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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.