I’m hoping to get to a tiny town in the Spreewald region of Brandenburg in Germany later this year, as close as possible to October 23. Around 85km south-east of Berlin lies the non-descript town of Trebatsch. Here in what was then Prussia, Ludwig Leichhardt was born two hundred years ago on October 23, 1813.
Leichhardt is more famous in Australia than he is in his native country. Last heard from 40km west of Roma in 1848, Leichhardt disappeared on a journey where he wanted to “get at the heart” of the Australian continent. It was the third of three expeditions around the country all notable in different ways: the first an incredible triumph south to north, the second a complete disaster east to west and the third a total mystery as he tried again to go east to west.
It was the mystery of Leichhardt’s disappearance that fired the imagination of those in this continent. It wasn’t just that Leichhardt vanished without trace but so too did his six colleagues, seven horses, 20 mules and 50 bullocks. This was no Bermuda Triangle; this was an enormous harsh waterless country with no Europeans in sight for 6000kms. Leichhardt’s expedition likely met its end due to thirst or murder but the almost total absence of reliable evidence, following on from his earlier success, allowed a rich legend to grow around Leichhardt the man.
Across NSW, Queensland and Northern Territory there are suburbs, rivers, electoral divisions, highways, streets and stadiums named for him. Nineteenth century clergyman and prominent republican John Dunmore Lang wanted to name a new state Leichhardtland for him carved out of the Gulf country of northern Queensland. His life, the mystery of his death and the many conflicted and tragic searches for his whereabouts puts him second in only to Ned Kelly in Australian historical iconography.
But in his country of birth, fame came late and fitfully. Brandenburg is in eastern Germany and the bits that weren’t ceded to Poland in 1945 ended up in fellow-communist East Germany. The story of the son of a Prussian “royal inspector of peat” who sought glory in a capitalist country did not excite official interest. However by the time his 175th birthday was celebrated in October 1988, things were changing. The Berlin Wall was soon about to fall sending the Stasi state crashing down with it. In this atmosphere it was finally safe to remember a hero from Germany pre-communist times. The Trebatsch Leichhardt Museum opened that month. It will now celebrate its 25th birthday in October the same time as Leichhardt turns 200.
Leichhardt remains a peripheral figure in the grand pantheon of German history. In January Foreign Minister Bob Carr paid a visit to the Australian embassy in Berlin where he praised Leichhardt’s role in Australian history. Carr said Leichhardt came to Australia in 1842 with a few to making a name for himself. Leichhardt was styled a ‘doctor’ and had studied broadly but left the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universitat in Berlin without a qualification.
But there he had befriended an Englishman John Nicholson who excited in his a keen interest in the British Empire. With the prospect of compulsory military service in Prussia looming, Leichhardt thought of going to the West Indies or Africa but in the end decided to study the natural history of Australia. In London to visit zoological and botanical gardens he met a professor of anatomy Richard Owen who gave Leichhardt letters of introduction to NSW surveyor-general Sir Thomas Mitchell.
With Nicholson’s help, Leichhardt secured a passage on the ship Sir Edward Paget landing in Sydney on Valentine’s Day, 1842. While aboard Leichhardt learned how to determine latitude and longitude. In Australia, Leichhardt quickly impressed with his learning and began exploring almost immediately. He went to Newcastle to study the coal seams and fossil forests at Awaaba and then became interested in the search to open up a route from Sydney to the northern coast of Australia. Mitchell was planning to lead an expedition and Leichhardt wanted to be part of the party.
But when Mitchell’s plan foundered on Whitehall bureaucracy, Leichhardt decided to organise his own trip aided by squatters who were keen to see the north opened up. He set off for Brisbane in 1844 with five companions where four more joined the expedition. They left the last settlement at Jimbour on the Darling Downs and followed the Condamine River west before crossing the Divide to follow the Dawson River north and then the Mackenzie, Isaac and Lynd Rivers. With food in short supply the party lived off the land and the wild fruit kept them free of scurvy.
One of the party was killed by locals when they inadvertently camped onto a sacred site but they pressed on and found the Gulf of Carpentaria on July 5, 1845. He named a river the Gilbert for his “unfortunate companion” killed by the blacks. Leichhardt travelled west in a line about 50km from the swampy coast crossing a number of rivers, while living entirely off the land. In what is now NT, they found the McArthur River and found Aboriginals who had contact with Macassan trepan fishers. By the end of the year they found Aborigines with a smattering of English and knew they were closing in on Port Essington. They arrived on December 17 after being missing for 15 months.
