All articles are copyright, no reproduction in any format without permission.
A recent correspondent referrred to ‘the madness of the Adani convoy’. I hadn’t thought too much about that exercise: it’s not that I am against protest and demonstration, but I am instinctively opposed to large displacements – of people, minerals, vegetation – and I have been to see for myself the devastation wrought on the Upper Hunter Valley in NSW. This was a once-fertile and highly productive rural community, now one riven, literally, by the endless loop of coal trains bound for the loaders at the mouth of the Hunter River at Newcastle.
I worked there in the early fifties: a myriad of small family dairy farms shipping milk to the Co-operative in Muswellbrook, trucked every day, sometimes twice a day, in 40-gallon churns over narrow gravel roads. There were half-a-dozen small and prosperous towns with a rural agent, a baby health centre, a couple of pubs and often, an open-air cinema, pedestrian, not drive-in. We met in milk bars, the Greek’s and ate at the Chinese. Now there is a plethora of op-shops, and half the population is on Newstart. The once-prosperous dairy co-operatives in Muswellbrook and Newcastle are now wreckers’ yards full of unwanted stainless steel milk tankers. The milk has gone, the workers too.
Overlooking all are the immense walls of rock, often many kilometres long and 100 metres high, displaced in order to get at the underlying black gold, and abandoned when the easy-to-get-at seams of coal ran out. Vineyards gone, racehorse studs closed, landscapes despoiled. Contrived bankruptcies excuse the absence of restoration of landscape and of communities. The same will happen in the Carmichael Basin. The coal will be extracted, the profits will flow offshore and any jobs will vanish in a welter of mining robots. And all of this in the face of a world-wide rejection of coal for both economic and atmospheric pollution reasons.
The arguments against mining on arable land are very strong, as is the emotional opposition. Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan recently spoke at an anti-Adani rally, and took a stand: he said he was willing to go to jail to stop Adani, saying the fight against the Carmichael Basin coalmines “defines the fight against the climate crisis” and invited his listeners to go with him. I wasn’t there, but if push comes to shove, I will. The text of his speech is, I understand on display in Cygnet. Mad or not, the Adani convoy of protesters had the courage of their convictions against confected hostility and actual violence. They weren’t ‘rent-a-crowd ferals’ as they are often alleged to be: one who sustained serious spinal injuries as the result of an assault was a sixty-year-old woman.
Given all this unease, why, then has the mine been approved by the current coalition ‘Minister for (sic) the Environment’. Politics, certainly, but after that, what are the arguments for unlimited open-cut mining? Simply, unemployment and ‘jobs’, the actual likely number of which is still a matter of dispute. Two things, here: Adani’s reputation as an allegedly unprincipled, dishonest and corrupt – even by Indian standards – employer, and the increasing use of robots in the mining industry, and its dehumanisation. Less than a fortnight ago, the CFMMEU claimed that a major employer of female mine-truck drivers (because they are kinder to the equipment than men) in Queensland was exploring ways to cut down the time women used to urinate by stopping their trucks and climbing down to pee. Female employees were surveyed on their use of absorbent underwear, menstruation products, and a special stand-up-to-pee nozzle.
In short, Adani’s pretence that it will provide jobs is a highly suspect one. Awareness of coal deposits in the Basin is no new thing. Since Edgeworth David’s time in the late 19th century, their existence has been known, but only since 2008 when a Clive Palmer company ‘discovered 4.4 billion tonnes of coal’ have there been serious proposals to extract it, using Chinese capital (and labour?). Which raises the related question: why is it that we are more prepared to sell mineral interests wholesale to foreign investors rather than doing the job ourselves? Just suppose that we allowed an Australian company to keep 10% of any profits, provided the balance went into social capital in the Carmichael basin? Wouldn’t that be a more beneficial use of the common resource than exporting all of the profits with it? Perhaps we should even (shudder) nationalise the nation’s mineral resources?
The sheer scale of the project is matched by its cultural and environmental implications. The mine would destroy the land’s deep spiritual significance to affected Indigenous peoples, harm threatened species, and reduce the water table including the Great Arterial Basin. The greenhouse gases that would result from burning the coal over the 60-year life of the mine would amount to 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – an unconscionable acceleration of climate change.
Move over, Richard.
John Fleming II
Who’s who in the queue
Some time ago, I wrote some articles for this publication, in which I was “grumpy” about one issue or another. Since then, having got it all off my chest, I’ve managed to keep silent for ages. But being of a relatively advanced age, it was inevitable that something else would come along, sooner or later, to raise my ire again.
We can all be grumpy about global things like the environment, trade wars, the constant war-mongering that some countries engage in, or the violence and bloodshed committed by zealots in the name of their supposedly peaceable religions. These are topics we small individuals are powerless to change. We are often grumpy, too, about “big issues” closer to home: the economy; our health system; spending on education vs spending on weaponry. We are grumpy about the apparent inability of politicians to understand how most of us ordinary people live and what we think of them. These things, we can have some small part in changing – and try to do so at each election.
There are also things on a local and personal level that get right up our nose. We either confront them and end up looking like wallies, or keep our mouth shut and just keep going – feeling grumpy as we go. Things like, if you’ve been catching the same bus to town every morning for the past couple of years and it runs at a time that perfectly suits your purpose, then the bus company changes the timetable. “To better service the majority of users”, they say, but it stuffs up your routines and now you’re grumpy. Complain to them and it will fall on deaf ears. Write a letter to the editor, but most people who read it will just think you are a “whingeing b***rd”. So you just mutter under your breath about it, and get on with life.
I think I may have just coined a new epithet for life in the present age. During World War II, the posters all said “Keep calm and carry on”. I think now that “Keep stumm and carry on” is probably more apt. The problem is, that doesn’t help your health and state of mind. So, you just get grumpier.
Something that irks me lately is the business of lining up in shops waiting to be served. You’re at the supermarket, have done the rounds of the aisles and have a dozen things in a carry basket, and head for the express checkout: “fifteen items or less”. A couple of metres from where the express lane starts, you slide into place to await your turn. “Oi! No pushing in!” comes the indignant shout from somewhere behind you. You turn to find there is in fact a queue, of three or four other shoppers, waiting for that lane. The first of them is standing five metres back from where the exit aisle begins. How the hell were you to know that was a queue for those checkouts?
Then there is the take-away food shop queue. I popped in to a local bakery recently, to grab a quick snack. There was a service counter, with two service stations. No-one was standing at either station. However, several people were hovering somewhere about the middle of the shop floor, looking towards the counter. I know the bakery also serves coffee, and people order, then stand aside waiting for it to be dispensed. So were these people waiting for their coffee, or were they some sort of non-queueing queue? I asked one woman: “Are you in a queue?”
She snorted indignantly. “Yes I’m in a queue; why, d’you want to go in front of me?”
“No,” I said, “just checking. I couldn’t tell if you were queueing, or just waiting for something you had ordered already. It’s impossible to tell that there’s a queue.”
She didn’t take the hint. Stood there until the boy behind the counter called “Can I help someone?” then she shuffled the seven paces up to the counter to place her order.
Clearly, people here do not know how to queue. I don’t know whether it’s peculiar to the Huon Valley, where we all live with huge amounts of personal space all around, or it’s a generally Tasmanian thing. But you don’t find it anywhere else in the world. And it makes me grumpy!
Scroll to Top