Congratulations, Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers party, for trying to give big business ‘a voice’ in Sydney.
Because if there’s one thing missing from Australia’s social landscape, it’s the voice of extremely rich middle-aged wealthy white people.
The idea of forcing tens of thousands of businesses to vote in Sydney City Council elections came without warning and is ‘outrageous’, says Local Government NSW (LGNSW).
But with help from extremely rich wealthy white people Alan Jones and Rupert Murdoch, this debacle has been given a special oxygenated bubble in which to exist.
Indeed no-one except govcorp – ie this government, the corporations and local Nationals MP Don Page – thinks this is a good idea. So much for supporting small businesses, which is the backbone of our economy.
The core argument appears to be comparing Sydney to Melbourne’s existing model, but as shareholder activist and Melbourne councillor Stephen Mayne told The Newcastle Herald, the Melbourne model was ‘exclusive’ to Melbourne and was intended as a counterbalance to the city’s largely left-wing residential population. ‘The result [in Sydney] will be a pro-business, pro-growth council,’ he said.
But there are smelly fumes belching from this secret deal with the coalition: Fairfax reports that the ICAC had been asked to look into links between former Liberal state energy minister Chris Hartcher and his former adviser, ‘who had worked on a “local government strategy” for the City of Sydney.’
One of the biggest ever development plans for Bruns was quietly adopted on June 2.
Being quiet about this is expected considering the strong and clear public opposition, but adding to the fiasco has been appaling public relations by North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP).
It was a sloppy and rude campaign by the dubious government-run corporation; it tried to sell us the idea that major holiday parks and Crown reserve upgrades are needed but failed to convey anything of meaning through long, complex bureaucratic documents and an information session debacle.
It’s something residents in Evans Head are also facing, with major upgrades planned at their holiday parks too. And like here, they are responding with a strong community voice.
Crown lands are inherently designed for public, not private, use, but we have been continually insulted by NCHP manager Jim Bolger arrogantly telling the community what public lands are accessible and which are not.
Should this absurdity just be ignored? And with boundary-encroachment issues also remaining, it’s clear money will be made for the state government at community cost.
It’s inevitable we will see a price rise for accommodation.
The key to the entire issue lies in the independent audit that examined the public submissions that Bolger collated.
Author Dr John Mackenzie said, ‘Several significant and frequently raised issues that were beyond the scope of the planning process have not been included in the analysis.’
‘For example, issues raised concerning park governance, the inconsistency of the POMs with the regional character and the community-engagement process featured prominently in the reviewed submissions but were not included in the analysis.’
His suggestion is that ‘Inclusion of these issues in the Issue Categories should be considered. This would not result in any changes to the recommendations, but could also provide decision-makers and the community with a more comprehensive understanding of points raised in the submissions.’
But for NSW Crown Lands bureaucrats to concede that point would inevitably result in more questions.
The Echo asked specifically if the minister responsible would respond to that recommendation but was ignored.
So bravo to the bureaucrats in the NSW Crown Lands department. The appalling trend of privatising public assets is almost complete and it’s unlikely this would have been legit without big changes to Crown Lands legislation too. Bravo!
While a murder of lawyers – under the direction of federal attorney-general-bigot Brandis – combs over legislation in an effort to limit personal freedoms and extend corporate ones, our own coalition state government is joining in the fun.
According to Fairfax, NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals), has instigated a joint federal/state crack- down on ‘agri-terrorists’, or those who trespass onto intensive animal farm industries and film the activity.
As such, the NSW Primary Industries Legislation Amendment (Biosecurity) Bill 2012 is up for amendment.
Barnaby Joyce (federal Nationals) is also keen to help keep people ill-informed and dumbed down about what they eat and is joining the fray at the national level.
Clearly the effort by activists is to stop or reduce the appalling way in which some animals are farmed. If better legislation were enacted to improve the conditions of animals subjected to inten- sive farming, would there be a need for these laws?
