Pitbull, Ne-Yo, Bob Brown and Christine Milne


 Nick Weir, in his entry into our $750 for 750 words competition, puts the Green's policies to music! 

When Bob Brown and Christine Milne leave politics for pop stardom instead, music critics will call them derivative and formulaic. Their lyrics? The most worn-out of pop music cliches. But they'll top the club charts. They'll enjoy the same commercial success that the Swedish House Mafia have already had with lyrics that sound a lot like the Greens.

Who's gonna save the world tonight?
Who's gonna bring it back to life?
We're gonna make it, you and I.
We're gonna save the world tonight.

But for people who call themselves environmentalists, actual Greens policy sounds like Britney Spears.

See the sunlight. We ain't stopping.
Keep on dancing till the world ends.
If you feel it let it happen.
Keep on dancing till the world ends.

A heightened sense of urgency is what makes these songs work, and the stakes are as high as they get. In apocalyptic pop music, it's never just a question of drunk teens hooking up. It's a choice between planetary mass-death or life.

"We can't afford to delay Australia's response to the climate crisis any longer," says Brown.

"Ever since I came to the Senate in 2005," says Milne, "I have focused entirely on pointing out that we have a global emergency in climate change, that if we do not act on this and act effectively, we are condemning future generations to a horrendous climate loss of species."

The collaboration between Pitbull, Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer, Give Me Everything, has the same sense of tension and rush.

I will love you tonight.
Give me everything tonight.
For all we know we might not get tomorrow.
Let's do it tonight.

The feeling is simultaneously fearful and bold. Radio listeners hear this plea every day, not just on Nova but ABC NewsRadio too. "If ever our planet needed inspiring leadership it is now," says Milne, "as we face the twin threats of climate change and peak oil."

Glittering under a mirrorball, anybody's a star. But sober, and exposed to the sun, all drama's gone. The songwriter's trope of imminent doom is a lyrical strobe-lighting effect. It adds danger and excitement to what turns out, the next morning, isn't so glamorous.

Actual Greens policy, it turns out, is to spend. "The physics and chemistry of climate change will not wait for the coal industry in Australia to get used to the idea," says Milne. "We have to make the transition quickly, and those who move early reap the benefits in terms of all the jobs and excitement that go with renewable energy, energy efficiency and so on."

The benefits are the subsidies, paid for from tax. In dollar figures, companies promising wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal plants get paid the big sums. $100,000,000,000 is earmarked for them.

Companies actually producing power get payments of $5,000,000,000 and more. Companies using power get $10,000,000,000 themselves. If these cash-transfer schemes work like earlier subsidies for solar panels on roofs, they're a redistribution from the poor to the rich.

The cost of living gets hiked up in Australia, and other countries emit more CO2. Even in Australia, more emissions are part of the plan: 621,000,000 tonnes more, according to Treasury, nine years from now. (China, according to Ross Garnaut, will emit 12,000,000,000 tonnes in that year.)

Carbon capture and storage would cut emissions, drawing CO2 from the air. The Greens rule out any funds for those schemes. Hydro-power and nuclear plants are taboo.

In the collaboration between the ALP and the Greens, like in the song Four Minutes by Madonna and Justin Timberlake, the stress is on confidence and decisiveness, and not any specific temperature point.

Don't wait.
You've only got four minutes to save the world.
You got to change.
That's what I got you girl.

"Every year's delay in tackling climate change threatens to cost us the Earth," says Brown. "The United Nations estimates that each year’s delay will cost one trillion dollars. Climate change threatens the Great Barrier Reef with death within four decades. Extinction of our fellow species is at a rate not seen since an asteroid smashed into this planet sixty-five million years ago. Seventy percent of Earth’s fisheries are in collapse."

For a cataclysm so vast, the response is not much. The financial impact is large. The environmental impact is small.

The Greens themselves once mocked the idea of a five percent plan. "Prime Minister Rudd's five percent target is a global embarrassment," says Brown in 2008, "and a recipe for global catastrophe."

What changed?

Nick Weir is a 29 year old Australian and this is an unedited entry into our $750 for 750 words contest for young writers

On The Job Training


 Nick Weir:

When Julia Gillard got the top job, she wasn't like other employees. She was doing her training on-the-job, like a lot of us just starting out, but her audience was national.

Other people might face a few colleagues smirking and trying not to laugh. Still others live in fear of the grey-haired supervisor wincing over each rookie slip.

Gillard started work under more scrutiny than most new hires get. The grizzled veteran at the supermarket or the power plant might look like Laurie Oakes, but only Oakes himself goes on TV to talk, sympathetically and respectfully, about what the trainee's done wrong today. The first-time Prime Minister gets home from work and sees herself on each night's news.

"Across the board," says Gillard, one year in, "my message to myself, my message to the team is we've got a lot of hard work to do, and every day we should strive to be better than yesterday. That's the view I take on life and certainly in this job."

Gillard's resilience is a useful trait. There's so much that's mysterious in every new job, and so much to learn, that new employees need inner strength, just as her employers need patience and tolerance.

Her upbeat attitude's obvious. She laughs easily, and laughs off attacks. "It's a tough job, I'm equal to doing it and feel comfortable in doing it, and feel comfortable in managing the stresses and strains of it."

Newbies get a sense of the office gossip surrounding them. The new guy's the butt of jokes, traditionally told to find the left-handed hammer or the tartan paint. But Prime Ministers face opinion polls.

Everyone's got some view on how it's been working out. Joan Kirner offers strong support. "It's an extraordinarily challenging job Julia has in a hung parliament."

Dawn Fraser, too, has her take on Gillard's competence. "She needs to stop telling lies and be honest, then the polls might go up a bit."

Gillard even gets opposition from the Opposition itself. They talk about gas prices and electricity bills. She talks about cliffs crashing into the sea.

