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August 22nd 2014 print

Tony Thomas

Ratepayers and Ratbaggery

Catastropharian David Spratt came to Moonee Ponds to tell the faithful why Victorians must turf the government of Liberal Premier Denis Napthine. His audience loved the show, but why is the municipality putting ratepayer funds and facilities at the service of a fact-averse and nakedly partisan preacher from the outer limits of the loony left?

megaphone manThe Labor-dominated, but notionally non-partisan, Moonee Valley City Council kindly provided a public platform on Wednesday evening (Aug. 20, 2014) for far-left activist David Spratt to advise on how to get rid of Victoria’s coalition government. Spratt summed up, “At the 2010 (State) election, five to six bayside seats, from Brighton to Frankston, fell from Labor to conservatives, basically because the train line didn’t work.”

Warming to his theme, Spratt continued: “A group called Environment Victoria has spent two years and is starting a third, talking to people there, setting up a shopfront, street stalls, door-to-door knocking, phone-banking, asking people to commit when they vote to put the environment first.

“If, across Victoria, by that process they can change 2000 votes in half a dozen seats, that will probably make the difference to the election. So there are a lot of things that can be done, and are being done, at a concrete level to make a difference, and here are my contact details for anyone wanting to continue the conversation at another time.”

The free, two-hour event was meant to be “an information session” on climate change, but the only speakers invited were Spratt and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s national co-director,  Kirsty Albion, who spoke with youthful passion on how to subvert and, hopefully, destroy the Australian coal industry. You can get a very good idea of Spratt’s sky-is-falling catastrophism, political orientation, looseness with facts and general comfort when preaching to the climate choir from the video below.

Mayor Jan Chantry (Labor) opened the show with the council’s tribute to spirits and ancestors and said, “Moonee Valley is proud of its diverse community and acknowledges the contribution that all people make to this diverse, vibrant and inclusive municipality.”

She had somehow overlooked  the biggest minority group in the Valley – conservative voters like myself, who comprise about 40% of her ratepayers. A rate notice for $2358 the same week augmented my pain. I judged that I was the only conservative voter in the audience of 60.

The tone wasn’t set by accident. The promotional brochure says that Spratt’s work “focuses on climate science, communications and climate-movement politics, drawing on experiences that include the peace, anti-uranium and solidarity social movements.”

The mayor left early to go to a Rotary meeting but Councillor Jim Cusack (Labor)  stayed for the duration.

The council is comprised of four Labor people, three independents and two Liberals. It is pretty clean by the standards of north-west councils. Only two of the nine councilors have pleaded guilty to a criminal offence in the past two years, one being a left-leaning independent and the other (whoops!) a Liberal.

Spratt began his talk by painting a terrifying picture of climate change turning the communities of Point Nepean, Point Lonsdale, Altona and Albert Park into vast lakes brought about by 2m sea level rises (even the IPCC  only talks about 60cm rises by 2100). Spratt said, “With three-degree warming we get 20-30 metre rises in sea level. We are drowning human civilization on the coastal fringe – Cairo, Manila, Bangkok, Florida…” Temperate Dubbo would change to a climate like Tom Price or Hermannsburg, agriculture would cease west of the Dividing Range, the Murray River system would go dry, and Melbourne would have to get used to “yucky” 50-degree days. “Our addiction to fossil fuels is killing us,” he said, to the visible and audible horror of his audience.

His solution to civilisation’s near-term collapse? We should intensify community efforts to get rid of the state and federal coalition governments, which he accused of putting economic and vested interests ahead of CO2 safety. Tony Abbott for example, was “sacking all the researchers” — which would be news to our vast academic climate-change industry. Spratt recommended we all join groups like Yarraville’s Climate for Change, Moreland and Northcote activists, and Brunswick’s door-knocking pests.

Sandra Mack, one of the council’s three sustainability officers whose salaries are underwritten by residents’ rates, arranged the event. She thanked Spratt for his talk and said, “David showed us the impacts and urgency to act. When David and I had a chat before, about what he would be presenting on, I asked him, ‘David can you please present on climate change without trying to make people depressed’. I feel glad that you gave a very positive spin at the end by showing us what can be done. There’s also a climate petition here for people to sign.”

I went over to get a hot cup of tea in one of the council’s “Biovene” degradable plastic cups (not Styrofoam, of course) but found the tureen water had somehow lost its electric heat during Spratt’s talk. Could the council’s ‘zero-emission electricity efforts’ be to blame?

Mack had told me earlier that she had picked Spratt as speaker because she thought his 2008 book Climate Code Red was terrific. (It claims climate catastrophes will be far worse than governments say, which seems inherently difficult). She had picked Albion after being ‘blown away’ (an apt phrase) by her inspirational talk at another meeting. I asked Mack if it was appropriate for the council to be allowing Spratt to run a public anti-government rally under the council’s roof, but she denied Spratt had been party-political. She explained that the evening was about sustainability issues for the citizenry, e.g. light bulbs and solar panels.

I said Spratt’s politicking was undeniable and asked why, if she was selecting two speakers, she didn’t choose one of them from the government side of the argument, as a sop to us conservative ratepayers. She repeated that it was not a political meeting.

However, she saw fit to make a nervous announcement late in the evening: “I emphasise that we [the council] are not in favor of any political party here. Tonight is a non-political event about community action getting Moonee Valley toward zero emissions. It is all about community action.”

She also disclosed that Spratt and Albion had volunteered their time, but I’m still sore that my rates paid for all these lefties’ and greenies’ pastries and cake.

Mack was kind enough to give me first question in the miserly ten minutes allocated to question time. I asked Spratt if the measured 14-18 year halt to warming made his predictions of death and disaster “a little bit ridiculous”. To murmured approval from the audience, he replied that the heating had continued but, as always, the great bulk of it had gone into the oceans, which were warming. “Because tomorrow’s colder than today doesn’t mean it’s autumn,” he said.

He continued, “Climate denial is not about  science. What interests me is that very few young people are deniers and very few women are. Very few are under 60, they are just grumpy old men.”

Me: “That’s a bit ageist.”

Spratt:  “It is true, many deniers are geologists and meteorologists  struggling to deal with changes in their professions that have surpassed the knowledge they were brought up with. Knowledge has changed, their professional lives are over and it is too difficult for them to deal with. Grumpy old men.”

Me: “How old are you?”  [I’d guess about 60].

Spratt: “I am a grumpy old bloke, too.”

And I certainly am, after last night.