The Weekly Notebook

Townsville floods – a bleak history of political neglect

For the first time in my lifetime, Townsville is in the news. Not just the local or national news, but internationally as well. A biblical level of flooding has ruined thousands of homes, farms and businesses – and brought forth a deluge of politicians seeking votes.

Prime Minister Pastor Scott Morrison arrived in army battle dress and what looked like a tank. He probably needed it.

my home town dominating the news, author Tom Freeman has chosen the perfect time to launch his remarkable book on the pioneering history of North Queensland.

George Augustus Dalrymple

Freeman has spent seven years researching primary sources to produce his book. A former Vietnam veteran and civil engineer, Tom has written other histories but none as important as this one. It covers names and exploits of early pioneering families: the Wilesmiths, Putts, Rouths, Clelands and many more.

Although it was not his original intention, the Brisbane-based author challenges the orthodox historical view that the “Father of North Queensland” was George Augustus Dalrymple, 1826-1876. Freeman has concluded that the rightful owner of the title is the explorer James Venture Mulligan, 1937-1907.

In my view, the clash of historical opinions is secondary. The main point is that the pioneering history of North Queensland will be re-ignited by Freeman’s research and NQ’s neglected governance may be debated once more.

There can be no doubt that the 19th century movement to declare North Queensland a separate state within the Commonwealth of Australia had merit, but it was rejected out of hand by Sydney and Melbourne southerners who drafted the 1901 Constitution with the guidance of the English Foreign Office.

The recent flooding is a reminder of the region’s neglect by officialdom in Brisbane and Canberra.

The official launch of Tom Freeman’s book, MULLIGAN. A biography of James Venture Mulligan North Queensland’s greatest prospector-explorer, will be held in Brisbane this Sunday, February 10, at 11.30am, Yeronga Services Club, 391 Fairfield Road, Yeronga, South Brisbane. Phone: (07) 3848 0796.

Copies will be available at the special price of $30. It’s a chance to purchase your own signed copy and a second for a friend or family member. To place orders, contact: trfreeman58@gmail.com

Australian soccer in crisis

There is something rotten at the heart of Football Federation Australia (FFA). But please read on because this story is about politics and moneybags and not kicking a round ball.

Two stories have wrecked morale and financial management within FFA:

  1. The sudden firing of Alen Stajcic, the most successful coach in the history of the Matildas, amid a murky “social media” campaign against him.
  2. The detention in Bangkok of Melbourne soccer player Hakeem Al-Araibi and his threatened deportation to the emirate of Bahrain where he faces imprisonment and torture.
Matildas coach Alen Stajcic at a team press conference in 2015: happier times

In the Stajcic case, an anonymous “somebody” told soccer reporter Ray Gatt that “people in high places had an axe to grind with Stajcic and wanted him out.” (“Power women booted Stajcic”, The Australian, February 2-3, 2019)

Gatt reported that the “insider” told him that she “didn’t rate Stajcic” saying: “He makes poor decisions and if it was up to her he would not be there.”

Gatt asked why the successful coach had been removed on the eve of the World Cup. He said the soccer-loving public deserved a full explanation.

David Gallop, the FFA’s CEO, faced the media and delivered a series of non-answers. That is why he has the job. He’s a great mouthpiece and diplomatic evasion is his main job qualification.

The Westfield Matildas are funded by the Lowy family. Since leaving Australia’s soccer officialdom last year after power was handed to clubs and soccer-playing veterans, the Lowys have concentrated their influence on the Matildas and the women’s campaign to win the World Cup.

When will anyone from Westfield question the shabby treatment of Stajcic and the insidious destruction of his character?

Hakeem Al-Araibi: brought to court in shackles

Meanwhile, Melbourne footballer and Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi is in detention in Bangkok awaiting deportation to Australia (his new home) or the oil-rich emirate of Bahrain (where he faces imprisonment and torture).

Craig Foster, former Socceroos captain and SBS journalist, is standing by the player and giving regular reports on television and the internet. Foster’s one-man campaign deserves the very highest praise.

The campaign in support of Al-Araibi’s return to Melbourne is growing and now capturing the interest of European clubs, players and supporters.

But so far it has not captured the interest of the billionaire Lowy family. That is unusual because “Uncle” Frank Lowy is well acquainted with the members of the Bahraini royal family through his activities in FIFA and the Olympics.

Frank and Steven Lowy:  sponsors of the Westfield Matildas

Will the Lowys join worldwide protests against Al-Araibi’s detention and possible deportation to Bahrain? I hope so but

I’m not confident.

I would expect a public plea from Australians of the Year, Dr Richard Harris (SA) and Dr Craig Challen (WA), who led the successful international rescue of 12 teenage soccer players from flooded caves in Thailand.

So far they’ve said nothing. Why not?

