Byron Bay is close to home for George Negus, the celebrated journalist and television personality who has collected news stories from around the globe for more than 30 years.
Negus lives part time in the Bellinger Valley and says he’s been coming to Byron Bay since he was a kid.
Next week he’ll be here to talk about Australia’s place in the world, touching on issues he covers in his most recent book The World from Down Under, and he celebrates this community for its engagement in world issues.
‘There’re more people per capita who don’t have their head in the sand,’ Negus says of the Northern Rivers region.
‘They realise that a lot of the issues that Byron Bay is involved in, and Australia is involved in, are global issues.
‘Things like the environment, global warming, the GFC, ongoing conflicts, racism; you name it, the things we haven’t ever really come to grips with – they are global issues and Australia is a minuscule part of the globe.’
Known for his role as an agent provocateur, Negus urges people to see the broader context of local issues. He says coal-seam gas (CSG) exploration in this region is an opportunity for locals to move beyond NIMBY (not in my backyard) and to ask more far-reaching questions: ‘Coal-seam gas is not an issue in itself, it’s part of a bigger issue of why we feel so pathologically obliged to exploit our resources the way we do without thinking about the impact on people’s lives’.
The exploitation of the Kimberley’s resources in the north of Western Australia presents us with another set of questions, he says. ‘It’s rampant industrialisation… it’s an example of how we think – just because there’s a resource there it has be to exploited and in the case of the Kimberley offshore gas, a debate really is needed: can we get at it without wrecking the values of one of the few remaining wildernesses of the world?’
Negus says Australians should appreciate that we are living in one of the most desirable places in the world.
‘Australians are better off than we’ve ever been… and Australians are whingeing their tits off because they can’t tell the difference between cost of living and cost of a lifestyle,’ he says.
‘A tongue in cheek thing to say is: you might not really need that third flat-screen television set. Just stop and think. Do I really need it?
‘I’m encouraged – I meet people in Byron Bay and they do think quality rather than quantity.’
Byron at Byron Presents George Negus ‘Australia’s Place in the World’ 7pm Thursday 17 May, at the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa. Bookings: 02 6639 2105 or [email protected].