Saturday, 25 January 2014


By Leo Maglen
First published at Quadrant Online, January 24th 2014  \ Why Australia Day Matters

The heroes of our nationhood were not resistance leaders or freedom fighters, but politicians and statesmen, most now forgotten or only half-remembered. Their creation is an achievement worth celebrating

australiaAn amazing, but little remarked, fact in the current concern about securing Australia’s borders – cue ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ – is that they are entirely maritime.  We have no land borders, and Australia is the largest country in the world not to have any any.  According to Geoscience Australia, we have a coastline of almost sixty thousand kilometres (mainland plus islands).  The perimeter of our territorial waters is probably longer, and the outer edge of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) longer again.  Back on shore we have, of course, state borders, and we once built a rabbit-proof fence over thousands of kilometres of outback, but only at sea do we share international borders with other countries (PNG Indonesia and East Timor).

Australia is the only inhabited continent that is not criss-crossed with international boundaries and a patchwork of nation states.  Not for us razor-wire fences, concrete barriers, guard-posts, check-points, manned border-crossings, heavily armed border patrols, disputed terrain.  We are one country, one nation, spanning an entire continent and its offshore islands.  The shape is so iconic, so much the image of our country, that we take it for granted.

It is pertinent to ask how this happy situation came about.  It was not, it must be said, anything to do with the first inhabitants, the Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders.  Whilst they had spread across the entire continent and adjacent islands, and shared a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence, they were divided into around 250 separate tribal groups, each with its own traditions, customs, language and territory, with which it had a strong and deep affinity.  Whilst there was, of course, contact between adjacent groups, it is doubtful whether there was any knowledge of, or affinity with, groups beyond this range of contacts, with those living on the other side of the continent.  Nor is it likely that the first inhabitants had any concept of the country, of the continent, of Australia, in its entirety.  This awareness could only come in the modern era.

It was the British, at the end of the eighteenth century, who changed all that.  It was an Englishman, Arthur Phillip, who with a small ceremony on the shore of Botany Bay on 26 January, 1788, began the annexation of the continent for the British Crown.  It was another Englishman, Matthew Flinders, who first circumnavigated the continent and revealed in detail its size and shape, and it was he who bestowed upon it the name Australia.  In just a mere 113 years after Arthur Phillip established the first British settlement at Sydney Cove, Australia became a united sovereign nation, taking its own place in the world.  This it achieved freely, and with the encouragement and consent of Britain.  There was no ‘throwing off of the British yolk’, no need for an independence struggle.  The heroes of Australia’s nationhood were not resistance leaders or freedom fighters, but politicians and statesmen, most now forgotten or only half-remembered.

From the moment of Phillip’s annexation Australia became part of the British Empire, and through this the Anglosphere, that group of English-speaking countries that subscribe to the same values and share the same heritage of democratic institutions, parliamentary system of government, separation of church and state, equality before the law, respect for private property, strong civil society, protection of basic freedoms.  It has been upon this base that Australians, old and new, have built our remarkably prosperous, free, open, tolerant, outward-looking, progressive and enterprising way of life.  It is this bedrock, not the continent’s great wealth of natural resources, that makes Australia a ‘lucky country’.

It is, of course an article of faith amongst Aboriginal activists and the grievance industry generally to see things in a different, much darker, more doom-laden way, to view the running up of the Union Jack by Phillip on that day as the beginning of the end, the start of an invasion, one that would lead to the subjugation of the first inhabitants and the destruction of their culture and way of life.

What this view overlooks, of course, is that such an ‘invasion’, or even a succession of them, was inevitable.  On no other continent have the original inhabitants been successful in holding on to their lands and traditional ways of life.  Through waves of invasion, conquest, migration, settlement, by people ever more technologically and organisationally advanced, similarly nomadic hunter-gatherers either adapted, or were forced into ever more remote, inaccessible and inhospitable terrain, as in Asia, Africa and the Americas, or driven to extinction, as in Europe and the Middle-East,.  What is remarkable in the case of Australia is that it hadn’t happened earlier, and that the first inhabitants were able to enjoy their idyll for as long as they did.

