December 21st, 2012

At about the same time as announcing that Queensland was an economic basket case, requiring large scale sackings of public employees to balance the books, the Newman government called for tenders for a project that, among other things, involves demolishing the 1970s office tower in which the Premier, Deputy Premier and Treasurer work, and replacing it with a spiffy new one. Some might see a contradiction here, but according to Treasurer Tim Nicholls, the new building “won’t cost taxpayers a cent“.

I’m tempted to say “if you believe that, I have a bridge for sale”, but of course Australian governments of both parties have become adept in bogus sales of bridges, roads and assets of all kinds. So, I’ll quote the famous aphorism, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

In the case of the “free lunch” apparently offered by US bars in the past, it’s clear enough that you are unlikely to get the lunch more than once if you don’t order a beer or two, and that the price of the lunch is included in that of the beer. In a complex transaction like the current one, it’s not immediately obvious how we are paying for Mr Nicholls’ new office. Some of it is in the 15-year lease payable to the owners of the new building, some of it in land being given away with the deal and some of it, probably, in valuable rights being handed over free of charge. What we do know is that, when you can’t see the price of what you are buying it’s almost certainly higher than if you paid upfront.

Of course, we have a Commission of Audit, headed by former Treasurer Peter Costello, that is supposed to expose dodgy transactions in the State’s books. The Committee prepared its draft report over the same period as this deal was going down. The government hasn’t released the report. An amusing, but unlikely, possibility is that the Commission actually did its job and criticised this boondoggle, leading the government to bury the report. More likely, Costello has done his job by helping to create the panic needed to justify 20 000 sackings, and is now just an embarrassment.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, Oz Politics Tags:
  1. Ikonoclast
    December 21st, 2012 at 13:10 | #1

    The raison d’être for politicians in office, is to give money to your mates and get kick-backs in return.

  2. djm
    December 21st, 2012 at 13:33 | #2

    Cui bono?

  3. Doug
    December 21st, 2012 at 15:51 | #3

    Bow down and worship before real estate development … cranes as phallic symbols? surley this won’t go down well outside Brisbane?

  4. Fran Barlow
    December 21st, 2012 at 16:27 | #4

    Some might see a contradiction here, but according to Treasurer Tim Nicholls, the new building “won’t cost taxpayers a cent“.

    Nicholl’s could be right. You just have to keep in mind that “not a cent” does not mean “something less valuable than a cent” or “nothing”.

    I’ve never heard of someone undertaking a thing as complex as the design and construction of a public building for zero consideration and I cannot begin to imagine how Nicholls has found someone willing to do it. If there are indeed such folk about, why isn’t Nicholls commissioning quality public housing or getting them to build rail infrastructure or something of more use than the building they are demolishing?

    If, more realistically, the building will project will entail the privatisation of some valuable public assets at a firesale price, doesn’t this whole process inevitably diminish accountability in public finance? Given that governments are almost always better placed to borrow funds than are private businesses, what is the argument for allowing the private business to raise the funds and pass on this cost in the consideration for the deal?

  5. Edumak8
    December 21st, 2012 at 16:38 | #5

    QLDrs will be watching carefully who wins tender for this project given Newman’s background and family ties. Also Echo Entertainment has ties with James Packer and Casinos of course. Newman has rights to decide who gets casino licences. This was flagged by CEO of Sembawang, Ric Grosvenor, when their Gold Coast project fell through after a casino licence was denied. More casinos…just what we don’t need as a community!

  6. December 21st, 2012 at 17:17 | #6

    It’s a QLD magic pudding. Free buildings… why not free new homes for all, free ice-cream, and a free Ferrari. Think of all the jobs!

  7. Ben
    December 21st, 2012 at 22:06 | #7

    I thought we didn’t get our 30 November Costello “audit” because Can Dupe is on the nose even with LNP backbenchers, and the Premier doesn’t more trouble personally.

  8. rog
    December 22nd, 2012 at 03:39 | #8

    Obviously the costs to the govt are indirect and will be in rent and loss of assets equal to or greater than the cost of the building.

