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Issue #1743      August 10, 2016

Culture & Life

The business of government in NSW

We’ve said it before – and, unfortunately, will doubtless have occasion to say it again: Liberal Party politicians view government as merely an extension of the practice of business. They use government to do whatever they can for their corporate mates and in return they get seats on the boards of corporations when they leave (or get thrown out of) office. What other lucrative deals are put their way is anybody’s guess because they don’t publicise that sort of thing. Can’t imagine why not. Can you?

A peaceful protest against the destruction of Saddleback Ridge, the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road and the loss of the endangered Warkworth Sands Woodlands.

Even when they do not benefit personally from government decisions, they still see the practice of government as an integral part of the “free enterprise” system. It may not benefit them directly but it does benefit their class and that is ultimately what matters. Although they are regularly given to loudly proclaiming their adherence to democracy, in fact they have contempt for democratic rights whenever the exercise of those rights conflicts with the pursuit of corporate profit. Or when the people seeking to exercise their democratic rights are those awful trade unionists, who for reasons known only to the lower classes are always hostile to their employers, a group of benevolent souls only trying to do good in the community, as they will readily tell you through gritted teeth.

In NSW, Premier Mike Baird’s Liberal government has demonstrated this attitude in spades. It has overridden popular community opposition to approve the opening of new coal mines and the expansion of existing ones. It has similarly approved numerous licences for the environmentally disastrous coal-seam gas industry. It has seized on a report into instances of malpractice among some of the people involved in the poor man’s sport of greyhound racing to shut down all greyhound racing in the state, an extraordinary case of collective punishment in which the innocent are punished for the offences of others.

The Libs’ lack of concern for the plight of pensioners and the children of the poor, for the unemployed and people on sickness benefits or workers’ compensation who are routinely harassed by Centrelink and by investigators hired by insurance companies makes a mockery of their professed concern for ill-treated greyhounds. No wonder there are those who believe that Mike Baird is motivated more by the possibility of securing for his property developer mates control of the extremely valuable real estate embodied in Harold Park and the 18 other greyhound racetracks in NSW!

The latest issue of my local community newspaper, The Rural Grapevine, has an article dealing with aspects of the Baird government’s practices, under the revealing headline “Democracy – a thing of the past in NSW.” The article says in part: “We have a state government clearly out of control that is making decisions at the whim of the big end of town and the mining industry.” People in our valley have been fighting for years now to stop a South Korean-owned company, Kores, from establishing a long-wall underground coal mine in the valley.

A coal mine in the valley would threaten our rural water supply, cause subsidence, adversely affect dams and streams and hence both wildlife and stock, and replace our healthy rural fresh air with coal dust and other pollutants.

“There is no doubt”, says The Grapevine, “that the mining industry have an agenda, one that will destroy the environment and people’s homes. But with Baird on their side they ‘jackboot’ their way across the countryside like the ten plagues of Moses, destroying everything in their path.”

The article goes on to describe how a peaceful demonstration by people opposed to the expansion of a different mine, this time Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine, faced “the reality of Baird’s ‘hammer of injustice’.

“These law-abiding citizens gathered in protest on the Putty Road opposite the mine. They chose a site on the road that overlooked Saddleback Ridge – the land that was decreed in a 2003 deed of agreement between the NSW government and the mining giant as being protected in perpetuity from mining. Unfortunately, that deed of agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on according to the NSW government and the mining company.

“Those opposed to the mine’s expansion, in particular the destruction of Saddleback Ridge, the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road and the loss of the endangered Warkworth Sands Woodlands, have to date pursued their opposition through legal recourse. They have won two landmark court cases that both said the mine should not proceed. But the government and the mining company have proceeded as if those court cases were non-existent or actually favoured the mine proceeding. ...

“It would appear that under the pseudo democracy of the NSW state Liberals a decision by the Court is not binding when not in their favour. And, if need be, they’ll change the law to suit their purpose.”

The article goes on to describe the authorities’ heavy-handed response to the small and peaceful demonstration on the Putty Road. The coppers turned up (summoned no doubt by Rio Tinto) to tell the outraged demonstrators that they were breaking the law and if they did not move on they would be arrested. Aboriginal elders, Kevin Taggart and his sister, who were present, objected. “We have been treated like dirt all our lives and today nothing has changed.” They were both arrested.

Louise Nichols from the Singleton Argus filmed the encounter with the police. “The brutal way the police dealt with Kevin and his sister was shocking to watch”, she commented. She has posted her film of the incident on Facebook.

The Rural Grapevine summed up the situation thus: “So how has it come to this – basic rights denied [the right to protest was confirmed by the High Court under the late Justice Murphy], woeful government leadership and atrocious planning laws? One must ask, ‘Who is receiving the payoff?’ ”

Who indeed? Although one can make an educated guess. Just ask yourself “who benefits?”

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