Gladys Berejiklian stoking the fires of racism in Northern NSW


Gladys Berejiklian and the ruling Liberal party in NSW are pushing an absurdly Machiavellian ‘public consultation’ process over the future of public access to Mount Warning (Wollumbin). The process appears designed to create frustration and turn it into racial tension, which they will no doubt invent another program to address. They have achieved this by:

  • Excluding people who would be directly impacted by a permanent closure (ie those who want to climb the mountain) from the “public consultation” process on the basis that they are not “key stakeholders.” They will be “consulted” after all of the decisions have been made. The government actually published this strategy.

  • People who have an interest in maintaining public access rights, or who simply oppose racism and sexism in government policy and the abandonment of fundamental principles such as separation of church and state are also excluded from the public consultation process. Their opinions literally do not count.

  • The actual traditional owners are also excluded from the public consultation process, in favour of aboriginal groups from the gold coast area who are onboard with Gladys Berejiklian’s agenda.

  • Opportunistically removing a chain used by climbers in the final ascent under the false flag of safety, while the national park was closed due to covid.

  • Repeatedly extending the closure and delaying a decision on the long term future of the park, and gradually changing their justification from covid, to safety issues associated with the chain, to the religious beliefs of aboriginal people.

  • Passing the buck when it comes to answering public enquiries about the closure. The person who is supposed to be responsible is Matt Kean, minister for the environment. Matt has not been answering enquiries. On July 29 everyone who had contacted Matt got a response from Naomi Stephens from NPWS. This claims to be a direct personal response, but everyone who wrote to Matt got the exact same letter. It did not address any of the issues raised by interested citizens or answer the questions that were actually asked. In Naomi’s response she said not to contact her with any follow-up queries, instead telling people to contact Russell Madeley from NPWS. She included his email address (it bounces) and his phone number (gets directed to someone else’s answering machine).

  • Publishing a postal stamp “featuring” Mt Warning, which actually shows a different, much smaller hill, with Mount Warning in the distant background and with the summit clipped out of the image.

  • Claiming via the NPWS website that “The independent engineer's assessment led to the conclusion that catastrophic failure of this chain section was very high.” Putting aside the fact that this statement does not actually make sense, the engineer’s assessment did not make this claim, and the NSW government have not offered any explanation of how it led to their conclusion. The Engineer’s report was vague on the technical details and contained numerous spelling and grammatical errors. It appears to be highlighting the risk of a single post bending (not breaking) under very conservative assumptions. The report also highlighted that several previous inspections had been done, and several of the posts had already needed to be replaced, with no record of any sort of catastrophe, or any indication indication that the urgent need to take down the chain was previously acknowledged.

The Machiavellian nature of the public consultation process was initially spelled out very clearly on the NSW government website, but has recently been amended to make it appear more democratic. It initially made it very clear that the outcome would reflect only the wishes of the “aboriginal community” and obtain input only from people who are invited to contribute. Here is an excerpt:

the very Machiavellian public consultation process

To be clear, the government’s approach to consulting the public, and the outcome that it flagged from the beginning is inherently racist, and the outcome of racist government policy cannot be anything other than more racism. Not only does it openly admit that whether your opinion counts depends on the colour of your skin, it paints aboriginal people as backwards, superstitious and greedy. Gladys Berejiklian’s government has gone out of it’s way to exclude well known, more progressive aborigines, who happen to be the actual traditional owners and who actually welcome people climbing the summit, and to restrict input to selected members of more distant aboriginal groups who are onboard with Gladys’ agenda.

Gladys Berejiklian’s propaganda has already spawned a dangerous movement among supporters of the closure. They are already taking matters into their own hands and vandalising backpackers’ vehicles in the parking lot of the national park. Reinforcing the racist, self-entitled beliefs of the selected minority behind this behaviour will not solve this problem, it will only make it worse.

Gladys Berejiklian’s government is also endorsing blatant sexism. As with Ayers Rock (uluru), aboriginal men are allowed to climb, but aboriginal women are banned. This is supposedly for the women’s own good. Does Gladys actually endorse this sort of sexism? How many aboriginal women feel liberated by having these outdated, long-abandoned beliefs resurrected by the government and instituted by NPWS policy? All we can know for certain is that the NSW government will not be asking them. Even their opinion does not count.

Gladys Berejiklian has not offered Australians any explanation of whether the government ought to be endorsing a particular group’s religious beliefs and using laws, government institutions and taxpayer funds to impose those religious views on everyone else. The separation of church and state is an old concept in western civilisation. We have learned the hard way that it is absolutely necessary for a functioning society. Gladys Berejiklian seems unwilling or incapable of learning the lessons of history.

Once covid goes away, and the government sweeps its misrepresentation of the engineering assessment under the rug, the only reason they will acknowledge for the closure of Mount Warning is the religious beliefs of aboriginal people. They will pass the buck to those aboriginal groups, who will become the focus of the public’s frustration with this absurdly Machiavellian consultation process. Aborigines from the area will be held responsible for the closure by the broader public and will then have their racist, sexist views open for public scrutiny. They will be expected to justify their actions and their beliefs.

Gladys Berejiklian and her ministers have demonstrated great skill in letting others take responsibility for what is their decision and their responsibility. Will they hang the aborigines of Northern NSW out to dry, or will they invent even more absurd government interventions to address the growing racism problem that they created?

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