Hi-ho Silver

Bob Hawke, the former Labor Prime Minister, is leaving no stone unturned to secure an ALP victory at the next Federal Election.

There is something commendably noble about his presence on Labor’s campaign trail. First on crutches, and now in a wheelchair, 89-year-old Hawke is present on all important occasions to say a few words in support of Bill Shorten whom he always describes as “the next Prime Minister of Australia”.

Hawke loyalists want this year’s Federal Election to be marked in history as the one that was won by “Hawkie”. Naturally, the arrangement is transactional and Hawke will offer his support so long as Shorten drops his policy to end negative gearing, a policy ruled out by Hawke time after time in his own period in office, 1983-1991.

Bob Hawke: back on the campaign trail

Outwardly Shorten remains committed to ending the tax lurk known as negative gearing but privately the commitment is being white-anted by the main right wing faction called Centre or Labor Unity and the Murdoch press in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. All of Labor’s well-heeled pensioners, Hawke, Paul Keating, Peter Beattie, Anna Bligh et al, are in the wings sniping at Labor’s anti-negative gearing policy and calling for it dropped.

Given the elasticity of Shorten’s spine, it is no wonder that the Labor faithful are more restrained in welcoming Hawke to the Federal Election campaign.

They remember an earlier Bob Hawke, the one who dismantled public ownership and implemented the privatisation of Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank and much more.

He even wanted to merge the public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, with a view to selling the merged entity before he left office.

What is particularly galling is the swooning adoration of “Old Silver” by Labor men and women who should know better.

The late Rob Chalmers

Rob Chalmers, the late political commentator who worked the corridors of Canberra’s Press Gallery for almost half a century, captured Hawke’s personality in his memoir published posthumously in 2011.

“Almost no one in Caucus admired or liked Bob Hawke when he came to power. He was regarded as arrogant, boastful, self-indulgent and a bad drunk. This was the near-unanimous view of friend and foe alike, yet he won four elections and was one of Australia’s best prime ministers. Hawke was a bad drunk and, worse, refused to shout in turn. He was lousy. ‘Wouldn’t shout in a shark attack’, in the bar-room vernacular of the time.

“Hawke was also a noted womaniser and sexist with it. At one stage a Cabinet minister having an affair with a staffer – a particularly thin journalist – was the subject of gossip around the gallery. Hawke was greatly interested. ‘I don’t know what you see in her, mate. Every time you fuck her, she’d rattle,’ he quipped, accompanied by that distinctive Hawke laugh.”

Naturally, today’s Labor Party “modernisers” have air-brushed Chalmers’ viewpoint from history.

When Churchill wanted unity with France

In 1940 with German troops and tanks sweeping towards Paris, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his Cabinet invited France to form a political union with Britain. Churchill offered the two-nation pact in return for France not signing an armistice with Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

British PM Winston Churchill reviews Free French troops with De Gaulle, 1944

This is Churchill’s offer in full:

“At this most fateful moment in the history of the modern world, the Government of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make this declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their common defence of freedom and justice. The two Governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.”

Will today’s Tories and New Labourites resurrect Churchill’s 1940 proposal? Er, no. Most of them loathe all “continentals”, especially “frogs”.

Royal News Latest

Australia’s head of state, Mrs Betty Windsor, aka QE2, is patron of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Its website says: “Always wear your seatbelt when travelling in the front or rear of a vehicle.”

Her husband, Prince Philip, is a member of the Order of the Road which describes itself as “the only organisation devoted solely to the encouragement of safe and courteous driving”.

Following his car crash at Sandringham last month, “Phil the Greek” and Mrs Windsor have been caught on camera without wearing seatbelts. Why is no action being taken by police? Are the royals exempt from the law of the land?

Prince Philip: back at the wheel

Brexit late news

Liam Fox is the unluckiest Minister in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet. He twice stood for the Conservative Party leadership – in 2005 and 2016 – and lost both times. He has been dropped from the ministerial front bench on two occasions.

Fox is now Mrs May’s  Secretary of State for International Trade. When Britain voted in 2017 to leave the European Union, Fox claimed he would have 40 Free Trade Agreements to replace the one Britain had with the EU and they would be ready to implement “one second after midnight in March 2019”. This week his department confirmed that he had not negotiated a single agreement. Zero Zilch.

Pope breaks silence

Pope Francis has publicly admitted for the first time that Roman Catholic bishops and priests have been raping nuns and forcing them into “sex slavery”.

“I think it’s still going on, because it’s not something that just goes away,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it said that the church has not got this problem, because it has.

“Must we do more? Yes! Do we want to? Yes!”

Perhaps “Big Frank” should start at his home, The Vatican, where nuns have been used as prostitutes by the clergy for hundreds of years.

Quote of the Week

Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.

  • Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, 1801-1809

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