Meeting the Ministerial Advisor
a report of the meeting with Scott Cardamatis,
policy advisor to the NSW Minister for the Environment, 26 May 2006


Amy Bell, Lake Cowal campaigner of Blue Mountains Friends of Earth, her 1 year old daughter Lucy, and I met with policy advisor, Scott Cardamatis, (apparently a kangaroo mob expert) in the chambers of the Honorable Bob Debus, NSW Attorney General, Minister for Environment, Member for the Blue Mountains, on Level 35 of Macquarie Tower, Sydney.

Since Scott could not come to us, we had gone to him and getting there was a tribute to our commitment and determination. Amy had struggled through 60 km of public transport with Lucy on her back, and me in Happy Wheels with Jennifer through heavy traffic putting out $30 in petrol, tolls and parking.

Scott complained that we were half an hour late. "Next time you come to us," I said with some tart. I noted that the meeting room had no windows and no views: those, it seems, are preserved for more important folk.

It was Lucy's first ministerial delegation and while she gamboled with a bin liner amongst amongst potted plants and white boards, at my request, Scott told us his story.

It was he who in 2002, after nature conservationist, Neville Schrader OAM, blew the whistle on the North Gold's Parkes mine, had climbed the fence of the Parkes gold mine in 1996, filmed the bird kills on the tailings dam and broke the story. Hero!

It was he and his mate Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre who had challenged the EIS process for the Lake Cowal mine through two hearings. Long distance runner!

It was he and his mates who signed off the integrity of Lake Cowal once they had negotiated deals with the miners, including the establishment of the Lake Cowal Foundation. Sell out!

Scott reckons the Lake Cowal gold mine is the best gold mine yet because of his efforts and the Lake Cowal Foundation, which has yet to get itself a website but whose name is trotted when any feel good publicity is needed, see Lachlan Catchment Management Association newsletter), a model for directing corporate and government funding into wet land rehabilitation.

As wetland (Scott seemed to be a particular authority on them) Lake Cowal he described as near terminal.

This then is the voice that has been saying all along that the Campaign to Protect Lake Cowal does not have the support of the major environmental groups in NSW; namely the Total Environment Centre, which Jeff Angel fronts.

I felt sorry for Scott. Here was a well meaning, hard working environmental activist who had lost his way, supped with Devil and got a well paid Ministerial advisory job.

The Total Environment Centre turns out to be an air conditioned annex and on the Level 35. Scott and through him his Minister, I realised, were totally out of touch with green currents running in this land.

I told him to start looking for another job for he would surely be the sacrificial lamb when the ALP realizes that resistance to Lake Cowal is increasing and a major obstacle to their appearance of Greenness as they approach the next election.

The best I could discover from him was that Bob Debus was not consulted and had no knowledge of the subsequential and consequential government approval of Lake Cowal cyanide transports through the Blue Mountains.

"Many bulk poisons pass through the Blue Mountains," said Scott by way of consolation and defence.

"Bulk milk is probably a greater risk to water ways and aquatic life that bulk cyanide," he suggested.

Amy and I smiled at this wisdom. Fancy trying to sell the idea that milk is more hazardous than cyanide. A drowning man grasps at a straw.

After the meeting Amy, Lucy and I passed by Parliament House and without notice, called on the Hon Lee Rhiannon Green MLC, asking for her at the front desk. The pixie smiling Lucy, riding in a packback, was waved through the metal detector check by a security guard saying: "You are the most unlikely looking terrorist."

All grace and good cheer, the Honourable Lee came to the foyer to meet us and thrust into our hands a copy of the questions she was to put to the Minister for the Environment during the sitting of the House in the next week.

"How much sodium cyanide will be transported to the Lake Cowal Gold Mine via the Blue Mountains each year?

Considering the Blue Mountains is the water catchment for most of Sydney’s water, what emergency measures will be put in place in the event of a spill of sodium cyanide?

What training has been undertaken of Blue Mountains emergency services workers so they can handle a spill of sodium cyanide?

What are the procedures to be followed if there is a spill of sodium cyanide in the Blue Mountains?

Is this procedure available to the public?

Good on her.

After Amy, Lucy and I went to find Jennifer, have a picnic in a park and debrief.

The next evening I was decided to take our cyanide concerns to Bob Debus directly at the Katoomba Civic Centre where he was to speak advocating a Bill of Rights.

I understood my mission was to get him to make his position clear about the rights of future generations to clean water and also to discover whether he thinks bulk cyanide transports through his electorate are an acceptable hazard and truly something he is proud of committing his electorate to.

For the Earth. To the dust!

Graeme Dunstan
8 May 2006

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