“The catch cry ‘border protection’ confuses national security with refugee policy. In that confusion we lost our moral bearings” Julian Burnside from the Hamer Oration Sep 2015 ‘what sort of country are we?

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I just wish someone would tell our Prime Minister that.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the Lowy Institute last night saying this of the latest terror attacks in Brussels:

“European Governments are confronted by a perfect storm of failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders and intelligence and security apparatus struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat,” said the Prime Minister in his written speech.

He also references intelligence confirming that Isil are taking advantage of the refugee crisis to move their people around Europe.

Only the  Brussels bombers were European born and raised.

And with millions upon millions of people on the move it would be unrealistic to expect none of those people to be ‘undesirables’.

The Prime Minister repeated the phrase ‘strong borders’ time and time again and while I understand and appreciate the need to monitor and manage border control there is simply no excuse for how Australia is implementing it’s border control policy.

Every time we play up the idea that asylum seekers and refugees groups are or contain terrorists we do Isils bidding.  Every time we gloss over the fact that the bombers in both the Paris and Brussels attacks were European born and raised we do Isil’s bidding. Every time we detail or turn back asylum seekers we do Isils bidding.

Security goes both ways, it can both maintain our freedom and make us prisoners. There is no such thing as a risk free world and a ‘safety at any cost’ strategy doesn’t come without consequences.

 

The whole speech can be heard here.

 

What do you get when you take democracy for granted?

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What indeed?

Things are getting a bit desperate out there, In America I see that Donald Trump has picked up a few more tickets and is looking like winning the Republican nomination. Meanwhile here in Australia the government seem to be acting like a bunch of teenage boys (and sometimes girls) on their first  no-parents-allowed wanking trip. While there have been a couple of good things happen mostly it’s pants and you can now be thrown into prison for protesting about all the crap decisions the government keep making and if you happen to be a LBGQI school goer it’s been a no-love-from-the-government week as the ‘Safe Schools’ program has been paired back ‘for review’ even though it’s been found to be perfectly fine twice before.

Shameful.

Basically the Australian liberal government has been coming on all heavy about everything that doesn’t quite suit their rather conservative and righteously religious tastes.  Strange but ‘liberal’ means something entirely different where I come from.

Then there is China. Now I know that China isn’t a democracy and I know you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers (especially given that nobody is writing newspapers any more) but when I saw this piece on how Chinese citizens are now having their credit scores ranked on a game-show-esque wheel-of-good-credit app based on what they do on social media I wanted to scream out ‘enough already guys. Give us some privacy’.

The world has indeed gone mad. But that’s enough of the world, I want to focus on Australia for a minute.

Democracy is no longer looking like a fair and reasonable option. Indeed, I’ve said a couple of times this week that ‘at least in China you know that you can’t really challenge the government. Here in Australia they give us the vote but hand the power to a powerful few corporate interests’.

Or do they?

On democracy.

As tempting as it is to feel that democracy sucks and that Churchill was right when he said ‘”Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” I believe that we do have a good system – especially now that crazy preference voting system for the Senate has been simplified. I don’t believe the system is broken. I believe that a democracy relies on the participation of its citizens, the ‘equal’ participation of its citizens and that’s probably where the problem lies.

On People.

We all tend to hope that other people will care and do stuff as we are just too busy. We hope that someone else will pick up that rubbish, will rescue that dog, will serve up the soup in the soup kitchen, will report the drug den down the street, will help the guy being beaten up, will donate the blood to treat the cancer patients.

I’m no better than anyone else in this regard. As I wrote that list above I was screwing up my face and thinking ‘yes, yes that’s been me before, I’ve just crossed my fingers and hoped that this stuff would go away so I didn’t have to try to fit it in.  You see we are all busy, we have jobs, houses, pets, kids, hobbies and more. We need down-time, mental-health days, holidays and time to chillax.

And I think that’s why we are where we are today.