They returned by ship to Sydney and were greeted as heroes. The expedition, long since presumed lost, had opened up vast areas of Queensland and the Northern Territory to Europeans. He also collected and catalogued thousands of specimens of native flora and fauna. His survival in the face of overwhelming odds convinced many to dismiss a similar disappearance on the last of his journeys in 1848.
Heading across Australia south to north was hard enough (as Burke and Wills would find out 14 years later), but it was nothing to the east to west journey. His second expedition in 1847 ended quickly in wet weather, dengue fever and poor morale. But Leichhardt was determined to have another go. Publicly Leichhardt hoped to get to the Swan River colony (now Perth) in two years. Privately he thought it might take three or four. But it was always his grand ambition to cross the country as he admitted in his final known letter.
That letter was sent from Mt Abundance station 40km west of Roma on April 2, 1848. At an outstation on the property of Allan Macpherson, Leichhardt wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald. In the letter he spoke of his progress and his admiration for the country he was passing through but he did not say where he was going next. What he did say was that he prayed for success. “When I consider how lucky I have been in my progress up to now, I entertain the hope our Almighty Protector will permit me to bring my favourite plan to a successful end.”
The favourite plan did not end successfully though we don’t exactly know how or where. Earlier on February 22, Leichhardt wrote a letter to his brother-in-law from his starting point at the Darling Downs. Written two days before he was about to set off on his epic journey, Leichhardt noted that two years earlier Thomas Mitchell had already travelled down the Victoria River (later the Barcoo) thinking it was a river that would lead him to the Gulf country. Then in 1847, Mitchell’s deputy Edmund Kennedy found the river was the likely the same stream as the Cooper Creek found by Sturt on his travels and flowed not to the Gulf but south-west before it “disappears in Sturt Desert”. The mysteries left by the combined knowledge of Mitchell, Kennedy and Sturt were fodder for Leichhardt’s imagination to solve problems about Australian geography “as long as I manage to pass the northern end of the desert.”
There was a practical reason for this. Leichhardt needed water and lots of it for his men and stock, and a direct route from Darling Downs to Swan River had precious little of that. Historian Darrell Lewis’s new book Where is Dr Leichhardt?, systematically looked at the available evidence before concluding Leichhardt would have gone around Australia in a huge arc, following the watersheds through the ranges in a constant search for drinking water.
What evidence there is amounts to trees marked with L’s, stories from Aborigines and a nameplate from a rifle with “Ludwig Leichhardt 1848″ written on it. The 15cm x 2cm brass nameplate is significant because it is believed to be genuine. An Aboriginal man, known as Jackie, is believed to have found it attached to a partly burnt firearm in a bottle tree, itself marked with an L, near Sturt Creek, between the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts, just inside Western Australia from the Northern Territory border.
Jackie gave the gun and plate to a white drover and prospector named Charles Harding. Harding gave the plate to a son of a friend, then 14-year-old Reginald Bristow-Smith in 1918 and it was he who lent the plate to the South Australian museum in 1920. Bristow-Smith refused a request to donate the item and it was never displayed. He got it back a year later and nothing further happened until 1934 when SA historian James Dougal Somerville inquired into its origins. Somerville learned Harding had died in 1926, but a friend of Harding told Somerville it was found by “Charlie black boy Jackie”. All Bristow-Smith could remember was that it near “Mt Inkerman” which was “90 miles from the Western Australia border”.
While doubt remained over some of the particulars, Somerville’s research and the double ‘h’ in Leichhardt suggested the plate was genuine. In 2006 the National Museum of Australia reliable dated the artefact to the late 1840s and this convinced them to buy the plate from the Bristow-Smith family as the only authentic relic of the expedition. Author Darrell Lewis is still scouring the area looking for the “L” tree and evidence of the burned gun.
Even if such evidence ever emerges, it does not mean Leichhardt died there, it just means he at least made it two-thirds of the way. Until definitive evidence of an 1840s breech-loading rifle or bones of white men or cattle emerge, Leichhardt’s fate will remain hidden by the immensity of the Australian desert that so entranced him. The legend of the “ultimate European endurer” as Thomas Kenneally called him continues to entrance many, myself included.
Malcolm Turnbull is one of the few Australian politicians to go on the attack after revelations about US spying on oversees citizens through its internet and telecommunications services. The spying by the program called PRISM was revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on Thursday. Turnbull said Australians would be troubled by “large scale, covert surveillance of private data belonging to non-US citizens” held by Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.
Turnbull said he thought Australians had always understood data housed on US servers was subject to US laws such as the Patriot Act. ”But (PRISM) suggests there is extensive surveillance and interception of foreign citizens’ data without a court order and indeed without the knowledge of the internet companies themselves,” he said. Leaving aside his use of “Australians” to mean his own view, Turnbull is right and with the move to cloud computing, the issue has increasingly profound implications for international relations.