So it if hadn’t been the British, it would have been someone else, or a bunch of others, contesting the terrain, carving it up, claiming it as their own.  Given the location of ‘the Great South Land’, there was, however, only a shortlist of likely contenders, with the requisite technological and organisational capacity, the global reach and the territorial ambitions, to accomplish the feat, either on a full-scale or piecemeal basis.

No-one else in the region, the Papuans, the Javanese, the Japanese or the Chinese, for example, felt so inclined or had the logistics to invade the place.  Otherwise, presumably, they would have done so ages before.  Arab traders, who for centuries had conducted business as far east as the spice islands to our north, and who brought their religion with them, apparently never reached these shores or contemplated coming here.  Even the Moluccans, who for a long time had fished and traded along the northern coast, failed to establish any permanent settlements on the Australian mainland.  By the modern era, therefore, it was most likely that it would be a European maritime power that would do it and, of those, there were only four other real contenders – the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch and the French.    As it happened, it was the British.  It was they who brought the country into the global community.

But we could pause, perhaps, to contemplate had it been otherwise.  The Portuguese and the Spanish, of course, had been around Australian waters for hundreds of years before 1788, but did not take the extra step of planting settlements in Australia.   Had they done so, then the country certainly would have been different, and perhaps more akin to Latin America today.  The Spanish and the Portuguese had a record for being less enlightened and more despotic colonisers than the British ever were, and their legacy in the lands they did conquer has not been as stable, democratic or economically as successful.  The Dutch were in the East Indies, also, for centuries before, without seriously contemplating colonising the great land to the south.  Had they done so, then perhaps Australian settlement would have been much more like that of the Afrikaaners in South Africa, where they did put down roots, with all that would have entailed, particularly for the original inhabitants.  The French, like the British, were much later on the scene, and had La Perouse not been pipped at the post by Phillip’s First Fleet, then New South Wales, or whatever other name it would have had, could possibly have become French territory.

Many Anglophobes and Francophiles, of course, would perhaps think that would have been a better outcome, but one thing is certain, Australia today would be much more French than it is recognisably British.  The French, of course, have had a different attitude to de-colonization to that of the British.  They, the French, have been most reluctant to give up any of their colonies, and in those in which the locals have not been able to force them out, they remain to this day, as they do in nearby New Caledonia and French Polynesia.  Contemporary Australia is clearly no longer outwardly British, (despite some republican assertions to the contrary). Indeed, it hasn’t been so for some time, and it is difficult to say when it was the British actually left. That would not be the case, I venture, with the French, had the country started out as a colony of France.

The other possibility, already mentioned, is that the continent of Australia could easily have been not a single nation, but one divided into competing European colonies, with all the likelihood of frontier disputes and inter-colonial wars.  Australia was spared this because British claims to the whole continent were never successfully challenged by either the inhabitants or by other European or regional powers. 

Not having to share a land border with another nation has bestowed upon us huge benefits, especially in the areas of defence, quarantine, customs, immigration and in terrorism prevention.  Australia is its own customs union, free-trade area and common currency block.  It has only one official language and a unified legal system.  If we think that protecting a sea border is a difficult enough exercise, and that the interstate rivalries and constitutional wrangles that bedevil the federation are often tedious and troublesome, we should spare a thought for what it may have been like had Australia been not one country but many.

So, all in all, the country could have done worse than have Arthur Phillip plant the Union Jack on its soil 226 years ago.  Although they didn’t appreciate it at the time, Phillip probably gave the first inhabitants as good a chance of surviving in, and adapting to, the global world as any ‘invader’ could have given them, and the waves of immigrants that subsequently came, and are still coming, to these shores, a much freer, safer, fairer, equitable, open, tolerant and prosperous place in which to start a new life than might otherwise have been the case.

January 26 1788 is well worth commemorating, and celebrating, as Australia’s Day.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Tasmania: Champagne tastes on a beer income

By Jan Davis 
Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association
First published in the Mercury
Also available at the TFGA web site

Photo sourced from [here] from an earlier article by Jan Davis

Everywhere you go you hear it. Our car, steel, manufacturing industries are uncompetitive and in decline. No local people are prepared to come onto farms and pick fruit and vegetables and do the hard yards. The housing market bubble is about to burst. The strong dollar is a nightmare for exporters and a wipe-out for inbound tourism and education industries.  Governments are focused on second order issues and money is being wasted on pork-barrelling.

