Tuesday, March 9, 2010

where are the Liberals? and everyone else for that matter?

The ABC 891 radio show with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan raised a very valid question this morning -

I spent the last few weeks wondering why the Liberals haven’t been able to seriously court the Green vote … I mean seriously, as in get together with Mark Parnell, who’s the Greens Leader in the Upper House here in South Australia, and do a preference deal with them and say … here’s some key issues that we can agree on – no mining in Arkaroola [emphasis mine] … the people who got Isobel Redmond into that position are people like Nick Minchin and Iain Evans, they don’t want any mining up there, so it’d be something that they would gladly hand over, concede to the Greens, it wouldn’t be a concession at all.

David Bevan ABC 891 Morning Show 09/03/10

The ABC has not done a particularly good job in reporting the Arkaroola issue throughout. For one, its performance during last year's lease renewal process was poor to the point of being misleading; I still meet people who tell me that the new lease was actually given to a 'different mining company' for an area 'nearby' ('and weren't they looking for gold or something?'), and all of this confusion was directly attributable to ABC reporting at the time.

(Let me restate here that exactly the same company was reassigned exactly the same lease - only the number changed, from 3258 to 4355 - in order to develop exactly the same Uranium deposit. The company - Marathon Resources - would be the first to tell you so.)

Likewise, last time I had cause to comment on the ABC's Matthew Abraham and David Bevan's performance it was, sadly, to note their contribution to the propagation of the bizarre claim that Marathon resources was only suspended from drilling operations for 'littering' in Arkaroola ( see Dial M for Misinformation) and providing a platform for some of Marathon board member Chris Schacht's other 'colourful' ideas.

However, I must say that exactly the question David Bevan has asked - or, at least, the 'why the heck have the Liberals not managed to capitalise on this obvious vote-winning issue?' variant - has crossed my own mind, and the minds of many others concerned over the fate of the Sanctuary.

I have actually written to both Isobel Redmond and to shadow Environment spokesperson Michelle Lensinck raising this very point. It must say that both the replies I received were unintentionally blackly comic, in that in each case they happily accused the Labor Party of not 'coming clean' and simply declaring whether it supported mining in Arkaroola or not, while simultaneously using precisely the same 'weasel' terminology as Labor uses in order to avoid making exactly this same commitment themselves!

And it's telling that Liberal leader Isobel Redmond, when challenged by Labor that she had 'turned her back on BHP' (as if! here we'll pause to note the usual silly, overwrought invective that characterises Australian politics!) responded as follows on radio 5AA in January this year -

As I’ve explained repeatedly, in the time since I’ve been leader I’ve met with Marathon, with Heathgate, with Santos, with Centrex, with all the major mining companies in this state

Well, if Marathon's the first cab of this mental rank I reckon we can pretty-easily surmise Ms. Redmond's attitude to them!

where the heck is everyone?

This lack of support raises a broader question - where the hell is everyone else on this issue?

The Greens have been the only party to consistently attempt to fight for this magnificent area - and, we should note, one of Australia's ecotourism icons and a phenomenally successful South Australian small business in its own right.

Senior Liberals Nick Minchin and Iain Evans have spoken out prominently in its defence. Their party, however, has not.

In fact, it seems that the remaining bulk of the state's politicians and the relevant Federals have been collectively washing their hair! (Yes, I have contacted Nick Xenophon's office - twice - to no avail.)

The lack of attention paid to this issue and the poor quality of reporting on it (with the notable exception of the Independent Weekly) has been a scandal in itself. Meanwhile the forthcoming state election seems to have degenerated into a risible soap-opera with the Premier cast as the villainous cad (a more unlikely suave lothario is hard to imagine, surely?), and this is about the most ridiculous reason for changing a government I can conceive of.

Yet here we have a real issue affecting one of the state's environmental and economic icons and the bulk of the self-styled custodians of our culture and heritage in both politics and the media are all looking the other way ('Ooh, something shiny!')

As many submissions on Seeking a Balance pointed out it's fortunately now pretty difficult to conceive of Queensland mining the barrier reef - but what is truly, definitely inconceivable is that anyone could propose to do so without provoking a roar of local public indignation that would be heard loud and clear all the way over here in Adelaide.

But attack a South Australian icon and the ruckus wouldn't rouse a light sleeper in the next room!

Apart from the the positive forces listed above we must add The Wilderness Society, the Spriggs themselves and their network of friends and supporters, all those who have been writing letters and making submissions (which in all likelihood includes you, dear reader!) and the heroic and time-consuming efforts of film-maker Tim Baier. I apologise if I've forgotten anyone, but my point is that the band is still remarkably - shamefully - small.

With what numbers we have we've all been struggling with little success to be heard in the vast, jaded shoulder-shrug which is nit-picking, cynical politics in SA, where caring passionately about something important is actually a disadvantage!

So, sadly, it seems South Australian are made of lesser stuff! I could say that we don't deserve Arkaroola - but, the real question to ask is whether Arkaroola deserves us!


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thanks for your contribution - bill - i'm genuinely sorry about having to switch on the 'moderation' process but comment spammers have really been cluttering up this journal!