Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garrett's short Four Mile memory

Regardless of what one thinks of uranium mining, there can surely be no argument that the decision by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to approve the Four Mile uranium mine in the northern Flinders Ranges area proves that parliament is the graveyard of principle.

We often talk of this or that political party “getting in to power” when they win an election. Really, this betrays an illusion about the workings of bourgeois democracy.

It would be better to say that this or that party “gets in to office” because the real power is with the giant corporations and financial institutions that provide the backbone of the ruling class.

Peter Garrett is the former lead singer with rock band Midnight Oil. The Oils were famous for their advocacy of social justice, of land rights and of the environment. They were famous for their opposition to multinational corporations, to US military bases in Australia, and to nuclear arms and uranium mining.

When the campaign to prevent the Ranger uranium mine was at its height, the Oils staged a concert at the edge of the mine territory (below).

Garrett became President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, was on the international board of Greenpeace and a founder of the Nuclear Disarmament Party.

The Labor Party recognized Garrett’s popularity and decided to kill two birds with one stone. By offering him a safe Labor seat and a front bench portfolio, they could benefit in the wider community at voting time by having a high profile pro-environment candidate on their team. And by having him “inside the tent pissing out” rather than “outside the tent pissing in” they removed him as a threat and neutered him politically.

In a pathetic echo of his former self, Garrett said the approval was “a difficult decision”.

“I am a team player,” bleated the man who went to the 2007 ALP Convention to argue for no expansion of uranium mining, and lost. And how could he hope to win when Labor’s continued occupancy of the government benches is conditional on them not upsetting big business, when in fact the party he represents is completely unblushing in its acceptance of its embrace of the business community and their needs. This is a party that has leaned well the lessons of the constitutional coup that toppled the Whitlam government.

Garrett is now a despised figure. He is hated as a hypocrite by a wide section of the community, yet is still regarded with suspicion by many in the business community.

Such is the fate of those who think they can make a difference by working from within the capitalist Labor Party.

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