Politicians know it but won’t talk about it. Public servants are either unwilling or unprepared to speak out; or when they do, their advice is ignored. The unions know, but their survival depends on a rapidly out-dating paradigm. Academics know it also, but often choose not to engage in real world debate. Businesses are generally too busy keeping their heads above water to focus on anything other than tomorrow.

The truth is that Australia is no longer the ‘lucky country’.
‘We’re doing better than most’ is only partially true. We have a massive natural resource base and a long history of managing it effectively to deliver economic outcomes. The mining boom has propped up our economy over recent years; and agriculture has played its part too. Without these advantages, we’d be where the rest of the world is now.

Even with this leg up, we’re struggling with a two speed economy where many dual income families have trouble paying for the basics of life.

The reason? In a world where everyone is competing for scarce resources, people in less fortunate countries will do whatever it takes to get out of poverty and to live in a safe environment. Yet we’ve taken our ‘lucky country’ status to heart and become complacent.  We have expectations of a lifestyle way beyond the nation’s capacity to continue to deliver: our wage costs make us uncompetitive; and we have a system of welfare and entitlements that are not supportable without diverting resources from infrastructure and production. The end result is we are spending more than we can afford.

‘Champagne tastes on a beer income’ is what my nanna would have said.

Whilst this is true across Australia, it is writ large in Tasmania. We have a small population base, and an even smaller industry base – and that is being lost in a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ scenario. We’ve become accustomed to having our enviable lifestyle funded by the hard work of other people in other states. And this has earned us the reputation of always having our hands out for yet another hand out.

Image for Call for Moratorium on New Mines in Tasmania. ‘Shree’s deception makes them unfit’
Photo sourced from [here]
Tasmanians may have their heads in the sand about their economic reality -
 just like this unfortunate Tasmanian devil has been stuck in a bore hole
 We’re on notice about this – the economic boom states have made it clear they’re not keen on continuing to subsidise what the WA Premier calls ‘the mendicant state’. So we are kidding ourselves if we think that our lifestyle can be sustained without painful change.

If we’re honest, most of us understand that. The challenge is to do something about it before we hit the wall and have no chance to manage change. Individually, it is hard for us to make a difference; but as a community we can drive change.

If that’s going to happen, though, we need leadership that can develop strategies that will enable us to maintain our hard-won benefits; while still competing in a global marketplace.

That’s what the coming state election should be about. We all need to put aside petty political posturing and focus on developing a clear plan to help us navigate the challenges that are ahead.
In other words, we need leadership with the vision, courage and commitment to tell the truth – and to lead for the future rather than the next opinion poll.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Illusion of choice

Illusion of choice: who owns what food companies
Begs the question of just how much competition there is where the consumer buys their food. 
Then there is the second question of the effect of the supermarket duopoly.
What are your thoughts?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Statement about Queensland Anti-Bikie Laws

By Tim Wilson
First posted on  as Statement about Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013
Cartoonist David Hope
A number of media outlets have continued to contact me on the implementation of Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013, commonly referred to as the Queensland Anti-Bikie Laws.
I do not assume the position as Australian Human Rights Commissioner until later this month, or early next month. However, I have previously made statements on the laws. My statements are available here and here. I stand by those statements.

Should you wish to attribute a title to these statements, or those below, I recommend “Australia’s next Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson”. Additional comments can be found here:
“These laws are a classic demonstration of what happens when human rights are diluted from sacrosanct consistent principles for preserving the dignity of the individual to otherwise worthy, inconsistent societal aspirations”.
“These laws are a demonstration of the worst consequences of what happens when people are treated as groups under the law, and not as individuals”.
“The traditional human right of free association is directly under attack from these laws which simply seek to criminalise Australians associating with other Australians.
“Bikies have just as much right to freely associate as all other Australians. If individuals or gangs are engaged in criminal behaviour the government should pursue their criminal conduct to the full extent of the law”.
“The imprisonment of people for free association that are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity is deeply, deeply disturbing. The fact that other States have and continue to look at replicating these laws is equally disturbing”.
“Let me make this clear – if bikies are engaged in criminal conduct they should be pursued by Police, but they should not be charged for simply associating”.
“These laws have been defended by the Queensland governments because some bikies are criminals. The laws operate on the assumption that bikies are criminals. No doubt some bikies are criminals, but that does not justify making free association illegal”.

