Australia has changed. It is not the Australia I knew. As a mature man I can compare what was to what is. Our freedoms are something which I took for granted. I was under the illusion that those in authority would protect and honour our inherit freedoms, but we have seen those very same identities who should be in the forefront in defending our freedoms, only too willingly to erase them. Not only that, but to persecute those who stand up for freedom backed by a police force which, in instances, has become an instrument of the government and not the servant of the people. I never, ever, thought I would see things happening in this land of ours under the banner of “we are doing it for your own good”
The late US President Regan said that the ten most feared words of the English language are “I am from the government, I am here to help” (2nd August 1988). Yet even before the present virus outbreak, our freedoms were being eroded and this current situation has provided an excuse to erode them even further. Democracy we have seen is not a guarantee for freedom. We have witnessed dreadful laws enacted and enforced throughout Australia, especially in Victoria and Queensland that would make some less worthy nations envious.
Freedoms do not come easy; they are not given; they are fought for and won. We must be eternally vigilant otherwise they will be taken away. We are familiar with those who went to war to ensure that our way of life and freedoms are protected from a brutal enemy. Freedom, however, has to also be won through the corridors of powers, such as our parliaments and institutions. We cannot be free unless we have freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. We must have a free media. We must be protected by unbiased laws, but we have seen Australia governed by the executive and not by parliament.
The freedoms which we have enjoyed have been inherited from Great Britain. Millions have been attracted to our shores because of the freedom we offered and once enjoyed. Long before the Norman Conquest, King Alfred, (the only British king to be called “Great”) implemented laws which laid foundation of the rights of the common man. He was a studious law giver, a man who promoted literacy and was concerned with the weak and the dependent. He based his laws on earlier worthy codes and the bible. He was a learned man who was full of compassion.
Then in 1215 we had the Magna Carta when King John was forced to sign the charter forcing the King to be subject to the same laws as any other person. It influenced the United States Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Both these latter peoples’ right were also influence by the British Bill of Rights of 1688 which set out the basic laws of parliamentary rule and rights of the common man, while putting a break on the powers of the Monarch, the then government.
Then we have the Australian Constitution, with sections 92 and 117 guaranteeing the freedom of movement backed up by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, with Article 13 guaranteeing the free movement in and out of a country, with Article 20 guaranteeing the right for peaceful assembly and association. Australia signed this, but what is the point of signing something which we are NOT going to honour? What is the point of an Australian Constitution if State Governments do not honour it? Or a federal government too weak to do anything about it? We have a High Court for the Federal Government to show these States that they are simply acting illegal.
We also operate under English Common Law and among other aspects, states that we are innocent until we are proven guilty, not the other way around. Governments exist to serve the people, we the people are not here to serve governments.
We have seen State Governments act in a dictatorial way, again especially in Victoria. There, the police do terrible things to their own citizens and there have been multiple breeches of human rights in this regard. When Premier Daniel Andrews were questioned on this during a media conference, he replied “THIS IS NOT ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS”. His own words. We are in trouble. We, the people, must protect our rights, because it has been shown that the political elite will not do so on our behalf while the various Oppositions have proven to be weak and hopeless including that in Tasmania. Our governments have been bereft of compassion.
But how come we have got to this stage? Simply out of fear. Fear is feeling overwhelmed. Fear will make people submissive. Fear creates the belief that is it enduring and because of fear we believe life can be reduced to a set of rules and the more rules we create the more habit-bound we become. We lose innocence and spontaneity, we forget the light and vitality of life and we end up living in the shadows.
Hence, because of fear, we allow ourselves to be under house arrest, putting our trust in governments that not only tell us what to do, but supplies all our needs. Government then becomes not only our mother and father, but god. When the true God is rejected all we have is Big Government. Again to quote the late President Regan, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem”. (Jan 29 1981).
We have a brain, an intelligent and hopefully enough wisdom because of experience to be able to judge for ourselves. We are individuals, not sheep. Too many of our people have accepted what is being told and the message is one of fear giving predictions that simply have not happened. We cannot every time a new virus appears shut down society, imprison its citizens and destroy its economy.
The one fear I have, come January next year (2021) we will truly see the horrific hardship of this shut down fully occur, which a leading QC, Michael Wyles, has stated is illegal. It has not only destroyed the economic life of people, but too, their mental and social life. The rate of suicide is far higher than the death rate of this current virus, much of which could have been avoided if the vulnerable were instantly protected and those who had the virus were adequately quarantined which governments failed to do. We also must take note that 99 per cent of those who contract the virus will survive and that most will only have a mild case of it.
A certain percentage (and it is quite high) of people like to be told what to do. It brings security and they don’t have to make decisions for themselves. I have been staggered how easy and how quickly we have been willing to give our freedoms away and let us not be fooled, governments have learnt from this.
I thank you for your time. We are a loving people, loving our family, our friends and our country. Therefore, we are indeed concerned what is going on. Our national anthem says, “We are young and free” – well, we are no longer free.
An address that was read on behalf of Reg Watson on 5th of September 2020 at the Hobart Freedom Rally.
I am sorry that I am unable to be with you today, but circumstances do not permit. I am now in my mature years and I have never, ever seen such an abuse of power in Australia from the political elite. There is a lack of compassion from those who say they are acting on our behalf, backed up by a police force that should be spending their time, preventing, tackling and solving crime. Instead we are seeing, particularly in the State of Victoria, innocent people, even pregnant women, arrested for expressing an opinion. What I have also observed is a lack of courage from our Federal Government that avoids taking action in bringing these Premiers under control.
