I hope she knows what she is doing). In Australia high-profile people in the legal opposition – strangely obsessed with bipartisanship – tend to die comfortably of old age.
So, there is something to say for Australian democracy. That and the pusillanimous character of what in Australia passes for opposition. 

Quotable quotes:
Welcome to Afternoon Briefing this Tuesday [March 15th], Greg Jennett with you. (…) We’ll look at (…) an intriguing attempt by the US to engage with China in the midst of the war in Ukraine. Could the war be going so badly that Beijing’s thinking of walking away from its communist cousins in Moscow?
Will somebody tell Greg the Soviet Union does not exist anymore?

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