    The argument that 1970s architecture needs to be modernised (ie demolished) implies that modern architecture is unsustainable and begs the question, why bother going to all that cost for something so short lived?

  9. Hal9000
    December 22nd, 2012 at 08:31 | #9

    Both the buildings to be demolished in this deal have interesting histories.

    The glorious Bellevue Hotel had to be removed in the notorious midnight Deen Brothers demolition in order to make way for the Public Works Building. Much of the old Bellevue site is now Brisbane’s least friendly open space (despite its views of Parliament House, the Mansions and the Queensland Club), dominated by a strange statue of the Queen holding a handbag.

    The Executive Building has seen significant public investment in power, communications and other services so it can operate standalone as the natural disaster and terrorism/public order coordination centre. It has extensive basements and carparks sunk into hard rock at the highest point of William and George streets on land relatively immune to flooding. The new building is to be built on lower ground much closer to the river. I would hope the State’s records are not to be stored in the basement of the new building.

    The block bounded by Margaret St and the old Lands Office (now Hotel Conrad) includes the old Government Printer’s complex, consisting of a building fronting George Street, now the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and another building fronting William Street, now the Public Service Club. There is an enclosed public plaza between the two buildings, usually occupied by a bizarre mix of public service smokers and small wedding parties made up largely of recent immigrants and older couples. There have been no public statements to my knowledge about the future of these buildings and public open space.

  10. Visitor
    December 22nd, 2012 at 13:06 | #10

    So many dodgy LNP hacks in the background ready to tender for this process, and a tamed CMC that won’t stop corruption … that’s not just a new building – that’s an election-winning missile for the ALP!?? Launch when ready, General Disaster!

  11. may
    December 22nd, 2012 at 14:36 | #11

    does anybody think it’s likely that corruption and infiltration of the public service and political parties for commercially nefarious reasons is confined to just one ideology?

  12. enlightened
    December 22nd, 2012 at 16:37 | #12

    Ask Quirke the valuation of the William st Site that they are leasing to these Giant developers
    The leasehold fee will probably be about half the bank interest fee If these developers had to borrow the money from the bank So the ratepayers are probably paying these guys bank fees for them as well Legalised gangsters are rampant in Government and councils

  13. TerjeP
    December 23rd, 2012 at 10:58 | #13

    What we do know is that, when you can’t see the price of what you are buying it’s almost certainly higher than if you paid upfront.

    That nicely sums up my criticism of Medicare. Neither the doctor nor the hospital tell you what they just got paid for helping you. The Medicare levy is a meaningless number unrelated to any cost. And if I wasn’t somehow already paying for if through the tax system or mandated insurance I could just pay cash at the point of service. Some price transparency would be a truly wonderful idea.

  14. Patrickb
    December 23rd, 2012 at 23:08 | #14

    Yeah but, that’s how all insurance works and over time it’s proven to be the best way of spreading risk so I think you’re stretching your bow a little. The actuaries work out the premium based on the risk, it’s very scientific and removes the uncertainty a libertarian “pay per injury when it happens” kind of system would lead to. The history law of negligence is a useful study in this area. Although what this has to do with QLD public works isn’t obvious…

  15. J-D
    December 24th, 2012 at 08:36 | #15

    I don’t know what Medicare has to do with Queensland public works, either, but I don’t think of Medicare primarily as a system for buying individual services; I think of it as a system for providing a society with a minimum level of health care guaranteed for all and the desirable social consequences that flow from that. From that point of view, the relevant questions are: does such a guarantee actually have desirable social consequences? how effective is Medicare in providing such a guarantee? are there operational defects in the Medicare system that could be remedied at an aggregate cost less than the aggregate cost of accepting the defects? is the aggregate cost of the system an acceptable price for the social benefits? I think those questions are of much more general interest, and much more relevant to an evaluation of Medicare, than the question of how an individual visit to the doctor or the hospital affects the system’s budget.

  16. TerjeP
    December 25th, 2012 at 21:10 | #16

    Health care is for people not societies. And the people using medicare services can’t generally see the price of what they are using. And medicare is for society then perhaps the building in Queensland is for society also, whatever the heck that really means.

