LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 11 Number 3, June 2011, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times (ISSN 1440-4966) & Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor: Anne Roberts

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Taskforce reply to ‘Rosebery: The View from the Ramparts'

By Kay Seltitzas and Isla MacGregor, Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce Tasmania (THMTT)

The Toxic Heavy Metals Taskforce Tasmania welcomes the opportunity provided by The LEAD Group Inc to reply to LEAD Action News 11 Number 2 ‘Rosebery: The View from the Ramparts’ edited by Chrissie Pickin 
( www.lead.org.au/lanv11n2/LEAD_Action_News_vol_11_no_2.pdf ).

We have greatly appreciated The LEAD Group Inc providing the THMTT an opportunity to put our side of the debate over heavy metal contamination in Rosebery in LEAD Action News 10 Number 4 'View from the Trenches' 
( www.lead.org.au/lanv10n4/LEAD_Action_News_vol_10_no_4.pdf ).

During the Rosebery controversy, THMTT has gained many insights into the workings of government bureaucracies and their bureaucrats. Most importantly we have come to understand the inherent problems of 'Community Engagement' processes orchestrated by Government bureaucrats.

The primary role of heads of Government Departments is to defend Government policy and decisions and minimise any liability or responsibility for Government negligence or failures.

Prior to coming to work in Australia from the UK in 2002, Deputy Director of Health Chrissie Pickin was previously Project Director of the Salford Social Action Research Project (SARP). She was seconded part time to Salford University, while also being Director of Public Health for Salford, and Trafford Health Authority from 1996-2001.

In the National Conference Agenda 'Involving Communities in Regeneration' SARP is described:

'Salford Social Action Research Project was established to explore how effective community involvement in public policy making and implementation and in public service planning and delivery could be promoted. SARP explored through action the strength of social relations, civic engagement, and other collective processes within, and between communities forming a powerful collective resource that may have an effect on community health and wellbeing. (www.nwpho.org.uk/press/regeneration.pdf )

In light of Chrissie Pickin’s professional background, it was disappointing that the Government's community engagement process in Rosebery was such a disaster.

Chrissie Pickin's suggestion to The LEAD Group Inc that it “could more usefully focus its attention” on issues concerning exposure levels of miners “rather than continually supporting a campaign group which the evidence strongly refutes their claims,” is completely inappropriate, given that The LEAD Group Inc has provided equal opportunity for both sides to outline the evidence in their respective arguments. The DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania) has taken a very aggressive posture defending itself against THMTT's arguments about their flawed investigation, and the effective media campaign that saw our point of view covered in the Tasmanian media.

Chrissie Pickin's use of the words ‘allegations’ and ‘claims’ instead of 'views' or 'opinions' in relation to comments made by the THMMT are common tactics used by governments to undermine arguments and discredit opponents. It is important at the outset that we clarify the differences in the language used by governments/corporations, as compared to non government community organisations. Government and corporate spin provided to media outlets during the so-called community engagement process always needs to be treated with some caution by the public. The Government's 'Community Engagement' process in the Rosebery case was the vehicle for dissemination of their particular 'spin,' which justified their 'cheap' investigations. It is inevitable to have claim and counter claim arguments in many issues concerning toxic contamination and the poisoning of people and the environment. Frequently, in controversies of this nature, the most recent research publicly available is not always used or cited by governments or corporations in their quest to minimise their responsibility for any harm to humans or the environment. In Chrissie Pickin's response it is not as simple as ensuring “the public record is accurate” by providing a reinterpretation of opinions given or facts stated by the THMTT. It is far from a “fascinating” story as Dr Pickin states, it is a tragedy unfolding. The Slater and Gordon legal action will reveal many facts that have been withheld by the Government and West Coast Council to date.

The introduction by Bronwyn Hill to the Rosebery tragedy in the form of a tourism promotion only provides half the story behind the picturesque nature of the West Coast of Tasmania. It was the beauty of the mountains and forests that first attracted the people  - who subsequently became poisoned in Rosebery - to the area in the first place. The legacy of historic mining on the west coast has laid waste, by heavy metal contamination and acid mine drainage, vast areas of land and river systems. The effects of decades of previously-unregulated pollution from various mines have left Tasmania with the dubious honour of having one of Australia's biggest environmental catastrophes adjoining a World Heritage Area and the Tarkine Wilderness. These effects will last for centuries to come. Very little funding has been provided by Federal or State Governments to independently investigate the true impact of these problems in Gormanston, Linda, Zeehan, Renison, Williamsford, Waratah and Tullah.

The context of the management plan and results of the Government's and Minerals and Metals Group’s (MMG) deficient investigations are best summed up in the statement by John Lamb, MMG Rosebery General Manager: “Our long-term plan to operate this mine only works if people are happy to come and live in the town to work at our Rosebery site, so responding to the concerns about potential heavy metal contamination was a necessity.”

The MMG 'engagement' promotional by John Powell (MMG Engagement Manager) fails to contribute to any of the issues in LEAD Action News on Rosebery being debated.

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