Slade Brockman: Albanese Government’s Nature Positive policy is Orwellian by name, Orwellian by nature

Slade BrockmanCountryman
The Albanese government has perpetuated its fair share of Orwellian “doublethink” recently, and the Nature Positive policy is a perfect example, writes Liberal Senator Slade Brockman. Cartoon by Dean Alston.
Camera IconThe Albanese government has perpetuated its fair share of Orwellian “doublethink” recently, and the Nature Positive policy is a perfect example, writes Liberal Senator Slade Brockman. Cartoon by Dean Alston. Credit: Dean Alston/The West Australian

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is, in my experience, the most referenced work of fiction in public political discourse.

The novel is a classic, which helps. Its exploration of power, politics, and the crushing of the individual by the omnipotent power of the State renders it timeless — and prophetic.

It is bleak but remains undoubtedly relevant, particularly as we look to the actions of authoritarian regimes in today’s digital era.

One of the central themes of the book is that of “doublethink”. It is the concept you can hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time, knowing them to be contradictory and yet able to blatantly express them without hesitation or any apparent cognitive dissonance.

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The Albanese Government has perpetuated its fair share of doublethink recently.

Consider the opinion piece by Madeleine King, Minister for Resources, published in the West Australian on April 15.

Minister King claims “the Albanese Government will build a future made in Australia”, on the back of the WA resources sector, which she professes she is personally supportive of.

Additionally, she claims to be in support of a future gas industry in WA through more “strategic support for other major projects on the way”, suggesting “the road to net zero runs through WA’s resources sector”.

Well, this seems pretty clear-cut. However, much like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, this Government has form in muddying the waters of the English language with contradictory messages, deliberate vagueness, and a willingness to say one thing on the east coast and something completely different in WA.

That is the essence of doublethink.

WA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman.
Camera IconWA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman. Credit: Slade Brockman/Slade Brockman

If the Government really backed the resources sector, why did the Government’s oversight of gas approvals, initially publicly heralded to be held by Ms King, suddenly and silently get returned to Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek?

Doesn’t the Government trust its own resources minister to have the final say on projects relevant to her portfolio? Or is there some other, ideologically driven, motivation at play?

And let’s look at the practical impact of Ms Plibersek’s vision for the future of development, with the suitably Orwellian name Nature Positive.

The very name of the policy reflects the Government’s spin, insinuating that supporting its legislation is “positive” for the environment, and implying any critical thinking diverging from the environment minister’s talking points is against nature, or something equally negative.

The historical reality is, if Nature Positive had been on the books in previous generations we would have no gas industry. We would have no iron ore industry. We would have no clearing of land for agriculture. We would have no fishing industry. The wealth-generating industries of the last century would have been stopped dead in their tracks.

Doesn’t this exemplify doublethink?

This pattern of saying one thing (or two contradictory things) and doing another is not isolated to the environment. It seems reflective of a broader Labor Government strategy.

The Albanese Government seems hell-bent on disregarding the very industries that have built and sustained our nation’s wealth. It pretends to support them while, in practice, undermining them.

Take the millions of dollars it has poured into the activist Environmental Defenders Office: an organisation slammed in the courts for its behaviour, yet apparently worthy of taxpayers’ largess.

In the past, Ms Plibersek committed the Government to “standalone cultural heritage protection legislation”. With the debacle that was the WA cultural heritage laws, this has hardly been mentioned again, and instead is being quietly incorporated into Labor’s Nature Positive agenda, but never spoken about.

Doublethink, anyone?

The expression “the fish rots from the head down” seems apt. The Prime Minister was willing to make many promises before the election that he has walked away from: tax cuts, taxes on superannuation, lower energy prices, cheaper mortgages, and on and on.

Australia needs a government which won’t say one thing before an election and do something completely different afterwards. We need a government that won’t say one thing in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne, and another thing in WA.

We need a government that understands the societies with the best environmental records are wealthy, stable Western countries. In fact, the more authoritarian a country, the worse its environmental record.

Development is not a dirty word. Development means jobs and industry, wealth and success. West Australians understand this, and to ignore the doublespeak emanating from Canberra.

Slade Brockman is a Liberal senator for WA.

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