Our freedoms of movement, expression and indeed thought, have been eroded to the point that – as has happened – we can be arrested. Is this Germany of the 1930 and 40s? Is this Soviet Russia or Red China today? No, it is Australia in 2020 under the threat and fear of a virus which has given the excuse for governments and questionable medical experts to shut down our society to the detriment of physical and mental health. We have seen our nation destroyed economically. The Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg announced on the 2nd September, that Australia is in a recession which will be far worse than the recession we had to have under Prime Minister Paul Keating. This has all been created by our own leaders, under the guise they are acting on our behalf and for our benefit. The recession has just begun. The horror which is yet to come can only be imagined. Thanks to our dubious leaders who have acted in their own interest and have used the virus issue to increase their power and their ego.
Our borders are closed, which is contrary to the Australian Constitution as guaranteed by Sections 92 and 117. It is also against the Human Right Declaration of 1948. But who cares about existing law? State Governments don’t and the Federal Government seems to be reluctant to tackle this serious breach. Mr Morrison TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.
My father fought for this country in battle as did his father. Three members of the family died in World War One. I now ask, what was it all for? To see our freedoms taken away under the banner of exaggerated fear? And to those who believe that once this is all over, governments will return our freedoms? Let me answer by saying once taken, do not expect them to be returned. Our suppose representatives are silent. Where are they? All major parties support this lock down, Labor, Liberal, and The Greens. Politicians and governments clearly will not protect our freedoms. There is only one group who will and that is – US! The People.
We are governed, quite illegally in my opinion, by executive government, not by Parliamentary law. Australia operates under English Common Law which is constantly being ignored and rejected. When we have people in great medical need refused access to urgent care because someone in authority will not allow them to cross the border to go to hospital we are in deep trouble. We have had deaths result from this madness. Farmers can’t get access to their markets and businesses are going bust. Children cannot attend their parent’s funeral. Yet we are told we are in it all together. Not so, if you are a sporting personality, an entertainment celebrity, a rich businessman or one of the political elite, you can cross the borders and avoid any 14 day quarantine, such as the South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall, who recently went to his son’s graduation in Queensland. The inconsistencies are numerous.
Last week, 100 concerned doctors wrote to the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, voicing their opposition to his current corona-virus policy. In their petition they have pointed out that the cure is worse than the illness and more misery is to come. I am pleased to report that more and more doctors are signing the petition. As yet he has not answered them.
We have had the absurd positon of children being denied their education. There is an increase in suicide, particularly among the young. These draconian lock-downs must end. If we as a people allow this to continue, then we have only ourselves to blame for the long term dreadful effects.
We must act and we must regain our freedom. We must say no, loud and clear. This is not to say we do not recognise that there is a situation on which we should be concerned. But the policies to tackle it, are in error. Winston Churchill said, “never let a good crises go to waste” and the political elite who would agree.
Thank you my friends. Again, I am sorry that I have not with you today. I am proud of you all. And I will end with this: I am currently reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. The contents are horrifying and Alex makes the comment that they lost their freedom because and to quote, “we did not love freedom enough”… and, “even more, we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure.”
There have been progressive moves over the years for political parties to dominate what was once an independent Legislative Council (LC), the Upper House of the Tasmanian Parliament. The House has fifteen members. Now, eight are party members. More and more, political parties are selecting candidates for the Upper House and with the political machine behind them; an independent rarely has the resources to effectively compete. The future can only see more political party members.
But what does it matter? The problem is showing itself already, and it will be detrimental for the electors of Tasmania. To understand why, one has to know the history of the House and its purpose.
The LC’s heritage goes back a long way. Independence from New South Wales for Van Diemen’s was proclaimed in 1825 and the following year, the LC was formed to administer the new colony. There were six members, all nominated. In 1854 the number of members was enlarged to 33, most mostly nominated, but new members were elected by restricted voting.
In 1856, the colony, now called Tasmania, received Responsible government and a bicameral Parliament established, made up of the Lower House, the House of Assembly and the Upper House, the Legislative Council. This system was established by the Tasmanian Constitution Act of 1854. The first Speaker of the LC was Sir Richard Dry.
Voting in Tasmania is compulsory and the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1973. Whereas those who were allowed to vote in LC elections was previously restricted to the property classes, since 1969 full adult franchise exists.
Voting systems, length of time served, and boundaries differ for both houses, but so is the purpose and that difference are vital to good government.
Tasmania’s Upper House has been unique in Australia in that it has had a long tradition of independent members. Past years it has been seen as a comfortable institution for members of the establishment acting more like a men’s club than anything else. Opponents have criticised the LC as being “archaic” and time for it to go. The role it plays, however, is most important. One reason is to ensure the Lower House, which is dominated by two parties, Labor and Liberal, and a number of Greens, is held in check.
The LC can be very powerful, able to block supply and call elections. Because of this and for other reasons, it is often the bane of the Lower House. Often legislation coming from the Lower House, which must be passed by the Upper House for it to become law, is not only poorly worded, but it may not be in the interest of the Tasmanian people. Therefore the LC is a house of review. Legislation from the Lower House can be sent back, delayed or even rejected. By nature the LC has been a deliberate conservative house, so there can be a check and review on what is coming from the other House.
Some decades ago, wanting to know further on the workings of the LC, I was advised to interview the late William (Bill) Hodgman who was a member of the Upper House from 1971 until 1983 and a an ex-President of the House. He pointed out to me, in no uncertain terms, that the LC was not only a house of review, but also a legislative house, being able to introduce its own legislation.
