Monday, January 05, 2009

Just when I thought Garrett's spine had completely disappeared...

Since Labor's election, Peter Garrett has pretty much failed to do any of the things he said he would. He isn't doing anything about Japanese whaling, he hasn't done anything even vaguely reasonable about carbon emissions, he hasn't done much to protect the Murray-Darling river system and who knows how many other sensitive environments.

Today, he failed to do something else, he failed to grant approval to the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. He hasn't rejected the proposal, he has sent it back for more environmental impact studies, and has added specific penalties of large-ish sums of money up to revocation of the approval if Gunns do get approval but don't stay within the limits of their own EIS predictions. I'd rather he'd hit it with a big hammer and looked to genuinely address long term economic options for Tasmania that don't involve trashing the environment. But at least he failed to grant approval. A small step in the right direction. He has a long way to go to do anything like regain credibility, but as they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.


  1. I'm glad to hear that. I read a little about the Garrett situation there, but not much.

    What do you think happened with him? Did he change his mind about stuff? Was he brainwashed by those with more power? Was he just too weak/scared to do the right thing?

  2. The party machine in Australian politics is all consuming. Unions don't like greenies - or at least forestry unions don't, and unions still have a strong influence over the Labor party (not nearly as strong as Liberal would have you believe, but not insignificant either).

    It's a catch-22 in Australian politics - you can join a minor party and maintain some semblance of credibility and never be in government and therefore never be able to make direct change, or you can sell your soul to a major party to get yourself into government but still never be able to make direct change because the party owns you.

    I can see reasons why true believers might take either path. The former gives you some indirect influence, which is better than none. The latter gives you the opportunity to change things from within if you can manage to hold your ideals together and gain power within the party. It is a rare beast who manages that, and the jury is definitely out on whether Peter Garrett has any chance of achieving it. But since I am insanely optimistic this year, I am going with him lulling the party into a false sense of security until he has sufficient power to call the shots and make real, meaningful change.

  3. Looks like the Gunns CEO is a glass half full type as well...,27574,24874879-29277,00.html

  4. Yeah, the ABC article failed to mention that work was still allowed to commence.

    Maybe the financial sector will also fail to lend them any money. :)

  5. This issue should be decided by the local government or by the state Tasmanian government, not by the Federal government. It is Tasmanians that will get both the benefits of the Mill and who will wear any costs associated with the Mill. The centralisation of decisions which should remain local is an unfortunate trend. Bob Carr in NSW did a similar thing to the local government in Coffs Harbour when he over ruled the local decision to build an ocean outfall for sewage (a referendum had given the green light). It eventually happened anyway a decade later (except the sewage now goes into a local creek) once state politics had moved on, however the delay caused a lot of needless angst in the interum.

    I don't have much time for Peter Garrett. He is a wealthy man (self made) and he argues that economic growth is a bad thing. What did he think he was doing all those years?

  6. I agree that higher levels of government pulling rank can cause no end of pain - several successive NSW governments have left behind a litany of appalling decisions over-riding local councils. However, just because an issue is physically located within a specific government's jurisdiction doesn't mean it doesn't have a greater level of significance. The Sydney Harbour foreshore is a perfect example. Sydney Harbour is a substantial tourist destination, and is generally a gateway to the whole country. Screwing it up from that point of view affects the industry nationally, and Mosman or Sydney City council don't have the right do that. If Clover decided to close access to the entire foreshore under her care, a higher level government would be justified in pulling rank.

    I am not convinced that either ocean outfalls or the Gunns mill are entirely local issues. Polluting water ways is a national issue, especially when discussing the ocean.

    I also think there needs to be a way of other levels of government (higher or lower) instigating independent corruption investigations. This may not be relevant to Gunns (I honestly don't know) but I know it has been in the case of some NSW dodgies.

    Why do you say that Garrett argues that economic growth is bad? I haven't heard him make that argument, but I don't follow his speeches all that closely.

    The standard environmental position is that unsustainable economic growth is bad - and it is, at the very least, doomed in the long term. I just can't see how trashing the environment is good economic policy for anything longer than the next election. Environmental issues are economic issues.

    Does Garrett have a position over and above that standard one?

  7. Ariane,

    Thank you for your explanation. That really helps me understand it better. I will say I think Australia has it better than we do. If you're in a small party, you really have NO influence. We really ARE a two-party system. It's sad.

  8. Hey Ariane on a less political note.. are you say MGF did a cover of a Whitlams song or were you thinking of far more intellectual things at the time of publishing those lyrics?

  9. No no, Nerida, The Whitlams borrowed (with permission) the lyrics from an MGF song. The MGF one is a whole song along that theme. Not quite "Butter My Arse with Pigeon" but close...