If someone were to ask me for a single, definitive reason as to why I lean left rather than right, I think I would say that, for all its flaws, the union movement never killed anyone in order to make a buck. Unlike companies such as CSR and James Hardie or the big tobacco companies, who, in spite of knowing full well that their respective products were deadly, suppressed the information and continued selling them. In the case of CSR, this in the end led to the WA mining town of Wittenoom being left as a ghost town, with an estimated 1 in 3 of those who passed through the town either developing, or by 2020 set to develop an asbestos related disease. CSR’s blatant disregard for life in the pursuit of the almighty dollar was immortalised in Midnight Oil’s protest anthem Blue Sky Mine (young-uns and overseas readers who’ve never heard it, check it out), and has come to be seen as a hallmark of corporate immorality in Australia.
You’d think corporate Australia would learn. But now, news has come out today that the operations of miner Xstrata in the Queensland town of Mount Isa are responsible for elevated lead levels in the blood of local children, according to an independent study. This is in spite of previous denials by Xstrata and the Queensland Government that naturally occurring lead was responsible for the elevated lead levels. Needless to say exposure to lead is not a good thing, with it having the potential to cause damage to vital organs and to retard growth in children. In 2008, when the Queensland Health report came out detailing the high levels of lead in children’s blood, Xstrata denied the correlation between their operations and the high levels. Now that this independent report is in the public domain, it is time for Xstrata to outline what they know, and to look to alter their practices in order to minimise the exposure of the children of Mount Isa to dangerous lead.