People aren’t contributing to the political system, not participating equally. Everyone is feeling that it is just too hard and that if they stay quiet for long enough someone else will do it.

People also feel that ‘this won’t effect me’ or ‘there’s nothing I can do anyway so why bother’ before going about their business.

The Answer?

Nobody likes being told what to do, me included and goodness only knows politics is a messy, frustrating and sometimes boring game but if we don’t participate we find ourselves no longer living in a democracy.

There is an old saying that I love dearly mainly because I don’t need much sleep so I’m usually the one running amok:

‘If you ever find a weasel asleep, piss in its ear’

Which is a curious saying meaning this. Weasels are a cute little English animal but they are also known to be sly, evasive and a bit sneaky.  This lead to sneaky, sly people being known as weasels.  So, if you see one asleep (vulnerable) you should take the opportunity to piss on it.  Nice!

I think the government has been doing that to us and I don’t like it.

So are we going to wake up and stop this or are we content with being pissed on?

I’m ready to pull a few all-nighters that’s for sure.

 

 

 

Global Warning, It ain’t half hot mum.

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Finally the winds have changed and the temperature has dropped. It’s been too hot and humid for too long and I haven’t liked it one bit.

Look – this data is from the last 31 days, I can vouch for the previous 31 being equally uncomfortable. Eight weeks of heat exhaustion has been gruelling.

Weather from 16th Feb to 19th March

But that’s not ‘global warming’ that’s the weather.

Often when the subject of global warming comes up so too does the fact that our records are very short and that climate is something that is variable and somewhat cyclical.  We know, for example that there have been ice ages and heat waves in the history of the planet.  I remember being told that it was once possible to grow grapes and wear toga’s in wet and grey England thanks to a hot spell, I also remember thinking that would be lovely and that it couldn’t come quick enough but that too tends to happen when we focus on the good side of a situation and ignore the bad – I was a teenager trying to get a summer tan at the time.  Now I also know that too much sun can give you skin cancer.  Oh my goodness….

Anyhow I want to talk a bit about climate change and global warming etcetera, etcetera but I also don’t.  You see I am a scientist by trade and have listened to ‘the science’ and the updates time and time again.  I’ve been both convinced and not so much by what people have to say.  I have to say that when Al Gore first burst onto the scene with his ‘Inconvenient Truth’ monologue he actually made me believe more than ever that this was just some big government con job. It felt like he was trying to recruit people into a cult and my instinct was to seek out the small print, question and challenge, find the flaws.  But I got busy and on the whole ignored it while carrying on trying to live as responsibly and respectfully as I could.

And that’s where I am today.

Since as long as I can remember I’ve believed there to be a better way of living life than burning forests, polluting the air and taking our clean water for granted. I remember questioning my dad about economic growth and ‘more stuff’ back in the 1980’s when I was a just a child.  I was always fascinated by my dads philosophy that each generation gets richer and lives better than the one before.  I’m not sure he still thinks that but back in the 80’s he did and I didn’t.  I was a challenging child…… I couldn’t see how this never-ending upwards spiral could keep on going on a planet with only so much stuff and I still don’t although now I’ve realised that money is just a concept and as long as everyone (or somebody) agrees you sort of can just keep on making it (thanks to fiscal easing for de-coupling currency and commodity).

So I guess what I’m realising is that my thinking about the environment and the economy haven’t really changed much in thirty years and, more importantly that I was on the right track when I was a child. Right for me anyhow.

So where does this leave the global warming situation?

Well it sure has been hot here at home and I’m absolutely noticing the relief that a cool breeze and a 10C drop in temperature and humidity brings but that is ‘just’ the weather.

Whether it is hotter, wetter, dryer or as expected no change in the weather is going to make me question whether my philosophy of life is right or wrong because it clearly is right.

My philosophy like many others that I know is to work with and as part of nature rather than as separate or against it and that requires me to care for and about the environment and make choices based on what will do the least harm for the greatest good or something along those lines.

And these days that is so much easier to do.