  17. Peter T
    December 26th, 2012 at 11:30 | #17

    “Health care is for people not societies”. Oh dear. Look up “epidemics”, “herd immunity”, “threshold effects” and related topics.

  18. Will
    December 26th, 2012 at 13:37 | #18

    The above illustrates yet another major flaw in current libertarian thinking. The bulk of healthcare spending goes towards the elderly, and most of that portion in the last six months of their life. Elderly with zero chance to repay large amounts of debt and zero future income potential. That is in no way an attractive market and can in no way deliver even mediocre healthcare outcomes. This is a monstrous market failure. But, we are told, the magic free market fairy will make everything better.

  19. Julie Thomas
    December 26th, 2012 at 15:03 | #19

    “Health care is for people not societies. ”

    One of the sacred libertarian mantras is; ‘there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals’.

    But it seems clear that the evolutionary mechanism that changed us from just another type of primate, into a distinctly different species, was the development of ‘society’. Perhaps, therefore libertarians might like to give the idea of ‘society’ a bit more respect and consideration.

    It could be one of the essential mechanisms, along with ‘the family’, that humans need to be able to raise decent individuals.

  20. Ikonoclast
    December 26th, 2012 at 16:31 | #20

    If society does not exist then humans don’t exist because humans are only collections of cells. There is no such things as a person only cells. But hang on a minute, that formulation is flawed too. There is no such thing as a cell only complex molecules. There is no such thing as a molecule, only elements. There is no such thing as an element only elementary particles. There is no such thing as an elementary particle only wave-form matter-energy.

    We see that libertarianism is a selectively reductionist philosophy. It can clearly recognise emergent phenomena only to a certain point (the emergence of the individual). Beyond that point certain emergent phenomena seem opaque to libertarians. Yet they are strangely inconsistent. They cannot see “society” but they can see “markets”. Markets are nothing if not a social phenomenon.

  21. TerjeP
    December 26th, 2012 at 22:18 | #21

    One of the sacred libertarian mantras is; ‘there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals’.

    That is news to me.

    Look up “epidemics”, “herd immunity”

    Admittedly there are some positive externalities. However mostly health care is a private good. I’ll readily concede ground on issues such as vaccination but this is hardly where the bulk of the money is spent.

  22. Julie Thomas
    December 27th, 2012 at 06:00 | #22

    News to you Terje? And yet you participated in the group delusion blog Catalaxy, and never noticed this claim being made?

    But then, you are not part of the ordinary libertarian ‘herd’. You are a bit more of an individual than the usual libertarian.

    It is rubbish that health care is primarily a private good.

    Every time an individual receives health care that enables them to increase their participation in society, they will be more efficient, more productive, less stressed and angry, etc and in that way every one of the individuals they associate with, the individuals who make up the society, will also be better off.

  23. Katz
    December 27th, 2012 at 06:06 | #23

    But as Will points out, a large element of the cost of Medicare is cross-subsidisation by the living for the dying. I wonder whether awareness of that fact would tend to strengthen or weaken support for the system as it currently operates.

  24. Jordan
    December 27th, 2012 at 07:04 | #24


    cross-subsidisation by the living for the dying

    But who gets paid for doing the services?
    Why did you stop only at dying? If those doing the services are getting the money and are living, wouldn’t that continue then that “living are subsidising living”? Maybe you just want to stop at one point in a circulating process that is called economy?
    The core of an economy is in Surplus Circulation, surplus as in “income spent on someone else” like in parents spending on kids, like savings used by someone else trough credit, investing in production or financial assets that will end up enabling someone else to use real product and services, not in Marxist sense.
    My spending is someone elses income.
    Spending so much money at the end of someones life is enabling someone elso to enjoy such spending for their benefit.
    In a world where a productivity is such that about 15% of working population can produce for substinance needs of 100% of population, what will other 75% of workers do? Isn’t good if they can work on providing services that will benefit in less and less visible benefits to individuals as less and less workers are needed to produce substinance products.
    In a evermore automated production, when robots will take over all production and needed work, what will able bodied people do all days unless they are orginised to provide marginal benefits to someone else?
    Money is nominal value, products and services are real value. Circulation of money only enables real value to be used. Surplus circulation is esential to an economy. Providing benefits to dying enables living to use real value trough Surplus Circulation.

