Tuvalu is a small South Pacific island nation just a few degrees south of the equator, just on the western side of the International Date Line, and about half way between Australia and Hawaii. It has a small population of just over 11,000 and consists of a series of islands totalling about 26 square kilometres in area. Surprisingly, it was Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña who was the first European to sail through the archipelago, in 15681. The inhabited islands of Tuvalu comprise six atolls and three reef islands, with numerous smaller uninhabited islands. Atolls consist of a ring-shaped coral reef that encloses a lagoon partially or completely, while a reef island or cay is essentially a build-up of sand on top of a coral reef. The volcanic seamounts that underlie Tuvalu, and on which the atolls and islands sit are believed to have been formed by the Arago ‘hotspot’, an area of the crust which overlies a part of the mantle which is anomalously hot compared to that surrounding it2. These seamounts vary in age from 95 to 11 million years old, while most are between 46 and 53 million years old3.
Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, was at an Australian Monarchist League function on Friday night (September 6), at which he gave an after-dinner speech. In this speech, he accused the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) of covering up crucial information about climate change4. It is fitting that a statement such as this should be delivered at a meeting of monarchists insofar as Kelly’s statement is from the past. In the modern world, where just about every scientific research journal is online, it is impossible to cover up any ‘crucial information’ about climate change. It is laid out for all to see provided you know how to use something like Google or even Google Scholar, which Kelly is clearly incapable of doing. In addition, it was the ABC fact checkers who checked his assertion that Tuvalu was actually increasing in size, and found it to be correct. The nation’s land area had grown by 2.9% (i.e. 73 hectares) in the four decades to 2014. While this is true of the larger islands, the smaller uninhabited islands have actually decreased in size, with one disappearing completely. How this is covering up ‘crucial information’ was not explained by Kelly.
To cap the idiocy off, Kelly also seemed to be under the misapprehension that Tuvalu was a single atoll, saying: “It’s a coral atoll”. As stated above, it comprises numerous atolls and reef islands. While this should have been enough to demonstrate that his ability to actually find out things about which he plans to deliver a speech is almost non-existent, he followed this up with “Even though you’ve had a slight sea level rise, a coral atoll actually floats on the ocean”. It is difficult to conceive of how anyone with a modicum of intelligence could actually think this was sensible or even physically possible. I doubt even Pauline Hanson or Malcolm Roberts are that stupid (I know; that is a big call). However, with the greatest of effort, I can see a single bright spot in this, and this is that Kelly has realised that sea levels are rising, something he did not do some 16 months ago on the basis of a single 150-year-old photograph of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour6. Despite his recent single collision with reality, I think we can safely say that Craig Kelly is the parliamentarian most lacking in any semblance of cognitive ability.
i will repeat here a response made some time ago to a piece on this blog about knowledge gaps and obfuscation by insufficient attention to detail or context among our some of the loudest mouths in our political funny-farm of far-right members, often in rural electorates – if I am precise. Australia, if it had the guts and sense, would find its leadership and the quality of Parliamentary proceedings much improved, if a few well thought out steps were taken to ensure the mental stability and intellectual capacity of its elected representatives were up to scratch. In a general sense any literate person knows roughly what this means, but its fine detail and structuring would require first a national debate, then a process for instituting the points which are agreed upon by a majority. The times in which we live entail issues far too complex, full of potential disastrous mistakes and flawed policies, to expect that random folk from just any previous job or educational background has the inalienable right to put themselves up for election. Surely some objective set of rules about educational qualifications, mental acuity and prior achievements of would-be politicians ought to be be a prime consideration. It should have been long ago, to judge by some quite idiotic policies put in place. Frankly, in some parties and in some Parliaments of Australia there are scurrilously under-educated, abysmally informed, even unstable men (- very few women the same, with two or three glaring exceptions!) putting spanners in the works. The likes of like Craig Kelly and Matt Canavan debase Parliament. This type of nutter is abusing a lot of paid time, departmental advice and even paper. This is due to simple-minded, brash thinking, resulting in dumb or deficient statements and proposals. Parliament in Canberra costs a bloody fortune to maintain, the benefits to our reps and senators are far too many, for some fools and dropkicks to be permitted to get close to the merest of power over policy making for the now 25 million citizens we have. Let us be realistic, save wastage on paying useless party hacks with outmoded, stupid obsessions and lack of brainpower or reading ability. More sane, lateral thinking, ideologically unchained and technocratic style thinkers into Canberra please: men who will not just parrot the parrot leader’s ideas, but actually be original contributors , to justify their privileges. Otherwise we will amble, stumble into wrong paths and take inadequate decisions as a nation, imitating that farcical nadir of political systems, the USA. We must, absolutely, demand more intelligence by one method or another from those we vote into the extremely key role of determining complex policies and that demand cogent, deep thought in their making. There will be loud objection to the “arrogance” or the “tall poppy” nature of my proposal, but we have already seen bad pickles and mess-ups across the spectrum of national policies that in future may be lessened by getting generally better persons as House members, and thus ministers, in Canberra.
