typing is not activism….

environ mentalism, fresh articles, interviews & checkitouts from Sydney.

The State we’re in…

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Carnivals aside, this is the first ‘guest contribution’ to be hosted here and comes from Tassie writer/researcher/citizen Mike Bolan. Hopefully, his metaphor characterizing Tasmania’s democratic breakdown over the Tamar/ Longreach pulp mill proposed by Gunns will hit home.

Imagine if you were paying a professional gardener but they ignored the garden and instead spent all of their time trying to sell you personal care products so that you had to do the gardening yourself. How would you feel about employing that person for say, 3 years?

On Friday July 6, WIN news showed Launceston Mayor Ivan Dean after the Northern mayors’ meeting with Paul Lennon, saying that ‘we’ve now got to go and sell this pulp mill to the public’. Since when has a mayor’s job been to sell a private company’s proposal to the public? Isn’t that the private company’s job? Do we really pay our politicians to do the job of corporations? Aren’t they supposed to be ‘objective’?

Paul Lennon is leading the Tasmanian charge to redefine the role of government. As a taxpayer, I thought government was there to manage our state, including assuring public safety and protection. Mr Lennon has very different ideas of his role, remarkably similar to Ivan Dean’s notion that the public is paying our government and politicians to sell us something that many of us do not want.

The state opposition has also decided that its role is to support the state government in selling us a pulp mill. Aren’t we paying them to oppose?

This is all very seriously awry. Why would we pay a government to do the work of a corporation that has all the resources it needs to do the job itself? What possible reason could we have for paying taxes if the people we are paying won’t listen to us?

On the other side of this, the jobs that we are paying the government to carry out, such as providing good quality health, dental, child and aged care, providing public housing, assuring that fire fighters are properly looked after, that our water supplies are safe to drink and so on; these jobs are being done poorly, in fact the government seems to think that constant sacrifice, mistakes and stinginess is a major goal of these services.

Meanwhile hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies are being provided to prop up the timber industry while hospitals have to cut services and leave patients in corridors and people in pain wait over 10 years for a dentist. The government’s enthusiasms are equally worrying, racecourses, football teams, gambling deals, the more so against a backdrop of the fantasy of themselves as salespeople.

All of these symptoms indicate a government with no commitment whatsoever to the health and safety of the people of Tasmania…a government that is so lost that it uses our tax money to support a commercial logging concern in preference to our social and health priorities. It’s a government that shouldn’t be there at all any more than the ‘professional gardener’ who has confused gardening with selling personal care products.

Our politicians’ belief that they are there to sell a mill to the public permeates the government’s entire approach.

They’ve only ever studied the benefits of the mill, never the costs.

Of course, the costs are what we the people have to bear in the future, loss of industry, loss of lifestyle, loss of health, all risks that only come into existence because the government refuses to listen to us.

Because we’ll have to pay, we want to know what those costs might be. The government’s response to the public’s need was to deny funding or assistance and engage ITS Global to only study the benefits. The government left the public on its own.

Instead of representing the taxpayer, our state government is using our money to represent a chosen company, deny assistance, support or representation to the taxpayer while presiding over the degradation of key social and health services.

It would seem that there exists a clear choice

1) Do nothing and accept that governments can decide their own role once they’re in the job

2) If it is legal for government to decide not to represent the people whose taxes it is taking, then change the law urgently or

2) If it is not legal for government to decide not to represent the people whose taxes it is taking, then they must be brought to heel at once.

The entire issue needs to be settled federally, after all we can’t expect this government to police themselves effectively and it is the federal government that is collecting taxes that maintain our state governments.

Of course, basic rights represent the lowest standard of service that the population can expect from their governments. John Howard decided that we do not need basic rights so it is only reasonable that he tells us how to solve the problem of how to get the people that we are paying, to do the job that we are paying them to do. If not basic rights to services then what? AWAs for politicians? Federal/state performance agreements? We urgently need to address this problem to maintain any semblance of democracy.

Unless the federal government takes care of this problem Australia can look forward to governments constantly redefining their roles away from meeting taxpayer needs and into their favourite hobbies.

Without some practical means of focussing governments on their role, Australians are at the mercy of their governments rather than their masters.

A totalitarian bureaucracy with dictatorial and fascist overtones.

That’s the state we’re in.

Written by typingisnotactivism

July 9, 2007 at 11:09 am

One Response

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  1. It makes the South Australian Labor Government look positively democratic. They make similar judgements on projects and use every aspect of their power to manage the process, enriching their buddies and impoverishing and negatively impacting many South Australians. Perish those who get in the way of the political juggernaut. Humiliation and Rebuke.

    Colin Campbell

    July 11, 2007 at 8:05 pm

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