There are regular calls for the abolishment of the LC. Only recently, ex-Premier Michael Field said so, backed up (oddly enough) by Independent member Ivan Dean. Ex-Premier Robin Gray in his new book agrees, believing that if is dominated by party politics there is no reason for its existence. While I do not agree with Mr Gray, I can understand his reasoning.
The Labor Party has more LC members than the Liberals. The LC can abolish itself and given enough party politicians it could be in the party’s interest to do so. We can see this happening. What then, are the ramifications of only having a unicameral system of Parliament?
Party politics does not necessarily represent the people. Political parties first established themselves in Tasmania’s Parliament in 1909. Members of whatever party represent the party first and if they do not are asked to move on. They also can represent powerful lobby groups and international bodies. This may not be in the interest of the Tasmanian people. The parties tell the people at election time, these are our policies, now choose between us, whereas it should be the reverse. The people should be saying, these are our policies, now represent our will.
If there are no independent members of the LC we will see further poorly worded and ambiguous legislation, which (again) may not in the interest of the electorate, passed without any review or checking. The LC exists for an important service. On most occasions the debate of the LC is superior to the Lower House. W.A. Townsley wrote (his book The Government of Tasmania 1976) LC members express their views “in the strongest term, unhindered by party affiliation” and later “The great strength of the Council rests on having a body to reach decisions without having to respect party affiliations” (P. 82).
Without this check, political parties would be able to pass legislation in their own interest. On occasions the opposition will support the government which (again) may not be in the interest of Tasmanians. We will see political parties even more, push their own agendas.
The development of political parties taking over the LC will ultimately see the abolishment of the LC which will result in less representation for the electorate and less checks and balances on politicians. Good for the government, but not for the people.
Hobartians are blessed with a spectacular recreational and beauty area called the River Derwent with its many wonderful beaches. Weekends see the various sailing clubs utilising its resources and during the various months, bathers take to its waters enjoying its pleasures. Sometimes it is just plain worthwhile to sit and view the scene. Even so, can more be done to use of what we have? Indeed in the past, water activity was more substantial than what it is now. True, in this modern age, there is so much to occupy our leisure time.
Water activity began right from the beginning of settlement in 1804. Indeed a newspaper report from the 1827 mentions horse racing on New Year’s Day at Long Beach, Sandy Bay which was “crowded with people”. From thereon there a great deal of activity which the public could enjoy and may I add, more than now. The question can be asked. Are we under utilising our natural resource and if so, what can we do to maximise this asset without affecting its beauty and natural environment?
Regattas on the Derwent were numerous, not only the Hobart regatta (the oldest continuous in Australia), but Bellerive (1853), Kingston, Sandy Bay and as far afield as New Norfolk and at one time Prince of Wales Bay. The Royal Hobart Regatta began in 1838 and I remember in the 1950s, 60, 70s how enormous crowds flocked to it, but I have to say, attendances are now down. The Sandy Bay regatta began in 1849 while the Kingston regatta is now more commonly known as A Day at the Beach. One can see how early our river was used for pleasure and recreation.
Then there were the numerous jetties from Old Beach and Sandy Bay (Manning Reef still exists), Lindisfarne, Bellerive right down to Kingston Beach. Jetties were vital with the advent of river steamers dropping off passengers, the delivery of fruit and cargo, for pleasure craft and for recreational fishing and diving for swimming.
At Sandy Bay there were public baths dating back to the 1840s. Baths areas were set aside for changing for both women and “gentlemen” allowing a great deal of community interaction. The Baths were located where the Sandy Bay Rowing club now are. In September 1882 a Mercury report makes mention of the spring board and in every hour of the summer season were in constant use. In 1929 the newspaper reported of the “sickening and filthy conditions”. Indeed they were closed because of water quality.
And what of the river ferries and the amazing past river ferry races? I am mature enough in years to recall the many that were used not only for recreational reasons but for passenger services between Hobart City and the eastern shore destinations. John Sargent local river ferry historian adds that way back in 1816 a licence was granted to Urias Alexander and John Newland to operate boats propelled by sail and oars between Hobart Town and Kangaroo Bay. Olsters may remember the romantic days of the river ferries, Rowitta, Dover, Excella and Cartela, the latter, the last of the lot.
Then there were the beaches. Hobart and the river are ringed by magnificent places of leisure. Long Beach, Sandy Bay Beach was the hotspot for swimming and picnics. By the 1920s and onwards thousands arrived by cars and later trolley buses enjoying the waters of this easily assessed beach. It was not only on weekends, but week nights as well. Bands played, hundreds strolled with many taking advantage of the then bathing boxes. To service the demand boat sheds were erected, tables and seats, swings for children and reserves were set aside adorned with pine trees and picnic booths, plus shops to supply ice-creams, cordials and cups of tea. It was a marvellous festive atmosphere. There were also lifesaving team demonstrations.
The river has often been a venue for swimming competitions and still is, such as the Trans Derwent Swim, a Royal Hobart Regatta event and the Derwent River Big Swim, a 34km competition from New Norfolk to Hobart, judged as one of the thirteenth toughest marathon swims in the world.
Sailing for recreational reasons began almost from the year dot, although one would have to watch out for the many whales which swam in the river during early colonial times. Yacht competitive classes of Dragon, Sharpies, Lasers and Fireballs are seen nearly every weekend, home to a number of yachting clubs. One of the main one is the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (1880) which is reputed to be Australia’s largest yacht club and plays a major role in the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race as the finishing line.