  25. rog
    December 27th, 2012 at 17:52 | #25

    Terge presents arguments without evidence, as libertarians feel free to do. As for pricing transparency….


  26. may
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:12 | #26

    i wonder if i’m a positive or a negative externality.

    what kind of word is that?

    something to do with making sure the costs are externalised so some-one else has to pay them?
    or is it a way of isolating realities inconvenient to an ideology?

    or. or.

    turgid’s pretty slick—he’s managed to sidetrack the discussion to the point where the topic almost becomes not worth discussing.

    i don’t think so.
    any chance of returning to the main topic?

  27. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:18 | #27

    Julie – I don’t regard Catallaxy as particularly libertarian.

  28. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:19 | #28

    Rog – not sure of your point. Please elaborate.

  29. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:22 | #29

    May – the term “externality” is quite common in economic discussions. Perhaps you are not familiar with it but that need not make it a sinister idea.

  30. may
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:26 | #30

    sinister—of the left hand.—-pertaining to female?

    never mind.

    as a common economic discussor, what does it actually mean in relation to the topic?

  31. December 27th, 2012 at 18:30 | #31

    I can confirm Terje does not think Catallaxy is libertarian.

    I also think a large number of coments directed at Terje are the mirror image of Catallaxy.

  32. may
    December 27th, 2012 at 18:37 | #32

    what’s cattle axy?

    alright JQ, i’m going now.

  33. December 27th, 2012 at 19:04 | #33

    Actually at present at that blog Sinclair Davidson is arguing black is white ( ABC etc) and naturally most agree.

    No-one has the presence of mind to realise they are merely showing anyone that reads that they are idiots.

    very sad. It used to be such a good blog as well.

  34. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 20:10 | #34

    May – externalities are costs or benefits not captured by the price mechanism. In the context I was using it my meaning was to accept that some of the benefits of health care, such as herd immunity, would never be fully encapsulated by a price mechanism. My assertion is however that most of the benefits of health care are private goods not public goods (ie the goods are excludable and rivalrous).And that as such a price mechanism would encapsulate most of it and would on balance be a very good thing. As John Quiggin indicated things usually cost more when prices are not visible. It would be better to have a transparent price system and to simply offer subsidies to certain groups as part of a social policy agenda than to have the current opaque system where few people know what things really cost.

  35. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 20:12 | #35

    p.s. For the record I think JQ is pretty much on the money regarding the property deal in Queensland. It smells fishy.

  36. Ernestine Gross
    December 27th, 2012 at 21:19 | #36

    Terje, I wouldn’t consider health services a ‘private good’ even though I’d agree a health service may benefit predominantly a person to the exclusion of others. One of the difficulties is the person receiving a health service is usually not in a position to judge whether it is necessary or appropriate. This applies to all specialist services (asymmetric information between the supplier and the ‘consumer’ is the problem). Changing the system to subsidies for certain groups, as you suggest, doesn’t solve this problem.

    As for property deals – the costs of finding out what is going on is another interesting problem outside the reach of price theory.

  37. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 21:44 | #37

    Are you saying that all specialist services in general are not “private goods”? Or merely that subsidies wouldn’t be effective? At the moment the asymmetry of information still exists and I don’t envisage a price mechanism would make it any worse.

  38. Chris Warren
    December 27th, 2012 at 22:30 | #38

    Just to set TerjeP straight…

    Public health care should not exclude anyone.

    Public health care should not create rivalry.

    If it does then some anti-social principle has intruded and it is the responsibility of democracy to fix this.

  39. TerjeP
    December 27th, 2012 at 22:34 | #39

    It’s like talking to a ten year old.

  40. rog
    December 28th, 2012 at 04:08 | #40

    It takes a particular state of mind to be a libertarian; here Ron Paul argues that govt is both too big and too small. The fact that the proliferation of weapons is related to the frequency of shootings is ignored.


