You expressed utter disgust and rightly so at the land clearing in Queensland, and you wrote:
"It becomes abundantly obvious to me that getting through to farmers and bureaucrats is to some extent non-existent." .... "Are there any thoughts on this?" you asked. Here are some.
1. In Queensland for several decades past, any conservation-minded public servants have been side-lined, eased out of the service or in some way rendered ineffective.
2. The Public Service is now largely in the hands of "managers", mostly lacking in in-depth technical knowledge, but expert at telling Ministers what they think the Ministers want to hear, rather than advising them on the real situation and the options available.
3. Ministers are drawn solely from the ranks of the politicians, with preference given to the Party faithful, other things being equal. My observations led me to conclude that when Joh was Premier he had a firm policy of never appointing a Minister who knew more about the portfolio concerned than did Joh himself. (You might think that would be difficult to achieve this 100%, but if you stop to think of the National Party material he had to work with, you'll realise it was possible. I recall two conservation ministers who were performing really well (for conservation), so Joh removed them from the portfolio.
4. Joh so entrenched the non-technical managers that it's now virtually impossible to undo that situation.
5. Labor Premier Goss tried a knowledgeable Conservation Minister in Pat Comben, who (apart from other things) knew his birds quite well. ... But Goss too shifted Pat to another portfolio.
6. The first priority of any politician is to retain his/her seat at the next election. Next after that is, if in Government, to stay in power or, if in Opposition, to gain power. Only then is consideration given to what is good for the nation, the environment, future generations, and similar matters, and only such actions as appear unlikely jeopardise the first two will receive genuine consideration.
7. A side-issue is that of factions within the political party. It can at times be very important. With the Queensland Labor Party, it is.
8. One may distinguish a Statesman (Statesperson?) to whom the above does not necessarily apply. The Statesperson may actually put public good ahead of personal considerations. But they have been rather thin on the ground in Australia for a long time and in general, party politics will ensure they remain that way.
9. Yet I wonder about Peter Beattie: he managed to achieve a Regional Forest non-agreement for South-eastern Queensland that really is in the public interest. "Non-argeement" rather than RF Agreement, because Beattie by achieving a minor miracle and getting all parties in Queensland to agree to the RF n-A, greatly upset Federal Minister Wilson "Iron-bar" ("Ironbark"?) Tuckey, who at least initially refused to sign the agreement, presumably fearing that other States might want something similar that really does protect the biodiversity and the environment.
10. So perhaps there is some hope on the horizon for bringing sense to the Queensland land-clearing situation. But any statesman-like tendencies that Beattie may have must be tempered by the harsh reality that he can do things only while he remains in office. Offend too much of the electorate and he'll be out at the next election.
11. What Beattie needs to be able to act, is for it to be clearly seen that there is strong public support for the action. Increasingly, such support is becoming apparent on the land-clearing issue. My guess is that Beattie is already pushing hard behind the scenes to limit land clearing but by achieving consensus rather than confrontation. Time will tell.
You can help:
If you want to help, then write to Beattie expressing the sort of sentiments you have put in your email. Write to newspapers. Write to any Primary Producer organisations you can find. It all helps. And if any birding-aus subscribers from outside Queensland would like to write, please do so - reminding the recipient, that protecting Queensland's environment and biodiversity is something of great concern not just to Queenslanders but to all Australians and people all around the world.
The 1999 Queensland Government Executive Directory (which anyone can buy from the Government Printer (aka GOPRINT) lists these addresses:
The Hon. Peter Beattie MLA, Member for Brisbane Central and Premier,
PO Box 185, Brisbane Albert Street Q 4002 CDE M31;
The Hon. Rod Welford MLA, Member for Everton, Minister for Environment and Heritage and Minister for Natural Resources
PO Box 456, Brisbane Albert Street, Q 4002 CDE D53;
Thanks for your concern.
Syd Curtis at Hawthorne in Queensland.