However, much has been what was and we should be looking at what can be. The river has so much potential for a greater amount of water activities and facilities to the benefit of the public, not so much to the big developers and corporations. It is OUR river for all Tasmanians and visitors alike. We have an incredible asset right on our door step, yet I cannot help think it is so under-used and with a little more planning, thought and innovation I am confident much more can be made of its practical use.
Perhaps on this day, 25th April, we should remember Private Harry Hodgman, the first Tasmanian to die, perhaps the first Australian, on that fateful morning when he was being rowed ashore. A Turkish sniper put an end to his young life. He was twenty three years old and is buried at Line Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli.
We should remember Nurse Elizabeth (Lizzy) Orr, later Sister Orr, and then Matron. Lizzy hailed from near Hamilton and was Matron of the hospital ships that took the wounded and sick from Gallipoli, the Mediterranean and Salonika, over those many months. What a responsibility. That was not her first military experience as she was a nurse during The Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. Like all nurses at that time, she paid her own way to get the front.
And we remember, General Sir John Gellibrand, born at Ouse, not far from where Lizzy was. Gellibrand became Tasmania’s highest ranking officer during the war. Gellibrand, though always controversial, was a humane man and after the war started the Remembrance Club helping the veterans, widows and families. It became Legacy, a nation-wide organisation which still has the same principles commenced by Gellibrand.
From Gallipoli of course, men were evacuated to the Middle East, to be joined by many others, for recreation, re-training and to be sent to the battle fields of the Western Front, France and Belgium. Thousands of Australians remained in Palestine and Egypt as mounted infantry with the Australian Light Horse to fight the Ottoman Empire.
There were many battles and campaigns in the western front and Tasmanians were awarded eleven Victorian Crosses, one going to Henry William (Harry) Murray from Evandale, who became the highest decorated soldier in the British Commonwealth. Overall, 60,000 Australians died during WWI, including 3,000 Tasmanians and three as many, casualties. In all, a quarter of million men from a small national population of under five million.
The war ended 11th hour, 11th November 1918 and the Versailles Treaty was signed the following year. Just twenty years on, the scenario was repeated when on the 3rd of September 1939 WWII began. Australians served in all theatres of war, army, navy and air force and more than eight thousand died because of neglect, brutality and disease while POWs under the Japanese. The toll of our Air Force men was enormous, more than ten thousand.
In all, 14 Tasmanians have been awarded the Victorian Cross, our last in Afghanistan Corporal Stewart Cameron. By my reckoning, that’s 14 per cent of the hundred awarded to the whole of Australia. Yet, we make only up only 2 and half per cent of the national population. A huge sacrifice and record.
Many memorials dot our hamlets, villages, towns and cities calling us to remember those who made the greatest of all sacrifice and those who served. Post WWII saw Korea, Malayan Emergency, Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam and the latter military campaigns, including Afghanistan which rages still.
They fought for freedom. Yet, freedom is not only won on the battlefield. The freedoms which we have and have inherited go back thousands of years. Freedom is not given; it is won by sacrifice backed by a hunger to treasure such a concept. War is not the only way to defend our freedoms. We, as a people, must be forever vigilant to maintain those freedoms, such as freedom of movement, thought and expression. Those treasured rights that our forefathers fought for – and won, are under severe threat, not by an enemy heading to our shores, but from our own legislators.
This year 2020 is a strange year in that our usual ANZAC services cannot be held. This is a tragedy. Never before, in my now long life or anyone’s for that matter, has this occurred. Still, we must not be deterred. We must remember those whom we honour on this day and reflect on for what they fought. They fought for their families, their community, Australia and their friends and our way of life. Let us reflect not only on their sacrifices, but also why they left our shores to do so.
Lest we forget.
April 26th 2020 will be the 250th anniversary of the first voyage of James Cook and the first European discovery of the eastern coast of Australia then known at New Holland.
On the 26th August 1768, one of the world’s greatest explorers, James Cook, left Plymouth England on the bark, The Endeavour, of 370 tons, originally called The Earl of Pembroke. Then a lieutenant (commissioned by King George III) and not captain, this Yorkshireman of forty years of age was ordered to sail to Tahiti where the transit of Venus was observed the 3rd June 1769. It was hoped that by doing so, the distance could be worked out between the sun and the earth. Navigation depended on astronomy, so besides being a voyage of exploration it was also a scientific one. On board with Cook were some notable people, such as astronomer, Charles Green, two well-known naturalists, Swedish Dr Daniel Carl Solander and 25 year old Joseph Banks together with assistants and artist John Reynolds and artist and naturalist Herman Sporing. There were also a crew of 71 and 12 marines, making a total of 93 men.
Cook was also innovative in that he took measures to prevent scurvy (lack of vitamin C) in his men, making sure they ate fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, pickled cabbage and vinegar where ever possible. He looked after the men’s clothing, so they would have dry and warm things to wear in the cold latitudes. He also took musical instruments, books and fishing lines for the men to use in their time off.
