Page 745 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005
catchments in the world. We had some of the best quality water for drinking purposes in the world. For the most part, we could reticulate water to Canberra homes without any augmentation—any chemical addition, any purification, any filtration—because we had the best water catchment in the world.
The failure of 8 January 2003 was that we did not put out the fires when we had an opportunity, and we let the catchments burn as a result. We are here today addressing the failure that occurred on that day—and we will reap the benefits or we will reap the adversities of that failure for 50 or 100 years to come. This will not be the last debate about the quality of the water catchment in the Cotter because of what happened on 8 January or what did not happen on 8 January.
We have to face up to ourselves and realise that collectively we failed on 8 January, and we are confronting that failure today by confronting other failures of the Minister for the Environment: his failure to consult, his advice-shopping to find the most convenient advice. What we see today is something that the members of the opposition have been talking about for a long time: the capacity of this Chief Minister, this Minister for the Environment, to undertake what we call “Stanhoping”.
There is a great tradition of eponymic verbs in the English language. The most obvious and longstanding one is to boycott. A more modern version would be to pilger, which roughly translates as to exaggerate an apparent wrong to the point of making the intelligent and otherwise impartial person sympathetic to the supposed wrongdoer. And now in the ACT we have come up with a new example of this, which is to “Stanhope”, which has now entered the Australian political lexicon. There are several variants, but a good definition might be “to shift the blame from one’s self and one’s government by misrepresenting criticism of the government as criticism of honourable people whose actions are undermined by government incompetence itself, and to do so, usually, with a quavering voice”—you know, “You have to be nice to the volunteers.” Firefighters—especially volunteers—nurses and teachers are three groups that have been “Stanhoped” in this way. And there is also a tactic for the “Stanhoper” to bask in the reflected glory of the group in question.
What we have here today is classic “Stanhoping”. We had it yesterday when Mr Stanhope attacked Dr Foskey—and, I think, the Canberra Times in the same breath—for her “ideological” campaign against forests, against pine trees. The only person who is being ideological in this debate is the Chief Minister and Minister for the Environment, who is ideologically sticking to his own point of view, refusing to be gainsaid by anyone.
There is a timely reminder of how we should be approaching this debate in yesterday’s article by Mr Sandy Hollway, the chair of the Shaping our Territory Working Group, where he says that, rather than bickering and misrepresentation—and I do not want to be involved in misrepresentation in this issue—the debate “should be led by dispassionate, expert analysis of options, costs and benefits”. I wholeheartedly concur with Mr Hollway that there should be dispassionate and expert analysis of options, costs and benefits, and that is what this motion proposes to lead to today.
What the motion calls for, for the most part, is a temporary halt to forestry operations while this issue is reviewed in a public way. And the first step to reviewing this issue in