March 1st 2013
Don't worry about the CIA Minister
The time is fast approaching when the Australian and Queensland governments have to show that they are willing and able to protect the world heritage, national treasure and tourist icon, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, or slide hugely in favour of the coal industry and the vast amounts of money and influence it has over both sides of politics.
Just now, there is a Yes Minister routine playing out. It's over the release of a "Cumulative Impact Assessment", which the coal exporters have to complete to satisfy government approval to get the go-ahead for the massive coal loading and other facilities at places like Abbot Point near Bowen.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, the coal exporters have completed a CIA.
Minister: CIA!! We haven't upset the Americans have we??
Sir Humphrey: Nooo Minister, not at all. It's a Cumulative Impact Assessment
Minister: Oh thank God....what's that?
Sir Humphrey: It's what we do when there may be a teensy bit of a problem with the environment and building what's needed to export lots of coal.
Minister: Oh, coal. We need coal. Jobs you know. jobs.
Sir Humphrey: Jobs indeed minister and lots of lovely royalties.
Minister: So there's a... teensy bit of a problem is there?
Sir Humphrey: Well, that depends on how we look at it Minister.
Minister: Oh, and how do we look at it?
Sir Humphrey: Well Minister, what we do is carefully divide all the potential problems into nice little slices.
Minister: Like a birthday cake!
Sir Humphrey: Indeed, like a birthday cake Minister. Then we take each slice and get some very good consultants to undertake all sorts of studies. We get a huge amount of data and, when there is enough to look quite compelling, we wrap it around each slice - so to speak.
Minister: Like wrapping them in grease-proof rainbow paper.
Sir Humphrey: Exactly Minister, then we can pick up any of the slices and we dont get sticky icing on our fingers.
Minister Sounds good.
Sir Humphrey: Better still we can use the data to show how none of the slices will damage our precious environment.
Minister: Oh yes, we can't forget our precious environment.
Sir Humphrey: Nooo Minister.
Minister: But surely those rag tag greenies will jump up and down about all the coal we are exporting. That fellow who dresses up as the Grim Reaper scared the bejesus out of me.
Sir Humphrey: Minister, what happens to the coal once it's exported it is not your concern.
Minister: But I'm Minister for the Environment and we are increasing coal exports from 16 to 240 million tonnes.
Sir Humphrey: Indeed you are the Environment Minister and a very fine one at that. But the coal consultants have shown how we can safely wrap all of that up. Remember Minister, you are Australia's Minister, not the World's Minister for Environment. It's not your problem.
Minister: But what about the Reef, The Great Barrier Reef!! Burning all that coal, doesnt that make greenhouse gasses worse for the Reef?
Sir Humphrey: If we don't sell that coal somebody else surely will and then you will have just as much greenhouse gasses and no money to spend from those royalties.
Minister: But but, we have to take a stand. We have to start somewhere. Isn't it the greatest moral challenge of our time!? Surely we can set an example to the world. The voters would understand - wouldn't they?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, would you like to suggest to the Prime Minister that she should make a much tougher decision than the carbon tax. Remember the mining super profits tax debacle? The former PM? This would be a far more more courageous decision Minister.
Minister: Oh, ohhh, yes, well, we can't help our precious environment if we're not in power can we?
Sir Humphrey: Precisely Minister.
And so it goes ...and goes.