OPINION: C'mon Barry, give us a reason to believe

BARRY, Barry, Barry. We need to talk.

(OK, I know we talked on Monday, but work with me on this.)

I know that deep down, in your heart of hearts, you're trying hard and doing your best.

And I can imagine your job isn't easy, trying to run the state and keep everything tickety-boo.

Hell, you may even believe you've really got the answers and are making progress.

But Barry, I gotta tell you: despite what good intentions you may have, I think you've got - as they say in PR circles - a bit of an optics problem.

I mean, what's happening right now with CSG and mining development really doesn't look as good from where I'm standing as you might think it does from where you are.

You see, coming into the 2011 state election - back when you were in opposition - I, like many others, latched on to the promises you made, believing you would make a real difference. After the planning chaos of the former Labor government and the corruption that's now been exposed, you were our saviour. "Triple bottom line" was music to our ears. At last, some balance. At last, a commitment to "give people a real say on issues affecting their local community". At last, a promise to identify and protect strategic agricultural land, along with critical industry clusters.

But more than two years down the track, I'm not so sure the contents of the package we're being delivered match the description that was in the catalogue when we ordered it.

From where I sit - and many communities around the state along with me - it looks like most of those promises have been thrown out the window (along, presumably, with the promise to resign if you failed to live up to your promises).

What it looks like to us is that if it doesn't like the outcome according to the rules, the government will change those rules to get the outcome it wants. (Gee, sounds just like some of Labor's old antics, doesn't it?)

How else are we to interpret the proposed new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that makes the economic value of the resource the principal consideration in a decision as to whether or not a mine should go ahead?

To me, that sounds less like "triple bottom line" and more like "single bottom line with a couple of other bits that are more a nuisance than a help".

Or have I missed something?

And what are we to think when - instead of leaving the Rio Tinto goliath to fight its own battle in the Supreme Court, appealing the decision that went in tiny Bulga's favour - your government actually joins in on the side of the big guy?

I mean, couldn't you just at least try to appear impartial?

Like I said, the optics aren't good.

Where's the Barry we saw back then, back when there was an election to be won? Where's the super dude in the red "Water not Coal" t-shirt? Where's the Barry who promised no mining in water catchments with "no ifs, no buts"? Where'd he go?

Like many others, I had been clinging on desperately to the key promises that the old Barry made. I believed, under a Coalition government led by that Barry, some sanity would be restored and - most basic of all - some really, really important promises would be kept.

Like giving people a real say on issues affecting their community. (Gloucester, anyone?)

Like the "Water, not Coal" thing I mentioned before.

Like (truly) protecting farmland. (I have to tell you we're not feeling very protected here in Bylong - and I'm sure that's even truer for the folks on the Liverpool Plains.)

Oh, and protecting biodiversity. Let's not forget that one. (It's OK, I won't mention the Pilliga or, indeed, the Warkworth sands woodland that Rio promised it would never mine.)

Now before you go all weasel-wordy on me and try and explain how I'm wrong, or I just don't understand, or how everything that's happening is really for the greater good, let me just say this: I don't buy it. Neither do many others in scores of like-minded groups and communities across the state.

That's why, today, we'll be gathering outside the Supreme Court in Sydney, standing with Bulga and tearing up copies of this list of key promises you made.

Tearing them up because they don't seem to mean anything any more.

Tearing them up because we're tired of pretending like it'll all be OK.

Tearing them up because you need to see and understand just how angry and disappointed we are.

You know the last time I checked, corporations - and especially foreign-owned ones - don't actually get to vote in NSW state elections. We, the people of NSW, do.

Is it so stupid, then, to think that if you're going to be on anyone's side, it should be ours?

Government "of, by and for the people" and all that.

Go on, Barry. Give us a chance to believe again.

Ditching your government's proposed SEPP changes - and putting "triple" back firmly with "bottom line" - would make an excellent start.

Craig Shaw is the secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance.

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