I agree that the quality of modern politicians is abysmal. Needless to say, it is they who maintain that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. However, all we end up getting is overpaid spivs. What we need is politicians who have the ability to think without being beholden to any ideology, and who are willing to listen to people who know what they are talking about. I think those who are ideologues are so because they are of limited intellect, and cannot cope with uncertainty, and if anything is certain about this world, it is uncertainty.
Russell is correct, and so are you. We are poorly represented and Kelly is close to, if not, the worst. Yesterday’s idiocy was another example. I don’t think that the solution is to have a technocracy though as to a large extent I think that reliance on, and obsession with, technology has screwed us all up. What we need are intelligent, compassionate people who don’t actually aspire to be politicians and are not egotistical maniacs. There are some getting into parliament now, mainly independent women.
Mark, I should qualify what I mean by “technocratic style thinkers”. At present in the (-Canberra at least) over-polarised, two party dominant situation, much debate is of little point. This sheets back to an overarching desire, largely on the part of ministers, to point-score. Their constant aim is to push messages for the electorate’s consumption via mass media. More than politicking for electoral gain via TV and the press, with multi-platform net media featuring in all “advanced” societies, millions watch their every minute word and action. This I think has encouraged more than ever, a certain macho, narcissistic character type to be candidates for election. Such types, once members or party leader, often cannot resist rhetoric to no real purpose but to draw reaction from those newer media. They seek ‘star’ or even villain status, often via a negative, attack-dog role. It is more prevalent than ever now, and very unhelpful in policy formulation on behalf of ALL the nation. The philosophical rationale for Parliaments is not that they are chambers where people with a glued-on set of beliefs/convictions have a forum to emit noise endlessly, their own narrow prospects in mind, nor is it for them to enlarge a base – by being forceful rather than useful participants. Parliament is ultimately for arranging suitable compromises after solid, sensible argument, that, we trust, lead to the best policy outcome for ALL citizens. That noble rationale is so hijacked by the actors described above, that it is no wonder The Hill is many times a place where reign frequent virulence, cheap jibes and missed opportunity for informed debate. The true meaning of a Parliament involves serious, respectful debate ( – granted the ethical-ideological differences inherent in that) with a view to the most efficient yet workable policy in areas of societal concern. To me, inclusion of more practically oriented with real-world/economy backgrounds, is vital to change our declining situation. Less ego-driven types would not kowtow to the 24/7 hour media cycle, wouldn’t just use time to fulfil their ego demands, and could keep debates relevant. I don’t intend we replace Parliament with committees of scientists or bureaucrats – the pifalls there are several. We must still allow diversity of opinion, not policy by fiat in a technocracy. In the realm of potential moral-ethical legislation democratic debate is essential. I mean we need a different mindset than the average career politician has. Too little substantive, keen knowledge-based input is demeaning Parliament. The consequence is bad for democracy, inducing a public trust deficit and voter disconnection, as research on attitudes to our political arena proves. An extra benefit might be to the capable aides and department elites who advise and put policy into action. Their hard work demands a more willing ear and thankful recognition from a well-briefed, sharp Parliament.
I agree with almost all of what you say. The major political parties seem particularly unconcerned with anything to do with policy, notwithstanding some decent policies taken to the last election. Mostly what they seem to be about is wedging each other, and the Australian populace can go screw themselves. That is the travesty, and it must stop.