  41. rog
    December 28th, 2012 at 04:10 | #41

    @TerjeP You claim that prices are obscured.

  42. rog
    December 28th, 2012 at 04:15 | #42

    @TerjeP Cattle axey claims to be Australias no 1 libertarian blog, a claim not in dispute? I would say that fear bordering on psychosis of govt is shared by all self claiming libertarians.

  43. J-D
    December 28th, 2012 at 08:24 | #43

    TerjeP :
    Health care is for people not societies.

    Medicare is a system for providing health care, but is not itself directly describable as health care. Perhaps you still nevertheless choose to look at the trees and not at the forest. I choose differently.

    TerjeP :
    And medicare is for society then perhaps the building in Queensland is for society also, whatever the heck that really means.

    If the building in Queensland is not for society, then there’s no justification for it at all. But even if it is for society, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a good choice for society.

  44. Tom
    December 28th, 2012 at 08:30 | #44


    A interesting point you’ve pointed out is asymmetrical information of the price.


    Not that this data by itself is enough to prove that single payer medicare is always cheaper than a competing market (e.g. USA have a near 1:1 ratio of public and private expenditure on medicare as a % of GDP and is at the top of the chart).

    Factors such as the food culture, average exercise, quality of the medicine and skill of the doctors etc. is obviously important as well but not included in the data even thou USA shouldn’t be lagging behind in the latter two.

    However, when you see all the single payer systems are cheaper (or indeed much cheaper) than the USA, you should also sense something is fishy with private providers at medical service.

    P.S. I know, I love criticising the US, but they are always so far ahead in mindless privatisation that there is no other better examples out there.

  45. Ernestine Gross
    December 28th, 2012 at 09:18 | #45

    Terje, I was saying your argument for your proposed policy change is not convincing and I gave my reason.

  46. December 28th, 2012 at 12:48 | #46

    rog, it can claim whatever it wants.

    Let’s face it evidence and facts is not a high priority there

  47. Ikonoclast
    December 28th, 2012 at 17:03 | #47

    For my New Year’s resolution I vow to not attempt to convince any person with facts and logic. My last three years or so of blogging (reading and writing) have demonstrated to me that facts and logic NEVER prevail against dogma. Since I never attempt (knowingly) to use lies and false logic, this will of course mean I will engage in no arguments at all.

    Let’s all hope I can keep to this pledge. We will all have a more enjoyable 2013 if I can do so.

  48. Jordan
    December 28th, 2012 at 20:56 | #48

    How much did YOU learn by presenting your arguments in those three years?
    I find more important how much i can learn about facts and about myself by argumenting my side then how important it is to persuade soemone else.
    I learned a lot from you, so it would be a shame if an oportunity for someone else to learn from you is lost.
    I appreciate that you were active and pray that you will break your stupid resolution.

  49. Jordan
    December 28th, 2012 at 21:07 | #49

    I also find that facts and logic do not prevail against the dogma, but i find that questions do.
    Questioning the resoning of dogmatic person can lead to his/her attempt to answer them and get to the right conclusions. Most trouble i find is in finding an assumtion that needs to be questioned about.
    Example; In advocating privatisation dogma claims that market is best price mechanism, which is true for things that have market competition, but what they want privatised do not have market competition.
    Talking only about such assumption can produce results in breaking up a dogma. Privatisation of natural monopolies do not have market price discovery.

  50. Ikonoclast
    December 29th, 2012 at 05:22 | #50


    Yes, I learnt some things. I even modified my stance on at least one matter and learnt to be cautious on one or two other matters.

    I will continue to pose questions and to try to learn about a few matters. And as you say, asking questions alone can be effective in probing assumptions.

    But I won’t be arguing to attempt to sway, at least I hope not. I hope I have learnt my lesson in that regard.

  51. Julie Thomas
    December 29th, 2012 at 06:35 | #51

    Iconoclast, I agree with Jordan. I really enjoy, and consider the bits of your comments that I understand to see if they fit with my delusions about ‘truth’.

