Roothy’s Shed Knocking on parliament’s door
HAVING BEEN LOCKED OUT FROM HIS OWN BACKYARD, ROOTHY SET OUT TO KNOCK ON PARLIAMENT’S DOOR.
Istood for the senate in Queensland this year and enough people noticed and kept asking me why. I mean, why does someone who loves the solitude of the bush, who’s always had trouble with committees and conciliation want to go to Canberra?
The answer’s simple – because I doubted very much I’d be elected, that’s why! As this issue of CTA went to print, Senate votes were still being counted. And as David Leyonhjelm, the bloke who talked me into this, said “you’ve got about a one in 12 chance of a one in a 100 chance of bugger all” but we both agreed that this was an issue we needed to put on the high table of politics and the only way to reach those illustrious heights was to have a go.
Otherwise they don’t notice. Trust me on this: I’ve been trying for a decade or more. In fact, this was the second time I’ve stood for senate. Last time around was a tad scarier because, despite nothing more than a sticker and some Facebook mentions, heaps of people exercised their right to vote for the Stop the Greens party I stood for.
What’s this? Okay, better start at the beginning. First of all, I am a greenie of sorts. I worked on the sand mining in the 1970s and witnessed way too much destruction of beautiful rainforest to ever think all progress is good. I guess I’m the sort of greenie that would rather camp under a tree than look at it in a calendar on a city office wall because someone gated it off. All the bush travel done over the years convinced me that this is a pretty damned big place. There’s room for a bit of development, but there’s certainly plenty of room for people too!
Unfortunately, that’s been the trade-off over the years – increasingly people aren’t welcome in our public parks and forests. Oh, you can come and park in the bollarded car park and maybe even stay in the designated camping area after you’ve paid a fee but don’t pick up the firewood, don’t bring your dog and make sure you book about six months before using the web portal that, whoops, looks like it’s down today...
Recently, I tried to get a permit to take the family on the beach at Bribie Island. Yep, so we drove the hour or so anyway figuring on getting a permit at the bait shop only to be told that the
beach was shut after the storms. Funny that, the storms weren’t that bad a fortnight ago and the beach looked fine behind the gate.
But what really upset me was the arrogance of a system that really doesn’t care when it comes to accommodating people. Imagine telling the drovers 100 years ago that they couldn’t pick up firewood in the High Country or that they couldn’t come in with their dogs? Ridiculous then, and in most of our vast places, just as ridiculous now.
Sorry, I get carried away whenever the issues of accessing public lands and free camping come up. But I’m a father too, and it scares the hell out of me that my kids aren’t going to be able to take their kids camping in the biggest country on earth because nobody bothered pushing back against this green-inspired tide of ‘people are bad for the bush’.
I know some idiots are. I’ve seen the rubbish fools dump, the tracks cut that shouldn’t have been and what the vandals have left behind. These are traditionally the excuses given to lock off camping grounds or restrict access to parks but there’s got to be a better way. Rubbish? The Country Woman’s Association (CWA), possibly the most sensible organisation on earth, pushed hard for a national container deposit scheme that effectively meant we’d never see another can or bottle left behind. That’s what they’ve got in South Australia, it works brilliantly, why not extend it across the country? Because the brewing and soft drink companies have huge budgets to lobby politicians – that’s why.
How about the cost of dumping rubbish? Why not make tips free? How about signs at airports telling backpackers we love our country, and if they rubbish it they’ll be sent straight home?
We don’t jail everybody in the country because a handful of idiots rob banks do we? But increasingly it seems it’s easier to lock land off or deny people the right to camp instead of looking for a solution.
Stockton Beach, the largest shifting sand mass in the southern hemisphere, the ex-RAAF bombing range, the only expanse of beach frontage that was free to drive, fish and camp in NSW and a haven for all those people who need a bit of time to themselves at the end of a week of paying taxes, was closed down a few years ago owing to – you guessed it – storm damage. Then it wasn’t reopened, except for the great big hunk that was sand mines of course. That bit never closed. Still hasn’t. Dave Luke and I formed Unlock Australia to protest the loss and on a wet rainy Sunday morning more than 48 kilometres of vehicles showed up to say ‘give us our beach back’.
Oh, the local politicians came and talked and much fuss was made but it’ll never be free again.
Look, obviously with increasing population density comes increased damage on our natural resources. We all know that, it’s just some of us think that with increased populations comes an increased need to get away from it all too. And that this is possible, we just need to find a way to make it work. England, that tiny little island with three times our people, has more freedom to travel and camp than we have in Australia and you can take your dog! Is this our convict heritage come back to haunt us or are we too apathetic to fight back?
I know I was most of my life. Given the chance of getting involved in a protest and finding out which one of the numbskulls standing for election (self included...) was pro-freedom or just heading bush for the weekend, I’m pretty sure that was me down by the creek.
It’s our heritage at stake here folks. I know from the efforts of Unlock and other groups that slowly, very slowly, the people in power – traditionally not your camping or caravanning types if there’s a five star resort at hand – are starting to take notice. But if you see me heading up the steps of parliament house in Milo it might be best to stand back and look the other way. That little truck doesn’t stop for much.
Above: it seem to me that it’s an Aussie’s right to free camp but sometimes you’ve got to go a long way from civilisation to find a decent spot these days!
TOP: I grew up camping, my kids grew up camping, the worry is will there be anywhere left for their kids to go camping? And this in the biggest land mass on earth with the smallest population?
ABOVE: Some of the restrictions placed on accessing the west coast of Tasmania were totally ridiculous, given the storm blasted nature of the terrain.