President Barack Obama blithely skipped over those concerns when he admitted yesterday the Guardian and Washington Post stories were broadly accurate. Quizzed yesterday by US journalists on the extraordinary revelations of the last few days, Obama denied they were using tech companies’ information to spy on US citizens and people living in the US. But he did not deny they used the data from outside America. It was a short press conference with one question and one follow-up and the American journalists preferred to use the follow-up to ask him was it okay to leak rather than ask the larger question of whether it was okay to spy on all foreigners.
There were actually two separate revelations wrapped up in the one. On Thursday the news broke the FBI had a secret court order gaining access to all of phone company Verizon’s logs on a daily basis according to Patriot Act (2001), 50 USC section 1861. Under 50 USC § 1861 the FBI can request “any tangible things” to get foreign intelligence terrorism information against non US citizens or indeed against US citizens if it doesn’t infringe their first amendment rights.
The FBI then handed the data over to the National Security Agency. The NSA doesn’t get the calls themselves but they get all the IT metadata which records details such as who made the call, where and when and for how long they called. This is arguably defensible as being a non-too-intrusive invasion of privacy. And it only affects the US. Obama dealt with it easily enough yesterday. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” he said. The gathering of metadata was just a “modest encroachments on privacy.”
But Obama was on less firmer ground with the second part of the revelation, which has more profound consequences worldwide. This is the NSA program PRISM “a covert collaboration between the NSA, FBI, and nearly every tech company you rely on daily.” Starting in 2007 under President Bush and recently renewed by Obama using another section of the Patriot Act, the law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US and also those Americans who communicate with people outside the US.
The FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit program has been gradually extended to direct access the servers of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple and video chat company Paltalk. Just as in the Verizon case, the FBI passed on the information to NSA. According to WaPo, PRISM can “literally watch your ideas form as you type.” The difference with Verizon is that this deal gives the NSA full access not just to the fact that an email or chat happened, but they also get the contents.
In the press conference, Obama refused to mention PRISM by name. These were classified operations overseen by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, “With respect to the Internet and emails, this does not apply to US citizens, and it does not apply to people living in the US,” he said.
Facebook and Google have both denied involvement in the program. Steve Zuckerberg said they never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk and would fight it aggressively if they did. Google boss Larry Page’s response was “WTF”. He said they never heard of Prism and like Facebook had never authorised large scale direct access to their information. Zuckerberg and Page have plausible deniability but someone in these organisations would have been aware of the court orders. The one notable absentee from the list was Twitter which has a history of data request non-compliance, though its data is also publicly available.
Obama began his defence yesterday by reminding journalists of the “two biggest commitments” of his presidency: “to keep the American people safe; and… to uphold the Constitution.” Obama repeated his call for the US to end its “perpetual war mindset” (a comment that caused Wonkblog to ask if Obama himself was the leaker) but a balance would remain between privacy concerns and the need to keep Americans safe, because, “there are some trade-offs involved.”
Obama is finding those trade-offs difficult to deal with, like Bush before him. Keeping 21st century Americans safe with an 18th century constitution is an impossible task. But at least Americans have some safeguards against their government. The rest of us, as Malcolm Turnbull reminds us, have none.
“The mere fact that the Constitution is amended to permit the Commonwealth to make grants directly to local government, rather than through the States, does not in any way guarantee that it will give more money, or indeed, any money.” (University of Sydney Constitutional Reform Unit Report No 3, January 2013, p,88)
As well as voting Gillard or Abbott into power this September, Australian voters will also be asked to change the constitution. This is the first time people have voted on the constitution in 14 years and despite some recent politicking there is not a lot of excitement about it. Yet as then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said in a 2012 speech “constitutional reform is a high stakes contest”.
This particularly contest is about recognition of local government in the federal constitution something that already failed in 1974 and 1988. According to Roxon this is the last opportunity for change and to proceed and lose would be a final death knell for local government recognition. “Future governments would just not waste the time and effort on a fourth attempt,” Roxon said.
The trouble is the change is a legal one not quickly understood and Roxon’s government has not invested much time in helping people understand. What is at stake is a change to Section 96 of the constitution.
Section 96 (“Financial assistance to States”) currently reads:
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The change to be voted on in the referendum is twofold.
The name of S96 will change from “Financial assistance to States” to “Financial assistance to States and local government bodies”.
The text of S96 will change to: “the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State and any local government body formed by the law of the state on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.”
At first blush, there doesn’t seem anything terribly obviously wrong about Section 96 under than the pointless referral to the “ten years after the establishment” which expired in 1911. This section gives Commonwealth carte blanche to fund the states under any conditions it desires. So why is it important to include “any local government body formed by the law of the state”?
