We have just survived the first week of a disaster. There are many weeks and months ahead. In the middle of extreme loss you can see what is of value: real care is valuable, real solutions, real compassion, helping hands and boots on the ground. And money, that helps. Victim blame doesn’t help. Right now, people only need what helps.
There’s vulnerability in loss that is shocking. When everything a person owns is heaped in piles on the street it’s raw – everyone can see your loss. We must help. It’s our human duty. When strangers stand in mud beside a person who has lost everything, salvaging what’s left of a home, quiet witness to their loss; that is help. When the head of the federal government’s disaster recovery agency, Shane Stone says ‘You’ve got people who want to live among the gum trees – what do you think is going to happen? Their house falls in the river and they say it’s the government’s fault’, well that’s not help. That’s actually abuse.
Abuse from someone in a privileged position. It’s important to note too that when the Former NT Chief Minister scored the role to oversee flood recovery he was paid more than $500, 000 a year.
It shows the lack of true compassion at the heart of our government. A government that doesn’t want anyone in their cabinet to admit anything is their fault. They’re more interested in shifting responsibility than they are in the people who have been hurt by their failures.
When the coordinator-general of the national recovery and resilience agency engages in victim blame, you have a serious problem. This is the person charged with leading us out of disaster? Besides being insensitive, his comment is highly misinformed and shows a complete lack of understanding about the complexity of the disaster and the real cause. If you don’t understand the complexity of how we got here – then how do you lead?
For a start, many people whose homes were flooded weren’t living in areas that had ever flooded before. The inundation of their homes and property was a completely new event.
We were flooded, Mr Head of Resilience, because we’ve had successive governments who have not mitigated the impacts of climate change. They have given our money to the companies who cause it. So yes, when our homes flood, we do get to blame the government. The thought of coal magnates cosy at home in their giant mansions just makes us angry. Especially when our stupid government hands over hundreds of millions to their companies; in one year alone the coal and gas mining industries have received up to $12 billion in tax breaks.
Yes, we should blame the government, because they are the ones that engineered ‘negative gearing’ – the tax mechanism that has turned our housing market into an investment market. When homes became commodities, then poor people, and those priced out of the housing market have no choice but to buy in at-risk areas. Because people who work in our hospitals, in our retail stores, who teach in our schools, they don’t have the money to buy multi million dollar properties in areas that aren’t prone to flooding. Flood prone areas are affordable. When you have a government that has abdicated their responsibility to provide social and community housing for 15 years, you force people into vulnerable housing.
We should blame our government because before this we were already in a housing crisis. We’ve had thousands of homes in our community bought up by investors as short-term holiday lets. That’s a resilience problem, right there. We had a housing crisis that the government was doing jack shit about before the flood. We’ve had an environmental problem that the government has done jack shit about for more than a decade.
And guess what? There is a human cost to mining profits. When you drive through our towns now you can see it. We are the human cost. It’s ugly. It’s starting to smell.
It’s time we started having the hard conversations about how we really got here if we are to see our way forward to a way out. And if you can’t do that Coordinator-General Stone, then you don’t know the first thing about resilience.
And you certainly shouldn’t be paid over half a million a year.