Topic: election nsw 2007
First published here:
by ecology action, Tom McLoughlin Friday December 22, 2006 at 09:15 AM Sydney, NSW
Was the Cronulla riot in Sydney an aspect of the Environmental Debate? Undoubtedly yes. Did Bob Carr resign as successful premier after 10 years as an aspect of the environment debate. Undoubtedly yes. Did Nick Greiner lose his premiership as an aspect of the environment debate? Undoubtedly yes.
But only if you have eyes to see, and ears to listen, would be my caveat.
I will explain each example in turn:
1. Cronulla: ethno religious tensions are nothing new, in fact as old as politics itself. Similarly there will always be a small fraction of white supremacists or what I’ve heard called Islamo fascists. These simply prove how decent and lovable the vast majority are by contrast. And in Australia we have been pretty cool and successful about tolerating difference but also demanding a fair go in both directions. Not least my groovy home suburb of Marrickville.
So what went wrong at Cronulla? Well we have heard of lots of things in the general media from police performance to anglo baiting, to Muslim baiting, to right wing shock jocks, to criminal patterns of sexual violence, to the mundane matter of active versus passive recreational space in the glow of the World Cup soccer (or ‘wog’ ball as we Irish Catholics called it at Warrnambool CBC), to God knows what else.
But here is one of those shifting tectonic plates of social consciousness most people are not really attuned to but I monitor and describe as a vocation: The politics of the Environment. In relation to Cronulla it logically follows like this:
a. ethnically sympathetic Iemma govt plays catch up on climate change water supply problems since full Warragamba dam in 1997-98 (them days are gone!).
b. NSW copies WA ALP sister government successful desalination policy but where to put it?
c. Identifies Botany Bay, which is the traditional dumping ground of Sydney, never say Pittwater or Middle Harbour where the rich folks live.
d. Trouble is civil society umbrella groups like the popular Surfrider Foundation, more traditional high membership Greenpeace, the Green Party and even my own 33 strong BBACA, are against this old style disrespect for the coastline, on principle and for its practical impacts. We see this as evidence of betrayal of the fundamental obligation under the NSW Constitution in modern times for the ‘welfare and good government of the people of NSW’ as the imperative of sustainability on an exhausted and over populated planet really bites. This is becoming a subliminal spiritual belief across all society, if only to protect our species itself with the benefit of historical anthropological insight.
e. Cronulla and Sutherland ‘Shire’ is a big surf and ocean related culture there and they ‘get it’ as regards their environment at d and can feel their State Govt losing its moral credibility. They love their surf, their beach, their ocean, their coast.
f. What happens when a govt loses moral credibility? Society like nature abhors a vacuum: A hurricane of other authoritarian voices rush in to fill the space asserting their own moral claims to the way forward but it follows the vacuum over environmental credibility. A fundamental concern, a fundamental obligation.
g. A riot is exactly that ‘hurricane of other authoritarian voices’ filling a credibility gap, which started way before but includes the Desal plant proposal. Clearly this moral vacuum on the environment was allied to other cultural and harmony concerns but they don’t cancel each other out. According to this thesis the surface agenda of white supremacism against ethnics was a nasty morphing of an environmental backlash against the ethnic Premier for Lakemba dumping his desal plant on the local area.
2. Carr’s resignation after 10 years ascendancy
a. I knew Carr would resign to preserve the electoral viability of the ALP 5 years before it happened. Eh? 5 years ago? Well in a manner of speaking I knew because it was the logical converse of why he was elected. He never expected to win evidenced by his own diary. But this long time activist worked damn hard for 3 years to see him elected on March 25 1995 because it was an environmental agenda to so do. He was promising the best deal against the forest woodchippers.
b. But Carr broke his promise in the wake of the 1999 re-election. I never trust a politician regardless and was agnostic and then sceptical from at least 1997 he would follow through, to ‘end woodchipping by 2000’. By 1999 it was obvious what a liar he was positioning for a ’20 year resource security for loggers’ (in 2006 the chippers at Eden bragged about a record 1 million tonnes from high conservation value forests, in the process increasing bushfire risk hugely by destroying canopy and humidity.
c. From 2000 I decided to destroy Carr’s moral credibility on the environment for his betrayal, because I knew without that fundamental trust he was unelectable. One person cannot do much against a whole government but in time they can. Especially a good uni trained and experience and courageous one. By 2003 he was in trouble but got back. By 2005 he was drowning. Websites, individual protests, picking the wings off FOB’s (Friends of Bob) in the green movement. As I said to logger industry rep Colin Dorber outside Parliament some 6 years ago as he got his woodchipper victory (a heart attack survivor probably caused by me): “I will be doing this in 20 years time, what about you?” He retired from the fight within a year. Wise choice Colin for you and family. Carr was despised by many sectors and many civil society groups by the time he quit. He was unelectable as unaware of this reality as he was. There was no trust left on diverse policy areas but the ball that was rolling against him first, creating suspicion on other fronts, was environment as the facts became compelling on failure in
- waste management
- water recycling
- forest woodchipping
- land clearing
- urban over development especially tollways
- public transport
- air quality
- Botany Bay destruction by Port authorities
- Dioxin in Sydney Harbour
- more recently coal mining, and no doubt others
All of these were failures as cynical as the broken woodchipping ban promise broken in 2000. Other social policy sectors person by person started jacking up and refusing to suspend their scepticism or to swallow the onslaught of ‘journalist spin premier’ Bob Carr.
d. Carr resigned and slithered over to his true home, Macquarie Bank, the fast money men who have corrupted planning in Sydney for a decade or more.
Carr’s environmental wax wings had melted in the sunlight, a disinfecting sunlight.