Tim Wilson at 2012 PRA conference
“Based on media reports of the use of these laws it appears that they are deliberately being used to make examples of individuals who are not, at least at the time, engaged in other criminal conduct”.
“I have deep concerns about the consistent application of these laws and how some individuals appear to be treated once charged, including punishment of criminals because of public comments by their family members”.
“The Queensland anti-bikie laws are inconsistent with an individual’s right to freely associate and should be repealed”.


Anthropogenic Global Warming - Would that be "COOLING"??

Here is a rather fitting cartoon by Zanetti to which Elizebeth Flower alerted me.  I have had a week in Brisbane and away from all computers which was just wonderful so putting this on here now.  It was published in our Cairns Post on 6th January, 2014.

Elizebeth mentioned Al's wonderful post which I have yet to read properly and view the wonderful pictures and we thought this would be good to add as well.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Our Sub Antarctic Islands Adventure. (And no, we weren't stuck in the ice!!)

Everyone will be aware of the current embarrassing plight of the Russian vessel hired by a group of climate academics from one of our universities, to highlight their cause. They and their supporting private and media fellow passengers sure have achieved a poultice of world - wide publicity, but hardly of the sort they would have hoped for.

As a matter of fact, my wife and I, with our elder grandchildren Alex 15 and Isobel 12, had just completed a voyage deep into the  Southern Ocean at the same time as the above fiasco was developing, of all coincidences on the Professor Kromlov, a sister ship of the ice-bound vessel. Except that 'ours' was under long term lease to Kiwi adventure and environmental group Heritage Expeditions who conduct regular, highly and expertly organised voyages to the area, and to antipodean locations around northern and eastern Siberia in the northern hemisphere, in the northern summer. Our indefatigable Soul of EG, Dale (my words, not his) having heard of this invited me to contribute an article, so here goes!

Happy New Year to all of you. We returned from Queenstown NZ with Alex (15) and Isobel (12) on Christmas Eve, brim - full of excitement and memories. While we enjoyed introducing them to the glaciers, Aoraki (Mt Cook), Queenstown and all, a voyage to NZ's Sub Antarctic Islands was absolutely the centrepiece.

We embarked on 15 Dec on our doughty little Professor Kromov (72 metres of fully ice - strengthened Russian seaware) from Bluff hours late and in a somewhat disorganised appearing fashion (which we later learned was the result of an accident that very day to the young head chef, who most fortunately was able to re-join the  ship's complement after some emergency treatment at Invercargill hospital) and headed out for the open Southern Ocean, into a very brisk Sou'westerly.
We soon learned that given the weather outlook, and the fact that like all icebreakers, our vessel had no stabilisers, the Expedition Leader had decided to attack the voyage in reverse order, heading south for some 360 nautical miles (or nearly 700km, to landlubbers) to the most distant destination, Campbell Island. We arrived there 36 hours or so later, safely into aptly named Perseverance Harbour, a little battered, bruised and sleep deprived.

As HE's excellent brochures had adequately stressed, we were after all heading into the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties and toward the region of the Screaming Sixties! Of the 50 passengers on board, it seemed that at least half were / had been sea sick, and that included Alex and Isobel, notwithstanding the medication provided "in case" by their medical parents. We soon learned from the ship's excellent young on - board doctor that patches placed immediately behind the ear were the most effective way of dealing with the dreaded nausea. They are apparently readily available in NZ but not so in Oz, and many of the passengers were sporting them. (To our knowledge we were 4 of 7 Australian passengers on board, the rest being Kiwis either professionally or just for sheer enjoyment dedicated to the studies of botany, bird and animal life). So from that point on, Alex and Isobel were basically fine, ready and raring to embark on zodiac and on - shore adventures!

The islands were individually discovered late in the 18th and early in the 19th centuries, and were first exploited as bases for whaling and sealing, although serious farming / grazing enterprises were launched by eternal optimists (energised by conmen??) by mid C19. These were not finally abandoned until the 1930s on Campbell Island, with the final removal of all introduced 'domestic' animals and pests (rats, rabbits, feral cats, feral pigs, stoats) achieved in the 1990s. NZ's revered DOC (Dept of Conservation) protects the islands very stringently indeed.

