The real question following revelations that Channel Nine got a camera
with co-ax connection down the hole during the Beaconsfield rescue is
not who owns the footage now that they’re safe, but who would have if
they’d died?

Would Nine have kept the camera running if they had started to
asphyxiate? If not, when would they have pulled the plug, so to speak?
If they had, how many days before the footage was on the net? Would
Nine put it in a vault? Would the widows own it? Could they bear to see
it? Could they bear not to?

Let’s face it – the media money has made the whole Beaconsfield story
sickening, infected at the root. It’s been the best possible
demonstration that money is not a neutral element.

Events such as a mine rescue are usually things that bind communities
together – that’s the function of heroic myths, to remind us of our
connection and commitment to each other in the face of an indifferent
universe. Heroic stories are ultimately love stories. Yet the money has
already started to turn everything into the opposite of itself. This
began while the rescue was on – with rescue workers having their bags
searched for cameras which might spoil Nine’s exclusive. Not so much
heroes, as potential criminals in other words – with Bill Shorten,
their representative, raising no objection.

As the circus really gets underway, the myriad questions that money
brings up will come to the fore. How much should go to the dead
co-worker’s family? How much to the community in general? Should they
claim ownership of the footage? Should they sue for it? Each question
is a potential source of conflict. The miners themselves and their
community in general will be very lucky if they come out of all of this
without a measure of conflict, bitterness and mutual suspicion creeping
in.

It will take a while yet, but we will eventually realise that a culture
can’t survive if it simply regards life experience – however dramatic –
as a source of cash. Something is lost in the process of converting it
into money. No process of government regulation would halt it, nor
would one even want to try to – it simply has to happen in an ever more
ludicrous and destructive fashion until people start to make the
connection. If you’ve wondered why the Beaconsfield aftermath has made
you feel ever so slightly nauseous in past days, it’s because the event
has turned toxic and is eating away at the fundamental values by which
any culture lives.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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