It’s ironic that at all levels of government in Australia decisions that might have the most impact on your local community are subject to the least scrutiny.
Major public policy decisions at State and Federal levels are made under the spotlight of parliamentary debate and discussed at length in the print and electronic media. That’s what happens when the budget’s being framed, when they’re looking at the future direction for manufacturing industry or discussing some major environmental policy.
But it seems that as matters come down to a local level decision-making becomes an increasingly opaque process.
Not that the Federal Government has too much to do with things at the local level. While there are federally-funded agencies like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that have considerable local impact, issues that will affect your community are mainly made at State and Local government levels and, despite claims to the contrary the processes that are followed when decisions are being made are far from transparent.
We’re told, of course, that there are opportunities to make our opinions known. Unfortunately we’re not always told what the actual issues are.
Around Bowen over recent years there have been a number of matters where submissions have been sought without the people looking for feedback going out of their way to encourage people to contribute. At times it seems like a case of “we’re only doing this because the legislation says we have to.”
Then the decisions are made and, after the process is complete, if anyone raises concerns they’re told that they should have spoken up earlier.
Which examples am I talking about?
For a start there’s the Abbot Point industrial precinct.
I may be naive, but when they started talking about industrial development I imagined we were talking about a relatively small area actually located at Abbot Point. When the detail was made public I was surprised to find that the area involved was much bigger than that, stretching along both sides of the highway almost as far as Euri Creek.
After the initial announcement the area under consideration shrank, but I don’t seem to recall having seen any suggestions about the size of the area involved when the initial announcements were made.
And in all the kerfuffle about the Chalco refinery I still haven’t seen anything on a map that indicates how big the thing is going to be and exactly where they’re looking to locate it.
A visit to the Chalco website doesn’t exactly leave the visitor overwhelmed with useful information.