Maleny Voice


Obi Obi Protest Site - 12 July 2005

Beattie Sends In The Boys In Blue - Opinion by Steve Swayne

This opinion article was written hours after the Camp Platypus protesters were evicted from the Maleny supermarket site in a heavy-handed operation involving hundreds of police.

On the cards for some time you might say. A whisper here, a nudge there from a sympathetic policeman or TV crew. A fairly blunt press release from the Police Minister. Everyone knew it was going to happen at some stage. And then they came...

Around 40 people were in Camp Platypus on the early morning of 12 July 2005 when what seemed like a full scale re-enactment of the Joh Bjelke-Peterson era 'police state' began to unfold. Theatre of the absurd as the entire main highway through Maleny was blocked off. Roadblocks, flashing lights, cops on bikes, sirens, a frenzy of TV news cameramen, and reporters preening themselves in the background. A growing awareness amongst the towns people that the show was on. A majority of the police present did not want to be there, and to their credit they dealt with the situation with calm detachment. This, at least, differed from the past when the delight in a good thumping was the highlight of a policeman's week.

The overwhelming police presence had to be seen to be appreciated. At least two policemen and security guards for every protester on site. Even as the town's concerned citizens arrived in greater numbers, the walls of boys and girls in blue formed into solid ranks. One just knew that the full riot gear was only a few paces away in the large vans and paddy wagons...

One by one the Camp Platypus protesters were asked to leave and then dragged away from the camp at the base of the bunya tree. As each person emerged from the now-secured construction site a cheer came from the large assembly of town's people. TV cameras swooped like vultures on those offering more resistance or showing signs of emotional distress.

It was a very emotional and sombre group that looked on as a swarm of contractors began feverish activity on the site, commencing the siltation trap, surveying the building boundaries, installing portable toilets and site offices. The odd delivery of construction machinery met jeers and constination from the protest group. At one point the main road was blocked by a large group seated on the road.

Overlord of the corporate machine, Gregory Quinn, looked at various times like a little Hitler, the cat who had gotten the canary, and a man frustrated and flustered by the accumulated delays. The sheer vindictiveness of his continuing pursuit of those who have been involved in the protest goes beyond company business, he is making it personal, he is taking this home with him to stew over in his sleep.

Premier Peter Beattie today gave one of his typical fence sitting press statements trying to on one hand sympathise with the protesters right to protest, whilst on the other hand lamenting the costs involved in such a large police operation. He is as culpable as the construction workers for what has unfolded in Maleny today. 'You can't stop progress, new jobs will be created, the platypus has other places to live along the creek, this is out of all proportion, oh, Maleny why don't you all just go away'. That is what he really wanted to say. Maleny and the protesters are just another embuggerance to him, another irritating fly in the ointment of his plans to turn Queensland into the next California.

What is the point of having a law to protect a native animal species when that law can be ignored if it is expedient to do so? What is the point of having a law to protect natural waterways if that law can be ignored when it is expedient to do so?

What has happened to our society when a small community has absolutely no power over what happens in their own town by large out of town corporations who can easily throw ten times the amount of cash at greedy barristers than the local councils can to defend their planning schemes. Why bother to create grand new visionary planning schemes for SE Queensland when they are not even enforceable against corporate psychopaths such as Woolworths and Hutchinsons?

Have you ever heard of the death of a thousand cuts? What difference can one little platypus make in the grand scheme of things; we don't need that stand of trees for koalas, they can live elsewhere, who needs that stretch of mangrove trees when a canal estate can occupy the same land and generate lots of rates and tax revenue for the coffers. We've never had it so good. But what will our descendants think when they look at the stuffed remains of the last SE Qld platypus... "extinct in this region for 20 years sonny... if you wanna see one go way down to New South Wales"...

It is time to make a stand against the god-given absolute right of the almighty corporation over everything else. It is time to make a stand against weak and ineffectual legislation designed with an eye on easy development at all costs. It is time to make a stand against the bland awefulisation of our towns so they all look the same. It is time to make a stand against the overwhelming suburbanisation of the entire region. It is time we had political leaders who put the desires and wishes of the people who elected them ahead of the desires and wishes of the business entities who did not.

Whilst there were 150 plus police at the site today, they cannot maintain such a presence for long. The Maleny people have all the time in the world to maintain their tag-team presence at the site. Perhaps we should consider calling upon like minded people in other areas to join us in our campaign here in Maleny.

The issues are not just local:

  • Protection of waterways.
  • The rights of native animals to have viable habitats.
  • The rights of local communities to determine their own destiny.
  • The vastly inappropriate and dangerous power wielded by large corporate entities.
  • The lack of resolve, will, and backbone of elected representatives at all levels of government.
  • The decimation of local economies by large corporate shopping chains.
  • The complete lack of respect for right livelihood shown by national chains such as Coles and Woolworths to our primary producers.

So, when do we make a stand on these issues, when do we say 'enough is enough'? Why not right here in Maleny? That is what we are all here for Mr Quinn. For a very very long time.

Originally published 12 July 2005
First 2 photos by Garry Clarridge, remaining photos by Steve Swayne