The Modern Labor approach to serving the workers is, it seems, to allow private enterprises, any enterprises, to create jobs, any jobs. If the enterprises bring in export earnings that is even better. The quality of the employment, the usefulness or otherwise of the product, the pay and conditions, or even if the work occupies more than one hour a fortnight, all of those issues are secondary. The important things are that the unemployment statistic is kept down and that the Government can say money is flooding into the country. Oh, and that the employers are not threatening an advertising campaign criticising the Government.
It is in this spirit that we export vast amounts of coal, though it is by far our largest contribution to global warming and our grandchildren will suffer mightily for it.
If we don’t export the coal, someone else will. If other countries are addicted to coal, that is their problem. We have no responsibility to help them to increase their energy efficiency and develop fuels that are actually clean. We can instead make comforting noises about developing “clean coal”, some day. Perhaps the tooth fairy will also comfort our suffering grandchildren.
It is presumably also in this spirit that the Prime Minister now wants to export uranium to India. The United States is already “cooperating” with the Indian nuclear industry, so why should we miss out? India has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, for the very good reason that it wants to proliferate nuclear weapons, which it already has a few of. India also has a hostile and precarious relationship with its neighbour Pakistan. Pakistan is also nuclear-armed, and it is a barely functioning state that could with little warning be taken over by zealots with a grudge against India and the West.
Nobody worries much about nuclear war these days, after all we have survived quite a few decades so far haven’t we? I think those few who still worry would regard Pakistan and India as the most likely combatants in a nuclear war. Of course even a “limited regional exchange” could create a nuclear winter and destroy global food production for a year or two. Remember nuclear winter? Perhaps it would be a good thing, cool the overheated planet a bit.
Anyway I’m sure India would only use our uranium for nuclear power generation, and would promise, cross their hearts, not to use any freed-up uranium for bombs. Then we would only have to worry about nuclear fuel being extremely alien and unforgiving material, about human error at power plants, transport accidents, terrorist attacks, long-term storage and the dire consequences of even one mishap, however unlikely, supposedly.
Seismologists would have told the Japanese nuclear engineers, had they asked, that a magnitude nine earthquake off the east coast was quite plausible. I’m a geophysicist and I could have told them. However the engineers only designed for a magnitude eight, and put six plants together right on the waterfront. It’s human selfishness and stupidity that we have to worry most about.
I think it should be possible for Australia to make its living in less compromised ways. With that thought, and in the spirit of Modern Labor, I have a modest proposal.
We should immediately begin the production and export of heroin. Why should Colombia and Afghanistan, those close allies of Australia and the United States, get all the profits? We would only be taking some of their market, and if we refrained they would continue to do it anyway. Opium poppies grow readily across large tracts of Australia. We could rejuvenate struggling rural communities. We could develop the secondary industry to purify it into heroin. There would be associated products to be marketed, like needles. Think of the jobs. Think of the export earnings. Think of the votes.
Heroin, we are told, does not impair human functions as much as alcohol or marijuana, nor does it kill as many people as tobacco, so it would be a harm-minimisation export industry. Heroin is a clean drug. If other people are addicted to heroin, that is their problem not ours, we would be merely servicing a demand. You’ll never rid the world of vice, that’s just do-gooder thinking. You have to be realistic about human nature.
If heroin export earnings took off then we could think about considering initiating discussions to agree to begin a planned phase down of coal and uranium exports. So long as it wouldn’t cause unemployment to rise. And so long as the coal and uranium executives would lie down quietly while the Prime Minister wiped her feet on them.