Opening his sealed orders after the transit, he was told to explore the existence of any great land south of Tahiti to latitude 40. Leaving the south Pacific island he took a chief with him named Tupaia. Not finding any great south land he sailed for New Zealand. There he met the local natives, which was a peaceful encounter, leaving on the 1st March 1770 after five months sailing around the two islands. He then had to make a decision to return directly to England via Cape Horn or to go home via Cape of Good Hope. So, on 1st April 1770 the Endeavour sailed westward towards Van Diemen’s Land. On the 20th April, second-in-command, Lieutenant Zachary Hicks sighted land which was on the north-east coast of Victoria. Cook named it Point Hicks. Nine days later, 29th April, following the coast, he anchored for the first time in Australian waters at a spot knows known as Kurnell a site on Botany Bay. Cook ordered his wife’s cousin Isaac Smith to “jump out” and set foot on land. Therefore Able Seaman Smith was the first recorded Englishman to set foot on Australian soil. The following day, in the afternoon, Cook, Banks, Solander and Tupaia landed. Here they met some aborigines and a minor altercation occurred, but efforts of friendship were fruitful. They stayed for a week. During this time, Seaman Forby Sutherland died of illness on the 2nd May and became the first European known to die on the shore. Sutherland District takes his name. Also one sailor deserted and what became of him no one knows.
There are numerous memorials to the landing, sometimes confusion with the date. This is because Cook’s log dates are a day behind calendar dates. After leaving, further exploration and landings occurred. Port Jackson, Port Stephens, Cape Hawke, Moreton Bay, Cape Townhend, the Barrier Reef, Magnetic Land, Whitsunday Passage and many other points and localities were named. Off the coast of Queensland the Endeavour struck a reef and after 23 hours on the rocks, Cook succeeded in heaving her off into deep waters. He did this by throwing overboard guns, ballast, casks, decayed stores, in an effort to lift the ship off the coral on the next high tide. Initially he was unsuccessful; finally in a higher tide the Endeavour was free and floating. In his journal he gave the overall name of “New South Wales.” He then sailed through the strait between Australia and New Guinea and landed at Batavia, where a number of his companions and crew died from malaria. Finally Cook returned to England where he became the hero of the day.
So what are we doing to celebrate and highlight this remarkable man and most important historical voyage to our land? Very little I am afraid, whereas New Zealand is planning substantial events. Here we are bereft of leadership on the issue. The replica of the Endeavour will be sailing around Australia for the anniversary, but in actual fact, it only sailed the eastern coast. There will be a number of exhibitions. How can such a powerful event be down-played by the nation? One can only shake one’s head for lack of fibre.
Cook, as we should all know, had two more voyages and after the second voyage he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He died 14th February 1779 while in Hawaii on his third voyage.
How do we sum up Cook? His meticulous maps of his discoveries and his humanitarian treatment of both his crew and the people he came in contact with have given him a heroic reputation which has lasted for centuries.
Australia Day. A day when Australians can come together to celebrate this country of ours. As all school children know (or at least, should) January 26th 1788 was the date when the half English, half German, Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with his settlers after a 15,000 mile voyage from Portsmouth, England to Sydney Cove and planted, as an historic fact, the Union Jack. He had moved those who came with him, from Botany Bay where they had arrived January 20th. Phillip after leaving Botany Bay searched a more suitable site where there would be water, a place to clear the land, erect huts and begin cultivation. What he found, he described as “The finest harbour in the world in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in perfect security”. Thus history was made and so began Australia. The decision to come to that part of the world for the near 1400 souls and eleven vessels was based to a great degree on Captain James Cook’s visitation to the eastern part of Australia in April 1770, this year being the 250 anniversary of his exploration. Cook landed at Point Hicks before proceeding to Botany Bay. He was, without doubt, one of the world’s greatest explorers.
Arriving with Phillip was Elizabeth King who was the first white woman to set foot in Australia. She is buried at Back River, near New Norfolk.
On January 1, 1901 we became a nation. However, we would not have become the Australia we now know so well, if it was not because of Phillip’s landing. What we enjoy today and have the privilege of living in, have been constructed on the foundations of those who went before. Things do not just happen and the peoples who came long ago and even up to recent times, endured the sacrifice, the bravery, the struggles, the enormous challenges, and the many set-backs and yes the failures from which we can learn.
Between 1788 and1901, the six colonies thrived and it is incredible what was achieved within that short space of time. When Tasmania received Responsible Government in 1856 and a name change to Tasmania from Van Diemen’s Land and until federation, tremendous development took place, allowing Tasmanians to enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world. Convict transportation had ceased several years previously. There followed substantial progress for industry, farming, fruit growing, communication, railways, the growth of cities, education and recreation activities. Then came federation and a new country was born. We began with our own Constitution and together with the Statute of Westminster 1931 we became a fully independent country from Mother Britain and with the passing of the Australia Act in 1986 conclusively sealed it. We adopted our own flag on September 3rd 1901. As early as the Versailles Treaty of 1919 which ended the First World, we signed the treaty as an independent nation and much to the chagrin of Britain, Australia said “no” to the execution of our own soldiers during that war whereas all participants, Britain, New Zealand, America, Canada, France and Germany did shoot their soldiers for various offences. Then in World War Two, exercising our independence once again, our war-time Prime Minster, John Curtin, turned to the USA for support much against the will of British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
We have become the envy of the world setting an example of how to achieve and succeed against adversity. Politically we are stable. Economically we are wealthy. On the world stage we are respected. We are still a cohesive society, although there are cracks. We are a freedom loving country, despite dreadful government legislation, both on the state and federal level that curtails our freedom of thought, speech and movement. It is the people which must fight continually for that freedom to be restored. It is our rightful inheritance.
Australia Day, January 26th, is the day for all Australians to celebrate, whether one has been here for thousands of years, hundreds of years or just several months. Our aboriginal heritage is a part of it, with Australia Day being endorsed by aboriginal alderman from Alice Springs, Jacinta Price, aboriginal politician Warren Mundine, Aboriginal pastor Cedric Jacobs whom I knew and the late Sir Neville Bonner, the first aboriginal to sit in the Senate with whom I corresponded. It is time for those of British stock and those of all other stocks to come together, forgetting our political, racial and social differences, to fly the flag and enjoy that traditional barbecue.