What Section 96 does not give is the right for the Commonwealth to fund the third level of government, local councils. Australia is a classic “dualist federal system” and local councils are not mentioned anywhere in the Federal Constitution. In 1901, municipalities were considered a subsidiary body with no status or powers of their own.
Then as now Councils were creations of the state, and the states retain the right (for example as specified in Part 2 of the Queensland constitution) to fire them. This has happened, usually on financial or amalgamation grounds – despite the fact those Councils have been voted in by the people, and compulsorily.
The federal referendum cannot address that injustice; that would require referendums in each of the state parliaments. But what it can do, is give Councils more freedom to secure funding directly from the Commonwealth by making Section 96 of Constitution more specific.
Councils in Australia have a narrow range of powers confined to property services and rely on the property tax commonly called “rates” to fund their services. The problem is they are also responsible for local roads and all the capital expenditure and maintenance they require, well outside the capability of property taxes.
This problem was recognised as early as 1922 when the Commonwealth first funded roads on a 50:50 basis with the states. A year later the Main Roads Development Act relied on Section 96 of the constitution to provide money to the states on the condition that some or all of it would be passed on to councils to build roads, especially in remote areas.
Road expenditure increased dramatically after World War II as the Commonwealth gradually became more prescriptive about what the money was to be used for. The Whitlam Government took over in 1972 with a strong aversion to the mostly conservative-ruled states. It encouraged councils to form regional groups and poured money into regional development schemes that by-passed the states. The Commonwealth took on full responsibility for “national highways” and insisted States run their own roads program past the Feds.
In 1974 Whitlam held a referendum to give local government representation on the Australian Loan Council and to allow the Commonwealth to lend money to them. The states were furious and saw it as an attempt to by-pass them. The ‘No’ case stressed that grants to local government would allow “Canberra’s bureaucratic fingers” into every one of Australia’s municipalities. The referendum failed nationally by half a million votes, and in all States except NSW.
A second referendum also failed in 1988. The Hawke Government asked “Do you approve of an Act to alter the Constitution to recognise local government?’ This question was more symbolic than 1974 and considered “sugar” to aid support for other referendum questions by harnessing the campaigning power of local government. It fell after initial bipartisan support was lost. The referendum failed in all States and Territories and failed overall by a substantial margin of three million votes.
The Hawke Goverment also changed the Fraser Government initiative which gave the states a share of income tax. This was handy in good times but difficult to bear in recessions. Hawke removed the tax and replaced it with FAGs – Financial Assistance Grants. FAGs had the political benefit of improving the budget bottom line by more directly targeting funds where needed, though it created inequalities across the system.
John Howard cut out the FAGs and introduced the GST in 1998 to fund the states. However the deal he was forced to strike with the Democrats meant the tax did not raise what was expected and the Commonwealth still needed to top up funding. In 2002 Howard directly funnelled money to the Councils Whitlam-style in the Roads to Recovery program. Originally due to last four years, it proved extremely popular and still exists. The problem was how equitable these arrangements were, particularly in consequential impact, though there was not much will to change.
In 2006 the federal parliament adopted a resolution recognising local government which was a token gesture but acknowledged a reality not expressed in the constitution. The Rudd/Gillard government continued the commitment to recovering roads. From 2009-10 to 2013-14 the Government is providing $1.75 billion ($373.5 million in 2013-14) under the Roads to Recovery program.
Rudd also established the Australian Council of Local Government in 2008 in the name of ‘partnership building’. Then after the 2010 election, Julia Gillard promised the Greens and Independents she would hold a referendum to recognise local government in the constitution. A major impetus for constitutional change came in the subsequent Pape case. Law lecturer Bryan Pape told the High Court the $900 Rudd stimulus payments to taxpayers were a gift and not supported by the taxation powers of the constitution. The Government won the case on a narrow interpretation of its “nationhood powers” in the constitution. The High Court deemed the Government had the right to give away money, but only in matters of “national emergency”.
Waters were further muddied by a second case in 2012 Williams v the Commonwealth. Ronald Williams was a parent opposed to Commonwealth funding of the school chaplaincy program. The High Court agreed with Williams the Commonwealth did not have the authority to exercise the expenditure under its constitutional powers and shut down the program.
The Government ignored the Pape decision because it won but Williams was different. To fix the chaplaincy issue, they rushed through the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Act (No 3) 2012 “to make, vary or administer arrangements under which public money is or may become payable, or to make grants of financial assistance.” However this new law could be subject to constitutional challenge to find the head of power that authorises it.
