I recently noticed that new signage appeared on our foreshore area at Grantville, indicating restrictions on the walking of dogs.
It didn’t take me long, as the co-owner of a dog friendly foreshore caravan park, to figure out that somebody in Bass Coast Shire Council had just ambushed my business.
Now, I had a little think about this, as you do, and it immediately crashed in on me that this was not a small matter.
A lot of my clients are older people who come here precisely because it is a nice quiet place to take their dog.
I cast around for clues about why this was happening.
Perhaps I missed something about this during the last council election. The new team we put into power down in Wonthaggi would surely have mentioned something about it as part of their things-to-do-for-the-next three years.
I don’t remember it being mentioned come to think of it. I am sure I didn’t.
Being a fairly big community issue, you know, lots of ratepayers around here have dogs they like to walk on the beach, I wondered whether I had missed some public meetings about this, where our attitude might have been canvassed.
I am on the committee of the local ratepayers and residents association and we didn’t have one.
I jumped on the phone to the president of the local business association, and like me, she had only heard about it after the fact.
Perhaps there was another public meeting somewhere, but no one seems to have heard about it if they did.
Once I had recovered from the initial shock and disbelief, the anger started to set in, not merely because somebody had just kicked me the backside, but because it has been done by people I trusted and whose political judgment I respected.
After I had calmed down and, as it were, scraped myself off the inside of the roof of the foreshore barbecue shelter, next to the new notices, the anger was replaced with disappointment and concern for the political future.
The new dog policy that has just emanated from Bass Coast Shire Council is a political suicide note, and what we can look forward to, comrades, is the return of Mr Brown (or similar) and a group of Liberal Party lookalikes at the next election.
The dog owners aren’t going to forgive you councillors, and nor will their friends. And it will make getting up environmentally friendly candidates in the foreseeable future extremely difficult.
It is enough of a battle to get nationwide constituencies to take environmentalism seriously anyway, when it is politically encumbered by social policies that look like they have been cobbled together by Noddy and Big Ears.
But then at a national level, that keeps them at 10 to 15 per cent of the vote.
You guys are running the place and you just cannot afford to behave as if you were a minority nowhere near the levers of power!
If you want an environmentally friendly coastal dog policy that has the remotest chance of surviving the next election, you have got to do the grass roots hard graft and sell it to your constituents, so that they will understand it, appreciate its virtues and consent to it.
And that hard graft includes some realpolitik compromises. It is called democratic bloody politics, just in case you were wondering, comrades.
Furthermore, if you want the endangered plovers et al to prevail over the doggies, you really want to be sure of your facts.
We do not want another Orange bellied parrot fiasco that the Coastal Guardians fell into not so long ago. Crying wolf about dogs isn’t smart.
You guys are burning a lot of political capital over a small environmental issue that will put you out of action before you get within a country mile of a big one.
And if you can’t handle a littley, even vaguely competently, where are those who want you to succeed going to turn?
It won’t kill you to back off a bit, start again and give yourselves the chance to rebuild your support base, policy and credibility across the whole political spectrum.
It could be the making of a second term for the team and the making of a reputation for having the humility to admit a mistake, remedy it in a timely fashion and then use the goodwill that that produces to get more of your agenda past the people who elected you.
And the thing is, if you don’t, the doggies will keep biting until there is nothing left of you to re-elect
Christopher Nagle, Grantville.