12 May 2022
Column from The Mercury, Friday April 15, 2022
"Dear Jeremy Rockliff,
I just want to say congratulations on the new job.
But, of course, that’s not all I want to say.
Reading about you this week, I learned that we’re very close to the same age – born in the early 1970s; classic Generation X.
Remember our teenage years? How they were drenched in dystopian fiction and overshadowed by the Cold War? Did you also read 1984 in 1984? Remember how mind-blown we were by our first laptops? Remember how we were right there at the vanguard when the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) spelled the end of free university education?
A weird mix of idealistic and cynical, we X-ers are independent, hardworking, and resourceful (the last generation to do adolescence without internet or mobile phones). We’re actually quite cool, generally speaking.
And now here we are in our 50s. Not the kids anymore. We’re rising to the occasion, taking up positions of power. Like … Premier of Tasmania.
Got to love the Boomers. After all, our parents are right in that slot, and where would we be without them? But, far out, the politics of that generation have done some damage. What I want to see from you? I want to see you lead like an X-er.
X-ers shouldn’t be confused about which side of history is the right one. We’re more open-minded and inclusive than our parents, and you know as well as I do – you’ve got three kids, same as me – that our kids are more open-minded and inclusive than us.
Please, let’s not have any silly nonsense about winding back this state’s anti-discrimination laws. Please don’t support the idea that some people ought to have the right to enact prejudice against those in the LGBTIQ+ community, or against the gender diverse kids who will be, if not your children, then at the very least their friends.
Liberalism is one thing, Jeremy. But conservatism? That dinosaur’s time in the sun is over. Gender is complex. Love is love. If you don’t believe me, ask your kids. And their friends.
Ask them if they’d like to be in a position to buy a home when they’re older. If they say yes, maybe think about some policies to help them. Ask them whether, if they get sick, they want to have ambulances available to them and to be able to get treatment in a timely fashion. They’ll probably say yes, so you might want to think up some policies on that front as well.
Ask them if they think autocracy, kleptocracy, look like great options right now, or if they want to live in the democracy they were promised, where processes are transparent and election outcomes can’t be purchased. You want to be part of clean politics, right? Probably, you’ve got a bit of housework to do, like airing out that closet where the intel about Liberal Party donations is kept.
And, while you’re sitting down having that heart to heart with your kids, go ahead and ask them the big one: would they, ideally, like to live in a world with a functional climate, and feel safe enough in the planet’s future to have children of their own?
X-ers like us shouldn’t be confused about where the current trajectory of Western culture is leading us. We know what greed has done to Earth. And because we’ve lived with the evidence our whole lives, we know climate change isn’t a joke. Of course, it can be hard to do what’s right when people will like you more (ie. vote for you) when you do what’s simply expedient. But you are called, as all leaders are called right now, to ‘person up’ and do what’s so desperately needed. Take direct, meaningful action on climate change. Even if it’s politically difficult.
Although in our slightly ironic, cynical Gen-X way, we knew the world we were growing up into was a bit screwed, think about how it looks to our children. They can read the papers, hear the news. They have access to last week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that says the humans of the globe are failing to take the action necessary to keep global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the point above which many impacts are predicted to become irreversible.
I know, I know … you’re taking up the job of Premier of Tasmania, not the role of Supreme Commander of the Planet, but every little bit helps. Every little corner of the globe matters. What you do next, where you take this island, will matter.
You weren’t born into the ‘she’ll be right mate’ optimism of the Baby Boomers. You were born into the colder, nastier reality of Generation X. But we’re an excellent generation, and if you nail this job, your choices could make a positive difference to Tasmanians from every generation now living, and those yet to come.
Jeremy, in the narrow gap of time between your birth and mine, one of this island’s great visionaries tragically died. Olegas Truchanas left behind a multitude of images cataloguing lutruwita’s exquisite beauty. He also left behind some sage words.
If I may presume to give you a little gift, to mark the occasion of your ascension to the top job in Tasmanian politics, it is a handful of those words:
‘Is there any reason why Tasmania should not be more beautiful on the day we leave it, than on the day we came? If we can revise our attitudes towards the land under our feet; if we can accept the role of steward and depart from the role of the conqueror, if we can accept that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole, then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world.”
If you’re willing to get that tattooed on you, I’ll pay.
P.S. Can we please have Lake Pedder back?
P.P.S. A footy team would be nice, but nowhere near as important as all the other things."