Programs like Roads to Recovery and the National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements are similarly challenged. Funding and repairing local roads is hardly a corporation power or a nationhood power, the two most likely constitutional defences. They are hardly “national emergency” programs. They therefore remain vulnerable to constitutional challenge if anyone had the standing and motivation to take such an action.
Hence the referendum. The problem is a lack of knowledge and lack of trust from a disengaged electorate. In 2011 a local government Expert Panel found that for a referendum to be successful it must have bipartisan support, make a practical difference and resonate with the public. Unless its supporters start quickly making a compelling case known, this referendum seems doomed to the same failure that has plagued 36 of the 44 referendums since Federation.
As Australian authors go, Sydney Loch is an undeservedly forgotten figure. A Wikipedia search redirects to his slightly more famous wife Joice NanKivell Loch. She was also an author but is mostly forgotten despite being Australia’s most decorated woman.
Nankivell Loch and her husband helped 15,000 Greeks escape Turkish persecution in the anarchic days of the 1920s. They were in Greece volunteering with Quaker Famine Relief worldwide amid a war where both sides indulged in ethnic cleansing. It was not Sydney Loch’s first encounter of the Turks as an enemy;, he served at Gallipoli as a runner for the Australian army before falling seriously ill. It was his remarkable tale of life at the front that made his name though no-one knew it at the time.
Loch was an Englishman who left his country because of unrequited love. The woman he loved was five years older than him and lived at his home in London. He was shocked when he found out she was having an affair with his father. He left the country in disgust and came to Australia. Loch eventually became a grazier in Gippsland. He signed up in 1914 and after months of training in the shadow of the Egyptian pyramids, he landed in Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. He survived four months before being wracked by typhoid fever which gave him polyneuritis. He almost died in hospital in Alexandria and was eventually shipped home to Melbourne.
It was during his long convalescence he wrote his memoir of the campaign which he published as the “The Straits Impregnable”. Loch wrote about the shortage of shells and the poor food. Death was matter-of-fact, life in the trenches was boring, and moving between was dangerous. No-one cared about the war.
Loch pulled no punches with his grim descriptions of how people lived and died in the trenches. Australian war censorship was among the strictest in the world, but remarkably Loch’s book avoided the censor’s wrath despite being a no-holds barred account of the war. The credit for its initial publication goes to publisher Harry Champion of Collins St, Melbourne. Champion immediate saw the manuscript as an important document to counteract the jingoism of war promoters to show the true horror of the battlefield.
As a memoir, Loch’s book was required to be submitted to military censors, a requirement laid down by the 1915 wartime Rules for Censors. A factual account could also run foul of the War Precautions Act which forbade material likely to discourage enlistment, already a hot topic as Prime Minister Billy Hughes considered conscription to boost troop numbers. Champion’s solution was to publish the book as a fictional novel. The author’s name was changed to Sydney de Loghe while the book’s main character was changed to “Lake”. Several other key dramatis personae were also thinly disguised. Brigadier-General Walker became General Runner, Colonel Johnston became Jackson, Adjutant Miles became Yards and war correspondent Captain Charles Bean became Captain Carrot.
The subterfuge was necessary because Gallipoli was such a fiasco. For months General Hamilton hid the poor progress and extent of the casualties and was determined the truth of the campaign would never reach the press. It wasn’t until English journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and Australian Keith Murdoch got involved that Hamilton’s dirty secret got out. Murdoch carried Ashmead-Bartlett’s letter (which he re-wrote from memory after it was confiscated) to Cabinet minister in London and Hamilton was recalled in October. The campaign was soon called off and its most successful operation was its flawless withdrawal in December. By then there was half a million dead, roughly equal in number between Allied and Turkish forces.
As Collins predicted, Loch’s published work stunned the Australian public when it came out in June the following year. While the Anzac legend had already started by 1916, Australians had little access to the truth of what happened in the Turkish campaign. The Straits Impregnable was also critically acclaimed, among those was Melbourne reviewer Joice NanKivell who asked to meet the author. The book sold out in a couple of months and Champion wet his lips as he considered a second edition. It was here he made his major blunder.
Champion was at pains to point out the events of the book were real, for political reasons. Hughes had called for a referendum on conscription in October 1916. Universal military training for Australian men aged 18 to 60 had been compulsory since 1911. The referendums, if carried, would have extended this requirement to service overseas. The referendum, as was another in 1917, narrowly defeated after a bitter campaign. But that was too late for Champion, Loch and The Straits Impregnible.
Champion added a preliminary note on the first page of the second edition where no one could miss it. It read “This book written in Australia, Egypt and Gallipoli, is true”. Someone sent the book and its provocative preliminary note to Victoria’s military censor Major LF Armstrong. Armstrong was furious and demanded the book be withdrawn from sale. He also threatened Champion’s publishing house with legal action for breaching the War Precautions Act.
