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Postcard from Halliburton's Adelaide
I must admit to twitching on reading the possibility of Alexander Downer becoming the leader of the South Australian Liberal Party. After fighting down the initial urge to pack a bag and catch the first bus out of the State, I realised that it was only His Lordship that was interested, trying to drum up support in the same way that our buffoonish ex-treasurer Kevin Foley is jockeying to become President of the Port Adelaide Football Club. The difference is that while Foley would be the Sparticus and lead his gladiators to the new you-beaut colosseum he arranged to have built before resigning as Deputy Premier, Treasurer and the country's only State-level Defence Minister, the former Lord Downer of Bagdad would be our local Nero, ruling over his local fiefdom as it's reinvented to fit the plans of the warpath he helped to pave.
The trouble is that while Adelaide trudges along, complying with the doctrines of the departed (from public office) War Criminals Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, as implemented by the former Halliburton Global Vice-President for Infrastructure Andrew Fletcher, the monies in the warchest have been spent on curtailing the damage of the Global Financial Crisis. Fletcher's dockyard Techport, planned as the hub of a future US Naval maintenance and resupply base, has delayed its expansion plans for a few years. Obama's focussing what resources he has more northerly, an implied political posture towards China. Ironically it was the possibity of a Chinese naval blockade of the Pacific preventing US ships from returning to Northern Hemisphere facilities that was the touted need for more South Australian defence facilities. Protecting the one-third of the world's known uranium just up the road had nothing to do with it? More on that later.
I've been rereading through some of my older Webdiary pieces lately. In 2007 I was writing about wanting to know the connection between the defence industry and the redevelopment of the large tract of land behind my family's national award-winning live music pub The Gov. We'd already been the flagship of a 5,000-strong rally to save South Australian Live Music, and were (and still are, despite numerous political reassurances over the years) concerned that the development of old factory land (owned by local magnate and former Reserve Bank Board member Robert Gerard) would negatively impact what we're trying to achieve- to provide a public home for as many kinds of music as possible so they stay in the public's consciousness. Given a forthcoming local announcement I'm glad we've made the effort. More on that later too. My concerns of some kind of defence facility being built there were fuelled when plans of an Australian military installation were found in nearby garbage bin.
I was only half-right. At the end of last year, not long after the plans for the Bowden Urban Village were announced by the Govt-operated Land Management Corporation, said corporation announced a merger with the defence housing arm of the (ex HAL-VP Fletcher's) Techport base. In other words, this particular development, along with a string of similar ones running along the train-line to the port, was being built to house the many people expected to come here to work on "The Defence State" 's naval projects.
These "Transit Oriented Developments" were intended to be linked along corridors to Techport by a new electric light-guage rail system that would eradicate the noise pollution of noisy old diesels rattling the mantlepiece furniture in poorly acoustically-insulated homes (aside- minimal acoustic protection, the bloke who built the flats behind our pub told me, is an essential part of a builder's profit margin). One local MP (our State's increasingly-erratic ex-AG Michael Atkinson) wrote on a Facebook page, "these people have paid for an electrified light guage railway, and that's what they'll get." His grandiose rebuttal of locals trying to save their parklands at St Clair from falling beneath the development have become unstuck lately in more aspects than in the State Govt's announcement in its last budget that the newl rail system had been postphoned indefinitely.
At a recent public meeting I asked our Premier, Jay Weatherill, whether the housing developments should proceed now that the supposedly-intrinsic transport system had been cancelled. His response was that the developments wouldn't be effected by the use of diesels.
The first stage of the system has already been built- now there's a tram running from the city to a terminus outside the front door of our pub. Thanks Folks! For the indefinite future we're at the end of the line.
While such local politicking's been carried out, its purposes, and our intended future, keep slipping away into the mists of prophecy. No near-future Techport expansion (not to mention the disappearance of Joint Strike Fighter work that the war companies were going to do in their spare time) means no new residents, and amid a property market plunge local investors, already bleeding from sitting on their hands waiting for something to happen and watching prominent constructors such as The Hastie Group and ADCIV collapse, are going to be nervous about spending more money on projects becoming increasingly less likely to bear fruit.
The other need for local military enforcement's about to disappear too. Supposedly we're supposed to start mining the one third of the world's known uranium that's nestling in the SA desert. The trouble is that with the high Aussie dollar and the cashflow nervousness the European "financial wobbles" have created, it's apparently not a good time to go uranium mining. The sackings last week by Rio Tinto of a large number of its Sydney and Melbourne office staff are the best indicator of our local mining future.. the folks who know what they're doing are battenning down the hatches in anticipation of an oncoming financial storm, ironically leaving places like SA in the doldrums of inactivity.
So.. no mining, no Cheney defence plan. What was intended to be a glorious defence and mining boom won't happen for some time, and meanwhile our local economy's been geared to supporting those cornucopias. What do we do now?
An idea that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser's letters three years ago appears to be being given some consideration. Back then I wrote:
South Australian Premier Weatherill is expected to announce a new Thinker In Residence to come to this city to focus on developing our Live Music Industry. As an Honorary Citizen of Austin Texas who's seen what a push to create more music can do for a local economy and lifestyle, my guess would be that such an expert would suggest we emulate Austin and create a new musical and economic lifestyle for ourselves. Rumours that this Music Thinker is going to be someone who's been a driving force behind Austin's now world-famous South By Southwest Festival have helped towards confirming such notions.
It would be ironic for Adelaide to diverge from following the plans of the former US Vice President in order to pursue the plans of the hometown of his old boss George Bush. I'm hoping it will help us turn towards living towards creating life, not war, and that those living in this city will be, in many ways, so much better off than being drones for multinational defence and mining companies who regard our well-being only as possible collateral damage in attacks on their profit margins.
From South Australia The Defence State to South Australia The Music State? Here's hoping!