During the week I read an article in The Good Weekend entitled ‘What lies beneath’ by David Leser. It chronicles the saga of coal seam gas exploration and the fact that State governments seem to have taken the view that farmers own the top of the land but anything underneath, that for short term gain can get additional revenue into their coffers, belongs to the State. I’m a bit appalled but it got me thinking about the whole ‘big brother’ scenario.
Two things make me scratch my head. Firstly, regarding the issue above, is the fact that a reasonable majority of voters have, over the past five years or more, voted for governments that promise environmental conservation. Yet this is anything but. And then there is the fact that most of the exploration is happening in the most fertile food growing region. Any mishap (and it is certainly in the media that this type of mining is anything but safe) will directly affect the Great Artesian Basin where most of Australia’s underground water comes from and if polluted will significantly affect our food and water quality. Do we really need this type of exploration if it comes at such a cost? And what the heck can I, as a single voter, actually do beside a few letters/emails to local pollies? That often helps, doesn’t it?
Then there is the voluntary issues about big brother. Since the mid-1990s we have allowed personal information about ourselves to be spread far and wide. In the past, in paper based systems, maybe your banker or doctor might have known some things about you. Now we voluntarily put it ‘out there’ via the net on social networks, blogs like this and, by using smart phones, any government agency with a half decent excuse can find out what your daily routine is, can do so. They can easily find what political affiliations you profess, how you spend your money, when/who you talk to, where you are at any particular moment, your special interests and then go about to extrapolate these things to detail your while life from that. And with the apps that are being developed soon we can be part of a network that identifies road imperfections for councils to fix, upload facial recognition of people we might suspect of ‘something’ etc etc. And it all is happening with our tacit agreement or full cooperation.
You could become a bit of a conspiracy nut. However, I always thought that if you were a law-abiding citizen then all would be OK. In countries that have dictatorships or other non-democratic rule, or if you were a criminal, these things would certainly be a problem but in Australia it wouldn’t matter. But now it seems that even here business can influence governments to the extent that personal privacy and even the basic tenant of democracy, land ownership, is up for grabs.
These are huge issues and I’m unhappy about how things are going. Question is, how do we, the average person in the street, do something constructive about it?
Any suggestions beside a letter campaign to local representatives?
And, of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the idea that mining brings economic benefit to local communities? Ask those in WA communities near the huge mines whether the fly-in/fly-out, bring in food in huge trucks brings any benefit to their communities?
Luckily I’m an optimist and I believe we, the voters, will eventually get our way. But at what cost before we do?