Monday, November 25, 2013


From the Hillston Spectator and Lachlan River Advertiser, Friday 16 October 1908

A former resident of Nowra writes: — I am still in the 'black north,' as some call it, I can hardly find words to express the pleasure I had in travelling in these regions.

My journey ended at the Barron Falls, where I made a turn for home. Such a pleasant  Sunday, amongst old cannibals in the coffee plantation, climbing the cliffs at the Falls, pulling bananas and paw paws, and oranges — all this was a new life to me.

You know nothing of paw paws. Well they are a fruit as large as a rock melon and somewhat similar in flavor. You can eat them all day. The grenadillo [granadilla] (a fruit much nicer than passionfruit, but much after the same style, and as large as a small rock melon), is simply delicious. Then there are the mangoes and custard apples, pineapples and other fruit unknown to southern soils.

They get the heat here it is true, but they have many compensating advantages in tropical fruit. There is also the cotton (I am bringing some back in its native state) and cocoa, and indiarubber. All these are exceptionally interesting.

The creeks around here swarm with alligators but I am sorry I cannot afford time to go out. They are in the pools below the Barron Falls, and many a Chow has been swallowed holus bolus.

It is this way. The Chow goes down to the creek to wash his clothes. He goes down often. The 'gator, no doubt, saw him when he went down first. But he doesn't act then. He allows the Chow to come down often, and when the yellow-skin feels that everything is safe there at the particular spot the 'gator steals silently from the water, and there is one chow less in Redlynch — that is the name of the creek. 

There is a great hullabaloo in Redlynch that night among the Chinamen. Next day, or the day after, or a week after, that alligator comes looking for more Chow, but instead of that he gets a dog! (poisoned with strychnine). Then the hilarious Chows shout with joy as the 'gator jumps frantically out of the water in the middle of the stream, in his endeavor to form the letter G. All is soon over. The 'gator is cut open, and a few brass buttons are found, but no bones to send home to China.

The alligator is now and again seen in the ocean, but very seldom, as the shark beats him every time. If a 'gator wants co go from one creek to another he crawls along the beach inside the surf so that the shark can't get at him. The 'gator as a rule, but not always, immediately feeds off his catch, and then buries it for a week or more. He will bury a dog for that time, and then go up and devour him.

He will drag a horse or a bullock into the water and hold him under till he is drowned. A favorite, method is to rush anything into the water with its tail, then all is Over. He doesn't always grab with his claws.

Hundreds of cattle and horses here show marks of struggles with alligators. If an alligator grabs a horse which is out of the water, the horse runs away with him, the 'gator holding till the horse's flesh gives way. You next find the horse with a great piece taken out of him, but he usually recovers.

Alligator shooting with a dog tied on the water's edge as a bait, is common sport, The 'gator likes a dog better than anything else, except a Chow. It is cruel sport, but as it is somebody else's dog, Queenslanders don't mind.

There is a black' mission station at Cairns, where the blacks print a newspaper, maintain a band, have water and gas works, and grow everything known to a tropical country. They marry and bring up children, and generally spend a useful life.

The Chinaman is everywhere. Whole streets, like Junction street, with every shop Chinese, are common. In Geraldton [Innisfail] they own the sugar and banana plantation. Their joss-houses face the street. Chinese women and their families are in the streets just like white people.

All the pictures you see of Chinese in China are reproduced here. The big-rimmed hat and the umbrella — they are common. In going to Cairns, we had a special carriage on for them. Even the railway stations and villages bear Chinese names.

I only heard of one Chinese publican who refused to employ a Chinese cook 'What do you chink?' he used to say, 'that chow wants me to give him a job as cook. No fear, me keepee white cook!

Nearly everybody in Geraldton carries a blue umbrella.- When I inquired the reason, they told me the white ants eat up all the black ones. Geraldton is the wettest place in Australia; if not the world. Tney measure the rain by yards,' said a prominent townsman ; 240 inches a year — that is a record— 20 feet. What do you think of it?' 150 inches have already fallen this year. lt was raining all. the time I was there...

Well, I am leaving the north with very great regret. Although I travelled right through inland Queensland— 400 and 500 miles from the coast, there is still much I would like to see. It is all so very, very interesting. I have never enjoyed a trip better.

And it was a revelation. There are cities up here and thousands of people, white, black, yellow, and copper. Every town of any size has its two daily papers. All is reported here in the telegrams in the daily papers of the northern towns.

Every place is a centre, depending on itself. They don't send to Brisbane if they want anything — at least not necessarily. Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, Maryborough, Buudaberg-they are all centres.

They think more of Sydney than any other place outside their own towns. . .. The fact that I am from Sydney helps me in business, because they know Sydney can beat Brisbane. Of course, Brisbane is necessarily their political centre hut but necessarily their trading centre.

I have met no one up here from Illawarra, but my word, if a man liked to brave the heat, this is the place. Cairns, has Atherton behind it, 3000ft  up on the hills, a place like the scrub country of the Richmond River.

