16/04/2013 - 06:34

All is not lost for Kimberley development

16/04/2013 - 06:34


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While Woodside’s decision on James Price Point is a disappointment, it doesn’t mean economic development of the Kimberley should be put in the too-hard basket.

WITH the economic prospects of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley uncertain after Woodside Petroleum put its onshore gas project at James Price Point on hold, we are left wondering whether the region should now be classified a basket case.

I’ve previously (light heartedly) raised the idea of excising the Kimberley from Western Australia and handing it to the Commonwealth so, like Tasmania, the rest of Australia can pay for decisions to block development that largely emanate from inner-city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.

A great idea in theory, maybe, but it would not work. The people of Sydney and Melbourne don’t pay for Tasmanians’ unwillingness to generate income from their abundant assets – we here in the west do. And so we would if the Kimberley was run by Canberra.

Despite Woodside’s decision – based on the long-term economics of gas rather than the populist protest driven by greenies and rock musicians – it is clear from the state election that a majority of Kimberley voters does want a gas hub.

I have to give credit to Tony Barrass from The Australian newspaper for his analysis of the recent state election results that showed the Greens had 23 per cent of the vote (at best), which means three out of four voters favoured parties that wanted the gas hub to go ahead.

Even if that interpretation of results is being generous, more than one in five voters who gave the Greens their first preference actually provided the Liberal candidate, representing the government pushing James Price Point, with their second. That is extraordinary.

It is notable that, outside Broome, the Greens barely managed less than 10 per cent of the vote; but even at polling places in Broome the Greens’ vote was only 36 per cent – hardly a majority view.

In fact, even if you remove Labor from the calculations, more voters wanted the conservatives’ approach to economic development than the Greens’.

This week the winning candidate, Labor’s Josie Farrer, has had a bet each way by demanding that the Aboriginal people of the area should retain the $1 billion-plus benefits package agreed by the first Barnett government if the hub went ahead.

This is the same silly argument that the Greens have made – not only that people ought to get something for nothing, but that somehow spending on welfare is going to advance Aboriginal people without the much-needed jobs that come with long-term sustainable industry.

While last week’s project news was disappointing, the votes from Broome and the rest of the Kimberley indicate that the majority of people want something to happen in the form of onshore gas development or, at the very least, real economic progress.

Mr Barnett ought to take heart from this and continue trying to help the Kimberley to help itself.

Ditch the hypocrisy

LAST year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had a temporary improvement in the polls when she labelled her male opponent Tony Abbott a misogynist in a rousing speech that garnered international attention and won praise.

While many anti-Gillard voice in the blogosphere are feral and could be interpreted as misogynist, Mr Abbott was drawn into this area mainly for appearing at an anti-carbon tax rally where a sign stating ‘Ditch the Witch’ was waved behind him.

Although politics, both inside and outside of parliament, is rough, the witch connotation is nasty and unnecessary. Those on the left side of politics had a field day, connecting Mr Abbott with that term.

Yet it is intriguing to see that those on the left of politics, in Britain at least, who hate Margaret Thatcher have pushed sales of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead to the top of the charts in Britain.

In their rush to celebrate they expose their hypocrisy.



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