Champion didn’t give in straight away. He hired lawyer and friend Maurice Blackburn to negotiate with the censor’s office. Blackburn achieved a compromise; the book would be withdrawn but allowed to be published at a later date, if Loch writing as de Loghe would pen a series of pro-war articles and promote enlistment. Loch was in anguish over losing the revenue from the book but agreed to the compromise. The book was withdrawn and Loch worked on the pro-war articles. It over 12 months for Loch to summon the energy to write them and they were eventually published as a pamphlet called One Crowded Hour, A Call to Arms shortly before the war ended in 1918. It contains lines Loch must have hated writing: “You are mad, you men who will not go. There is no man in those armies who is not living at the top of his life.”
If this was of dubious literary merit, there was no doubting the calibre of The Impregnible Straits. Miles Franklin, a friend of Champion’s wife, saw it as an insight into the mindset of Australian soldiers and why they accepted the senselessness of Gallipoli without much complaint. She sold the British rights to Sir John Murray’s publishing house and they were published in 1917 with the provocative note included. Despite the parlous state of the war at the time, British censors did not take exception. Murray would establish a life-long friendship with Loch and NanKivell Loch and published their later adventures in Ireland, Russia and Quaker refugee camps in Greece.
In 1927, two successful books emerged that were critical of the war, Rupert Graves “Goodbye to all That” and Erich Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front”. Murray tried to cash in with another edition of Loch’s book (still under the name of de Loghe). Murray wanted Loch to include a chapter on his adventures in the Russian-Polish and Greek-Turkish wars but he never got around to it. The project was eventually shelved by World War II.
In that war Loch and his wife rescued a thousand Jews in Bucharest and led Polish refugees to Cyprus and Palestine. They returned to Greece after the war and Loch died in 1954. Nankivell Loch died in 1982, aged 95. In 2006 a museum opened in their honour in Greece and it wasn’t until a year after that, that Loch’s book was rediscovered in Australia. Susanna and Jake de Vries included the book with a biography of Loch under the title To Hell and Back. After 91 years. the banned account of Gallipoli by Sydney Loch was finally out in the open in its home country.
The COAG Reform Council has released its first assessment report under the Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development National Partnership Agreement with disagreement between the Commonwealth and NSW the major hurdle. The National Partnership Agreement report looks at whether participating governments have completed their actions under the agreement which reviews CSG and large coal mining developments and their potential impact on water resources.
Of the four States participating in the agreement-New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia – only NSW has not completed its milestone to publicly release a protocol for referring projects to the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC). The issue is that the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have not agreed on NSW’s draft protocol. The report said it remained unclear how NSW would decide which projects to refer to the IESC for advice outside of land it has identified as ‘Strategic Agricultural Land’.
This delay may defer the provision of NSW project applications to the IESC for advice until the protocol is published and will also affect the period to which the benchmark to refer all project applications to the IESC for advice before amending legislation, regulations and guidelines applies. Queensland, however remains on track having signed the National Partnership on February 14, 2012 (under the Bligh Government) thanks to a one-off $18 million payment from the Federal Government.
Despite complaints from the Newman Government about duplication of regulatory bodies, the new government endorsed the protocol for project referral on October 1 2012. The protocol requires Queensland government officers to refer a proposal if it is deemed a ‘project application’ (that is, it requires an Environmental Impact Statement) and it is ‘likely’ to have a ‘significant impact on water resources’. However as of October 2012 Queensland has not referred any projects to the IESC, though the Commonwealth has referred several Queensland projects.
The aim of the IESC is to give Australian governments solid scientific advice on the potential effects of CSG and large coal mining developments on water resources. On November 27 last year, federal environment and water minister Tony Burke announced its creation as a statutory body under amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The six-person committee’s role is advisory only and it has no responsibility for issuing approvals for projects or recommending whether a project should or should not be approved.
At the time, Tony Burke said the Committee was created to provide advice on coal seam gas proposals and large coal mining developments. ”The work of this committee will give communities reason to be confident that future decisions about coal seam gas and large coal mining development are informed by the best possible science,” Burke said.
Releasing its first report this month, the COAG Reform Council chair former Victorian premier John Brumby said CSG mining was a contentious issue. ”Coal seam gas mining has an important role to play in Australia’s future energy security and economic development,” Brumby said. ”This agreement aims to improve the community’s confidence in decisions on coal seam gas and large coal mining development by informing those decisions with substantially improved science and independent expert advice.” Brumby said in the five years to 2010-11, CSG production increased from 2% to 11% of Australia’s total gas production. ”Coal seam gas is an important source of natural gas that has the potential to strengthen Australia’s long-term energy security and to further expand energy exports to meet growing global demand for energy,” he said.