It is still in the primitive state, and likely to undergo a boom like the Richmond River. The climate is beautiful and land cheap. Atherton has railway communication and is about 60 miles from the sea. You mark my words; there will be a big rush as the land is thrown open There is plenty of timber on it and an inexhaustible supply — an Illawarra really in a tropical country.

I forgot to tell you the Barrier Reef is 30 miles from here and runs along the coast for over 1000 miles, consequently there are  no breakers of any size along the shores. The water is nearly always smooth.

Picnic parties go out and camp on it for a week or a fortnight. Plenty of fishing, and thousands of turtles. The Japanese fish all along it for beche-de-mer — something that resembles a sausage in appearance, and is dried and eaten — by Chinamen principally 


I have posted the old newspaper article above to show what the world was like before political correctness.  You will see that minorities were identified by mildly derogatory nicknames but the attitude towards them was amused rather than hostile.  What would now be identified as "hate speech" was in fact innocuous.  The Anglos and the Chinese just lived their own lives and did so in peace.  The area described is the Cairns/Innisfail area of Far North Queensland, where I was born. 

As I was born only 35 years after the above was written, I can recognize the accuracy of most of what is written there.  I even remember the Chinese joss-house that he describes in "Geraldton" (now known as Innisfail).  When I was a little boy, I occasionally went in there and banged the drum.  One day an old Chinese man who was a custodisan of the temple caught me doing it.  Did he abuse me, chase me or attack me?  No.  He gave me a mango.  Pretty relaxed race relations I think -- JR

A small revival

Over 90% of what appears on my blogs are words written by others that I find some merit in.  But I also write a great deal myself.  And I have been writing for a long time.  So sometimes when I want to refer back to something in my previous writings, I can't find it.  I have written too much to keep mental track of when and where I wrote it. 

So in such circumstances I use good old Google to find my own writings.  I add the term "John Ray" to a subject search and I can usually find what I want.

An odd thing I notice however is that my discontinued blog "A Western Heart" seems to be in some way preferred by Google.  Quite often I have put up a post in more than one place and when that is so the post on Western Heart is the one that comes up first  -- with the other sites not mentioned at all or being given way down in the list.

I don't know why that is but I think I should take advantage of it.  So posts that I would not like to get "lost" I am going to put up on Western Heart  occasionally -- JR.

Environment Protection Agency sidelined after warning of high risks at AGL coal seam gas project

The NSW government has sidelined the Environment Protection Authority in pushing ahead with a coal seam gas project despite advice it is high risk, threatening valuable agricultural land.

In a submission that has been confidential until now, the EPA warned the Department of Trade against approving the disposal of waste water at AGL's Gloucester project as it would lead to dangerously high salt levels and the potential destruction of farmland.

Fairfax Media has learnt the EPA has been excluded from the approvals process for irrigation trials at Gloucester, after effectively being sidelined by the newly created Office of Coal Seam Gas.

The EPA was asked by the Department of Trade to undertake a review of AGL's Gloucester coal seam gas project in February last year. It made its submission in April but the report has been confidential since then, even though the irrigation trials have begun.

In its report, the EPA says the project is high risk and is likely to produce dangerously high salt levels under the present AGL proposal to "irrigate", or spray. the water from its mining onto surrounding farmland.  It also warns of the damaging effects on local wildlife.

The submission says the government needs to ask for more information from AGL and that it is not possible to evaluate the effects on soil and water unless "adequate" information is provided by AGL.

Should the project continue as planned, 2500 tonnes of salt a year will be sprayed over the surrounding farmland, an outcome that independent geo-technical engineer Professor Philip Pells said could be disastrous for the environment.

Professor Pells is not anti-CSG. He approves of the AGL operations at Camden but said the geology at Gloucester was more sensitive as the basin structure beneath the project means the underground aquifers are "intimately connected" with the surface water.

Further, he said, AGL had no proper procedures for disposal of the saline waste water.

For its part, AGL has said the disposal of waste water from its CSG mining will have a "neutral or beneficial effect on water quality".

It has also disputed the EPA's findings that the soil was "strongly sodic", saying that referred to the natural soil quality at the location, which was no longer relevant as the company had treated the soils.

"AGL has added many hundreds of tonnes of compost, lime (calcium carbonate), gypsum (calcium sulphate) and zeolite minerals (which enhances the water retention quality of soils) and therefore the soil characteristics of the upper soils are now very different to the natural soil quality. These amended soils are now much more suitable for irrigation activities."

An EPA spokeswoman said the authority was assessing the application from AGL for an environment protection licence for the total Gloucester coal seam gas project, but not the trial.

"The EPA will take water and soil impacts and other relevant environmental considerations into account as part of its assessment."

EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said the irrigation trial was approved and was being overseen by the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas.

"The EPA is being ignored," Professor Pells said. "No one appears to be in control.  "The trials were approved by the Department of Mineral Resources but now the process seems to have been taken over by the Office of Coal Seam Gas."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Industry said the water approved for irrigation was "two to five times less salty than water in the surrounding surface aquifers that also flow into the Avon River".

"It is the responsibility of AGL to conduct the trial within the approved guidelines," she said. "The risks are minimal and the monitoring and reporting is showing that the project is proceeding within the parameters of the approval."