    I think maybe that there is more to changing a person’s ‘mind’ than just convincing them that their argument and conclusions are faulty. There are all sorts of emotional responses people have – to protect themselves from criticism – and these so often overwhelm the cognitive response.

    For some people, for whatever reasons, it is just too personally confronting to accept that they have been wrong. But ‘we’ don’t make it easy for them; the emphasis in our society has been to value those who are strong and hold fast to ‘truth’.

    There seem to be few mechanisms or therapies developed to allow for us to change our minds and agree with the other, join the enemy and also save ‘face’. It is difficult to admit to losing and not ‘feel’ stupid and nobody likes to feel stupid or open themselves up to ridicule.

    That is another thing that our society does to people who get it wrong; we ridicule them rather than admiring them for having the ‘character’ and the ‘individuality’ to be convinced by the evidence.

  52. Chris Warren
    December 29th, 2012 at 07:41 | #52

    If exponential increase in population, 100 trillions of cash, savage exploitation of offshore labour, and a fiscal cliff do not prompt deep thought, nothing will.

    I suppose lemmings go where lemmings must, and Keynes is just the piper leading them to an inevitable calamity.

  53. Ikonoclast
    December 29th, 2012 at 08:24 | #53

    @Chris Warren

    That is my basic position Chris. There must come a point where the masses realise the elites are misleading them, exploiting them and leading all of us into an environmental catastrophe. There must (and will I think) come a point where denial of empirical reality is just no longer possible. Clearly, we are not at that point yet.

    Often, when talking about climate change, scientists mention tipping points and (potential) runaway changes. Similar phenomenons affect political economy particularly when it is affected in turn by changes in the material base. (Climate change and resource shortages are about as big and profound a set of changes to the material base that one could imagine.)

    At some point, revolutions will become unavoidable. They have already begun in the so-called “Arab Spring”. There is no guarantee that the first round of revolutions will be enlightened in any way. Fundamentalist and excessively nationalist reactions are quite possible. Indeed, the fundamentalist Islamists look quite likely to dominate MENA in the mid term in already Islamic nations.

    Some thinkers hold that “the 1%” in advanced nations will be able to dominate events indefinitely by controlling the apparatus of the state and military and utilising mass computer and robot power. (Meaning total information and surveillance control and the use of remote control and robot weapons even on the domestic population.) I think this view is misconceived. When significant proportions of military personnel, police, civil service and technocrats defect from a government which has lost legitimacy this undermines the entire apparatus from within. Syria is a case in point (though it is not highly automated and “robotised” of course). Ultimately robots are not self-actuating in any high level sense. Human control is still the key and likely to be so for a long time yet.

    The task now is to get the intellectual underpinning in place to guide a genuine and positive mass revolution when the rolling revolutionary crisis hits as it will. The key will be to hammer the messages of which the undeniable truth will dawn on people at the time of crises. The central message will be that it was and is BAU oligarchic corporate and state capitalism* which has catastrophically damaged the biosphere and led to the catastrophic crises soon to be faced.

    * The so-called Communist Party of China is in fact now a Capitalist Oligarchy in totalitarian Party form.

  54. TerjeP
    December 29th, 2012 at 09:58 | #54

    I agree with Jordan. Argue to learn more than to convert. And use questions. Questions are what make people think. I come to this site because I get solid push back from most people here. Which I do appreciate even if I think some of the push back is just plain crazy talk. It is hard to build muscle without resistance. :-)

  55. Ootz
    December 29th, 2012 at 11:00 | #55

    ‘Truth’ is rather an overrated concept and the first thing to vanish into thin air when ‘the quick buck’ fever strikes and mostly ignored when dealing with unpleasant aspects of our history. Although history can provide insights into shaping of current situations and thinking, it also offers likely scenarios in future.