She's talking about Tony Abbott when she says, "Here is this hollow, bitter man, a man with no judgment who never gets the big calls right." She says, "I've never seen such a tin heart." What she says about Kevin Rudd she says privately.

Any bank-teller or barista can imagine how Gillard feels when the guy whose job she took sticks around somehow, making sniffy jokes about "Bogan-ville." The Labor Party sacked Rudd, but then they kept him coming in. He was dismissed, but not entirely.

Gillard's own job security is bound up with Tony Windsor's, Rob Oakeshott's, and Adam Bandt's, so she can rely on them. And if her employers in the Labor Party regret appointing her, they can remind themselves that job security is the definition of a socially just society.

But each time Christine Milne announces a new law or agency, talking about "our government," Gillard must feel like a mere Co-Prime Minister, in some work-sharing arrangement that wasn't in the contract.

Whatever else she is, Gillard's tireless. Never timid or cautious, or afraid to make a mistake, Gillard's trying hard. She got stuck in from the start, with multi-billion-dollar levies, taxes, and compensation schemes.

As tough as the top job is, she's undaunted, and unhesitant. Big numbers don't make her pause. She's not fussy about the details.

Current trends in technology won't derail her big plans for a fixed, broadband cable network, or for ripping up the alternatives. She's determined to spend big laying cables underground, no matter how popular iPhones and iPads are now.

She's not backwards about big risks, like her bet that "the cloud" and WiFi are fads. The most recent crash in the market for those complex financial instruments called carbon trading permits, she predicts, is a mere market blip.

She's confident, defiant, self-assured, and resolute. Others might get discouraged. Gillard doesn't listen to doubts, or doubters.

"Climate change happens," says Abbott, "mankind does make a contribution. It's important to have an intelligent response, not a stupid one, and an intelligent response to climate change means more trees, better soils and smarter technology. It doesn't mean a great big new tax that just for starters will drive your power bills up by $300 a year."

"The Leader of the Opposition will need to rethink this strategy of relentless negativity," says Gillard. "Whilst he does so, we'll get on with the job."

The ‘bogans’ built Australia


The Sydney Morning Herald mocks 'bogans', yet Australia has a long, proud history of such men, argues Nick Weir:

Call them "suburban, aspirational, working families" or "bogans" as the Sydney Morning Herald prefers. Either way, they're not barred from the vote. William Wentworth called them "dirty ruffians" and a "deluded and ignorant mass." They were granted the franchise despite his attempts. Daniel Deniehy won that argument in 1853, when he mocked the idea of a "bunyip aristocracy" ruling the Great Southern Land.

Australia is and will remain a democracy. So although the Sydney Morning Herald disdains "the bogan," singular, "with its brightly hued attire and accessories" and "its 138 inch LCD television," there is no ruling class. How could there be? "The high price of labour is the very corner-stone on which the prosperity of a new colony depends," said Sydney Smith in 1803. "It enables the poor man to live with ease; and is the strongest incitement to population, by rendering children rather a source of riches than of poverty."

The forger in Britain became the architect here. The thief worked for high, free market wages in New Holland and Van Diemen's Land. "To disturb this natural order of things (a practice injurious to all times) must be particularly so," Smith said, "where the predominant disposition of the colonists is an aversion to labour, produced by a long course of dissolute habits."

"I never saw a place where a man could so soon make a fortune," said Thomas Palmer in 1794, "and that by the fairest means—agriculture."

"No land," said John Henderson in 1832, "save in very particular cases, is granted to the convicts, but they are frequently entertained as superintendents on salaries, or are placed in the lower offices in the government employment. Ticket-of-leave men, as they are now denominated, whether as superintendents or other servants, are preferable for employment to low free men, who, in consequence of the want of power in their masters to control them, become often insufferable. This is the result of the habits to which the former have been subjected, and to the facility with which they can be deprived of the indulgences they possess; whereas, the free low-born European soon acquires a thorough acquaintance with the evil practices of the convict, and speedily becomes as little worthy of confidence; while at the same time he imbibes such ideas of liberty, equality, and independence (in which he is borne out by the government, and by the courts of justice) that he is found to be afterwards completely incapacitated for the situation of a subordinate."

With their salaries and "such ideas," Australians objected to feudal rule, as they still object to politicians, celebrities and journalists who attempt to control them.

In 2011 a newspaper mocks these same insufferable, low-born labourers for their presumption and avarice. Not wanting, as the Sydney Morning Herald says, "to pay more money for its god-given right to own nine cars," this type is proud and defiant, convinced it has rights, like the right to whatever wealth it wants.

This worry wasn't even new in 1803. "The avaricious love of gain," said Smith, "which is so feelingly deplored, appears to us a principle which, in able hands, might be guided to the most salutary purposes. The object is, to encourage the love of labour, which is best encouraged by the love of money."

Australians were always objectionable, contentious, or rude. "If I could rescue at least the children of the convicts from brutality and barbarism by education," said James Mackintosh in 1807, "I should (without the least affectation) consider it as an object to which I ought to devote the greater part of the remainder of my life."

And people have always tried to educate them or, as Mackintosh said, "to introduce law and morality into that wretched country, and give it (what never was yet given to any plantation) the fit constitution for a penal colony, which was to grow into a great and prosperous community. If something of this sort be not done, I venture to predict that Botany Bay, which must in spite of fate speedily grow strong and populous, will in fifty years become the greatest nuisance on the face of the earth—an unmixed community of ruffians who will shake off the yoke of England, and, placed at a distance which makes them inaccessible to conquest, will become a republic of pirates the most formidable that ever roamed the seas."

What the Sydney Morning Herald disdains as "the bogan" could equally be called "the convict" or "the settler" or "the Australian."