Call to strip ABC of Australia Network

THE government has been urged to review the ABC's contract to provide the Australia Network international television service in the wake of the outrage sparked by its revelations of Australian phone tapping in Indonesia.

The Gillard government scrapped a competitive tender for the $223 million, 10-year contract for the right to provide the service, Australia's most important vehicle for soft diplomacy, in controversial circumstances and handed it to the ABC in a move later lashed by the Auditor-General.

The original request for tender documents issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade described the service as "enhancing the government's ability to pursue its broader foreign and trade policy objectives".

They went on to say "DFAT is responsible for advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. This responsibility guides all DFAT's work".

As Australians were warned about travelling to Indonesia and a large group of protesters burnt replicas of the Australian flag in Jakarta, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi yesterday called on the government to review the Australia Network contract.

"Given the ABC's preparedness to publish stolen top-secret documents that impact upon our national security, one needs to question whether they are a suitable organisation to be operating an important diplomatic outreach," he told The Australian.

"The ABC were awarded the contract in what many refer to as dodgy circumstances and, based on their recent actions, there is a good case for the contract to be reviewed. The ABC now seem to be operating as a law unto themselves."

An ABC spokesman denied the phone-tapping story and its fallout undermined its responsibilities under the Australia Network contract.

"At the heart of the partnership with DFAT is the respect in the region for the ABC as a trusted independent news organisation," the spokesman said.

Former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer threw his weight behind calls for a review of the contract.

And long-time ABC-watcher Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute questioned the original decision to hand responsibility for the Australia Network to the public broadcaster when all the evidence from the tender process indicated Sky News Australia, in which News Corp Australia (publisher of The Australian) has an indirect stake, had twice emerged as preferred bidder.

Dr Henderson said there were issues with the ABC's decision to air the report claiming Australian intelligence agencies tapped the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and senior colleagues.

"There are problems, particularly in the region, when to many people a government funded public broadcaster has a degree of government embedded in it even if, as we know in Australia, the government has no control over it whatsoever, people think it does," he said. "The view within the ABC management appears to be despite the fact that it's getting this special money to project Australia into the region is that it should behave like any other media institution that chooses to act in this way, that it should run stolen documents in the public sphere without any concern whatsoever of the consequences."

Dr Henderson said "anyone" in the media should have considered the "propriety" of publishing the leaked material.

"There's no great national interest in knowing that four years ago, allegedly, DSD interdicted the phones of the President and his wife," he said. "It doesn't tell us anything about the operation of our government.

"I can't think of a national interest, I can't think of a public interest, I can't think of anything at all of importance."

He added it was unclear who made the decision to proceed with the story, but said it should have gone to ABC managing director Mark Scott.

Former communications minister Stephen Conroy, who presided over the decision to hand the Australia Network contract to the ABC, did not respond to a request for comment.


Tony Abbott quietly shifts UN position to support Israeli settlements, upsetting Palestinians

The Abbott government has swung its support further behind Israel at the expense of Palestine, giving tacit approval to controversial activities including the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

Acting on instructions from Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, government representatives at the United Nations have withdrawn Australia's support for an order to stop "all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories".

While 158 countries supported the UN in calling for an end to Israeli settlements, Australia joined eight other countries, including South Sudan and Papua New Guinea, in abstaining from voting. Labor governments under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard condemned the settlements.

Many within the international community regard the expansion of Israeli settlements as an act of hostility towards Palestinians, hampering the likelihood of peace.

The UN resolution calls for "prevention of all acts of violence, destruction, harassment and provocation by Israeli settlers, especially against Palestinian civilians and their properties".

The Abbott government has also indicated it no longer believes Israel, as an "occupying power", should be forced to comply with the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

At the UN meeting, 160 countries supported ordering Israel to "comply scrupulously" with the conventions. Australia was one of five countries to abstain. Six countries voted against the resolution, including Israel, the US and Canada.

A section of the Geneva Conventions, which Australia no longer supports in regard to Israel and Palestine, states "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies".

The UN votes have largely gone unnoticed during the past fortnight as the Australian media has fixated on the Indonesian spying crisis.
Bob Carr.

"A shame, in the deepest sense": Bob Carr comments on Australia's decision to vote against the resolution. Photo: Marco Del Grande

In keeping with the Abbott government's tight hold on information, there have been no news conferences about these changes in Middle East policy.

Nor did the Abbott government consult the Palestinian community before making the changes, according to the head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi.

"It is very regrettable," Dr Abdulhadi said. "There was no transparency in their approach."

Former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr described Australia's withdrawal of support for Palestine as "a shame, in the deepest sense".

The executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Colin Rubenstein, said he "emphatically [welcomed] the government's principled leadership in changing these votes, reverting to the Howard/Downer position".

Ms Bishop's spokeswoman said the minister was on a plane and could not respond to questions.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said she was surprised to hear about the changes to Middle East policy through the media with no formal confirmation from the government.

"It's quite extraordinary that [the government] would make such a large change without reporting back to Australians," Ms Plibersek said on the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.


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