Unlike the 1980’s today we have so many more options available to us with regards to power generation, farming practices, consumer goods, modes of transport and more besides.  Now more than ever I feel that every breath taken in trying to argue the stats or ‘whether it is true or not’ would be better placed just doing something better and cleaner.  Now I know that economists and governments have to have strategies and don’t like to take risks and are especially adverse to anything that changes how the economy works (the economy has replaced God as supreme leader)  but I just wish they could explain to me how the risks of being wrong about climate change outweigh the benefits of just being more responsible and respectful of how we treat the planet?

I no longer think that the original science was a con job and it’s not because of the science or the way it was spoken, it’s because of how many powerful people have continued to ignore or oppose it and plough ahead with their old-fashioned polluting ways. This is a major problem here in Australia.  If the science was rigged to the advantage of the power class I’d have expected them to be charging me for the sun by now but they aren’t.  Yet.

So what to do?

Well I don’t know about you but I’m finding these Elvis lyrics just about say it all really:

A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark

A little less fight and a little more spark
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me

Because there is never been a better (or cheaper) time to stop polluting the planet regardless of whether it warms the planet or not.

Well that’s what I think anyway.

Are you a heat-stressed cow? How hot weather is bad for the economy

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How’s this for a down side of global warming Mr and Mrs Economists?

So I’m currently studying for a Farm Management Diploma with my husband so we can manage our 50 acres of land in a smart, efficient and environmentally friendly way.  While we are not going to take on any live stock other than bees we have been learning quite a bit about the life and times of cows, sheep and goats over the last few months.  The following information really struck a chord with me.

Australia has a cool cow program.

Yes, that’s right a government initiative to teach cow farmers (or whatever you call them) how to manage their stock in our hot climate!   Now it’s not that I’m a complete imbecile, I’ve often driven past fields of cows in hot weather and found them scrunched up under the one remaining paddock tree but I stupidly assumed that cows were pretty hardy and didn’t care too much whether it was 4 or 40 degrees.  OK so I probably am quite stupid….

Apparently they do care, they care a lot and they can suffer from heat stroke, a situation that hits the hip pocket of the farmer and therefore the economy at large.

Cows get sicker, put on less weight, produce less milk and are generally less interested in life when they get too hot.

Rather like people.

I’m  a person who hates the heat and after six or seven weeks of temperatures here in the Blue Mountains topping 26 C and over 60% humidity during the day and not dropping below 20C over night I’m feeling like a heat stressed cow myself. We have no air conditioning and sadly for me both my office and my lab are hot houses so I’ve literally been melting from around 2pm onwards.  I’ve not been sleeping well and have generally felt like rubbish.

I’ve also noticed how my lack of sleep has had me feeling like reaching for a sugar hit again. I dramatically cut back on my sugar intake last year to improve my overall health and overall I’ve found it easy to stay on the straight-and-narrow until I’ve been faced with the torture that is a long, hot and very sticky summer.

Not only is the lure of sugar hard to resist there is also the urge to just sleep all day.  It really isn’t good.

So, in light of the fact that there are still some big hitting business people and politicians that deny climate change or talk down any climate crisis I wonder how they feel about this?   We are already feeling the economic impact of hot cows and it’s only a matter of time before our humans start dropping in productivity.

Maybe we should start thinking about that.

Wouldn’t want to starve the economy now would we?

Amanda

PS: If you are interested in our farming exploits they are discussed over on my other blog which can be found here. 

 

In Praise of the Good Man Narrative.

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I didn’t expect the film ‘The Intern’ to leave me wiping tears away from my eyes, tears triggered by the utter, utter sweet and tenderness shown by the films main character ‘The Intern’  Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Nero).   I can’t begin to count how many times during the film I  turned to mush and exclaimed ‘that’s what everyone needs, an elder, a good man’. I’m still recalling it with a warm fuzzy feeling today, one week on.

