May 23rd 2006
Send Chalco your message
With the public disquiet growing daily over Townsville's quest to be the site for the Chalco aluminium refinery, magnetictimes.com welcomes a new columnist, Townsville Greens' Convenor, Ms Jenny Stirling. Her first column follows.
I have just finished rereading a news story about Townsville Enterprise CEO, Glenys Schuntner where she talks about meeting a visiting delegation from the Aluminium Corporation of China (Chalco). Ms Schuntner says, "We will be making them feel welcome and showing them that Townsville welcomes investment" (TB April 18th -click here). The reason for this welcome is that Chalo, the world's second largest alumina producers, is going to decide within a few weeks where it wants to build a new alumina refinery- Townsville, Bowen or Gladstone.
On June 3rd the people of the surrounding suburbs of the State Industrial Development Zone near Stuart, Wulguru, Annandale, Oonoonba, Alligator Creek, South Townsville and Railway Estate will have a chance to give Chalco a vastly different message. A community forum will be held at the Wulguru Community Centre, 1.30 pm where people will be able to ask the kinds of questions I feel sure Glenys neglected to ask Chalco. For example, what are the health and environmental impacts of an alumina refinery around the world? For your information:www.saanet.org.kashipur/docs/seenalum.htm
Interestingly for Townsville, a city that wants to be known as a major tourism spot, Ms Schuntner has effectively announced to the world that we are a third world destination because as with many dirty industries, production is increasingly concentrated in the global South. Indeed, with energy and labor prices escalating in the industrialized West, new capacity almost always is proposed in the developing world. Dr. Kua Kia Soong, head of a non-governmental coalition in Sarawak asks, "Why do we want toxic and energy-hungry industries such as aluminum smelters? Aluminum smelting is one industry that the developed countries want to dump on suckers like us because it is environmentally toxic and it consumes voracious amounts of energy." Why indeed?
Over in Western Australia, it seems employees are not happy with their working conditions at Alcoa, the world's largest manufacturer of aluminum products. The executive Director of Population Health at WA Health Department, Michael Jackson says a panel identified a range of symptoms that both residents and workers are experiencing varying from headaches, irritations of the eyes, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and lethargy. Jackson believes that the most severe symptoms are being experienced by the workers and he believes that it will be extremely hard for these people to recover. Public Relations Manager for Alcoa WA, Brian Doy says that the company agrees with all the panels recommendations (www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2005/s1471209.htm). As for the official reports from the relevant WA government departments, it appears the Department of Environmental Protection relies on Alcoa to monitor themselves for possible health impacts from its refinery emissions.
If any Magnetic Islanders would like to be part of that Community forum, please ring (07) 47290226 or 0431737870 for details.
Just so you know who she is, Jenny provided this short backgrounder:
I am a mother of four and a postgrad social work student at JCU. In 2005, I was elected as President of the Postgrad Student Association, which means I attend lots of meetings and write letters to the editor in my spare time. As the Townsville Greens co-convenor, I advocate on social justice and environmental issues while forgetting to turn the tap off while I clean my teeth. I am not much good at recycling either but I don't eat junk food (much). I am a practicing Christian who would rather walk for workers rights than cook and clean house. Unfortunately, I am also a product of my working class upbringing. So I bend my house wife's knee and genuflect at the stove, washing machine, clothes line and ironing board. As a feminist, I yell at my son for wasting my face wash creme, while editing his law assignment. In my former capacity as lay minister in the Anglican Church, I have married, buried, baptised and preached sermons. I like to sing and am currently with 'Aquapella' the acapella choir which is made up of wonderful people from Maggie and the mainland. Growing up in Innisfail, I am rather nuts about the rain, the beach and the rainforest, which is why I hate swimming.
In short, I am not a role model for the political correct..