26/09/2006 - 22:00

Big blunders sometimes cost lives

26/09/2006 - 22:00


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Every Australian country town has a ‘big’ something. Goulburn has the big merino, Coffs Harbour the big banana, and Perth the big shed (pretending it’s a convention centre.) But the one Briefcase really wants to see, and hear, is the big apology – from the environmental movement over it’s role in two infamous decisions that have helped ruin the environment and kill people.

Opposing nuclear power, which allowed the rise-and-rise of coal in the production of electricity around the world, is the most obvious blunder made by the loony left, drum beating and flag-waving brigade.

As is now painfully obvious from the problem of global warming, the uncontrolled burning of coal is a global catastrophe that might have been avoided if community leaders had not been seduced by the enviro-nuts and looked instead at the science of nuclear power.

But, as they say in those advertisements for steak knives, there’s more – and this is one that Briefcase is staggered has not hit the headlines, because there really is a direct link between a misguided environmental decision and the deaths of millions of people.

In Africa, from the middle of next year, DDT will make its return as a weapon against the anopheles mosquito, the little beast that spreads malaria, a disease blamed for the deaths of one million people each year.

Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (no wonder its name is shortened to just DDT) is not returning on the whim of some dodgy African government. It has been cleared by the World Health Organization, an arm of the United Nations, as not being harmful to humans when used indoors. More interesting, the latest research has been unable to demonstrate conclusively that DDT actually causes widespread damage to animals when used outdoors.

To say this is staggering news is an understatement.

Briefcase is part of the generation that was fed a diet of anti-DDT and anti-nuclear marketing hype. It was considered deeply politically incorrect to question whether the claims of the drum beaters and their tame scientists were correct.

Well, they weren’t. And that’s why there is a need for the big apology, if not to the wider community then at least to the estimated 40 million people in Africa who are estimated to have died from malaria since the DDT ban was enforced on that impoverished continent 30 years ago.

To wrap a few facts around the DDT situation, in case the reader imagines that Briefcase is guilty of the same exaggeration as his enviro-friends, this is what has happened.

This month, on September 15 in fact, WHO issued a statement that gave a clean bill of health to the spraying of DDT indoors in the parts of Africa subject to a persistent malaria threat. Why? Because it “presents no health risk when used properly”.

If there is a drum beater who is in doubt, go to: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr50/en/index.html and read it yourself.

The DDT situation is identical to nuclear power. It is an example of emotion, and uninformed opinion, overwhelming the facts, and the truth – something that we see all too often, largely because too few of us are prepared to question whether what we are being told is accurate, or just propaganda to aid someone’s cause.

Hello Alan Carpenter, wakey wakey. Nuclear power is not the demon you believe, uranium mining is not bad – and neither is DDT.


While on the question of big somethings, let’s not overlook a few more recent examples, such as the big blow-out, and the big nose bite.

The big blow-out is what’s happening throughout the resources world as companies struggle to keep development costs down at a time when commodity prices look like they’ve peaked in the current economic cycle.

The one Briefcase finds particularly interesting is Alcoa’s Wagerup alumina refinery expansion, which won state government approval on September 14, but which is only now moving to the “detailed engineering and design” stage.

The English translation of that situation is that Alcoa has got the government tick it wanted, but that does not mean the project will proceed. How does Briefcase know this? Because it’s precisely what has happened in the past. Alcoa has a well-worn track record of lining up its ducks, and then pausing for market conditions to be just right. And with costs blowing out the window, it would not be a surprise to see history repeat itself.

A second example of the big blow-out is the latest update from Fortescue Metals Group which, surprise surprise, fears that its iron ore project might struggle to meet its construction deadline.

Call Briefcase a cynic, but wasn’t that a rather predictable statement – and probably not the last along the lines of “oops, it’s costing more than we thought and might be a little later than planned”.


The big nose bite, which is a subject almost as delicate as nuclear power and DDT, and therefore something that no-one (other than Briefcase) seems prepared to touch is the Noongar land claim over Perth.

Until this remarkable decision was handed down in the Federal Court, the whole question of Aboriginal land claims had settled into some sort of understandable pattern where old and new Australians had found a way to live together.

Everything changed (again) with the Noongar claim on Perth. Sensible people understand that it is not a claim on backyards, but not too many people fit the description of sensible.

And then there’s the even more vexatious matter of one group of people setting itself aside from the wider community and claiming special privilege based on seniority, or past wrong.

Even sensible people find that hard to swallow, and just wish that tiny minorities (even those who can correctly say we were here first) would stop fighting battles from last century – oops, got that wrong, meant to say the century before the last.


“I know mankind too well to think they are capable of receiving the truth, much less applauding it.”

Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu


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