For this Australia Day in 2020 it would be wonderful to see Australia culture dominate. We are rich in bush dancing, folklore, music, bush ballads and poems, art and song and no doubt in numerous other ways. However, during Australia Day celebrations, mainly organised by the municipalities, we see little of this, most resorting to events of a multi-cultural flavour. The home culture can never get through when this happens. It is Australia and while respecting all other cultures, because it is OUR Day, let the home culture dominate.
We have much to celebrate, despite what is occurring in the rest of the world, the question must be asked: would you like to live somewhere else? Our thriving cities, our open spaces, our sporting achievements, our recreation facilities, our life style and our comradeship, I would suggest, if we are honest, the answer would be NO.
Christmas is once again upon us. It is to herald the birth of Jesus Christ, born possibly 4-2 B.C., now more than two thousand years ago. Yet, there is nothing in the Gospels to say we should honour His birth and certainly no instruction to do so. Indeed the first Christmas, as we know it, was not observed until the time of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great more than three hundred years after Christ’s birth. Some Christian denominations do not honour Christmas Day at all, believing December 25th has its basis in a pagan event thousands of years ago. Historically they are right.
Nonetheless, today in the year 2019 right around much of the world we will celebrate Christmas day on December 25th except for the Orthodox Christians who will do so January 4th. The festivities which accompany Christmas, such as the tree, Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and the giving of presents came much later and are really a product of modern times and may I add, commercialism.
Therefore Christmas in its varying forms has been with us (i.e. Christian-based nations) for near seventeen hundred years. A long time. In Australia we still observe the day even though, increasingly, we are becoming a secular society and the number of those professing to be active Christians, diminishes. We live in a post-Christian era. There has been a rise (and census returns will prove this) in those claiming to be atheists, certainly agnostic and of non-Christian religions. For instance, those soldiers who left our shores to fight during WWI, 97 per cent claimed to be Christian. Today it is down to about 60 per cent. That is a dramatic drop and it does affect the meaning of what Christmas is all about.
Over the decades, growing up in the 50s 60s and even 70s, there has been a substantial change in people’s attitude towards Christmas. For the first ten years of my life there was no television in Tasmania. For a number of years of its early existence, television on Christmas Day screened programmes of a religious nature and the wireless (radio) played only (again) religious and Christmas music. All shops and service stations were closed and certainly no sport was played, except for those children who were already enjoying their Christmas gifts that may have been of a sporting nature. It was indeed a day of reverence and quietness and those who wished to do so went to church. Oh, how it has changed. TV and radio air nothing special, shops and service stations are open, the roads are full and the serenity and the respect of the special meaning of the day has long since gone. True we still have the Carols being sung at the various community venues, which is good to see. However, already, there are questions over their relevance. For instance, Mitchell Council in Adelaide decided to ban them all together, but back-tracked their decision because of public backlash. This was positive, but the movement has begun with the excuse that Christmas does not reflect the diversity of modern Australian society. Yet, as one who has many agnostic and atheistic friends, never have they once complained about the observance of Christmas. Nor have I heard Jewish friends being offended. It is part of our annual calendar and while they may not put any religious meaning to the event, it can be enjoyed by being with family and friends and not forgetting those who may be alone or ill.
As stated, we now live in a very secular society and the influence of the church in our lives has lessened over the years, certainly from when I was a boy. Christmas then, is a legacy of the past and part of our national heritage. Christmas came to our shores from Britain with the First Fleet in 1788. The first Christmas held in Australia was on December 25th 1788. Christmas was brought to Tasmania by Lt John Gordon Bowen Royal Navy who settled at Risdon Cove, September 11 1803. He was instructed by Governor King from Sydney to observe all Church of England rites and while there is no documentation that I have come across of the first Christmas, there is no doubt it would have been held at Risdon, December 25th 1803. It must have been a bland affair, perhaps dining on opossum and wallaby, even native hens. In February the following year David Collins arrived and moved the settlement to the present site of Sullivans Cove, Hobart. With him was the Reverend Robert (Bobby) Knopwood who conducted the first Christmas in Hobart December 25, 1804. In the north of the island, Colonel William Paterson had settled in November 1804 and while, again, I cannot find any documentation pertaining to the event, I am sure Christmas was held.
Consequently, Christmas in Tasmania has been observed continuously for 216 years and in Australia for 230 years. Its meaning and respect over the years, particularly of late, may have changed, but I hope Christmas will continue. I am fully aware of course, there are Scrooges who utter, “Christmas Humbug!”. Even so, it is a special day and it should be a reminder that there is meaning to life and that there is HOPE.
On November 11th annually, we remember the end of World War One. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918, millions of men around the world laid down their guns. The horrible, horrible conflict was over – at least for another short twenty years. That was the first Armistice Day, while the following year Armistice Day became more formalised, much as we know it today. This particular event is observed around the world. For Australia, most crowds prefer ANZAC Day, but observances are nonetheless held throughout the nation, which includes a dedicated time of silence.
Armistice Day later became known as Remembrance Day or even Poppy Day. We must recall that WWI ended with an armistice which is not a good way to finalise a war. The First Boer War (1880-81) was an armistice, which resulted in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Korean War ended the same with continual war footing as a result as was the German-French Armistice of June 1940 which ended with the Germans soon occupying the whole of France. And it was with WWI. In my opinion, WWII was just a continuation of the earlier world war. It was inevitable, what with the terrible demands made on a defeated Germany by the Versailles Treaty, (which was worse than what the Prussians demanded of the French after the their war of 1871), together with the American bankers calling in their German loans laid the way for social upheaval in Germany that could only result in either a Communist or National Socialist take over. It was of course the latter.
