OPINION: The great divide

It’s either a win for the community and the environment, or a threat to the economic future of the Hunter Valley. The Australia Institute and the NSW Minerals Council go head-to-head over the implications of the recent decision to overturn the extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
Nanjing Night Net

Dr Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute:

WHILE it happens in movies all the time, for once in real life David really did triumph over Goliath.

In the recent court case between the Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association, represented by the not-for-profit Environmental Defenders Office, and Warkworth Mining Limited, owned in part by Rio Tinto, the community did what the Kerrigans achieved in The Castle.

The court case revolved around what was ‘‘good for the community’’.

The miners wanted to massively expand a mine so that it would close a local road, destroy more than 700hectares of environmentally valuable woodlands, remove the local hill and build a giant waste mound.

The main upside to this proposal would be that the owners of the mine, most of whom live outside the community or outside of the country, would make a lot more money.

As is usually the case, the mining industry made exaggerated claims about the economic benefits to both the local and national economy, of allowing them to profit from the community’s distress. But this is where things got interesting.

Usually the claims and counterclaims about the economic consequences of mining simply fly back and forth with no resolution, but this week a judge dismissed the miners’ claims that the Warkworth mine extension was good for the community and the country.

In particular, Chief Justice Preston found that the evidence provided by the miners did not support their conclusion that the economic benefits to the owners and employees of the mine outweighed the social, environmental and economic costs to others in the community.

Further, he found that the modelling relied on by the miners was a “limited form of economic analysis” that “does not assist in weighting the economic factors relative to the various environmental and social factors, or in balancing the economic, social and environmental factors”.

Such a finding will no doubt send shivers down the spines of big developers and economic consultants around the country.

The judge also found that the claims made by the mining industry about the increase in employment that would accompany the mine were exaggerated.

In reality, big new mines

cannibalise the most highly skilled staff of other industries.

The miners are always quick to claim credit for the jobs they create in the broader economy but this week’s judgment accepted the argument that they should also take responsibility for the jobs they destroy in other industries.

I doubt it is a coincidence that a day after Chief Justice Preston’s landmark decision that the NSW Minerals Council was depicting anyone who questions the conduct of the big mining companies or speaks up for community concerns as unpatriotic.

How ironic that the Australian spokesperson for an industry that is 83per cent foreign-owned should make such a claim.

Like the minerals council, The Australia Institute believes that mining has an important role to play in the Australian economy.

But unlike the minerals council, The Australia Institute is also interested in the broader health of the Australian economy and Australian communities.

The high exchange rate and the skills shortages associated with the boom have had devastating effects on some of our most important long-term industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

These industries employ millions of Australians, while mining, which is highly mechanised, employs around 2per cent of the Australian workforce.

When the mining industry wants to expand at the expense of the broader economy, it is important that we have open and fair decision-making processes.

While mining booms come and go, good farmers usually think in terms of protecting their land for future generations. New mines might create jobs in the short term, but when the mines go the houses in the communities that are left behind become worthless.

The mining industry’s TV ads suggest that what is good for mining is good for Australia but this week’s court judgment found that this is not always the case.

Who knows how many other mines have been approved on the basis of dodgy economic modelling?

David Moult is the chairman of the NSW Minerals Council:

AGRICULTURE, tourism and mining are the three crucial economic pillars upon which the Hunter was built and continues to thrive.

Despite what anti-mining activists who run The Australia Institute would have us believe, removing any one of those pillars will have deep and lasting detrimental impacts on the economic and social fabric of the Hunter Valley.

Research undertaken by the University of Newcastle highlights that the 21 largest mining members of the NSW Minerals Council directly employed 10,842 employees in their mining operations alone in the Hunter Valley during 2011-12.

A total $1.29billion was spent on wages and salaries for these workers over the same period.

In terms of direct injection into the Hunter economy, these companies spent $3.3billion in contributions and purchases of goods and services from local businesses.

Our mining employees live and raise their families in local Hunter communities like Muswellbrook, Singleton, Maitland and Cessnock. They spend their money in local shops and use local services.

That’s why NSW mining engages so closely with the Hunter community, because our workers are part of that community.

Through programs like the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, we regularly engage with key community stakeholders including business chambers, local environment groups and health advocates.

All this presents a clear picture of what’s at risk if responsible mining is not supported in the Hunter.