On a personal note, our little family of four swells to a family of five when granddad is in residence – he has a granny flat-out back and has lived with us since emigrating here ten years ago (although he’s often ‘on a cruise’ as you do….). He is our own version of the ‘intern’,  our elder. The family member who can always be relied on to look over the homework, cook a bacon and egg sandwich, tell stories about the old days, pass on knowledge about football and gardening and teach us a thing or two about saving money and making do.  I love the fact that our girls get to grow up with not just one good man (their dad) but two (granddad) and it is all the sweeter when I see the value of a good man being validated and celebrated in films such as this.

But that isn’t the only good man film I’ve blubbered over.  It has been far too hot to do much recently and after a sleepless night on Friday I spent yesterday (Saturday) pining for some escapism. It came in the form of the film ‘About Time’.

About time is a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a thoroughly decent chap – 21-year-old Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson).  The narrative between him and his father, played by Bill Nighy is just beautiful, so touching.  Seeing a young male navigate those early years of adulthood in such a gentle and thoroughly decent way supported by his openly loving father, his perfectly imperfect sister and his mis-matched bunch of friends was so heartwarmingly, especially in a world that often seems hell-bent on individual domination over quiet, collaborative success. The way Tim’s relationship with Mary played out on-screen also warmed my heart and left me hoping that when the time comes my girls find a partner who will love them in that way.

Thanks to both the Intern and About Time for reminding me of the value of a good man narrative and for making me cry tears of happiness at least twice.

 

 

Hope for the Planet : Tim Flannery, David Suzuki, Naomi Oreskes at the Sydney Opera House

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On Tuesday evening I attended ‘For Thought: Hope For The Planet’ at the Sydney Opera House.

Tickets for hope for the Planet

If the truth be known I booked it out of morbid curiosity than enthusiasm really as in the past I’ve been a little critical of Tim’s communication style and had even taken to calling him ‘Tim Flappery’ as I feel he is always in a bit of a tizz.  I didn’t that much enjoy his book (I reviewed it here) but felt guilty about my appraisal of him given that he has done nothing BUT try to help the planet which I’m all for. Also I could see that underneath my harsh glare there was a lovely, intelligent and thoughtful person and one who could no doubt teach me much.  I was going along to give him a second chance.

And then there’s David Suziki. I had never really paid much attention to him before either, mainly because I dislike the way he tends to skip a few steps of logic in his arguments, keeping them ‘marketable’ – the over-simplification trap- thus, in my very critical and scientific opinion rendering his arguments less valid. Again this appraisal of a much-loved and probably very nice guy had me feeling a little uneasy about myself, like I needed to ‘pull myself together’ and gain a little perspective.

I have to confess to never having heard of Naomi Oreskes before this event and having not had time to ‘google’ her before the night I turned up with no pre-conceived notions of who or what she was. Lucky for her given my past track record….

So I paid the $59 ish each per ticket and headed on down into town. I even caught the train and ride-shared home – ultra eco-friendly!

Hope for the Planet

So what was the verdict after all that?

David Suzuki was up first.

This guy has a way with words and a presence that is both warming and intellectually stimulating. I can see why everybody loves him and I too found myself nodding and agreeing with his point of view. I especially loved his anecdote about meeting a corporate suit and telling him to ‘leave his CEO title at the door and meet me as one man to another’, something the CEO was reluctant to do.  I loved the way he boiled human rights down to some simple and well-known truths – we need and deserve clean air, clean water and good food.  A philosophy he has popularised and turned into a movement via his  ‘Blue Dot’ foundation.  The way he emphasised that these three things  should be placed above all others in society, before the ‘economy’ and economic growth.  It reminded me of this:

cant eat money

Only my corporate and personal background, my history reminded me of what happens when you say that sort of thing to the business community. Greeny, socialist, leftie, tree-hugger, dreamer, idealist……

When did these things become insults?

And why did the opposite become divorced from these basic human needs and rights?

I don’t know which is more scary a thought.