    Raymond Evans writes, that Queensland began as a colony with 7½ pence in its Treasury. In desperate need for more revenue, the renting out of Indigenous land to squatters became a major boon for treasury as well as to Queensland’s colonial politicians. Colonial Secretary [1879-81] Arthur Palmer, and others like McIlwraith, Herbert, Mackenzie, were investing in pastoral runs on the expanding Queensland frontier and profited from the stolen land. The state raised and armed a paramilitary force, the Native Mounted Police, to disperse the troublesome natives ‘occupying’ the land. It is estimated over 50 thousand women, man and children lost their lives for this state wide real estate fraud and get rich quick scheme. Indeed, there was a massacre committed on the land of the ‘Valley of Lagoons’ station, which was settled by the notorious G E Dalrymple, his business partners, the Scott brothers and silent organizing partner R G W Herbert (Queensland’s first Premier 1859-1866). These facts have been meticulously referenced to original documents in ‘The Conspiracy of Silence – Queensland Frontier Killing-Times’ by Timothy Bottoms, which will be published end of May by A&U. (Apologis for the blatant plug of my friends upcoming book, the emphasis on above facts are mine not the authors)

    Our State’s sanctioned dispossession, violence and ostracising have miraculously been sanitised over time. Though unscrupulous shysters are never far from state coffers and assets, thus some poor suckers are always ‘paying’ for the ‘free lunches’ which the good Professor evokes in his OP. However, in the upcoming global upheaval, where several formidable chickens are coming home to roost, it is likely that the ‘Sunshine’ State will experience similar savagery, as a result of blatant selfishness, as it has in its foundation.

  56. Ikonoclast
    December 29th, 2012 at 11:51 | #56


    People, for the most part, want to disown the bloodstained past on which their own prosperity is based. But the book will be a welcome addition to the knowledge of those who aren’t afraid to think, admit guilt and pay restitution for past wrongs.

  57. Ootz
    December 29th, 2012 at 12:53 | #57

    Guilt, like so many emotions can be irrational and a block to acknowledging, understanding and learning from the horrible past in order not to repeat it and recompense where needed. Books that brought to light the bloodstained convict past have not caused much guilt, indeed they gave relieve if not pride to the those claiming a convict lineage. However, it does not appear we have much learned of it, particularly in relation to current treatment of boat people, albeit we are not flogging and hanging them at the drop of a hat anymore, not yet anyway.

    In relation to public real estate, development and politicians, my point in the previous comment is, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  58. December 30th, 2012 at 14:33 | #58


    Looking forward to the book. I skimmed a copy of Bill Gammage’s “Biggest Estate On Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia”. Great book about the sustainable stewardship of this country over thousands of years before we came and stuffed it up.

    I wonder if Tim’s book deals with the ‘Christmas Eve 1851 massacre’? On Christmas eve I just happened to watch a video about the Butjula people (from around Fraser Island/Hervey Bay region) and it was the first I’d ever heard about this massacre. At one point they forced women, children and old men to jump off the cliff at Indian Head or be shot. I found this online:

    “On Christmas Eve 1851 Commandant Walker, his officers and 24 of his infamous Native Police, supported by some local mounted squatters and sailors sworn in as “special constables”, set out to arrest some Aborigines for which there were warrants. They spent eight days on Fraser Island carrying out what was euphemistically described as “examinations” of Aborigines. Subsequent reports indicate that this was a pretence for a series of massacres which occurred between Christmas Eve and 3 January. Aboriginal oral history reports the biggest massacre was at Indian Head.”

  59. December 30th, 2012 at 19:29 | #59

    PS: One of the Butjula elders in the video said she has been trying to get the authorities to at least erect a sign at ‘Indian Head’ (a popular tourist spot on Fraser Island) to tell the story of the massacre, but she has been stone-walled at all stages and there is still nothing at the site commemorating what happened. I’m convinced we still have a deep running racism in the fabric of this country (and particularly Qld) at an institutional level.

  60. rog
    December 31st, 2012 at 07:08 | #60

    @Megan Racism or just a reluctance to be objective? Myths abound and Qld has its fair share – mistreatment and massacres became standard practice in the early pioneer days. People today would rather hear about the romance of the early days rather than have to acknowledge that todays prosperity has its roots in the theft of property and genocide.

  61. Chris Warren
    December 31st, 2012 at 08:22 | #61


    Gammage also made an extremely interesting argument over Tench’s famous footnote about smallpox (pg153).

