In the early 1980s Geoff Anderson [pictured left] was Chief of Staff to John Bannon and working with the Labor Premier to change Labor Party policy to embrace uranium mining as a key future driver of the State’s economy. Out in the streets a young Haydon Manning [pictured right] was marching with fellow protestors demanding that the contentious mineral that had split the Labor Party and the community be left in the ground.
This month both Flinders University academics were in Roxby Downs, inspecting BHP Billiton’s existing Olympic Dam mine and hearing the plans to turn it into one of the largest open cut copper-gold-uranium mines in the world.
And in the meantime, Associate Professor Manning has, in the face of the climate change implications of continued fossil fuel use and recognition of the limitations of renewable energy, been converted to the merits of uranium mining and nuclear power.
Mr Anderson, a lecturer in Flinders School of Political and International Studies, says that while he was initially opposed to uranium mining he, like many people in the Labor Party, “was persuaded by the fact that there was no way that the Labor Party would ever be in Government unless we supported the development and jobs it represented”.
“Looking back now, I would have to say that it was madness to suggest that a government in South Australia could not be pro-mining – the people of this State had become used to governments, from Playford to Dunstan, working to generate jobs. John Bannon understood that he had to continue that process with Roxby Downs and Mike Rann has maintained the approach with his pursuit of mining and defence-related contracts,” Mr Anderson said.
“The history of South Australia has always been of governments being involved in economic development. In the 1850s, the colony was almost broke because so many people had left for the goldfields interstate. So Police Commissioner Tolmer suggested that the State should set up a gold escort service. He took an armed escort to Victoria, brought gold back to Adelaide and, I think, paid a farthing an ounce more than the miners would get in Victoria – and we could guarantee that the gold would arrive because it was accompanied by armed guards.
“There were only around eighteen gold escorts but it was enough to turn the tide and bring money back into the State. So, from earliest times in the colony, governments played a role in the economic development of the State.
“So there has been a solid vein of public policy running through SA politics for a long time that says: ‘If we as a government don’t create the environment to generate jobs, then we as a State will not survive’.”