We had to thoroughly wash and disinfect all footwear before and after each shore landing, and we carefully vacuumed personal gear (outer clothing, footwear, backpacks) under close supervision, before we left the Professor K. A limit is placed on the number of on shore visitors each year, and landings can only be made by professionals on official business, or small groups such as ours, led by qualified people.

We all loved the Zodiac excursions, whether they involved "wet" (Wellies On!) or "dry" (more or less) landings, or close up and personal slow and quiet investigations around spectacular shorelines. That enjoyment included the controlled "running jumps" from the gangway onto the nearside top, and then a hop down to the floor of the rubber vessels, controlled 100% of the way by young and incredibly agile / competent Russian seamen garbed in very impressive black head to toe rough weather gear (looking like something out of "James Bond") and equally confidence - inspiring young HE male and female leaders. Not one person fell overboard!!  :-)  

DOC has constructed some excellent boardwalks to limit the 'trampling' effect of visitors, but once they are left to walk into areas which are open for access but without marked paths, it was really a case "choose your own tussock" to waddle around, trip over  for a soft fall, or have a nice little lie down under. No nasties, except for some potent stinging nettles (which I, wearing long shorts,  of course found!!). With a couple of brief exceptions there were no other defined paths and even where there were, these sometimes featured deep and murky bogs, lovingly created by Sea Lions.  B****y Sea Lions (or Hooker's SLs, to give them their full name) - what terrifying creatures they can be. Or at least the bulls, intent on territorial dominance, and maintaining their harems. They were everywhere and boy, can they gallop (maybe that should be gallump), and can they roar! And are they huge!! They challenge all animal life smaller than themselves, and that included me while I was slow in standing up, when eating a picnic lunch. They cover amazing distances, climbing up to mindboggling heights, have acute hearing (and smell? Not that they exude essence of roses themselves :-)  The only way to deal with them is to stand your ground, show no fear and increase your apparent height by holding your backpack up and out towards them, or a log. But it was all 90% bluff as no one was actually 'attacked', typical testosterone - driven male stuff. While all this was going on, row after row of cows on sandy beaches were giving birth to pups, before re-engaging in new sexual adventures. What a life!


 You can see some of all this and more in the accompanying pics, including the amazing megaflora, especially on Campbell and Enderby and the 'Lord of the Rings' Rata forests on the main Auckland Island, Royal Southern Albatrosses with their 3.5m wingspans mating for life on Campbell (sea lions, take note!), the incredible  Penguin antics on their favoured slippery dips on the Snares, Mollymawks, Giant Petrels, Shearwaters, Shags, Skuas, Dotterels  ......... you name it.

The food on board was very good, the bar fairly priced, the company congenially enthusiastic and the generous lectures / presentations, enlightening. So, what about the odd thump and bump and a bit of lost sleep? 'Twas as nothing, as The Bard might have said. These were experiences never to be forgotten.
Cheers al


Friday, 3 January 2014

Heatwave Hype and Wind Wisdom

by Viv Forbes
Fun cute cartoon weather symbols  The current heatwave in Australia will inflame the carbonistas who will claim it is caused by wicked humans exhaling and exhausting carbon dioxide.

But carbon dioxide is almost irrelevant to local heat conditions.

That is all about wind.

If the wind blows from the summer tropics for days, we will have a heat wave and possible bushfires; but if we get a winter gale from polar regions there may be brass-monkey mornings, sleet and sheep farmer alerts.

Image sourced [here]
If it blows from the sea we may get enervating humidity and thunder storms; but if it comes from the desert we may get lip-cracking dryness, whirl-winds or dust storms.
If there is no wind at all, the heat will peak after lunch and it will be coolest just as the sun rises. 
Imaged sourced The Australian: Heatwave blows in on a fiery desert wind
And if you are yachting in Antarctic waters, the wind can trap your ship in floating sea ice if you are a careless ninny.

Simple stuff really, except for government-funded climatologists with giant computers needing a software upgrade.

And carbon dioxide has almost nothing to do with any of it

Photo: Happy New Year.