The debate: a backwards STEP revealed

I had the interesting experience of attending the South Turramurra Environment Protection (STEP Inc) sponsored debate between two Sydney State High Schools, Cheltenham Girls High and Epping Boys High. Let me start by saying I had some preconceived expectations of what would unfold.

The Debate

As I was running late I was fearful that I would not get a seat and that was my first preconception blown out of the water. When I sat down next to someone I recognised as a Game Council councillor (the only other apparent pro-hunter there) I conducted a head count and, including the four students on each side, the moderator and the three-person adjudication panel, there were less than 40 people present – my count at the start was 36.

The second preconception I had was that the performances by the students would be polished and pretty professional and I was a little disappointed in that regard. The year 11 students were all well presented but their individual performances were generally forced, too reliant on notes. Speed and modulation were lacking in some cases, making it difficult to understand some individuals’ speech. There were some other individual speech traits, eg, the insertion of “like” three to four times in sentences, the repeated reference by the pro-hunting team (Cheltenham Girls High for the negative) to hunters “shooting things” and that side not really exploiting the animal cruelty and non-specific nature of poison baits in their arguments.

The result of the debate

Notwithstanding, the affirmative (Epping Boys High) team’s second speaker was a standout for the night, using a well-developed, comprehensible and appropriately paced argument, which he obviously took time to come to grips with.

Despite his performance, it was painfully obvious to me that girls reach maturity far earlier than boys and my impression was that, overall, they deserved to win the debate. They did not, so the proposition that “Hunting in National Parks is environmental vandalism, not smart conservation” was carried on the night.

I believe it was almost a fait accompli that the debate should result in a green victory (unless the positive side were all taken out by a gastro bug, forcing a forfeit) when one considers who staged the debate.

Veiled political indoctrination

What concerned me was that these students (and teachers) were drawn into the fold of an overtly political organisation – with solid links to the Greens – under the guise of “education”, which is how the event was promoted in STEP’s website promotional notice. It was, in fact, nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt at indoctrination. That the students themselves appeared to be pretty distant from and disinterested in the topic reinforced my view. When the students were all presented with hardcover books on a green theme at the night’s conclusion, I was absolutely convinced. The giveaway could be construed as bribery, if the students actually bothered to read them.

I am more concerned that the teachers of these students facilitated this potential political indoctrination. When one considers recent activities of this organisation – the Wahroonga/Cate Faerman anti-hunting protest rally at which a peaceful hunter was assaulted and spat upon by one of their members – then it is incumbent upon secondary educators in the public and private systems to be seen to be politically impartial and choose their debate arenas a little more carefully.

STEP: an unusually mono-cultural sub-culture

So now to the make-up of STEP. I was expecting such a vociferous group of Green-motivated protestors to include at least a smattering of energetic under-30s in their membership. This could be so but the STEP members I saw in St Andrew’s Church Hall that evening would have been lucky to average ‘three score and ten’. Honestly, they were probably great grandpas and grandmas more than just grandparents.

Interestingly, they appeared to be monocultural in more than just their age demographic. The members attending were universally of white European heritage. When I checked their 2011/12 annual report, the 30 or so attendees at their AGM had not one Khoo or Wong, Stavropoulos or Fayez Mohamad or any other non-European name that would hint at the slightest representation of Australia’s multicultural society.

The question needs to be asked: Have they actively discourage membership applications from people who are not of their ilk? Or, more likely, does their organisation simply lack appeal to more recent immigrant Australians and, if so, why is it that way? I leave you to ponder the answer.

STEP Inc slips up… a bit

Steve and I were interested to see that STEP’s annual report and financial report were readily available to all attendees – there was a set on every audience seat. If it painted a rosy picture of growth and frenetic activity, then one may understand their pride in ‘putting it out there’ but the story painted by their finances was almost painfully un-rosy.

When one combines the changes in long-standing (and arguably very effective) chief office bearers in the last 12 months to a new guard, then the following figures would disturb many greenies.

STEP Inc Membership Subscriptions 2012 subs of $2,743 were down from 2011 subs of $5225. Now, unless they have reduced their membership fees by 50 percent (to perhaps attract a few more ‘multicultural’ members or dole recipients) then a rough halving in membership numbers poses some sticky questions about their future.

Grant IncomeIn 2011 they were awarded grants totalling $8718 and this reduced to $2000 in 2012. It seems that government assistance may be drying up. That could be attributable to the fact that there was a change of state government and the Coalition isn’t that keen on supporting greenies who repay them by yapping at their heels.

Grants ExpenditureIn 2011 STEP made grants to other organisations or individuals of $3300 but in 2012 it was reduced to $438. You gotta earn it to spend it, I suppose.


The remainder of the financial report is unremarkable apart from indicating an organisation in decline. No wonder they were angry enough to assault some poor hunter-protestor at Wahroonga. Their little green dream is going to hell in a handbasket.

While it is clear that this organisation has always been small in membership and physical resources, they and others like them have had a free ride in their inordinate amount of positive media exposure and access to politicians, possibly because they appear intrinsically altruistic, when in fact they are self-serving, wanting parks and reserves only for the enjoyment of able-bodied bushwalkers.

While that influence may be decreasing for STEP, hunters and shooters must not relax their efforts as the younger breed of indoctrinated greenie in other organisations, like the Greens political party, will use misinformation and social media to paint law-abiding firearm owners right out of the picture nationwide. They’ll do this on the back of their unfounded fear and loathing of us, which they will continue to spread to any uncritical and receptive ear.




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Marcus O'Dean