The report found Australia’s CSG reserves that have been identified as profitably extractable have been increasing in recent years up to around 35 000 petajoules (PJ) .Estimates suggest a further 65,000 PJ could become economically viable in the future and there are even larger estimates of inferred (122 000 PJ) and potential (259 000 PJ) CSG resources. The report said the community was concerned about potential environmental impacts of new developments including the volume of water produced as a by-product of CSG extraction and possible contamination of fresh water aquifers.
It identified three priority areas to strengthen decision making:
1. more closely identifying potential and actual impacts on water resources, and avoid or minimise significant impacts through a transparent process that builds public confidence
2 substantially improving governments’ collective scientific understanding of the actual and potential effects of CSG and coal mining developments on water resources
3 ensuring the best scientific information and expertise underpins all relevant regulatory processes and decisions.
The Surat Basin is one of the priority areas identified for bioregional assessment. The report says the bioregional assessments would analyse the ecology, hydrology and geology of an area to assess the potential risks to water resources as a result of the impacts of coal seam gas or large coal mining developments.“These assessments will provide advice to governments about the water related resources and risks on a region-wide, rather than project specific basis,” the report said.
The National Partnership program will provide $50m over three financial years with 50% going to the states and 25% each to according to the relative distribution of coal production and CSG projects.
Commonwealth-referred Queensland projects under consideration by IESC are:
Stanmore ‘The Range’ Open Cut Coal Mine – being considered
Newland Coal Extension Project – being considered
Arrow Bowen Gas Project – advice provided
Santos Future Gas Supply Area Project – advice provided
Middlemount Coal Mine – advice provided
Anglo Coal (Foxleigh) Pty Ltd—Foxleigh Coal Mine Extension – being considered
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd—Alpha Coal Project—Mine and Rail Development - advice provided
Aquila Resources Ltd—Blackwater Washpool Coal – being considered
Adani Resources Ltd—Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project – being considered
AMCI (Alpha) Pty Ltd—South Galilee Coal Project – being considered
Taroom Coal Project, Surat Basin – advice provided
Collingwood Coal Project, Surat Basin – advice provided
Codrilla Coal Mine, south east of Moranbah – advice provided
Sonoma Coal Mine Expansion, Collinsville – being considered
With Margaret Thatcher’s death this week, aged 87, it is timely to repost this article I wrote in June 2007 celebrating the release of Thatcher the Musical.
Following in the footsteps of such unlikely musical superstars as Jerry Springer and Roy Keane, the life and times of Margaret Thatcher has finally been set to music. The theatres of regional Britain are currently packing them in with a tour of “Thatcher – The Musical!” the life and times of the country’s most controversial 20th century Prime Minister set to music and comedy. It features an all-singing, all-dancing cast of ten women who croon their way to such standards as The Cabinet Shuffle, The Grocers Daughter and The Thatcher Anthem.
The musical is the brainchild of the Wolverhampton-based women’s company Foursight Theatre and documents Thatcher’s rise from young girl to international stateswoman. The cast play eight different Maggies; the Grocer’s Daughter, Twinset Maggie, Power Suit Maggie, Military Maggie, Britannia Maggie, Sacrificial Maggie, Broken Maggie and Diva Maggie, and also take turns as the men in her life husband Dennis, Ronald Reagan, Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine. The musical ends with the line of Diva Maggie “”I am the iron in your bloodstream, I’m in your DNA!”.
The last one reminds us of the Iron Lady, a moniker that dates to 1976. Then leader of the Opposition, she made her famous “Britain Awake” speech at Kensington Town Hall where she attacked the Soviet Union. In the speech she said “The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet politburo don’t have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns.” The Soviet Defence Ministry newspaper Red Star picked up the speech and called her the “Iron Lady”. The label was popularised by Radio Moscow and Thatcher herself quickly saw its advantages.
Thatcher was always steeped in politics. Born in 1925, she was the daughter of a grocer and Methodist lay preacher Alfred Roberts who was an independent councillor and mayor with Liberal sympathies. She was educated at Oxford where she graduated in chemistry in 1947. She was elected president of the student Conservative Association at Oxford and made herself known to the leadership of her party at the time of its General Election defeat of 1945. She worked as a research chemist at J Lyons and co where she was a member of the team that developed the first soft frozen ice cream.
In the early 1950s she ran and lost elections in the strong Labour seat of Dartford though she did considerably cut the majority both times. She also won national publicity as the youngest female candidate in the country. There she met a local businessman Denis Thatcher. They married in 1951 and had twins, Mark and Carol, two years later. Denis had a successful career in the oil industry and became a director of Castrol. He funded his wife’s training as a lawyer, specialising in taxation. Finally she found a safe Tory seat in London and was elected to Parliament in 1959 as MP for Finchley.
