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Courier-Mail beats up on public for complaining about cost of 'progress'

Murdoch's Queensland Courier Mail has long been in the business of marketing unacceptable development, but the April 9 2008 editorial read more like a medieval sermon on the benefits of floggings.

“Full story needed on big projects” began with some newspeak and then descended into arguments so crude that one suspected that lack of internal conviction was snarling up logical expression.

The editorialist started off by conflating ‘growth’ with ‘progress’, thus giving the concrete entombment of Brisbane a positive spin. Towards the end, in a kind of third-word medical metaphor for torture, s/he crudely compared undemocratic development with medicine and going to the doctor for an abdominal operation. We were not expected to like what we are told is going to happen, but it is clear that we must accept it. To object to being slashed open in order to …what?... would be unreasonable, apparently.

“Progress will sometimes hurt, but like an unpleasant visit to the doctor, it will hurt less if you are warned in advance of what to expect, rather than having a line drawn through your torso and told this is where the operation will happen.”

Shock treatment without a muscle relaxant would seem a little more congruent to the situation than abdominal surgery. Unless this is some kind of medieval operation to remove our persistent ‘bile’.

The writer (or the mad doctor) tells us that ‘We’ all want progress. It isn’t too clear what progress is, from the editorial, and the doctor seems to be hedging about the outcome of the operation, or its reason. Nonetheless, we must suffer for this abstract thing.

If, like most of us, you don’t want to suffer, and you aren’t sure what progress is anymore, you might feel that you are the only person in Brisbane who feels this way and you probably won’t dare raise your voice to protest.

The journalist-social psychiatrist hits potential protesters against the operation for progress with, not just NIMBYism, which isolates with the charge of selfish the person fighting to defend their territory, but with the dreaded “BANANA” acronym. (See 'Damn 'em all', 23 May Courier Mail, Brisbane, Australia.)

BANANA is even worse than ‘selfish’; it means Totally Unreasonable, maybe even certifyably insane; certainly indefensible. BANANA stands for, “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”

The charge is that Queenslanders are objecting to nearly every development that goes up.

Well, Mr Editor-doctor, the fact is that Queensland is very densely populated and developed, so it is pretty difficult to find a place to develop which isn’t close to something else. And, with all this development, why should ‘we’ need, let alone ‘want’ more? We don’t like it, so we are protesting.

Brisbane has far less green space left than Sydney and Melbourne. It is obviously overdeveloped and overpopulated:

“ o•ver•pop•u•la•tion (vr-ppy-lshn) n.
Excessive population of an area to the point of overcrowding, depletion of natural resources, or environmental deterioration.”

We are suffering all three of these symptoms in Brisbane. Why can't we admit we have a problem and stop the cause rather than just trying to manage the effects! (Jennie Epstein in Victoria, slightly paraphrased.)

The editorialist-doctor sympathetically admits: “No one wants a freeway, chemical plant or a new power station at their back door …“but,” (s/he concludes harshly informing us that we cannot escape the symptoms of the progressive disease, or curse) “… these things are a fact of life if we are to cater for the needs of a rapidly growing state.”

The dishonest implication, from the main newspaper, the Murdoch voice of authority in Brisbane, is that Queensland’s extreme population growth is some kind of irresistible Brisbanite fate, like Sysiphus’s was to push a stone up a hill every day, except that, in Queensland, that stone gets bigger every day, and so does the propaganda we have to swallow.

What must Queenslanders have done to the Gods to provoke such punishment as

“freeways, chemical plants and new powerstations at their back door; transport corridors and dams which endanger the environment and destroy local communities ...”

... which the editorialist identifies as our inescapable fate?

The editorialist tells us moreover that many of us may be economically inconvenienced or have airports expanded on our “comfortable backyards.” (This was only to be expected, apparently, and we should have moved somewhere else if we didn’t want our surroundings to degenerate into overpopulated slums. Quite a few of us should perhaps have enquired more carefully before being born here.)

Incredibly, the editorialist equates these sufferings with “our very comfortable 21st century lifestyle.”

And that is not the end of our sufferings: No, we must endure dispossession if we are to avoid dying of thirst in the short term. Nevermind the long term.

Our water security is threatened by population growth, which for some reason we cannot question. That population growth was brought upon us by the developer-serving Queensland Government, which advertised far and wide for it, interstate and overseas. Now we have to put up with the ‘solutions’ for water security which the government that made our water insecure tells us it must foist on us.

For stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to men, Prometheus was chained to a rock. Every day an eagle came and tore his liver out and ate it. During the night it would grow back, only to be torn out again.

Was that the operation?

How bad must it get? It could get a lot worse if our progress takes on the shape of India’s or Africa’s or Chile’s. But, as that dear old man, Augustus Pinochet once said, “Sometimes democracy must be bathed in blood.”

We can be sure that we will be told that it is good for us when that happens.


I wish the Courier Mail's readers would see this on the front page

Whoops! Don't know how I got the date so wrong. It was the April 9 editorial in the Courier Mail, Brisbane. I have now corrected this.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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