The current lack of certainty and a lack of confidence in the NSW planning system will threaten thousands of mining jobs in the Hunter and across NSW, as well as see vital investment diverted from regional communities.

The level of scrutiny applied to mining applications is intense.

The process takes between three and four years and millions of dollars in assessments that are required by the government.

Added to this are a number of independent processes designed to provide transparency and ensure that all of the benefits and impacts are properly balanced when making the final determination about the project.

This process includes independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) reviews, PAC public hearings and PAC determinations.

This independent scrutiny and oversight, which has been ramped up in recent years, significantly increases the time taken to assess projects.

The mining industry is not afraid of additional oversight, however it should lead to greater certainty. Unfortunately the industry is facing greater uncertainty through projects that have already been thoroughly assessed, analysed and independently determined subjected to a further legal appeal process.

This uncertainty hangs over all new and current mining projects in NSW.

It puts thousands of jobs at risk, and makes NSW an uninviting place to invest.

There is no doubt that extreme green groups are using the legal process with the single aim of disrupting the mining industry.

In 2012, the Australian Anti-Coal Movement produced a clandestine document, outlining its strategy to ‘‘disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry …’’

The Australia Institute, among others, was acknowledged as contributing to this document.

The NSW government must realise that these extreme green activists do not have the interests of local communities at heart, but rather are pursuing a blatant anti-mining agenda that will result in significant job losses and leave many of our workers and their families without an income.

NSW Mining does not operate in a vacuum. We compete with other mining states and internationally for mining investment dollars.

If the burden for mining becomes too great in NSW, we will see jobs and billions in revenue flow away from our state.

The real victims of this will be the workers and their families in communities across the Hunter, not just in mining, but in almost every other sector as the impacts flow on.

Rushworth woman, 71, sentenced for attack

A 71-YEAR-OLD Rushworth woman who stabbed her husband after she wasn’t invited to his birthday party has been jailed.
Nanjing Night Net

Pamela Turner went to her estranged partner’s house and attacked him with a sledge hammer and a knife when he arrived home on September 13 last year.

The Bendigo County Court heard Turner had drank a “significant amount of red wine” before she stabbed her partner multiple times in the stomach on the night of his 78th birthday.

Turner pleaded guilty to intentionally causing serious injury.

She broke down in tears yesterday as she was sentenced to three months prison and placed on a Community Corrections Order for three years.

The court heard Turner had gone to her partner’s house armed with a knife, a meat cleaver, a stolen sledge hammer and a bottle of wine.

She had earlier called him on the phone and was enraged to hear he had gone out to dinner with their daughters.

She drove to the restaurant to confront him about why she was not invited, but was told to leave for “creating a scene”.

From there she drove to his home and hid in the darkness waiting for him.

In the confrontation that followed, Turner struck him from the side with a sledge hammer and used a number of weapons, including a knife and a frying pan.

Her partner suffered serious injuries from the attack, including cuts to his stomach and abdomen.

Judge Duncan Allen described the offending as an “ambush in horrific circumstances”.

He said it was clear she had “completely lost control” on the night.

The court heard Turner had been battling drinking problems since the age of 40, and her alcohol abuse “had escalated even further in the 12 months before the offending”.

In 2012 she spent five weeks in a Bendigo psychiatric ward for chronic depression and alcoholism.

At the time of the stabbing she was on anti-psychotic medication.

Turner and her partner were married for more than 40 years and had three children together.

Judge Allan said he accepted Turner was coping with ongoing problems of alcohol abuse but said it did not excuse her “extreme outburst of violence”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Win a Japanese study trip

NLA FELLOWSHIPS
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Applications for the 2014 National Library Fellowships close on April 30, 2013. Recipients receive travel funds and an allowance, as well as special access to research the library’s facilities and collections. Harold White Fellowships support established scholars and writers researching any discipline within the library’s collections. Japan Fellowships support established scholars to undertake research in Japanese studies, using the library’s Japanese and Western language collections. For more information, a link to the online application form and contact details, see nla.gov.au/services/awards.html.WORKSHOPS

Two workshops are coming up at the ACT Writers Centre. A creative non-fiction masterclass with Kim Mahood is on May 4 and 5 from 10am to 4pm and is directed towards people who have a non-fiction work in progress, which they want to develop. Participants should bring extracts from a work in progress. Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room in Gorman House Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Avenue, Braddon. Cost: $220 members, $190 concessional members, $280 non-members (includes 12 months of membership).

