I agree with Shane Jones. I'll try not to make a habit out of it. I had the same identity crisis when I caught myself agreeing with Winston Peters. Unnerving ... like being a right-wing resistance boot-boy and waking up on someone's couch with pink lacy knickers, high heels and an "I (heart) boys" T shirt on. Makes you think there may be things about oneself best left unexplored.
Still, on this one Shane is undoubtedly right. The North has been the economic orphan child of the nation for far too long. That being the case, the last thing we need right now is a Fagin to show up and teach us all the importance of work. Good healthy work like: well, mining. Where the benefits will be distributed to all us little orphans equally as long as we don't discuss the details. Yay. More porridge.
When the Russian chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, a man who knows exactly how dependent Russia is on her oil, says mining's a curse, you have to assume it's not because he's an ideologically-driven green nutter. Economic pragmatism seems more likely.
"Many people say we have a blessing in having oil and gas - in my opinion, it is not a blessing it is a curse because it doesn't motivate you to diversify." What he also tried to tiptoe through was that the "resource curse" tends to lead to governance issues because it can foster corruption at every level, making the enforcement of tax and environment laws difficult. Gina Reinhart, the Aussie mining magnate, has made her opinions quite clear on policy issues for which she has not been elected to implement, on everything from immigration to environmental law. It only took the mention of a resource super profit tax in Kevin Rudd's first go as Prime Minister for her and others in the mining industry to launch a $22 million anti-Labor TV campaign. The tax and Rudd were ditched. Hard to argue it had nothing to do with the ads. I would be surprised if Forest and Bird could afford to share their views so stridently.
Australia has suffered from the exact forms of corruption outlined by Ivanov as warning that this does not only happen in "Third World" countries. Eddie Obeid - a New South Wales Labor MP personally gained $100 million in coal deals which the Commission Against Corruption found last year to be the worst case since early Australian colonisers held the country to ransom by monopolising the rum trade.
Gary Howard, Buller District Mayor, says that it's better to dig up and burn Denniston than Chinese coal because it's higher grade. Bless. That makes as much sense as insisting your son shoots up only hospital grade heroin on the premise that it will kill him slower than any of that dirty street dope. We're not exactly talking a rational health plan here. Nature doesn't negotiate which is why the politics of denial are not going to help in future proofing our businesses or economy. Tonight on TV3 The Vote will debate whether mining really is the silver bullet or if we're using it to shoot other, more sustainable industries in the foot. Industries, arguably better suited to getting the North out of orphan status.