The one thing that David said that didn’t resonate with me was the comment he made about mankind being naturally aggressive. I think this is worth discussing in a separate blog post as there is so much philosophising to do but my gut is telling me that this is not true.  As much as I am a fan of Darwin and understand that his ‘survival of the fittest’ mantra does hold weight I can’t help but think that applying this to humanity is showing bias towards a religious interpretation of dominion and is therefore flawed.  I say this after just finishing a book about Aboriginal Culture – Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe.  I see little sign of ‘survival of the fittest’ within that culture and wonder if the blessing of distance and space allowed humans to reach a fuller and deeper emotional growth than societies that grew up in a more invaded and competitive space.  I’d like to explore that further.

Naomi Oreskes.

Interesting, interesting woman  who talked about the history of science and more specifically why we should believe the scientists when it comes to climate change.  Basically she went through the way that the scientific method works and looked at what we do and don’t know until reaching the conclusion that even if the science is wrong we should still probably listen to it as what is the worst thing that could happen?  We would end up with a cleaner, better planet in any case which just has to be a good thing right?  I agree Naomi.

I’ve long been of the mindset that the science doesn’t matter to me in my day-to-day life.  Predictions, models, scenarios etc are all well and good but in reality the environment and the planet is bigger and more complex than we can ever possibly imagine. There is always going to be an element of hope (title of the talks) that we have chosen the right way but just like wearing a seatbelt, eating some vegetables, getting a good night sleep or just saying please and thank you if there IS a better, safer and cleaner way wouldn’t we just do it and not get hung up on the detail?  In this case I think yes.

Tim Flannery.

Aaaahhhhh good old Tim, you were last to speak but by no means least.  Tim spoke about what good things are going on here in Australia and the project that stood out to me most was the greenhouse project in the middle of an arid region of South Australia. Who would have thought it possible to growTomato’s where there is no rain? The greenhouses are watered  by using solar-thermal energy to desalinate water turning salt and sun into some 15 million kilograms of tomatoes, all grown in a pest free environment given the climate and distance from other growing communities.  The very definition of hope!

Tim also talked about the way the Climate Council is funded and is growing, working with businesses and helping to commercialise these fantastic initiatives and bring in investment from all over the world.  At the ‘out there’ conference I attended on Friday this week our very own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mentioned that Australia has a terrible history of commercialising new ideas and technology, well I think he should pop his head in to Tim’s office and see what is possible when government sacks you and the people pick up the pieces. Makes me wonder if our government is actually the liability here.

So did I re-mould my personal impressions of Tim after hearing him speak?  Well, yes and no. I have always rooted for Tim and wanted him to do well but he does have a quieter, more apologetic way of communicating than either David or Naomi but I’ve come to realise that this is not something that Tim should fix, it is something that society should accept and relish. The world is tough enough without people like me trying to bully Tim into becoming a hard-nosed fighter like what I am.

As you were Tim, as you were.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable night and one which I will not be forgetting in a hurry.  I have hope for the planet, not least because people like these three are fighting for it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Out There Summit for Western Sydney. Is this some kind of sick joke?

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Background briefing for the non-local readers out there (yes, all one of you 🙂 )

I live in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, a city that boundaries the far western edge of what is also known as ‘Western Sydney’.  While the Blue Mountains is a city in its own right it is included in this model for Western Sydney although I have to confess to not knowing the full legalities of that.

While Sydney is a beautiful city it is also sprawling with its 4.8 million population (2014) spanning some 12,367 square kilometres with a population density of 380 per square kilometre.

By comparison Greater London has 8.5 million people in 1572 square kilometres giving a population density of 5432 per square kilometre.

As you move further out to the west of the city the suburbs become cheaper in terms of housing affordability, more ethnically diverse and tend to have more social deprivation than those closer to the CBD (although there are inner city pockets with problems too, as with any city).  Along with various social issues, Western Sydney is also very much a commuter belt with many people travelling from the region into the city CBD for work each day, a journey that takes up to 2 hours by train from the top of the Blue Mountains, 1 hour from Penrith or around the same by car (depending on the traffic it can regularly take me two hours to travel 72km).  These long commutes are part of the ‘Western Sydney’ problem and are what has earned us the nickname of ‘squinters’ as each day we drive into the sun both on our way to and way home from work.  Long commutes are a necessity many as the majority of Sydney’s work opportunities exist within the margins of the inner city and that is one thing that this ‘Out There’ summit addressed.