It’s like introducing a bad law to prop up bad behaviour.
Regardless, the 2008 US doco Food, Inc. is a good place to start if you want to be informed about intensive large-scale ani- mal farming. It posits that corporate agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.
While free speech works in mysterious ways, it gener- ally only favours those who write the legislation. Thankfully there’s still public submissions. The state legislation is open for public comment until June 27 and is available at www. dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/legislative-review.
The Guardian and handful of other news outlets reported last Monday something quite significant: church leaders were arrested for an asylum prayer vigil at Tony Abbott’s Sydney office.
Meanwhile, a simultaneous sit-down protest was held at opposition leader Bill Shorten’s electorate office in Melbourne.
The significance of course is that peaceful, law-abiding civilians with strong religious beliefs are now prepared to be arrested over the horrendous imprisonment of 1,023 children in Australian-run immigration detention centres.
More than that, they targeted both political parties that engage in this cruelty, and came from a broad section of the Christian faith: Catholic, Baptist, Anglican and Uniting churches.
Interestingly Abbott’s goons brought the cops in while Shorten let them stay. It follows similar sit-in protests at immigration minister Scott Morrison’s electorate office in March, as well as the office of foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop. Will non-violent protests against human and environmental crimes define 2014?
Heads up hyper-local media junkies – newly released newspaper circulation figures have seen The Byron Echo increase its domi- nance over The Byron News (APN), with a 48 per cent circulation lead. The figures, which are updated every six months, were released last week by the Audited Media Association.
There’s been a general decline for local daily The Northern Star, owned by Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN). The Star now prints 9,662 copies daily, which is down seven per cent on the same period last year. Its Saturday edition is also down 8.8 per cent.
While independent publishers such as The Echo are holding steady and expanding online, the days of complacency are long over. The media’s existence relies on more than just relevant and informative news; it relies on good relationships with its advertisers.
But as for corporate suckholes like Rupert Murdoch, be wary of those who afflict the afflicted while comforting the comfortable.
Welcome comrades, to the great big Green event, held at St John’s Hall in Mullumbimby last Saturday night.
‘It’s great to see the carpark full with so many cars,’ was one awkward welcome. And it was; the place was packed, and while not awkward all the time, there’s no doubting the earnest passion from nerdy intellectual progressives wishing that corporate powers be curtailed and social justice flourish.
Would fiscal policy be discussed? How about that ‘massive debt’ that threatens to ruin us – how will we tackle that in a post-fossil fuel age?
Sadly no, this wasn’t a night for that – this was about people power and Bentley. The event was to feature federal senator Scott Ludlam (WA), but senator Larissa Waters (Qld), NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham and Senate hopeful Dawn Walker joined the line-up.
To their credit, The Greens didn’t try to own the Bentley victory – acknowledgment was made of the two women who started the door-knocking campaign, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, the Lock The Gate movement, the Githabul people and the Knitting Nannas. Alan Jones could have perhaps also been thanked after his attack on Metgasco and the state government, but that would have been a stretch. It would be interesting to have been privy to the recent Nationals Party meeting held in Tweed as a comparison.
What we do know is that Mullum is Greens heartland – last polls showed Mullum had the highest Greens voter turnout in Byron Shire and therefore the Richmond seat for the 2013 federal election.
Public events where policy and ideas are discussed are rare, and even rarer is the opportunity to hear firsthand how the big parliamentary chicken factories work. The crowd were told what current legislation had recently been knocked back or enacted. For example a federal ICAC bill by The Greens was rejected by both Labor and the coalition. Both parties even declined to debate it, said Ms Waters. Additionally the federal government just handed all environment laws to the states to manage, giving no national oversight to air, water and food security issues.
There were warnings to protectors too: MP Buckingham said in response to the current Maules Creek protest that the government has enacted legislation under the Crimes Act to lock up those obstructing a mine vehicle. ‘If guilty, it carries a sentence of seven years’ jail. So you really do, as a community, need to be across that.’
