Trevor Cooper's Blog
Where are our heroes?
I attended a recent presentation by Peter Spencer who is fighting a legal battle on behalf of himself and all Australian land owners. His concern is with governments’ systematic erosion of our property rights. I agree with all he says regarding the flagrant and autocratic use of legislation to incrementally remove democratic rights through regulation and I was struck by the parallels in his arguments with my own deep concerns about compulsory fluoridation and amalgamation. In each of these examples the Queensland state government used their parliamentary numbers to push through legislation against the wishes of the people.
With fluoridation, they cynically omitted any provision for prior community consultation despite their own research indicating the vast majority strongly believed this to be a minimum requirement. They also added sections to the legislation that removed any recourse to civil action by those suffering ill effects as a consequence of fluoridation.
As far as the amalgamation of local government was concerned, they enacted amendments to remove an existing legal requirement to hold a public referendum before boundary alterations could be made and denied any right of appeal against the traumatic changes subsequent imposed. This was contrary to the expressed wishes, in the case of Warwick and Stanthorpe, of 82% and 87% of residents respectively.
Peter’s call to the assembled audience to make a stand against incursions upon our democratic rights evoked an enthusiastic response. However, from the public apathy I witnessed during the amalgamation battle and the apparent complacency with which our community awaits the fluoridation debacle, I believe that’s as far as resistance will go.
We have nine elected councillors and I can’t recall a squeak of protest regarding the evident failures of the amalgamation policy or the right of the people to be consulted before fluoridation. Council and government regulation is strangling property rights with little more than token councillor resistance. Looking back over their campaign literature, all councillors promised strong, fearless public representation and yet they remain silent in the face of what I see as constant and flagrant abuses of democratic rights.
Peter Spencer spoke passionately of people power but polite applause from a comfortable seat in a heated hall will not generate it. If our elected representatives will not do it for us, we will have to get off our complacent backsides and demand our democratic rights back ourselves.
Where are our heroes?
July 7 2010
NAME YOUR POISON!
I asked Council what form of fluoride was to be added to our water supply in December this year – they were unable to tell me, other than that it would be ‘as per the State Government guidelines’. The Queensland Department of Health, under whose aegis water fluoridation falls, lists a number of forms of fluoride that are approved for this purpose, including Hydrofluorosilicic acid. I took a quick look at the Material Safety Data Sheet for this chemical (which, incidentally, is an industrial waste product containing lead and arsenic among other things). The emergency overview was startling enough – ‘Corrosive. Causes burns. Decomposes when heated with possible emanation of toxic hydrofluoric acid vapours’ – but the subsequent information had me really worried:
Skin Contact: Remove all contaminated clothing and shoes. Wash skin with soap and large amounts of water for at least 20 minutes. Then rub with calcium gluconate gel.
Ingestion: Do not induce vomiting. If swallowed wash out mouth with water provided person is conscious.
Eye Contact: Flush with copious amounts of water or saline for at least 20 minutes. Assure adequate flushing by separating the eyelids with fingers.
People handling the product are urged to:
- Use only in a chemical fume hood.
- Wear anti-acid gloves made of rubber, nitrile or butyl
- Chemical safety glasses; in combination with breathing protection. Face shield.
- Overalls adequate for use with acids. Rubber boots
- Not eat, drink or smoke whilst handling product
And there are acute effects just for good measure:
- Material is extremely destructive to the tissue of the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract, eyes and skin.
- Inhalation may result in spasm, inflammation and oedema of the larynx and bronchi, chemical pneumonitis and pulmonary oedema.
- Symptoms of exposure may include burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting.
- Symptoms of exposure to inorganic fluorides may include valivation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and laboured breathing. Chronic fluorine poisoning can result in sclerosis of the bones. Calcification of ligaments, loss of weight, anorexia, anaemia, dental effects. Ingestion of large doses can cause severe diarrhoea, and cramp-like pains.
- Symptoms may be delayed up to 24 hours depending upon the fluoride ion concentration. Prevention of absorption of the fluoride ion in cases of ingestion can be obtained by giving milk, chewable calcium carbonate tablets or milk of magnesia to conscious victims. Conditions such as hypocalcaemia, hypomagnesaemia and cardiac arrhythmias should be monitored for, since they can occur after exposure.