The ‘Out There’ summit and the Western Sydney development plan contains many good ideas, ideas that I am in full support of especially when it means that people can work closer to home thus spending more time with family and less time polluting the airways and clogging up roads.  The summit and the development plans also contain provision for social welfare and environmental management – the development of ‘green’ spaces for leisure, investment in walk and cycle ways and more besides. All of this is excellent especially in light of the fact that many people WANT to live in cities and that city living is not only convenient and economically attractive it is also lighter on the environment, especially when city living is well planned and supported. I doubt there are many of us ‘out here’ that like spending two to three hours commuting each day – there are only so many books you can read or songs you can listen to.

So where’s the joke? What’s wrong with this picture?

While I don’t want to believe that all of this good stuff is JUST a sweetener for the Badgery’s Creek Airport I have to say that after attending the summit yesterday I can’t help but think that especially given the way the day’s moderator Christopher Brown was carrying on.

Badgery’s Creek Airport.

For thirty or more years plans for a second Sydney airport have been muted, promoted and then dropped.  I haven’t been here for any other airport promotional campaigns but I do know from past Environmental Impact Statements that the concerns of residents and objection to the plans have remained the same each time while the landscape of the Western Sydney region has moved on, become more populated and, in the case of the Blue Mountains gained UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Badgery’s Creek location is shown on the map below as the smaller black circle. The bigger one is the populated corridor of the Blue Mountains where I live, the arrows show the main route into the city from the west, the M4.

Western Sydney Airport Location

The map below here shows a panned out view of the Greater Sydney region giving you a sense of the layout of the land. The curved black line is my attempt to show you the area that is ‘Western Sydney’ with everything to the left of the line being included in the development plan that I’m talking about. The map is approximate and the red dot is the Badgery’s Creek area. The planned airport boundary  to the boundary of the Blue Mountains is approx. 8km as highlighted by the green line to help you get some idea of scale.

Western Sydney Rough Overview

The land at Badgery’s creek used to be held by Government agency the CSIRO and has been earmarked for development since at least 1989.  The Medich family purchased the land in 1997 and are actively involved in planning discussions. I saw Roy Medich at the summit. Here he is buying a coffee.

Phil Medich

Like many family companies the Medich group have had their problems and in 2014 Roy went to court to distance himself and his business from his brother Ron who was accused of murdering his business partner back in 2010.  Ron is due to stand trial in July this year. 

Other land holders in the Badgery’s Creek development zone of significant size include Ingham’s Poultry Farm, Liverpool City Council, The airforce and Boral Brickworks.   A full report is available online. 

So what is wrong with having an airport at Badgery’s Creek?

Ok so at this point (as if it isn’t already obvious) I have to point out that I am NOT a fan of the idea that we NEED an airport at Badgery’s creek.

Let’s go on.

The Environmental Impact Statement Period for Public Comment:

On Monday 19th October 2015 a draft EIS was put on public display and remained open for comment until 18th December – just over 8 weeks in the lead-up to Christmas.

On reading the EIS many members of the Blue Mountains community became outraged at the fact that this EIS was nothing new and in fact was a re-incarnation of pretty much every other EIS that has gone before the people and been defeated.   A group – Residents Against Western Sydney Airport sprang up online and people started sharing their comments and feedback. The group has now spread outside of the Blue Mountains (quaint little people that we are) to include people from across the Western Sydney region.

Key Concerns from the EIS process and the Out There Summit.