The night ended with a reminder about the little known Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). MP Ludlum said, ‘We only know about this because WikiLeaks has told us. This would possibly allow multinational corporations the right to sue local state and federal governments for passing laws that might impact on their future profits. If you want an example of clear and present danger of corporate rule, look to the TPP.’
Who is worse – a new NSW premier who refuses to explain un- declared donations and subsequent plum appointments, or an opposition leader who ignored the code of conduct regarding bribes and took six months to tell someone he had an offer?
Sounds complicated and boring, but all that can be said about modern NSW politics is that govcorp morons are shouting at each other from across the room over who is worse. And somehow they think the public will find that acceptable.
Can these idiots be any more insulting?
Yes – both parties also voted last week against an amendment to the Mining and Petroleum Acts to establish an Independent Expert Mine Licensing Committee, as recommended by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) following the inquiries into corruptly granted coal mining licences.
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) says they also combined to replace a broad ‘public interest power’ to cancel mining licences and replace it with a narrower ‘fit and proper person’ test.
Unlike the classic ‘corporations are people too’ line, it appears to ensure corporations are better people.
And why has this happened? Just follow the money.
According to Buckingham, ‘Since 1999, the mining sector has donated $5,753,721 to the Liberal, National and Labor par- ties and they are still not prohibited political donors.’
If any public faith is to be restored, the mining licences that were handed out by disgraced Labor MPs Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald need to be cancelled and re-examined by someone with integrity. Integrity? Ha!
The NSW coalition (Liberal/Nationals) suffered further embarrass- ment this week after its ‘Gateway Process,’ which assesses mining proposals on strategic agricultural land, saw two of the six panel members resign.
According to The Australian (Newscorp), the NSW Farmers Association questioned the independence of the government- appointed panel’s chairman Terry Short, a soil expert, who had to declare an interest in two of the three applications being assessed by the panel.
In addition, Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham put the boot in on fossil fuel lobbyists; he said Mr Short and his panel were forced to grant a ‘Conditional Gateway Certificate’ for a mine in the Bylong Valley west of Newcastle, despite assessing the mine as failing 12 out of 13 criteria. ‘It’s ludicrous that the Bylong mine failed 12 out of 13 criteria, and the Spur Hill mine that failed nine out of 11 criteria, are still granted a certificate and progress to the next stage of planning assessment.’
This again casts doubt over this government’s credibility and its continuous bleating of having the ‘toughest CSG regulations in the country.’ Mr Stoner’s office again offered up that rhetoric in reply to The Echo when asked what he will bring to the north coast as its minister.
In return, The Echo suggested to Mr Stoner’s office perhaps the present safeguards weren’t working given the overwhelming protests by farmers at Bentley, Leard, The Pilliga and other min- ing sites. The Echo then asked if the minister would intervene and stop Metgasco’s plans at Bentley given the public outcry.
Unsurprisingly there has been no reply – The Echo understands the Bentley land earmarked for fracking is owned by a high-profile Nationals Party member, as was the case in Glenugie.
As CEO of Metgasco, you have once again proclaimed a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards northern rivers residents.
Thank you for the clarity. A least we know your intention is to push ahead with mining this area despite deep and wide- spread public resistance, as demonstrated at the Bentley site outside Lismore.
Unfortunately, it’s a clarity that the NSW minister for the north coast, Don Page, has been unable to share. He still won’t say if he supports your activities or the farmers that will be affected.
Regardless, I do take umbrage to the false and misleading claim on Metgasco’s website that NSW is ‘running out of gas’.
Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) State of the energy market 2012 says domestic demand for the state is not increasing.
It’s tiresome to address these lies over again – if we protect the domestic supply there will be no problems other than the smoking ruin that you leave in your wake. It just goes to show how powerful the mining lobby is, huh?
