I’m not a fan of New Age slogans but there’s one I do find myself using from time to time: “The universe is trying to tell me something.” It’s good for when you’ve been trying your darndest to something but every step is dogged by misery, misfortune or misunderstanding. Finally, it dawns: “Maybe I shouldn’t be here.”
I’m just wondering if the universe is giving Barry O’Farrell a nudge. A new voter poll has shown that there could be a backlash over moves to privatise the “poles and wires” – the basic infrastructure – of the state’s electricity system. Opposition is coming from across the board, with National, Liberal, Labor and Greens voters alike giving it the thumbs down.
While the government claims the “poles and wires” are safe from privatisation, there are fears that this could be the logical next step after the passage, last year, of legislation allowing the sale of state power stations at Lithgow, on the Hunter Valley and on the Central Coast.
In order to get support for this policy, the government did a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to allow recreational hunting in national parks. The idea of a quiet family bushwalk punctuated by the sound of gunfire has not been warmly received.
And then, early this year, we get the news that the Game Council – the body that would oversee licenses for recreational hunters – was having some trouble with its acting chief executive. Greg McFarland was facing court over allegations of illegal hunting and the inhumane treatment of an animal at Mt Hope.
The hunting lobby is clearly a loose cannon (pardon the pun); a few more embarrassing incidents could see the whole deal unravel.
It’s clear that both policies – electricity privatisation and recreational hunting in national parks – deserve to go down together. With climate change upon us, finding ways to make the transition to clean energy in a fair, transparent way is an urgent task. Taking the system out of public hands reduces the government’s ability to ensure low-income households are supported and shrouds key agreements in the secrecy of “commercial in-confidence” arrangements. And there’s no getting around the fact that if you’re trying to make a profit out of burning coal, you’re unlikely to want to phase out the burning of coal. A different framework – one that places us in a period of transition from one energy system to another, where investment is spread over generations rather than through quick-fix solutions – is needed.
As for recreational shooting in national parks, a new voice has been added to the chorus of opposition. Yeti enthusiasts (in a recent letter to the Sydney Morning Herald) have begged to be left to loiter in the parks in peace. See, Barry? The universe is onto you.
This was written for the weekly Sustainable Bathurst column in the Western Advocate, Bathurst’s daily newspaper. I am the Treasurer of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network (www.bccan.org.au).