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June 23rd 2006
Lessons from Mount Isa

EPA reports to the Qld Government In her latest column, Townsville Green's spokesperson, Jenny Stirling, takes aim at how the Queensland Government nobbled its own Environmental Protection Agency over Mount Isa pollution and the implications for Townsville in anticipation of the Chalco alumina refinery decision announcement - expected just days from now. (Ed.)

How extraordinary! A senior manager of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) places his career on the line by alleging political interference in the operations of that agency's statutory responsibility to police lead emissions from the Xtrata smelters at Mt. Isa and all we get in the local paper is that "kids are to be tested in a new lead scare"; What about the political and environmental consequences?

Tim Powe, the EPA Senior Manager who has since resigned, said in the Australian article that in the early nineties, new environmental laws put pressure on MIM to control its lead emissions from its smelters. MIM followed up with a threat to go off shore with their operations. The industry is still there so it is safe to assume, as Mr Powe alleges, that a deal was struck which remains in place today for Xtrata.

Since that time, ensuing Qld governments have seen fit to side step the Goss government's world class Environmental Protection Act by issuing certain industries (worth over $30 million) 'licences to pollute' through the provisions of its Special Agreement Act. This is how the State government can establish industries like Sun Metals and the Canal estate/ Liner Terminal.

Effectively, what is illegal for yokels like you and me is not illegal for these developers. And what is more interesting is that under the provisions of these Special Agreements, our right, as citizens, to contest these proposals is legislated out of existence.

Personally, I was stunned by the former MIM employee, former Minister for Mines and Energy, Minister of Police, State Development and current Speaker of the House, Tony McGrady's comment about the possibility of high lead emissions not being an issue for people of Mt. Isa.

However, on reflection, I can see how that might be. The people there, like people in the coal industry, have become conditioned to danger, high wages and a history of abuse by mining companies- a toxic combination if ever there was one. One remembers the famous lockout at Mt. Isa in 1964.

In December 1964 MIM sacked their underground miners and closed the gates on the rest of their 4000 strong workforce.

A few months later Mt Isa Mines suspended all operations as a result of the industrial dispute and this saw the Queensland Government declare a state of emergency in the town.

In the melee that followed, the union movement was decimated by internal politics which pitted the Catholics against the communists. Yes, it was the time of the Cold War, the DLP was at the height of its political power and Mt. Isa was never the same again.

I am saddened by the whole issue of the lead emissions but the ramifications for the city of Townsville are too huge to ignore. As the countdown for the Chalco decision looms, people concerned with the health outcomes for this community and the environment need to be mindful of what has happened in Mt. Isa. Are we too going to become conditioned to a cycle of abusing worker's and resident's health and safety, high economic growth and a government which increasingly ignores our rights as citizens for the sake of developers? That, dear readers, is the real worry for then we have no recourse to any justice let alone social justice.

Jenny Stirling

Vote on the magnetictimes.com poll (front page - bottom right column) and tell us if you want Chalco or not.

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Lessons from Mount Isa
 
5 comments
 
Peter F. Hughes
June 23rd 2006
Will Tim Powe's allegations be published? Perhaps the Queensland ombudsman may be interested in reading any publications, I would, especially when Mr Powe documents his evidence and this reader has the ability to decifer his allegations, most serious indeed.
Pollution permits are a common form of 'command and control' policy used by governments in economic situations today. Ofcourse, there is no need for alarm when the government makes a decision based on sound economic policy. The best chance of a good outcome for the environment in Queensland is with the Australian Labor Party.
Jenny, the Labor party was elected to government in Queensland and unless the Greens can initiate any real policies, it will be labor who is elected again.
Elected because it is socially responsible, environmentally responsible and 'The People's Party.'
Best Wishes,
Peter F. Hughes
Waurn Ponds, Vic
 
Dave Kimble
June 23rd 2006
Mt Isa Mayor, Ron McCullogh, has said that Xtrata has exceeded requirements, and he doesn't want to waste time on testing peoples' health. He said earlier this month that he would like to have a nuclear reactor in Mt Isa !

This demonstrates that mayors can not be assumed to have the health of their electorates at heart, and will line up with the polluting industries to help them make more money.

Can anyone doubt that Mayor Mooney's belief system is any different ?
 
trish
June 26th 2006
I read somewhere recently that irresponsible developers have two approaches to the law -
1) Ignore it, and
2) Have it chaqnged.
Whichever is cheaper.
 
jenny stirling
June 26th 2006
Thanks for your comments Peter. I agree with you that the Greens have to come up with real policies and I will be heading down to Brisbane soon with just that message. We need to get our head out of the clouds and be real about what are the real needs of poeple and what's sustainable.

I totally disagree that the Labor party is the people's party. Did you know Peter that for the very first time, the QLD Labor Party has more contributions from the developers than the unions. What does that mean? Well, it could mean that they are doing things right or, it could mean that they are serving the developers interests. I can only go on what I have seen and know as fact and their performance is very patchy. When they build a regional hosptial down to a standard and build Lang Park (rugby league)up to a standard then something is wrong with their priorities. If it were only that, perhaps they could be forgiven but the arrogance with which they have treated people's concerns above the Noosa Line tells me that like all parties which are in power for too long, they need the experience of the back benches to get in touch with reality. The best out come I believe would be if there were more independents and the government needed a coalition with these people and the Greens to govern.
 
Jenny Stirling
June 29th 2006
What can you do Dave? They think progress equates with 'power' :)

Jenny


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