Friday, 18 February 2005

unsniffable petrol - but something still stinks

bp has developed a new fuel variant called opal which doesn't contain the aromatic hydrocarbons and lead that get you high from sniffing petrol. it was developed specifically for use in those australian indigenous communities where petrol sniffing has been a serious health problem for decades. the new fuel costs about 30% more than what it is replacing and so will need a government subsidy to be distributed. the government has agreed to pay for this fuel in some communities but there is a fear that sniffers will just travel up the road to the 'white' servo to buy their fix. some are calling for widespread distribution but the government is so far refusing to commit to the expense.

next, we need those clever chemists to come up with a glue that doesn't get you high, dope that doesn't get you high and alcohol that doesn't get you high. after that we can develop fabrics and ropes that aren't strong enough to hang yourself with and body parts that can tolerate disease, malnutrition and neglect. only then will Aboriginal people and Torres straight islanders be able to live longer healthier lives - though they will still be poor, bored, underemployed and maltreated.

i am all for the new petrol as a temporary tool to combat a specific problem but australia cannot discharge its responsibility so easily or cheaply. there are social problems that none of us can see how to fix even though the cause is clear but there are others that only need commitment, good faith and of course money to achieve. relatively little is spent on the big problems that affect ausrtalia's indigenous people and often projects are set up for failure. there may always be poor dispossessed Aboriginal people in australia as there are from other ethnic groups but the state of our indigenous people as a whole is something we can only be ashamed of.

If this isn't an absolute bloody mess, i don't know what is.