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Feb 3, 2011

Cyclone Yasi; government and press stupidity.

Cartoon: by Nicholson.

As I post this Tropical Cyclone Yasi is drawing close to the North Queensland coast, unfortunately in some heavily populated areas. Queenslanders meet these events with the sort of grim determination of those who are not strangers to this phenomenon. Most of them know from previous experience what to do, and what action to take.

This one is a big one, although it has been downgraded from the biggest in history, to the biggest in the last hundred years. It is a category five, and about 500 kilometers across, which makes it something along the lines of Katrina. This is going to be really bad, but it is a time for cool heads and decisive action. There will be a hell of a lot of damage and some deaths; that is unavoidable.

The problem I have with the situation at the moment is that the government, and particularly the Premier Anna Bligh seem to be determined with the aid of the press to hog the limelight and spread panic. For the last couple of days the message has been the premier in front of the cameras giving the message, “Run for your lives, you are all going to die,” or words to that effect.

Today she has admitted that she used strident language to ensure that the crisis was not underestimated. People like this should drop their feelings of self-importance and let the people coordinating the issue deal with it in a sensible and balanced way without the drama queen act. The people on the ground with the experience in this arena should be the ones getting the message across.

It is reasonable to worry about complacency, however the actions of the press and authorities in the recent floods are probably one of the major exacerbating factors towards complacency. In very much a case of the boy who cried wolf the sort of coverage in that case has to be a worry.

In that case flood heights tended to be overestimated by at least two meters and up to four in some cases, which tends to make the public take some of the warnings with a grain of salt. After the massive flash flood in the Lockyer Valley a report appeared of a massive wall of water rushing toward the heart of Brisbane. As I expected when I saw it, shortly afterward I had to spend an hour on the phone explaining to my daughter that it wasn’t going to be like that and she didn’t need to flee the city.

The ultimate irony is tonight’s ABC report, which referred to Bligh, a thousand miles from where it is all happening as carrying the weight of Queensland on her shoulders. Well, what about the poor bastards who are up there who are going through this on the ground?

To all of you people up there, I hope you get through it OK.


  1. I have to give her a little bit of credit (Bligh, not Gillard) for the way she came across during the floods. It should in no way wipe the slate clean and I'd hope that Queensland considers how it would have voted had there been no floods. But Gillard seemed to treat it as a photo op to try and look all statesmanlike, and just because Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop were at it too doesn't excuse it. Bastards, all three of them. Maybe Anna Bligh just looked good because against that lot who wouldn't?

  2. A bit off topic but an excellent article about Gina Rineheart in Forbes Asia. It mentions the libertarian Worker's Party (which if I recall correctly you said you were a member of back in the day, Jim)

  3. What is irritating me is that there seems to be just too much politics involved in the whole issue, as well as irresponsible press sensationalism. Just after posting this there was a reference on TV that the cyclone would hit with the force of a nuclear explosion. As I said, in these situations you need calm heads, not panic.

    There is probably a case for a leader to visit, but for them to be occupying the emergency headquarters is not a leadership function. I would much prefer to have them in the cabinet room sourcing methods of assistance, with a video link to the room to keep in touch.

    Alex, that is a great article and I will follow up on it. Gina has always had my greatest respect. Lang was a great guy who achieved a lot. Gina brought it to fruition.

    As far as I am aware Lang was never a member of the Workers Party or the Progress Party but was friendly towards us, although I doubt that he ever donated. We were always poor folks.

  4. As our American politicians would say, "Never waste a good crisis."

  5. Sounds a lot like that Bawb. It seemed that every time I turned on the tele there was Anna scolding us as to how we needed to behave.

    I have never seen one of these situations before so dominated by politics.