3. The collapse of Nick Greiner political career, Liberal Premier in 1991-2
It takes a bit of memory to remember all this. I am not from NSW and was a student at ANU for much of Greiner’s term. But from January 1992 I was a committed lawyer activist in Sydney with The Wilderness Society.
I was amazed at how the Sydney Morning Herald failed to report the underlying environmental agenda that brought Greiner down. I am not so surprised now at the cynicism of the Big Media doing everything they can to freeze out the radical anti consumer ecological revolution thinking. Their environment coverage is still mostly tokenism amongst the leveraged buyouts and overpaid journalists and executives as western civilisation sleep walks to dangerous climate change, not least 5 metre plus ocean rise.
To recap, a wilderness protection lover, Terry Metherell, the Education Minister jacked up at Greiner (said to have family logger financial interests with a company called Big River Timbers) promoting open slather logging, particularly woodchipping, in NSW. This was the time of 1000 arrests in south east NSW 1989 to 1991. It was the time of Chaelundi legal case and blockades in the north east. It was high controversy and a huge moral imperative. Metherell drew a line, and I was reminded of this in footage of recent retrospective on Stateline tv show in NSW recently.
Tight numbers in Parliament pressured Greiner to cut a deal to move Metherell out of Parliament and the deal fell apart in many directions, not least Neil Shepherd refusing to hand over the EPA chief’s job to him, and ICAC finding it was a corrupt inducement (later quashed by NSW Court of Appeal but the political rejection of Greiner over his vandalistic agenda was real enough). Another casuality was go between Liberal Environment Minister Tim Moore.
How else, except for lost moral credibility on the fundamental of environmental sustainability, to explain a theoretically clean legal slate but destroyed political currency for sacked Nick Greiner? The Nick Greiner who has no moral problem today post politics working for Tobacco criminals Phillip Morris. The effective sacking like Carr above was superficially about other labyrinthine concerns, but it all followed an environmental credibility vacuum from this writer’s perspective.
(This story of political environmental imperative is also my personal story. It is why, I believe, Carr’s people (the FOB), correctly perceiving the dangerous analysis of this writer, effectively delivered via one of their messengers in the late 90’s that this writer was officially “marginalised” (Jeff Angel to environmental peers and colleagues in about 1998). But what they didn’t know was that I expected, from my knowledge of human nature in pop culture and not least commercial legal litigation career, the challenge of the mainstream. After all what is a vocation worth if it is not long term?
Indeed there is a natural and logical process involved, for a real ecological revolutionary, of social rejection as integral to the full journey, a well worn theme in any good story from Mohammed Ali to Ghandi to Nelson Mandela. And thousand other more humble toilers like me. Rejection as prelude to real change. Cie la vie and I really do embrace it. It's a badge of honour really.)
The Liberal Party under Debnam (and read Howard pulling the strings) running against Iemma are subject to this environmental discipline like the obviously corrupt ALP government, as Greiner’s fate exemplifies and the rise of the Independent MPs here too.
One practical aspect of this paper is:
Will Debnam rule out repeal of expanded national parks that Bob Carr did actually achieve while appeasing the loggers with everything left out, in a massively over cleared and disturbed NSW landscape this last 200 plus years?
It’s not a theoretical or trivial question. It will affect either his vote in March 2007 or the viability of his premiership on an increasingly exhausted and crowded planet. People know. They can feel it. They can see it in the weather. We all know spiritually, subliminally the environment underpins the moral credibility of a government as they go about all other demanding and fraught policy areas, the ecological sustainability of our home as a first but not necessarily sufficient policy area for successful government.
Which is why by the way the Green Party are called that, and not say Purple (as in sexuality or gender), or Red (as in communist) or Blue (as in capitalist libertarian).
Within the political cycle here some relevant things have happened since the Desal plant was first proposed, mooted, rallied against, and rejected by locals, and more broadly concerned civil society groups:
The blanket coverage of the Stern Report and the subsidiary coverage of the drought which is percieved as a spooky aspect of dangerous climate change. All the Big Media commentators have noticed similarly a sea change in public mood.
Even more recently the mega bushfires, again in character seen as a spooky aspect of dangerous climate change for the earlier timing, the dryness, the undefendable nature of intensity. (My worry is too the decades of landscape change feeding into that fire profile as per book by Paul Collins and his comment piece in Fairfax recently).
Iemma's professional pollies are attuned to this evolving awareness of the merciless drying out of the country, which in turn changes the moral equation. Whereas before Sutherland folks in the semi social isolation were ready to jack up with riots at a stupid govt, now they are far more subdued on water supply concerns: 'Maybe a desal plant is the moral thing to do?' is the question arising as the last week[s] or so in the media cycle refers to relentless downward track of water supply for Sydney.
In this respect as regards Iemma, desal, and Botany Bay/Sutherland social dynamics, time and climate change driven drought are on the NSW government's side. It's only going to get worse is the general vibe. So quiety without riots or much backlash of any kind except the most dedicated Green MPs [and greenocrats], the highly cynical Planning Minister Sartor got brave and formally approved the Desal recently 'but only if the supply gets below 30%' despite earlier mass rallies.
Unless people realise a coal fire powered anything including a desal is how we got to this terrible pass in the first place, which is a pretty optimistic given the vague indirect nature of that reality, the desal in Botany Bay looks a fait accompli. Unless it really does rain. There is talk of renewable power sources but it looks like talk at this stage. And I pity the poor ecology of slowly flushing Botany Bay, and its eroding beachfronts that would never be tolerated at say Bondi or Manly.
Again not where the rich white folks live in Northern Sydney. South western half of Sydney always gets the industry they don't want up there and it's NOT FAIR, but that's another long story in due course.