November 1918 was the time of great world-wide rejoicing at least on the victorious side, but one would suspect those Germans and their allies were relieved (except for the die-hards) that is was all over and it was time to rebuilt their lives and cities. It was no different in Tasmania, every little hamlet, village or city such as Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie and districts such as the Huon, west and east coasts, celebrated with festivities, dancing and music in the streets, school sports and holidays, church thanks-giving services, politicians giving speeches and parades. It was all over and then began the building of numerous memorials right around the State to those who served and those who died, some memorials grand, some small, but every community erected one. Such was the impact on us.
Tasmania’s contribution to the war was enormous when taking into account that we were a small community of just under 200,000. Official figures state that 13,500 of our men and nurses served overseas and on the seas (navy) and over the skies (air) of every theatre, Gallipoli, Palestine, Middle East, the Western Front, Africa and the Pacific. Again, official figures state that 2, 320 men died, but it would have been much higher, probably near 3,000 taking into account those Tasmanians who served not with Tasmanian units and those who died many years after returning home. I can recall when I was a boy growing up the 50s and early 60s how men suffered still from gassing they had received during the war. It is probable they died as their result of their war illnesses, but they would not be included in the casualty figures. There were many outstanding stories of bravery and eleven Victorian Crosses were awarded to Tasmanians during WWI. In the aftermath of the war, many men spent their final days in what were called the Asylum, unable to cope physically or mentally and many sadly, decided to end their own lives, something which is still a problem with returning veterans. Dealing with this contemporary problem is a massive challenge. And return they did, looking for jobs and help. The Repatriation Department was set up in April 1918 with permanent offices located in Elizabeth Street Hobart. The war itself was a huge challenge for society with all its massive demands including supporting the troops in the field both with goods and with funds. The war now over, posed different and further challenges. While the war ended, the problems did not.
A great deal of the helping the returning servicemen particularly those who returned damaged physically or mentally (or both) was left up to the families, especially their mother and father. One can only imagine the trauma and sadness that was experienced by our fellow Tasmanian families to have their sons return, many shattered by their experience. And in twenty year’s time it was all repeated.
It was a long time ago now, a hundred years, so why should we bother? How can we not pay homage? They were our brothers and sisters, they were part of the Tasmanian family. Remembrance Day is not highlighting war, although obviously that cannot be fully avoided, but it is more honouring those who served for whatever reason and those who did not return and those who did, affected by the war. It is a day of reflection and thinking of others and of those foundations which made our country.
Let us end with what was said by Tasmania’s highest ranking soldier of WWI, Major-General Sir John Gellibrand K.C.B. D.S.O. “We have lost so many whose lives promised to play a full and honourable part in carrying out the high ideals of our national motto. Many who survived have returned broken in health and prematurely aged and unfit to take their due share in the work of the community. Others may have fallen into the error of mistaking cause and effect and return without having realising their significance of what they took part in. These three factors carry a weight which cannot be minimised and their effect on our life as a community must be felt for many a log day. Our consolation and reward will come when the loyal spirit of co-operation, the disregard of petty motives, the unselfish devotion to a common cause, that characterised the work done throughout the war, became typical of our nation life in peace.”
The idea to diminish the number of politicians in the Tasmanian Parliament came about through the efforts of Liberal Premier, Ray Groom and implemented by Premier Tony Rundle who succeeded him. It was in November 1993 that Ray Groom raised the parliamentary wage by a whopping 40 per cent. This did not go down well with the electorate; this I remember very well. To off-set the bad publicity, what better way to win back a measure of approval than to cut back the number of politicians? After all, are we not over governed? Certainly on the face of it, it may appear – but are we really? Perhaps we are indeed over governed, but not in the way most would understand it.
There is a popular cry that, “Tasmania is over governed”. We have three tiers of government, Federal with its two Houses, State with its two Houses and twenty nine local municipalities. That does seem a lot for a State of 500,000 residents. The Founding Fathers of our nation, aware of the insidious nature of man to acquire power, in their wisdom before federation, decided on splitting the responsibilities of government between the Federal Government and State Governments, as outlined in the National Constitution. It was not long before there were complaints that the federal government was eroding State’s responsibility. Our one-time Premier Edmund Dwyer-Gray (1939) expressed concern way back in 1931 of the encroaching powers of Canberra against the States and he took up the cry of “Justice for Tasmania and secession”. During WWII, Joseph (Joe) Darling of our Legislation Council (in my opinion probably Tasmania’s greatest politician) led and eventually won a nation-wide campaign to stop the Federal Government’s takeover of many State powers in an effort, so they said, to fight the war. Joe was wise enough to know, once taken they will never be given back, even though the Federal Attorney-General Herbert Evatt guaranteed that after the war, those responsibilities taken away would indeed be returned. Well, pigs may fly. Even in our time, during the Franklin below Gordon Dam controversy there was a State-rights fight under Premier Robin Gray, who went as far as to threaten, like Dwyer-Gray, secession and even commissioned a feast ability study, a copy of which I have in my files.