And as for the environment:
- Accidental spillage would suddenly reduce pH level due to the product’s acidic properties.
- Local disastrous effects are possible.
- Do not discharge into the natural environment.
Hydrofluorosilicic Acid is on the list of schedule 7 dangerous poisons which:
- Have high to extremely high toxicity
- Can cause death or severe injury at low exposures
- Require special precautions in their manufacture, handling, or use
- May require special regulations restricting their availability, possession or use
- Are too hazardous for domestic use, or use by untrained persons
And this is what council workers, fresh from minimal training, will be adding to our water supply come December! Are you comfortable with that? If not, get on to your local councillors and tell them to do their job and stop this madness!
June 19, 2010
AMALGAMATION - the costly experiment that failed
I see that the Mayor has begun his annual softening up process with dire warnings of double digit rate rises and cuts to services. This is supposed to alarm ratepayers and fill us with expectations of doom and gloom so that when the actual, slightly smaller, rises are announced, while still substantial, don't seem quite as bad as we thought they would be. This is all very well, and it has become a part of standard political chicanery, but really, it doesn't hide the fact that our communities have been well and truly dudded by a state government that forcibly amalgamated the councils of Stanthorpe and Warwick in the name of financial viability, greater efficiencies, better services and lower rates. Amalgamation has delivered none of these, quite the contrary. Councils throughout Queensland are complaining that they are mired in debt. LGAQ surveys show that ratepayers are more dissatisfied with their councils post-amalgamation than they have ever been since the surveys began in the mid nineties. Council functions are ever-more tightly controlled by state regulation with ratepayers footing the bill.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to some of us who tried to fight the process and pointed to the ample evidence from other states and other countries where amalgamation has been tried in the past. The title of this piece, 'Amalgamation - the costly experiment that failed' came from Ottawa in Canada where mergers were foisted upon the unsuspecting populace in 2001 with promises of dramatic improvements that failed to eventuate.
Now, Di McCauley, former Queensland Local Government and Planning Minister, one of the gang of seven Local Government Reform Commissioners that delivered the merger recommendations for Beattie to actuate 'lock, stock and barrel', has recently expressed concern that the amalgamations don't seem to be delivering the benefits they were supposed to. That's pretty rich considering that the Commission saw no substantive evidence or cost-benefit analysis to support the recommended amalgamations - but they did it anyway.
I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Business Council down there is recommending substantial council amalgamations in the city and point to the Queensland experience to support their case. According to their CEO, the public in Queensland are now 'extremely happy' with our amalgamated councils! In Northern Ireland, the government is proposing to reduce their 22 councils to just 11 through amalgamation. They are demanding that councils borrow the 138 million pounds it will cost to effect the mergers and then repay that loan from the savings. I've heard a number of Irish jokes in my time but this is beyond a joke!
Now, the government of Western Australia is poised to follow the Queensland amalgamation script pretty well word for word. We had our 'voluntary' Size, Shape and Sustainability process before Beattie used his government's huge parliamentary majority to ram through the Local Government Reforms, in WA they have their Systemic Sustainability Study Taskforce with Local Government Minister, John Castrilli, threatening that if councils don't amalgamate 'voluntarily' he will have to step in. It seems to be completely irrelevant to them that the WA public is as vehemently opposed to losing their local councils as we were.
Stanthorpe, by any assessment has gained nothing from amalgamation with Warwick and, in fact has lost a great deal. We went from $15 million in the black to about the same in the red. We have lost control over our destiny, decision making is being centralised in Warwick and our businesses are suffering. Rates have risen substantially and services have stagnated - and there are worse times to come. If by some miracle, the LNP wins government at the next state election in 2012, they have assured us that Stanthorpe will be offered the opportunity to de-amalgamate. However, there are many (often with vested interests to protect) who say that it is too difficult and costly to unscramble to omelette. My own advice is that Stanthorpe should seize the opportunity with both hands if it arises. A future as the backside of Warwick is just too awful to contemplate.
There are many, many examples throughout the world where, as the grim realities of amalgamation have sunk in, separation has been effected with little pain or cost. The truth is, Stanthorpe cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to regain its independence. I just hope the community has the strength and courage to resist those who will seek to retain the status quo for their own selfish ends.