Watermark: ground zero

WELL the last tube was removed today, and I am back to oral medications. I will head home sometime next week and the rehab will extend into the next few months.

While this is progress, I am still takings some pretty hefty painkillers and other medicines as I do my best to singlehandedly keep the poor and struggling pharmaceutical industry in business.

Last week I articulated my disgust at the ridiculous decision by the Abbott government to approve the Shenhua Watermark coal mine. I remain absolutely disgusted by this decision and in turn worry how our generation will be perceived by future generations.

Surely they too will be disgusted by the wanton destruction of our natural resources.

I personally have a desire to be regarded as an honourable ancestor by future generations. It is a strong motivator for me to stand against the current reckless and careless kind of politics that is promoted by Mr Abbott and his cronies.

Indeed, in the face of their comments in regards climate action and overtly pro-mining and gas extraction, it is difficult to not regard Mr Abbott and his mates Mr Hockey and Mr Joyce as real threats to my children’s future.

They are like addicts hooked on an old paradigm of wealth and economic equity. They deliberately deny and discourage the necessary conversation and proactive thinking that recognises we cannot exploit non-renewable resources without considering and provisioning for the damage they are doing or the cost that must be borne by those who follow.

I am incensed by our leaders’ political and personal condemnation of those who seek to discuss the difficult problems we face as a generation. I am even more incensed by their deliberate attempt to disregard our responsibility to people who do not currently vote by suggesting it is not our problem just because it is not yet overtly affecting us.

As angry as I am about the incumbent climate and coal attitudes, I am more disturbed by the same disregard for the structural and generational problems facing agriculture.

The parallels are alarming, and it is through this wilful ignorance that our current crop of politicians at all levels can make decisions - like the approval of the Shenhua Watermark mine on the Liverpool plains or any of the other crippling interventions that unfairly impact rural and regional communities - for short term and often ultimately unrealised gains.

At the farcical launch of the Agricultural White Paper (which was supposed to demonstrate the government’s commitment to a vibrant future for the sector) Prime Minister Abbott said he rejected the notion that agriculture was in decline. This is remarkable similar to his disregard for the notion that the coal industry is also thankfully in decline.

Yet, by just about any measurable indice we can demonstrate decline in agriculture: be it by decline in terms of trade, rising farm debt to income, declining number of participants, declining productivity growth, socio economic decline of regional communities supported by agriculture, declining condition of natural resources or the declining percentage of the value of agricultural production retained in the farm sector.

The issue is that the premise with which the Prime Minister’s Office prepared the White Paper is completely flawed. This completely undermines the integrity of the process by which the white paper has been prepared and leaves us increasingly exposed to poor policy from a disingenuous and even hostile public service.

Sadly this problem is not partisan in that it is not unique to one side of politics or the other. The problem stems from incompetent politicians who have lost contact with the real world where protecting agricultural land and water is a primary imperative of stable society.

As frustrated and angry as I am with the Abbott government, the truth is a Shorten government would have done the same. 'Party first' politics is killing democracy and decreasing the accountability of either side of government to the people who elect them.

While we must and will fight decisions like the Watermark mine approval, it is equally important to fight the way these decisions are made. This means that while we support and stand with the community action groups on the Liverpool Plains and in other communities under political siege, we must also look to a broader meaningful community grounded political reform.

There is a unique opportunity to strive for better government right now at the same time and in the same process that will stop the Watermark development in its tracks. It is time for the broader community to demonstrate its contempt for politicians and bureaucrats alike who would willingly compromise our agricultural future this way and on so many levels.

We must extend our struggle to find local community champions and support them to challenge the entrenched political system and push for greater accountability of the political system.

It is not about winning office as much as it is about making sure no politicians or bureaucrat can take their office for granted anymore.

It can and must be done. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to stop settling for poor government and poor policy that enables these kinds of decisions in the first place.


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