This week I will be interviewing ex-Greens leader Bob Brown at the Writers’ Festival.
While formulating questions to ask, I searched ‘Andrew Bolt and Bob Brown,’ thinking I could learn something from an opposing point of view. But after reading Mr Bolt’s views on Bob I almost choked on my double shot flat white in a mug.
Right-wing media pundits are so predictable. And boring. All you have to do is feign outrage and spew vitriolic vomit at anything that challenges a narrow world view. They rarely play the ball, always the man. It does make great theatre admittedly, but is this constructive to the evolution of our species?
I did a phoner (journo speak for phone interview) a few years ago with Mr Brown and asked about his hemp policy. At the time, all he said was that he supported hemp production and nothing more.
I have learned subsequently this week that The Greens still don’t have a policy on hemp. The Echo has reported previously on the CSIRO’s support of cotton and lack of hemp innovation.
This matters because hemp production represents progressive idealism just as renewable energy does. It has a long, rich history as a useful natural fibre and is far superior to others. Henry Ford even made his car bodies from hemp material at one point.
And it’s an easy thing to overlook; hey, we get everything we need from plastics and cotton, right? Except that this plays well into the recurring ‘light bulb’ theory. Humans can produce a light bulb to last much longer than those commercially produced.
Mass consumption is predicated upon obsolescence.
Author Aldous Huxley once said, ‘Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of western prosperity.’
Our collective future depends on a fruitful and harmonious marriage between economics and environment.
The Echo hopes Bob’s replacement in the senate, economist Peter Whish-Wilson, will provide a bridge to those political divides.
Questions for Bob are welcome. Please email email@example.com.
The bloodsport of court
Being present in the Byron Bay courtroom last Friday was like watching a slow motion implosion. It was never going to be a happy ending for the accused.
Oh but what theatre: a casually dressed and slightly over-confident Shai Major claimed he couldn’t afford a lawyer (legal aid refused) and struggled with some of the legal jargon. Adding to that, English is his second language. He was charged with ‘development without consent’; in other words he organised a group of schoolies to board at his Byron Bay share-house for a week.
The prosecution included two Council lawyers with a town planner and a Council compliance officer as witnesses.
Despite his very bad odds, The Echo is not sympathetic to Mr Major’s case – he did after all break the law. But fining an unemployed person nearly $100,000 only means two things: declare bankruptcy or pay back $12 per week, as per Centrelink’s debt repayment plan. That equals 160 years of debt, and the prospect of ever recovering Council’s legal fees of $20,000 is remote.
Rules to consider if unrepresented: never talk over the magistrate and don’t make assumptions in any questions you ask.
Stay on topic and defend the facts. As hard as he tried to highlight the hypocrisy of holiday letting and counter-accuse Council and APN media of racism and unfair treatment, leniency wouldn’t be applied by any reasonable magistrate because it’s off topic. Pleading guilty may have been a start, but that means you acknowledge accountability.
Hopefully this result will widen the debate over community housing versus holiday letting in a town where the main currency is tourism. Clearly defined areas need to be applied under Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) so there is little doubt what constitutes someone’s house or party dorm accommodation.
Would Mr Major have continued to host schoolies if his neighbours didn’t dob him in? Does this send a ‘strong message’? Who’s next? Will Council continue to act upon the small fry?
Local election ponderings
The Echo very much looks forward to a new Byron Shire general manager being appointed and some fresh councillor faces after the September 8 elections.
So far the debate has been mainly rhetorical, but now is the time to talk about how this community can pull together and work more collaboratively. Sounds like a joke, right? But nobody can deny it’s desperately needed.
There are so many conflicting egos and ideals in this region that whoever lands the vacant spots of general manager and mayor will be under immense pressure to produce at least some level of unity. Previously both ended up in a tit-for-tat squabble where the only winners were lawyers.
Here are a few issues to ponder over until ballot day:
Address and review unexecuted Council motions. Councillors’ many requests to staff has led to a cyber graveyard of well-intentioned but forgotten motions.
There is no doubt that tourism is the dominant economy, but what of other sectors that, with the right nurturing, could provide the resilience that this community continually espouses? Food production, manufacturing, creative arts and IT come to mind.
Addressing affordable housing could perhaps be achieved by investigating working models in neighbouring shires.
Byron Bay has needed a bypass for over 20 years, and as the Ocean Shores population is almost as large, it too could do with basic infrastructure.
An equitable festival policy is needed as well; it’s not just two major events we have in this Shire, it’s two major event companies who want to ramp up their event sites that we have to deal with.
Other big elephants in the room are holiday letting and the social problems caused by a binge-drinking culture. And let’s not forget potholes and grubby public toilets.
One last thing: a great start to freshening up Council would be to rename our infrastructure. Poor language usage divides and confuses. Until something vaguely cultural is held there, the Byron Regional Sports and Cultural Complex should be just called the Ewingsdale Sports Facility.
National and global media continually analyse this community whether we like it or not. Those outside our bubble often mock our differences and ridicule the commitment we have to the environment and social issues.
Let’s be a smart unified council so we can tell them – and the NSW government – to go fuck themselves when needed.