This present Australian Government is trotting dog-like down the path to destruction behind its conservative counterparts in the US and elsewhere, trying to transform us into a country where the environment, social responsibility and the economy are left to the tender mercies of the free market and corporate self-regulation.
Already under threat from human-induced climate change, the Great Barrier Reef now faces the added burden of an assault by coal producers. The hard won – and publicly supported – World Heritage areas of Tasmania are facing fragmentation, and for no appreciable economic benefit. In Western Australia we are witnessing the greatest act of cultural vandalism ever perpetrated by one culture against another and the eventual destruction not only of a priceless legacy of art, but of an entire archipelago. We expressed horror when the Taliban destroyed effigies of Buddha in Afghanistan but the miners and industrialists have been given carte blanche to destroy numberless ancient petroglyphs in Australia’s north-west, along with an archipelago that was once a coral garden and a breeding ground for whales, dugong and sea turtles.
And, as if to deliver the final blow to a people’s aspirations for the country that cradles them, we again have to wait while politicians, beguiled by the blandishments of financiers and industrialists, debate the future of what remains of Australia’s fisheries. The gem fish have largely gone, the orange roughy, the barracouta, the huge runs of sea mullet and blue swimmer crabs are following them, and the men and women who fished them have faded into the masses of people displaced from occupations that once meant something to them, their boats rotted onshore, broken up for their timbers or bought as collectible trophies. Now life in our deeper, offshore waters is at the mercy of self-regulating fishing vessels owned by interests whose definition of sustainability only extends to boardroom mega-bonuses and share dividends. Allowing super-trawlers to strip our waters of life and wreck the sea-floor in the process will bring very little return to Australia. Replacing fillets with fishcakes in the national diet will do nothing for the national economy and add to the country’s already declining collective health.
We need to say no to unsustainable industry, to the hedge and equity fund managers who have seized control and take back our country and our economy for ourselves.