The recent debacle about the Orica gas leak in Newcastle, Stockton, New South Wales, Australia – Google Maps has me scratching my head. Not that the leak happened, it’s almost inevitable that living near any heavy industry something will go wrong sometime. Nor even that the company took so long to report it – self-preservation I sort of understand even though it’s not necessarily right. What appals me is the way the NSW government handled the affair. One of the journalists who uncovered the Watergate Affair is quoted as saying that cover-ups never work, especially if it is big.
So watching the 7.30 Report on ABC last night and listening to the NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker try to gloss over the fact that the Regulatory Body took far too long to notify the residents of nearby suburbs affected by the gas was painful to watch. She tried to blame Orica, and yes, they had a part to play. But they only waited 16 hours to notify the Regulators. What happened to the remainder of the 36 hours before those affected were notified?
It seems that if Orica had done the right thing and called the emergency 000 the Stockton Emergency Plan would have been put in place. That not being the case and 16 hours elapsed, the additional 20 hours or so could have made all the difference to long term health of people affected. So for goodness sake, tell the truth, fix it and be honest with people. They, after all, vote for you Minister. Oh, and it is no use telling us about the Hunter Valley when it was Newcastle that was affected. Such obfuscation if far to obvious.
There seems to be a culture in governments that say you cannot admit you stuffed up. And so no wonder people don’t trust governments. A large part of this is because if you admit to a failure the media will go on a spree as will the Opposition. So honesty in government is heavily affected by what the media might say and how that gives ammunition to the Opposition. But how much ammunition do you give them with a cover-up or badly trying to shift the blame?
The question is does this do anyone any good? We are all human. We have human reactions and sometimes they are simply the wrong ones. As individuals we are encouraged to admit wrongdoing and learn from our mistakes. But obviously this doesn’t stand for an organisation that makes billions of dollars nor a government.
I realise it’s naive to ask governments to tell us the truth but it really what we all want. They want us to trust them but when we get lied to, how can we.
So that was my rant for today. I guess it’s been a bugbear for a long time, with likely no end in sight.
Might actually be an interesting theme/premise for a novel – wait, that’s been done several times – The Jungle, Upton Sinclair and Erin Brockovich etc.etc.