The so-called “community consultation” the Bartlett government is bringing to Beaconsfield in early October is one of the most openly cynical political exercises we have the misfortune to witness since the passage of the 2007 Pulp Mill Assessment Act (PMAA).

We, who have had the experience of watching and understanding what was happening in the first three months of 2007 – in particular the carefully constructed removal of the RPDC assessment and approval process from Gunns’ pulp mill, a process required under Tasmanian law for “projects of State significance”, and then the creation of special legislation which transferred the substance of the “State significance” law straight across to the PMAA – are now being invited to a meeting to “connect” with the Bartlett government.
This is a stunt, pure and simple. Bartlett is just copying the Rudd example of the traveling cabinet circus. Someone told him there is political mileage in it. A modern-day version of the medieval practice of the Royal tour. But the Beaconsfield stunt goes beyond the normal boundaries usually pertaining to such patronizing and insincere attempts to garner popular support from the peasants.

It is really grotesque. Tasmania’s Treasurer, Michael Aird is going to Europe on a secret mission, at taxpayers expense. He is going there as an agent of Gunns, as he has admitted publicly.

Presumably he is one of the government ministers who will “connect” with Tamar Valley people at Beaconsfield in early October. The only worthwhile point of connection with Aird would be to ask what he knew about the events in the early months of 2007. By all means do so, by arranging an appointment with him. But it is rather pointless asking him anything else, especially anything related to the people’s interests. He’s not interested. He will have just come back from working for Gunns in Europe.

Tamar Valley residents have the “opportunity” to meet with other government ministers, of course. For what purpose? “We value your views”. Unfortunately, that is a lie. They have already decided that your views are meaningless. After all, they have legislated to do more than dismiss your views. They have legislated to put corporate interests above all and any interests of yours, including your health, your property, your life in the Tamar Valley and your future.

And just to belabor the point, which government minister would you like to speak with?

Bartlett, Giddings and Aird are the cabinet. The rest are ciphers. That is not meant as an endorsement of any superior qualities of the troika. Far from it. Giddings is never going to listen to anyone in the Tamar Valley who has concerns about the pulp mill. Her ear is attuned to matters more personal, like a portfolio shift from Health.

Which leaves the sandman. Bartlett has shown, conclusively, that he is a “tool”, as my daughter would say. By this I mean that he has no firm principles. He is just putty in the hands of others because he has no strong points of moral or ethical reference, which is probably why he was elevated to the leadership after Lennon was seen to be dragging the careers of the Labor old-guard down with him.

This explains all the backflips. Thumb rings, bike rides, macho statements (“I am committed, I,. I, I,…”), fashion photo-ops (usually suit with open-neck shirt), just expose the hollowness. Ego is the Bartlett motive. Cést moi. The perpendicular pronoun should be Bartlett’s middle name.

All this has come to naught because it rests on the sand of the Premier’s own sense of self-aggrandizement, a type of ridiculous notion of importance without principled foundation.

So, for those who decide, in all due faith that they will be heard and noticed in the halls of Beaconsfield in October 2009, take care, and note this especially, that you will be “connecting” with a group of people who, as legislators, have already betrayed you, and have shown that they are morally bankrupt, ethically decrepit and spiritually soulless.

Their interest is themselves. Their political game is their own promotion. That is their mindset for Beaconsfield. They wish to be able to say that they are engaging in a democratic process of community discourse, to allow you to politely ask your questions, and then come away and say how they had listened to the people, had heard what the people had to say, and had been overwhelmed with the renewed sense of self-importance the whole occasion had bestowed upon them.

Alternatively, if you express your outrage to Llewellyn or to some other good and able lackey of Gunns, of the government’s betrayal of its fundamental responsibilities, that will also serve to increase their sense of self-importance, albeit in allowing them to label you as an extremist of some sort. So here’s a suggestion for Bartlett. Why not introduce the whole team of endorsed Labor candidates for Bass and for Lyons as part of the “community connection” stunt? That would give Scott McLean the opportunity to acquire a bit of banter about “terrorists” in the Tamar Valley which he could share in the warm afterglow of the groupthink debrief after the stunt is done and dusted.

And come away saying, “I did my bit”.

That is the summary of our dilemma.

The intention of the Bartlett government in relation to the future of the Tamar Valley is clear. Loud and clear. It is written in the law. Actually, it is rewritten in the law, because the original legislation for a project of State significance had a flaw. It was required to be assessed by the RPDC, which not only found that the project was “critically non-compliant” with RPDC guidelines, but which insisted on public consultation in relation to risks.

But simulation, for Bartlett and his road-show, is the perfect disguise.

When Bartlett’s simulation of “connection” with the people takes place at Beaconsfield, let him realize that the people of the Tamar Valley understand full well that all he says and all that his repugnant cabinet members say will be seen as untrustworthy, as self-serving and as meaningless as if written in sand.

For simulation is not the perfect disguise. It is a false replica.

Dave Groves’ view