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Labour sells out both people and environment

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Labour MP Shane Jones has come out in support of the expansion of mining. This will bring jobs to his Northland electorate, he says, and that those opposed to mining need to compromise in order for people to ‘have a good life’.

It is no surprise that a Labour Party MP is supporting the development of the mining industry. Indeed, if it were politically palatable to its more liberally-minded constituency the Labour Party would have embarked on the same sort of mining-industry courting, granting of exploration permits and public-relations campaigning that the Nats are doing now when they were in government.

However, Shane Jones and supporters of mining who try to sell us on a false exchange of jobs for environment are really selling out the people and the environment simultaneously – selling out to the gas, oil and mining industry.

One can make a green-capitalist economic argument against mining. It goes something like –‘The tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the country  - far bigger than mining, oil and gas drilling - and it seriously at risk from mining, and even from the threat of mining. So why would you risk one industry in order to promote the possibility of another?’

However, promotion of tourism comes with its own problems, as does the promotion of any capitalist enterprise.

The experiences of many peoples with oil, gas and mining multinationals is the best example that we can look to to see what kind of future the expansion of such industries holds. In Nigeria Shell has raped the landscape and polluted the Niger Delta to the point where it is the most polluted in the world. Or how about Aceh, where ExxonMobil has run a gas liquefaction facility and stands accused of murdering local people on its property. The International Labor Rights Fund, on behalf of 11 John and Jane Does, has taken a case in the US: the suit charges that Mobil Oil (now merged with Exxon) contracted with the Indonesian military to provide security for its Arun natural gas project, and controlled and directed the units assigned to it. Or perhaps turn to West Papua where the largest gold mine in the world, the Freeport McMoRan Grasberg mine, has created a creator viewable from space, millions of tones of toxic tailings, and rippling social problems.

None of this begins to even address the global issue of climate change.

In talking about an economic strategy for the country, we need to embrace an ecological approach. This would see our economy far more tuned into environmental sustainability, fulfilling work and ‘having a good life.’ It would not, and could not, include the continuation of New Zealand’s land speculation, domination of foreign policy by Fonterra, and an economy founded on the export of primary products. It would not and could not include the continuation of a capitalist system of exploitation.

We need to wise up: it isn’t the contest between jobs and environment that is the issue. It is the contest between people and profit.

 

Comments

Labour list MP Andrew Little

Labour list MP Andrew Little (who ran in New Plymouth last year) is all for the oil and gas industry in Taranaki.