I do however support one lofty ideal on your website: ‘to supply the gas to local industry in the north east corner of NSW before sup- plying gas to the broader eastern coast energy market.’
Such benevolence could extend to actually doing your toxic business elsewhere. After all, Australia is a big place and it’s quite easy to get lost in. Or better still, perhaps you could repurpose your corporation for the inevitable renewables take-over?
Anyway, the intention to mine a region that boasts world-class farm produce and tourism is simply an act of war, regardless of what- ever weak legislation and politicians are in place.
In conclusion, I will not give credibility to the insane premise that the expansion of your industry is acceptable in light of clear evidence that suggests it’s stupid.
The US fossil fuel industry has released an almost identical film to Gaslands, called Truthlands.
With all the folksy charm and clumsy camera work of Gaslands, it features typical rural ‘mom’ Shelly, who wants to find out the ‘truth’ after being frightened by the claims made in Gaslands.
So she takes a road trip and interviews ‘experts’ that assure her that drilling metres from your home is just tickety-boo.
Footage of gas wells was suspiciously absent, as were interviews with anyone who is adversely affected by natural-gas drilling close to their home. Their message? Gaslands is full of innuendo and misconceptions. Okay, fracking is not perfect; the companies can do better with safety, but we like our standard of living. So, boo-hoo to director Josh Fox for instilling fear into us simple folk.
Gaslands II, on the other hand, picks up where the first left off, and delves deeper into corporate ownership of politics, the effects fracking has had on right-wing leaning conservative rural families, (the nose bleeds, headaches, rashes, the plummeting property prices), the corrupt EPA publicly approving polluted drinking water in Dimock but telling residents off the record it isn’t safe… and the earthquakes. Oh and there’s allegations of gas companies using PSYOPs as part of their PR strategy. We are told this happens despite US federal law forbidding the military from using it on US civilians (PSYOPs is propaganda and psychological techniques).
As with any war, truth is an innocent bystander that is annihilated first. In Gaslands II, Lock The Gate’s Drew Hutton is named as founder of the Greens Party. Regardless, the stakes keep getting higher as industry and governments desperately hold onto the insane narrative of a fossil-fuel future. Is there any comfort that we already know this? Gaslands II will be a highlight of the Byron Bay International Film Festival, to be held from February 28 to March 9.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
He said he is a ‘powerful tool’, in the media and yes, he is a tool.
‘I have an article on drink driving that I reckon would fit great on the pages of The Echo,’ was the email opener, and that seemed innocuous enough.
It was a ‘cold call’ email from an Australian public relations company spokesperson, and he offered at first glance what looked like a news item. And when I checked his website, the penny dropped. I had wasted my time: the opening paragraph said they spread ‘a brand’s message through creative and colourful content strategy’.
Indeed one of the ‘articles’ posted gushed in support of the fossil fuel industry. So I asked, ‘Are you shilling a product in the guise of it being “content”? Just a thought – no accusations here, just curiosity.’
While it seemed slightly antagonistic to keep questioning his integrity (he eventually had enough of me), it is reasonable to be fiercely protective of information. After all, we live in an age where there are more employed in the public relations sector than journalism. It’s a recent tipping point, and one that many people would know. But not everyone.
Which leads us to the US news and entertainment website, BuzzFeed.
The Guardian last week reported that it is swimming in cash, raised primarily from presenting advertorial, or advertising that looks like news editorial. It strikes at the heart of ‘old’ news media because the two have always been separated. And for good reason: journalism that operates without fear or favour is the most valuable.
Anyway, the point is that there is a push, through newly discovered social media principles, to encourage us to interact with products so we might end up buying them. It’s a clear departure from traditional news gathering and makes the credibility of news unclear.
On the bright side, a new journalism venture worth a reported $250 million has been launched between eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is one of the few voices that question the powerful and elite, so let’s hope he has the courage to ask whether eBay should be taxed more in light of the effect eBay has on traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers.
Hans Lovejoy, editor