|Issue No 85||23 February 2001|
Attack of the Killer NIMBY
Actor Shane Withington has barged into the Toolshed this week with the least credible performance of his career - that of an impassioned defender of working class rights.
The man who won a nation's heart with his performance in 'A Country Practice' and then turned their stomach in 'Dogshead Bay' has crafted himself as the titular head of the elitist 'Friends of Currawong'.
The Friends are a bunch of local Pittwater residents and inner-city trendies who claim ownership of the Labor Council's resort by virtue of the fact that they moor their yachts there.
For those who haven't been following the story, Labor Council has been running the holiday camp since the 1940s . Union members can take holidays there, heavily subsidized by affiliates to the tune of about $50,000 per year.
At a time when the movement is losing money and needs to focus on organizing, Labor Council has taken the view that this money would be better spent on core union activities. Holidays are fine, we say, but when a movement is under threat they are not the main game.
Accordingly, when a proposal to develop the site, while maintaining trade union access and improving training facilities, and netting a return of $200,000 per year for the movement - while retaining ownership - the Labor Council was more than interested.
Through a long process of consultation, the Council nutted out a 35-year lease to the Currawong Preservation Society, which includes representatives of Labor Council as well as Tim Brennan, a businessman linked to Corporate Renaissance, the company that promotes Transcendental Meditation. They wanted to use the site to hold training and holidays.
When the Friends heard they would have to share their playground, they went straight to the NIMBY textbook and mounted a hysterical public campaign. Using their impeccable media contacts they enlisted the support of such working class advocates as Piers Ackerman, Richard Carelton and Mike Munro to cast the Labor Council and the evil Costa as the enemies to the workers.
With Shane as public spokesman, they cashed in on his borderline celebrity to bag the deal across the metrolopis. Along the way they ran a particularly grubby and bordering on a racist campaign against the Maharishi and the religious beliefs of the Transendental Movement.
What they have never been able to justify is why the borad union movement should subsidese holidays for the elect few. Postcode analysis of those who use Currawong show that less than three per cent come from the Western Suburbs. The vast majority are North Shore, Inner West and Eastern Sububrbs type who enjoy recreational slumming
On environmental grounds, the proposal will meet all standards and is currently being worked through with Pittwater Council with a view to putting forward a development application. Despite the bek
Despite all this, the Friends have kept at their campaign with a sometimes manic intensity. Throughout the whole saga, Shane has been at the forefront, playing the role of environmental activist as a sort of cross between Robert Redford (circa the Candidate) meets Tom Hanks in Born on the Fourth of July mode.
Few will forget his memorable address to the Labor Council when he outlined 'his plan' for Currawong - basically getting unions to pump a lot more money into make the holiday site more agreeable for the select few who go there. And when they want media attention over the holidays, they go for a flotilla of yachts - good working class direct action, eh comrades?
The protestors were at it again at last week's Annual General Meeting, attempting to interrupt the Premiers' speech to protest a rule change that has absolutely no bearing on the Currawong proposal.At every turn it is Shane at the helm, hamming it up with not a modicum of ironic self-distance. Not only is he cheesy, he self-interested, he is deluded, he is wrong - he is a Tool.
For all the latest Friends of Currawong propaganda, visit their website at http://www.savecurrawong.org
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005