Before the Georges River Water Quality post report consultation process was even complete, the Bartlett Government which commissioned the so called independent investigation has attempted to muzzle the ABC's Australian Story programme with an aggressive and highly political attack.
In an obvious attempt to intimidate the ABC into removing itself from further involvement in the St Helens water quality story, the Tasmanian Premier demanded that the ABC remove the "Something in the Water" programme from the website and explain to viewers that the St Helens water story was based on wrong information, and to apologise to the people of St Helens for the distress that it caused.
In the worst tradition of the previous thug Lennon Labor government the Premier has taken aim at the messenger, further dividing the St Helens community just when it most needed the Government to remain independent and dispassionate.
Long time observers of the St Helens Georges Bay would be familiar with the Tasmanian's government's attitude towards Drs Bleaney & Scammell
Indeed not long after the Australian Story episodes, The Tasmanian Premier savagely attacked Dr. Bleaney in an interview with the Australian newspaper accusing Dr.Bleaney of "leading the Green charge in the past two state election campaigns".
The Premier said it was "strange, Dr Bleaney had raised fears about the pesticide atrazine in the lead-up to the 2006 election campaign, and was now running a similar push before the March 20 poll. Can you see a pattern here -- 2006, Alison Bleaney leading the Green charge with a whole range of concerns proven to be completely false," Mr Bartlett said.
Mr Bartlett went further .."What a happy coincidence for the Greens that a few weeks out from another election, this raises its head and dismissed testing commissioned by Dr Bleaney and Sydney marine scientist Marcus Scammell from independent scientists as "supposed data".
Dr Bleaney's decision to release the evidence publicly before handing it to the health department was suspicious. "This just seems like a very strange tactic to me, and one that I think Tasmanians should be very sceptical about," said Mr Bartlett.
Dr Bleaney responded saying "Mr Bartlett's accusations were "hilarious" and were a case of "shooting the messenger"."My motivation has all the way through been public health. "I support many of the Greens' policies and the way they do business, but I'm not a member of the Greens and I'm not a politician or a political animal."
Dr Bleaney said she had been "raising concerns about the St Helens water supply and issues of water catchments in plantation forest areas since 2004.. and trying to... "get the government interested for years, and had no control over the timing of the Australian Story program"
This extraordinary attack on Dr Bleaney, a profoundly committed and much loved rural GP is from the same Premier who in his Ten point plan to strengthen trust in government promised to.......... 'Protect Whistleblowers and 'significantly changing the culture of government and of government processes' and to introduce 'a new approach to the way we govern and to the way we connect with the Tasmanian people'.
Indeed not long after taking office Mr Bartlett declared...
"Too often debates in Tasmania are characterised by, if you like, because we disagree on ideas we somehow seem to have to hate each other and that's not the sort of politician I am. I genuinely believe mutual respect, decency goes a long way towards, will go a long way towards Tasmanians building trust within their democracy".
How on earth do Premier Bartlett's ill tempered attacks on Dr. Bleaney and the ABC accord with those goals?
How do we reconcile Premier Bartlett's irresponsible verbal attack on a private citizen and the ABC with his claimed status as a "democratist"?
What this episode does amount to is yet another example of the fickle nature of our young Premier.
The Bartlett government's attacks on Dr. Bleaney and his very clear insinuation that the St. Helens water quality concerns were merely an ABC and Greens politically motivated conspiracy is much more in line with a decades old culture of vindictive and bigotted governments in Tasmania
When threatened, particularly by those whose message has an environmental component, government has villified its own taxpaying Tasmanian citizens like Dr Bleaney as being Green or being brainwashed by Greens.
In other words, authentic or normal Tasmanians dont behave or think this way.
Indeed, in Tasmania for one to protest or dissent or to help organise opposition in any effective way against the government or particularly the logging industry puts one at risk of being treated as an illegitimate, a deviant fringe dweller or some sort of sub-citizen.
Thus far the Australian Story programme have refused to accede to Mr. Bartlett's thuggish bully-boy demands. The Australian Story's executive producer Deborah Fleming said the program "took no editorial position and reported Dr Bleaney's concerns as concerns, not as facts. It reported the concerns, and the history of the issue in St Helens".
Fleming went on..."Our story reported the concerns of reputable figures in the community and drew on various high-level scientific opinions,". "The scientists interviewed in the program were independent and highly credible so no doubt they will have something to say once they have had a chance to go through the government report. It may be that this boils down to an ongoing scientific dispute about methodology and testing".
Fleming said she had no communication from Mr Bartlett and defended the program's editorial integrity saying "The program made strenuous efforts to obtain on-camera comment from anyone in the Tasmanian government but all our requests were declined".
Perhaps if successive Tasmanian Governments icnluding David Bartlett's had listened and responded properly to the community concerns of St Helens residents earlier & reacted appropriately the story would not have ended up being splashed all over the national media.
Personally, I hope the ABC holds its ground and tells the Tasmanian Premier to take his compliants and go and get stuffed.
....and see here for former Labor environment minister Dr. Andrew Lohrey's scathing assessment of the GRWQ panel findings.