Two years later Harold Macmillan appointed her Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Pensions, a position she held until Labour won the 1964 election. In opposition, she was a Ted Heath supporter and was rewarded with a role in the shadow cabinet in 1967. When Heath won power in 1970, Thatcher was appointed Education secretary and was charged with reducing the budget. Her immediate decision to abolish free milk for 7 to 11 year olds in state schools led to the cry of “Mrs. Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. Despite protests from Labour councils, Thatcher got her way and the cuts saved £14m a year.
Heath lost to Harold Wilson again in 1974 and Thatcher was named shadow environment secretary. After he lost a second election later that year, the party held a leadership ballot. Thatcher surprisingly pipped Heath’s preferred successor William Whitelaw to become Britain’s first female party leader. Thatcher slowly won over the party to her views and sat back and watched as the Labour government unravelled, finally collapsing after the widespread strikes in the 1978-9 Winter of Discontent, a Shakespearean label popularised by the Sun, which backed Thatcher.
The Conservative Party won the 1979 election with a margin of 44 seats. Thatcher had a mandate for change but her first two years in office weren’t easy with unemployment remaining stubbornly high and economic improvement slow. Bobby Sands led an IRA hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981 in which he and 9 others starved to death. Despite criticism by the European Commission of Human Rights and the Irish Government, Thatcher maintained a public hardline attitude saying “Crime is crime is crime. It is not political.” Behind the scenes however, her Ulster Secretary James Prior negotiated a package of concessions with the surviving Maze prisoners.
Domestically, Thatcher increased interest rates and VAT. But with an election looming and defeat likely, salvation came for Thatcher with the Falklands War. The Argentinean junta, looking to deflect attention from their own domestic woes invaded the South Atlantic islands in April 1982. Riding a wave of nationalist sentiment, Thatcher launched a naval task force to reclaim the islands.
Aided by a Labour split, Thatcher won the 1983 election in a landslide increasing her majority by 100 seats. Her next term was marked by battles against the union movement. The National Union of Mineworkers launched a massive strike in 1984 to protest proposals to close a large number of mines. Thatcher was ready for them. She insisted that coal stocks were built up to avoid politically sensitive electricity cuts. She increased police powers and rushed anti-union laws through parliament. Political commentator Brian Walden described the miners’ strike as “a civil war without guns“. Eventually she wore down the miners, split their leadership and forced them to concede defeat after a year of picketing.
The IRA came back to haunt Thatcher in October 1984. The Prime Minister was staying at the Brighton Grand Hotel on the eve of both her 59th birthday and the annual Conservative Party conference. The IRA detonated two large bombs in the hotel at 3am, one of which tore through her bathroom barely two minutes after she had used it. She and husband Denis escaped injury, but five others including a Tory MP were killed and many were injured. The following day the IRA responsibility with the chilling message “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.” Thatcher went on to speak to the conference as scheduled at 9:30am that morning to great acclaim.
Economically, Thatcher maintained her fervent belief in the power of the markets. She started to sell off the large state utilities and council homes to their residents. She abolished the large city councils including the Greater London Council as these were all controlled by Labour. With the country in the middle of an economic boom, she had another comfortable election victory in 1987 with a slightly reduced majority. Towards the end of her regime, the chemist in her returned as she started to champion environmental issues. She began to discuss the issues of global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain. At the 1988 conference she told the party “No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy- with full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full”.
But with the economy stalling again, her popularity declined. She fell out with her foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe and Chancellor Nigel Lawson over their desire to force EU monetary union. In 1990, her idea t0 replace local government rates by the deeply unpopular “poll tax” proved to be her biggest mistake. With interest rates running at 15%, Howe resigned and precipitated a party leadership ballot. Michael Heseltine ran against her but the first ballot was inconclusive. Before the second ballot, Thatcher decided to resign. She supported John Major as her successor who went on to retain power in 1992.
That same year, she was appointed to the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher. She continued to have a high public profile and spoke out on many issues of the day. She famously supported Pinochet during his incarceration in London in 1998. By then Labour had finally ended the Tory stranglehold on power by moving to the middle of the political spectrum. When Margaret Thatcher celebrated her 80th birthday in 2005, her old colleague Geoffrey Howe said ”Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible”. It’s a notion embraced by the final scene in Thatcher the Musical: Diva Maggie, played by Lorna Laidlaw, emerges to perform a nightmarish, swivelled-eyed song: “we are all Thatcherites now”.