Bookings: 6262 9191, actwriters南京夜网.au or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking. And Straighten Up and Playwright with Genevieve Kenneally, on May 25 from 9am to midday at the same venue, is a short-play writing workshop open to all writers under 30 years of age. Cost: $30. Bookings: 6262 9191 or at the centre.WOMEN & POWER

Join editor Julianne Schultz and contributors to Griffith REVIEW 40: Women & Power Christine Wallace and Mary Delahunty as they discuss the unexpected tensions that come to the surface as women exercise more power – in politics, business, social enterprise and in the home. It’s on Thursday, May 16, at 5pm in the Conference Room, National Library of Australia, and is free. Bookings: nla.gov.au/bookings or 6262 1271.WHAT’S ON

Saturday: To celebrate the release of The Invisible Thread, an anthology of 75 Canberra writers, NewActon is bringing together three leading authors – Alex Miller, Alan Gould and Sara Dowse – who have each chosen musical compositions to bookend their poem or prose readings. 7.30pm, tickets $39, available from newacton南京夜网.au/wovenwords – seating is limited.

Sunday: The Fellowship of Australian Writers’ April Meeting is in the Brindabella Room, fourth floor, National Library of Australia, 1-4pm. All welcome. The chosen topic is ”I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. Shared afternoon tea. Gold-coin donation. Further inquiries: Adrienne Johns, 6231 2470.

Thursday, May 9: An exhibition opening and book launch for Faces of Canberra by Barbara van der Linden, 6pm. Guest speakers: Frank Arnold, Helen Musa and Sylvie Stern. M16 Gallery, 21 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith.

Litbits submissions should arrive by 9am on Wednesday to be considered for publication. [email protected]南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Criminal minds

Disgraced former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis with wife Hazel in 1988.THREE CROOKED KINGS
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Matthew Condon. UQP. 346pp. $29.95.

The rising popularity of the true crime genre means that the current generation is much more likely to learn about the vices of earlier Australians than it otherwise would. Yet investigative journalists who write in this style know that the genre should come with a user-warning for intending authors. By wrapping a bright cover around it and slapping the words “explosive true story” on the front, the publisher of true crime promises titillation as well as the facts. The journalist who ventures into true crime continually juggles the roles of investigator and entertainer.

Inevitably, the genre adds lustre to the criminal legend, since its conventions dictate that “bad guys” are humanised while their crimes are objectified. Thus in chapter one of Matthew Condon’s Three Crooked Kings, the story of police corruption in Queensland from the 1940s to ’70s, we meet a police cadet “with the face of a hurt, vulnerable boy”. This is Terry Lewis, abandoned by his unloving mother at the age of 10, and estranged from his father, a humble storeman, by the time he joined the force at just 20. The young policeman becomes an overachiever: “Deeds, he believed, were more important than words. He proved his worth by doing.”

Terry Lewis rose to be police commissioner before revelations at the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the late 1980s led to his trial and conviction. The charges against him included accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to protect vice and illegal gaming. He was sentenced to 14 years and served 10. His appeals failed. Some readers might think such facts warrant mention in Three Crooked Kings but they do not appear, beyond a reference in the back-cover blurb to Lewis as a “deposed and jailed former police commissioner”.

Apparently this part of the story must wait for Condon’s sequel, which the last line of the final chapter tells us is “coming in late 2013”. Delayed revelation is the stock-in-trade of crime writers, but its use in such a serious context is questionable. It highlights that Three Crooked Kings is a genre-bender rather awkwardly positioned between true crime and traditional journalistic expose.

The book came about after Condon was introduced to Lewis, who “decided, at the age of 83, that he wanted his story told”. The two men embarked on a series of interviews lasting almost three years, an author’s note tells us. Lewis also gave the writer access to diaries and other materials. Condon, a journalist as well as a talented novelist, obviously struggled conscientiously with the burden of this unlooked-for opportunity, interviewing hundreds of other people: “On several occasions, Lewis’s version of events and my own research took different paths.” Perhaps it’s as a result of his endeavour to present “a balanced story” that the playful, vivid prose of Condon’s fiction is largely absent here. Much of the narrative unfolds in the style of an extended police-rounds feature, with the hedges, clumsy segues, elisions and repetitions inherent in that type of journalism. One senses the reporter looking back over his shoulder respectfully towards the journalists who blazed the trail he pursues and who, between them, have already covered most of its territory: the Dickies, Masters and Whittons.