Several key mistakes were found in the data presented in the EIS including those to do with pollution / CO2 emissions.  These errors were discussed in the RAWSA group and feedback was given to government (as you do during a public consultancy process).  Now you would think that a government document would have version control being as though this is such a pivotal piece of communication but no,  there wasn’t and within a few days of being informed of the errors a new version of the EIS suddenly appeared online without any apology, correction notice or announcement.  I am struggling to write this without expletives……..

Anyway, that wasn’t the only issue within the EIS,  noise levels given in the report are of dubious merit and conversations since including comments at yesterdays Summit were along the lines of ‘aircraft are getting so quiet it’s really not worth worrying your little head about’ or to be less polite ‘suck it up princess’ or ‘stop being a NIMBY’.  This is all in spite of the fact that this airport will rely heavily on freight movements for its profitability and freight planes are often the last to become noiseless and lower polluting given that freight usually doesn’t give a damn if the cabin is a bit loud. Also freight tends to move at night, when it is cheaper and when people in Western Sydney will be trying to get to sleep which brings me onto my next point.

The airport being proposed will operate with no curfew – a 24/7 airport, right over an area that has been outlined for development that is supposed to increase the social welfare of what will be over a million people.  I sat in the ‘Resilient Cities’ breakout room waiting for either Amanda Larkin (CEO South West Sydney Local Health District) or Billie Sankovic (Director, Western Sydney Community Forum) to mention this ‘elephant in the room’ but they didn’t.  A social worker and a health care professional didn’t voice any concerns about how a 24/7 airport might impact on the health and wellbeing of over a million people living around the airport development?   And of course it is not just noise,  this airport is planned for the Sydney basin the west of which suffers from notoriously bad air quality given the way that particulates tend to settle out this way.  ‘Out There is a big smoggy’,  I wonder how our Chinese visitors will feel about coming to ‘clean and green’ Australia when they arrive in a place that is dirtier and more polluted than their country….

I was lucky enough to be able to ask a question at yesterday’s summit, I say ‘lucky’ because the time given over for questions was so terribly short it was almost as if they didn’t want us to speak.  Almost….

Anyway, during the “Planes, Trains and Automobiles: regional Major Projects” section I asked the panel of Tim Reardon (Secretary Transport for NSW),  Brendan McRandle (Executive Director, Dept of Infrastructure), Kerrie Mather (CEO, Sydney Airport), Jim Betts (CEO Infrastructure NSW) this:

“Before we commit to spending any more money on the Badgery’s Creek Airport development process wouldn’t it be a good idea to try running Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport for 24/7 to see how that goes”.

Sniggers from the room.

I was a bit nervous so the question was probably a bit babbled but they got the idea and did answer it.   I asked the question to Kerrie Mathers but Jim Betts answered as apparently ‘that was a question for government rather than Sydney Airport’. I fail to see why but anyway….

I was not happy with the answer which was along the lines of ‘well we can’t do that because of the population areas surrounding the Kingsford Smith airport’.  Which basically means that if they did that the rich folks in Sydney would be outraged and would kick up a right stink.  The take-home message for me was that we would again just have to ‘suck it up’.  It was at this point that Christopher Brown added his comment of ‘well aircraft are getting quieter and I wouldn’t want my kids to miss out on all of the opportunities coming in this Western Sydney plan’.

So let me just take that up here now Christopher Brown.

I would LOVE for my kids to be able to breathe as well as getting rich and enjoying shorter commutes than I have had to endure.

I would also like to think that my children would be able to GET SOME SLEEP as adults who may well end up living in Western Sydney.

It would also be nice if my children could enjoy the beauty that is a Unesco World Heritage site and I’d also like to think that they could bring their kids here to experience some wilderness and solitude.  Maybe.

Now I’ll just take a minute here to tell you something, I am not just some utopian dream-boat hippy living a fairytale life of privilege oblivious of the world around me and the need for progress.   I am expecting insults of that nature at some stage as that is a common tactic of those who lie, discredit those that disagree.  

Pollution and noise aside they aren’t the only reasons that I find this whole thing farcical.