It was good that our founding fathers split power, to break it down and to disperse it. Municipal government of course is a State responsibility, although Tasmania had a number of local governments existing under the authority of colonial governments before federation. Hence the three-tier system of government. To some, even this is too many layers, although the United States has a four-tier system, the City (or town), the County, the State and Federal. Then there are those who wish to centralise power, getting rid of State Governments altogether (which is almost impossible because it would need a referendum to agree) and just have regional government, say for Tasmania three, north, south, north west, and most of the power centralised in Canberra. Heaven forbid! Then there are those who believe Tasmania should do away with its State independence and be governed from Victoria. Again, heaven forbid!
There is then, the conception that Tasmania is over governed – too many tiers of government and too many politicians. One way to stop this is to amalgamate municipalities and to cut back on the number of State politicians, which we saw happen in 1998. It was a popular move and received the backing of the electorate. Now, however, we are looking at its reversal.
On the surface of course it does seem terrific. We have fewer politicians which is now costing us a lot less financially. It would be interesting to know much it all cost in 1998 and compare costs up for 2019. I would suggest we are not really any better off. Governments have a rule of increasing in size in various way, thus I would submit running government would be even more expensive now. It is just like council amalgamations (often forced) with the carrot being that resources can be shared, there will be fewer aldermen and as a result rates will decline. This has never happened of course. It is a fervie. Rates don’t go down.
Tasmania in my opinion is not over governed, at least not in the way people understand that it is. The Lower House now has 25 members, down from 35, while the Upper House has 15, down from 19. From a small pool of thirteen which make up the current government, nine actually have portfolios of which there are thirty three. Being Premier is a responsible job in itself, but Mr Hodgman has four other besides this position. Our Attorney-General, Elise Archer, who is very competent, has six, Guy Burnett four, Michael Ferguson five and so on. Perhaps there are too many portfolios. Regardless, how anyone can handle such responsibilities is beyond me and one must question, something which was recently pointed out to me and not contained in my written submission, can such awesome power transfer into authoritarism? Like our founding fathers, who broke up power, we should likewise break down the number of portfolios each minister can have. This means of course increasing the number of representatives or cutting back the number of portfolios. Now there may be the claim that a government could win 15 and more seats. No doubt if this happened it would spread the load, but this is unlikely and the worse thing for good government is a landslide. To handle such a load, must be stressful, demanding and almost impossible to devote adequate attention and time to every separate portfolio. The job load would be for better government if shared around to others, as long as that person is competent and experienced enough. Sharing such a large number of portfolios between small numbers could also see the situation where those who have a portfolio could be taking on a responsibility that they are just not prepared to accept.
The other aspect for the increase of numbers will be to represent the electorate more fully. Here in Tasmania, many electorates not only know who their representative is, many actually have met them or know them quite well and are able to seek out their services for assistance. On the mainland, the electorates are so large, that most if they know who their representative is, would hardly have an opportunity to meet them on a personal basis (maybe election time is an exception) let alone know them. Here in Tasmania twenty five members works out (approximately) one House of Assembly representative for every 20,000 people, but increasing it to 35, the ratio darts down to one to every 14,000 people. This low ratio i.e. representative to the electorate can only be of benefit to the voter. This gives him or her far greater opportunity to get to know their representative rather than being just one person in a big cog wheel. Of course, the same can be said of the Legislative Council. Nonetheless it is the Lower House Member which most electorate know more than say the Upper House Member, while not diminishing the importance of the Upper Chamber. More numbers means better representation to the electorate and while it may appear correct that we should have less numbers on the belief we are over governed, it can actually work against good government. The further away from the individual that government goes, the less chance that person has in influencing their members and indeed, the government – and isn’t this what it is all about…people representation? Government of the people, for the people? The same can be said about council amalgamation. It is an attractive concept, but the further away the seat of government gets from where the people live, the less say and influence the electorate have on how they are governed.
But we are over-governed, but not in the way popularly thought. I am now in my twilight years and since a boy, through youth-hood, young man hood and middle age I have seen the freedom of society and of the individual reduce dramatically even to the extent it is like living in an occupied country. How can this be so? Simply, there is too much government legislation, too many boards, too many commissions, too many unelected public CEOs, too much outside influences which have increased government power enormously and when government power increases the freedom of the people decreases. We have seen now on the mainland efforts to curb the freedom of the media. One of the most insidious pieces of legislation implemented by the Tasmania Parliament is section 17 of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1998, and amended by Minister Brian Wightman’s bill of 2012 and commenced 1 January 2013. I bring Section 17 up as an example of governments being in our faces. Governments and politicians should be there protecting the people’s freedom, rather than taking it away. Such legislation is always opened to interpretation and abuse. In fact the actual amendment is dreadfully worded. How it passed the Upper House, I don’t know. A few decades back it would have been sent back or even rejected.
I submit that low number of representatives is detrimental to the people in receiving good government. It is also detrimental to those in government in being able to provide the best of government possible and that low numbers, regardless of the ability of some our ministers to handle such awesome responsibilities, can be just too much for one person to shoulder. Less numbers cuts down on the ratio of representative to the electorate, but higher numbers will obviously increase that number, which can only be of benefit to the people. And government is about serving the people to its best ability. Yes, it will cost more in wages and expenses, but better government will result. Cutting down on costs can be achieved in other ways, perhaps cutting back on the number of portfolios and their departments.
However, I also submit that we are indeed over-governed, but in a way in that we no longer a free people, over burdened by government interference and domination of our lives. Born in the late 40s I can compare what was, to what is and the contrast is enormous. This trend of curbing and controlling the beliefs, the thoughts, the opinions, the movements and the actions of the people is only increasing and people are seeing governments as the problem. Surely this is not what our Founding Fathers intended when they broke up power and had it shared, knowing the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).