Volunteers and pure victimhood
It couldn’t have been starker this week. Playing out on the news each night, we saw two Australias on display: the Australia of duty and service; and the Australia of anger and disruption. I’m referring to the community volunteers, the fireys who have been fighting the massive blazes devastating northern NSW and southern Queensland, plus the Salvos, the CWA and all the other helpers who keep them in the field. And the contrast with the so-called Extinction Rebellion protesters causing huge disruption all because the government won’t instantly close down the coal industry to fight climate change.
The protesters’ claim that climate change is causing the bushfires, causing the drought, and that we should shut down mining, shut down agriculture, stop flying by aircraft, driving cars and eating meat is of course, complete rubbish. Australia has always been a “land of drought and flooding rain”. Bushfires have always been a fact of Australian life, indeed indigenous peoples used fire from early times to manage the fuel load. Yet the predominance of Greens on local councils has meant we’ve arguably made things worse by our modern reluctance, on environmental grounds, to allow more regular hazard reduction burns; notwithstanding the sorry reality that many recent bushfires have in fact been deliberately lit. Professor Andy Pitman, head of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, recently conceded “as far as climate scientists know, there is no link between climate change and drought.”
It was the clash of two nations on display last week — who we are, and who we might end up being, if we lose the ethos that’s made Australia what it is to date. To me, the spirit of the volunteer is what makes Australia special, or used to. It’s all the people who, instead of complaining, or blaming others, do what they can individually and collectively to make things better. When I was younger, our towns and suburbs had a multitude of service groups — Lions, Rotary, Apex clubs, Zonta and others — plus the volunteer fire-brigade, the hospital auxiliary, school P&Cs and the SES. As we’ve all got busier, and in some respects, more insular, many of these clubs have folded.
Will we still be a nation that volunteers in years to come?
What sort of Australia are we becoming? Is the service ethos deepening; or are we becoming a nation of angry fanatics, where reason and fact have no place in the debate?
And what attitudes are being inculcated in our schools: are young people learning that the only way to get a fair go is to give a fair go too; or are they being brainwashed that Australia is an inherently illegitimate, profoundly unfair country, that’s ruining the planet by mining coal, driving cars and eating meat?
To me, there’s no doubt which group of Australians represent our best selves. It’s the grimy, sweaty heroes, of all ages and both sexes, emerging from the fire lines after many hours of backbreaking work. It sure isn’t the protesters who this week looked like most could do with a good bath and a scrub. If you throw in their demands for open borders and more wealth distribution within countries and between countries, this is nothing more than just the hard left and some dupes campaigning for socialism in the guise of saving the planet.
It’s utterly unacceptable that a few hundred activists are ready routinely to disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Stronger action is overdue — jail, no welfare, and end to mass-disruption pretending to be peaceful protest.
If our society is not prepared to assert itself against those who make our lives worse, then those trying to make our lives better might decide it’s no longer worth the effort.
A volunteer firefighter in northern NSW. Picture: Jason O’Brien