Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Political indifference to corporates who pollute

(Photo courtesy of Chris Twomey, Senator Rachel Siewart's office)

The indifference of State and Federal governments and the responsible authorities to the West Atlas oil spill continues a long tradition here in Western Australia.

Here in the West mining and resource multinationals are given plenty of slack when it comes to their destruction of the environment, and harm to human wellbeing and communities.

Environmental standards are regularly ignored or brushed under the carpet in the face of multi - million dollar profits and royalties. In addition to the environmental harm, the social harm and damage to the fabric of communities and the harm to human wellbeing are routinely trivialised or ignored. Think of the social and community harm done to Western Australian communities such as Port Hedland, Roebourne, Karratha, Ravensthorpe, Hopetoun, Yarloop and Augusta. Or the massive impact on human health resulting from lead poisoning in Esperance or multi chemical exposure from the Wagerup refinery. Or the families and children impacted on by deaths due to lax safety standards . Or the social costs to families and communities of the fly in fly out lifestyle.

The Atlas oil spill is now one of Australia's worst oil spills. On 21 August 2009 gas and oil began leaking from the West Atlas Mobile rig in the Timor Sea. The rig is located 250 kms off the Kimberley Coast, in what is recognised as a pristine marine environment. The area is acknowledged as a"marine superhighway" for whales, flatback turtles, fish and bird life.

There has been no sense of urgency or serious concern from either State or Federal governments. They did all they could to play down the seriousness of the incident, to claim that all was under control and that the spill posed no threat to the environment, to marine life and the WA Coastline.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has been the only political and business leader in this state to speak publicly about the seriousness of this issue and to question the lack of urgency shown by the company and State and Federal Governments.

There has been some tough talk from the Federal Government. One interesting issue is whether the spill represents a breach of the WA Pollution of the Waters by Oil and Noxious Substances Act 1987 and if so whether any charges laid

Compare the indifference and unwillingness of the Barnett Liberal National government to act against corporate polluters of the environment, with their vigorous pursuit of young people who use a spray can to tag a suburban wall

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