3 August 2011 – To hear the author of these lines read them aloud is to feel something whisk away in my heart:
“ Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”(1)
And whisk away those lines did just now as I read this headline in an online mag called, The Fifth Estate:
Investor Group claims anti carbon price campaign misleads shareholders” (2)
My whisking away heart went back to 1978 when I was young and not easy in the thrall of The Law, and as a lawyer I ran a case against all of Australia’s uranium mining companies, some six or eight of them.
Ahh, what fun. (And, yes, I can remember yelling aloud with Dylan those long nights ago as his voice came out of the vinyl recording of him reading his poetry, ahh.)
The game we played went like this (it’s 30 years ago now and I’m hazy on the details but this is the rub of it):
- In 1978 Justice Fox published his report into the idea of mining uranium – until then something not done in Australia – and public comment was afoot while the government was making up its mind what to do about the Fox Report
- The uranium companies commenced an advertising campaign to persuade the public uranium mining was a beaut idea and no harm could come of it; their budget in 1978 was $1 million or about $20 million or so in today’s dollars
- Mr Phelps, helped by a swag of activist citizens, groups, lawyers and scientists sued the companies to stop them advertising uranium mining as a good thing because, as he saw it, their campaign was saying yellow cake was so harmless you could eat it
- Mr Phelps said their $1 million dollar advertising campaign promoting the mining of uranium was misleading and deceptive under the Trade Practices Act, now called the Australian Consumer and Competition
- To avoid this being argued in the courts the companies took a procedural point saying Mr Phelps had no legal right to take the court case
- When the companies lost what was plainly a time-wasting ploy they appealed to a higher court
- They stopped the advertising campaign and went “underground” lobbying politicians and others
- While the court case was eventually won by Mr Phelps the companies avoided having the accuracy of their assertions decided by a court before the government made a decision.
All very well.
But why did my heart sing in its chains just now as I read about the charge of deception by the “do good” section of industry against the other captains of vandalism we euphemistically call “Australian industry’?
Well, it’s simple.
Where’s the backbone in us these days?
Just a barren landscape of whinging do-nothings-except-talk.
If citizens and activist lawyers could scrape together money to run high profile litigation against six or so mining giants back then what is in the pockets today of “The Investor Group on Climate Change responsible for investments totalling $600 billion”?
They don’t lack money.
Surely they lack backbone?
They sure don’t lack dither.
Of course the ACCC, the body primarily responsible for enforcing the trade practices legislation should have long ago sallied forth into the popinjays who belletrist the acephalous crowd of our age, our industry giants who live only for boodle, seek only the world of the box turtle, and promote a public catatonia in preference to a debate.
The ACCC specialises in the circumambient approach. The public sounds it makes are more like a concerto grosso by the detumescentcourtier that it has become to industry itself.
There’s no backbone about today.
There’s no public man or woman astride the public dreck that the climate change “debate” is here.
There’s a fetid air that’s produced by an Australia that’s all talk and no action. The study of climate change has become “garbology”, the study of discarded waste material where geldings abound, there’s more genuflection to the media release by the do gooder industry in all its forms than there is guts. Yet all the while the howler monkey is king of the air waves, and we are awash with logorrhea sinking in an ethical miasma of mummery. The mammonist is king.
“Though I sang in my chains like the sea”, is a long time ago.
A pox is on us.
(1) Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. And here’s the whole of this last verse in which it occurs:
“Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”
“2 August 2011 – The Investor Group on Climate Change responsible for investments totalling $600 billion is concerned at what it describes as “the misleading anti carbon price campaign being run by a number of industry associations and supported by some of Australia’s largest companies”.
The IGCC said that the campaign is either deliberately misleading about the costs of the carbon price or demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the scheme operates.”
(3) Phelps v Western Mining Corporation (1978) ALR 183
Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach and author (of Sustainable House now in its second edition) who advises, teaches and speaks on sustainability issues. He works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy. He also runs tours of his house on Saturdays. See advertisement front page or, www.sustainablehouse.com.au