 

 

I challenged the premise that Sydney NEEDS a second airport in the basin during the EIS process especially in light of this:

world busiest passenger routes

The third busiest passenger route in the whole world is Sydney to Melbourne! The 10th is Sydney to Brisbane.

High speed rail could do those journeys in 4 hours, it has been modelled by Beyond Zero Emissions and given the current economic and environmental pressures facing the world it makes absolutely NO sense that this option hasn’t been fully debated.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that an airport only requires investment in the land and airport infrastructure, the skies provide the ‘roads’ and the skies don’t need building whereas high-speed rail would be a much more difficult task to pull off, involving co-ordination across multiple stake holders and layers of government PLUS investment in track building and maintenance but don’t we owe it to our children to be brave and give this ‘OUT THERE’ idea a FAIR GO (fair go is another favourite Government slogan, they think it makes us Westies think they give a shit. The slogan was used in a media campaign to ‘win hearts and minds’ while keeping the real debate from us).

It wasn’t many moons ago that the government was all about eco cities and money was pumped into places like Dubbo and Bathurst.  I wonder if that is now in the ‘too hard’ basket?  Shame really as thinking outside of the basin could tick a lot more boxes and help preserve our basic human rights for clean air, water and food.

Back to original point of challenging the need for a second airport, a Badgery’s creek rail hub linked in to a high-speed rail into the Kingsford Smith airport would be a lovely idea.  Connect Badgery’s creek to the central tablelands and on to Canberra (international airport option 2), the nation’s Capital and then through to Melbourne (international airport 3).  In the other direction link Badgery’s creek with Sydney Kingsford Smith and then on to Newcastle (international airport 4) and all the way up to Brisbane (international airport option 5) and suddenly we are looking smart, connected and more Aerotropolis that you can poke a stick at.  Apparently the book Aerotropolis: The way we’ll live next is the ‘game changing’ book that has provided the rationale behind this latest Badgery’s Creek push.  I wonder what would have happened if they had of passed ‘Hunger Games’ around the chamber……

There is much more that could be said about all of this but I just want to spend a few minutes outlining the other side of the ‘out there’ summit and why I really walked away feeling that well thought out opposition to the plans is as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool.

I’ll put it in dot points and keep to facts only at this point.

out there summit

  • The keynote address was given by Lucy Turnbull, the wife of Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s current Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party.   Lucy Turnbull is the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission: Re Thinking Western Sydney.  From their website: ‘The Greater Sydney Commission is responsible for metropolitan planning in a partnership between State and local government’.
  • The discussion on Planes, Trains and Automobiles included Kerrie Mather (CEO, Sydney Airport), the airport that gets first rights to the running of Badgery’s Creek Airport.
  • The event sponsors included the Celestino property group owned by the Baiada family who also own Steggles and Lilydale chickens.  This group presented a video at the start of the ‘Building Smarter Cities’ discussion panel and are the company set to profit from the development of the Sydney Science Park. The science park presented contained an image of a large food research facility.
  • The Building Smarter Cities also had Robert Rankin (Chair, Crown Resorts) on the panel and Crown went on to win one of the five Pemulwuy Prizes for their work to promote the arts in Western Sydney.   Western Sydney has a gambling problem, mainly with poker machines which are owned and run predominantly by a company other than Crown Casino but it’s a gambling problem nonetheless.
  • The ‘Branding the new Western Sydney’ discussion panel included Lillian Saleh on the panel. Lillian is the day editor of the Sunday Telegraph – a company that went on to win another of the five Pemulwuy Prizes for their work in promoting the airport in Western Sydney.
  • Lendlease and Tafe were another recipient of the Pemulwuy prize. This is a partnership between a major infrastructure development company and an education provider.  Lendlease and Tafe successes were celebrated in the media in June 2015 when they announced the employment of the 500’s apprentice and 50th Indigenous apprentice at the Barangaroo development site.  Barangaroo is the site of the new Crown Casino. 

So that’s that for now.

Amanda