Roothy’s Shed Knock­ing 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.

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