Friday, September 19, 2008

Panther sightings: urban myth or smokescreen?

Nathan Rees and the Penrith PantherNew NSW Premier Nathan Rees has told the press that sightings of a large, panther-like cat in Sydney's western suburbs might be credible. "I don't think it's necessarily an urban myth, there are too many people reporting sightings." Mr Rees told reporters. Sighting of big cats - dubbed either the Penrith Panther or Lithgow Panther - have been part of local folklore in Sydney's west and the Blue Mountains for decades. Rumours persist the big cats escaped from private zoos or a circus in the area years ago, and even the local football club is called the Penrith Panthers.

As recently as last month Mr Rees dismissed panther sightings as just another urban myth, so why the sudden turn around? The answer is likely to be quite simple. Any story which deflects attention from the woeful state of affairs that exists in NSW is welcome to the government. The poor financial state of affairs, crumbling infrustructure, inadequate public hospitals, unreliable public transport, the electricity privatisation debacle and the general public perception of mismanagement have made the Labor government highly unpopular. If we all start worrying about ravenous mystery panthers perhaps the other problems will just go away.

Of course, big cat sightings are not confined to Sydney's west. Numerous sightings of large, panther like cats have been reported in the UK and in the USA among other places. Although paw prints have been photographed and cast in plaster, no one has actually produced hard evidence of such a feline. Perhaps goverments in those parts also wanted to deflect attention from their management records.

Reporting a recent sighting of the Penrith panther, a western Sydney woman described the animal as a large black cat, about the size of an Alsatian. Panthers and jaguars are usually quite a bit larger than Alsatians. The cats sighted are much more likely to be large feral cats that have grown a dark Winter coat. It is quite conceivable that over several generations feral animals have grown a good deal larger than domestic moggys.

Nathan Rees has made a good impression in his early days as premier (with me any way). He has a direct and straightforward manner and actually answers questions instead of skirting around them as so many politicians do. He has had the courage to admit to his government's past problems and to accept responsibility for them. I believe he deserves a fair go as new leader but only time will tell if he can turn around public opinion before the next election.

Whatever the case, it will take more than a few panther sightings to save the NSW government from political oblivion.

1 comment:

Bikran said...

Nice way to deflect attention of people from their poor management may be its story like aliens on some other parts of the world .