In its most accomplished writing, Three Crooked Kings paints a compellingly dark picture of the backwardness of Brisbane 60 years ago. The theme of recurrent police corruption in Queensland has previously been exposed by historians (and by the Fitzgerald Report itself). Here, Condon brings it to life memorably, most enjoyably in the story of corrupt police commissioner Frank Bischof’s campaign to stamp out rock’n’roll culture in the early ’60s – something that Brisbane fans of punk music in the early ’80s would relate to.

One might hope that three years of interviews with a convicted cop would yield more of his personal philosophy, and some fresh insight into how the persistent rumour got started that he was Bischof’s bagman. Instead, there is unreconstructed self-justification. Lewis was waiting outside [in the car] when his corrupt colleague went in and told the prostitute the price of police protection was going up … and so on. The most significant revelation he makes concerns Brisbane’s infamous National Hotel in the early 1960s, and scandalous extracurricular police conduct there – none of it his, of course.

Sybil Nolan covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry proceedings as a journalist. Matthew Condon will be a guest at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, May 20-26.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Vignettes of modern despair

THE SECRET LIVES OF MEN
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By Georgia Blain. Scribe. 256pp. $27.95.

After five novels, including Candelo and Darkwater, and a memoir, Births Deaths Marriages, which dealt in part with the consequences of the fraught and sometimes violent marriage of her parents, Ellis Blain and Anne Deveson, Georgia Blain has turned to the short story.

There are 13 in her new collection, The Secret Lives of Men. That is the title of the first story here, but the material that follows is more varied, as Blain explores the pain of an unfulfilled desire for children, the over-protectiveness by some towards the children they have, the dire and comic complications in the relationships of mothers and daughters. All this is beside the great staple of realist fiction for 200 years – adultery. By implication, a larger social portrait emerges of contemporary Australia – one marked by betrayal, narcissism, despair, valiant but often unavailing acceptance of responsibility. All this is in a secular and far from hopeful world.

Blain is skilled at brisk beginnings and the first line of the book is ”We always knew the locals hated us.” The locals belong to a seaside town that is the holiday resort of rich kids from the capital. When the latter clash, more than one life is ruined.

The ”secret” business of the story is the revelation of how one of the characters has made private and protracted attempts at amends for his guilt. This is a dense short story that gives the impression – as do several others – of being a compressed novel. There are tendrils of narrative that might have grown further had Blain opted for the longer form. Here, as elsewhere, her technical striving and struggles are admirably apparent. Sometimes they can lead her to a programmatic grimness, as in Enlarged + Heart + Child. In that story, and others, she also fails to untangle the welter of names with which we are greeted.

In the world of these stories, women – whatever their professional standing – often find themselves solitary and bereft. They may have been betrayed or deserted, as in the case of the narrator of Intelligence Quotient, who – having just lost her mother, ”the only other member of the family still alive” – confides in despair that ”the desire for a child crippled me at times, particularly now I was completely alone”.

Murramarang, told from the point-of-view of the architect Eloise, concerns broken friendships and failed marriages. As in The Other Side of the River, it is a story of adultery – so everyday from outside, so terrible and particular from within. Blain gives energy and originality to this time-worn material. Her style is most affecting when plain: ”Hamish had told [Eloise] that he was leaving and she had thought she would die.”

Often Blain challenges us to care about the characters whose lives she interweaves. The Bad Dog Park gives us the widowed teacher, Peter, and Doris – a diabetic dog foisted on him by his daughter – and Marnie, the dog walker. To a point, the damaged console one another. There is no easy resolution.

Mirrored opens with Blain’s typical brio – ”For three weeks we had been travelling through Rajasthan” – but this treatment of the travails of a mum and daughter seems done by the numbers. On the same matter, but nearer to home, Her Boredom Trick is layered and assured. In Escape (another novel that might have been), a vain and selfish father, given access to his children, takes them from Dullsville ”off to the land of pot, lissom young women, meals when you felt like it and six weeks of parental neglect”.

Bad faith and ensuing disappointments frequently set the dark tone of Blain’s skilled reckoning of the way we live now.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.