    Gammage suggests that Tench’s comment was ironic. In other words, Gammage implies Tench was criticising the fact that the marines spread smallpox.

    This was a very brave and valuable step by Gammage.

  62. Ootz
    December 31st, 2012 at 09:26 | #62


    I’ve got an early draft which got cut down to size, so not sure if the published version covers the ‘Christmas Eve 1851 massacre’. There were so many large scale killings in Queensland, some better documented some less, same with oral history. What Tim aimed for, is to illustrate how deliberate and systematic Indigenous people were ‘dealt’ with in order to ‘settle’ their land. All to the benefit of State politicians and monied interests – the jack booted progenitors of the white shoe brigade and moonlight state. They armed a paramilitary force with 500 000 cartridges and a thousand (iirc) repeater rifles. Snider guns, the latest weaponry developed in US civil war; all neatly recorded in shipping documents. Commanders of these forces later became Police Magistrates. It was such a systematic murderous rip off, that even the Colonial Office was appalled by the affairs of the State, yet powerless or unwilling to stop it. However, it did not grant or annul the Queensland annexation of New Guinea to prevent another murderous ‘settlement’.

    But you are right about the institutionalisation hitherto, such as the abomination of the Aboriginal Protection Board, the various half caste acts, up to the recent issue with the stolen wages. However, what Tim highlights is the cruelest of all, the conspiracy of silence. Why can we not, as a NAtion, rationally look at the evidence, acknowledge the inhumanity and give it its appropriate place in history?

    The silence also denies the many documented decent voices at the time, which were aware and appalled of what was going on. They recorded their concern and disgust by many letters to state offices, editors of newspapers and clergy. There are so many aspects, unique to our history, which are shamefully blanked out in favour of a ‘pioneer’ settlement theme park and myopic ‘Lest we forget’. Such shame does not sit well with a Nation so rich and privileged in many ways.

    Btw. Not surprising Professor Bill Gammage this year received in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award the inaugural Prize for Australian history with his recently published book, The Biggest Estate on Earth, the result of 12 years of scholarship.

  63. December 31st, 2012 at 12:01 | #63


    “However, what Tim highlights is the cruelest of all, the conspiracy of silence. Why can we not, as a Nation, rationally look at the evidence, acknowledge the inhumanity and give it its appropriate place in history?”

    I tend to believe the reason is because to do so might threaten the ongoing project. I like this quote:

    “If the public knew the truth, the war would end tomorrow. But they don’t know and they can’t know.” Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, to Manchester Guardian editor C.P. Scott, 1914, as quoted by Philip Knightly in his book “The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam ”

  64. Ootz
    December 31st, 2012 at 12:18 | #64

    rog, I tend to agree with you in regards to racism. Having lived for several years in a region which was at war with itself because of ‘race’ issues, I find it not a very constructive concept to understand what was/is going on. The Social Psychologist Allport in his realistic conflict theory argues that prejudice is ultimately a question of economics and scarcity of resources. This is reflected in the contemporary believe that, despite generally espousing equality, Indigenous people are taking too great an advantage of liberal attitudes and receiving unfair preferential treatment. There are other useful social and psychological aspects. However, I am not sure how to adequately explain ‘the conspiracy of silence’, the collective amnesia in regards to the atrocious events in the foundation of our State and Nation. It is a discussion though which we ought to have for many reasons.

    Other terms, such as genocide and massacre, are not particularly constructive either. They tend to be divisive labels, which in any case rarely do justice to the horrid facts they try to encompass. Let these events speak for themselves, there is ample evidence. In fact there was much more written and talked about it at the time then there is now. It appears the amnesia set in much later despite the glaring obvious, such as place names like Skeleton and Butchers Ck, Bones Knob and Skull Pocket Rd in my immediate vicinity. Indeed we have our own ‘Holocaust Deniers’, which rage against ‘Black Armband History’ only to further denigrate the decency of our Nation and their own integrity. Ultimately, one way or another, history will not be kind on those quibbling intellectual frauds nor to a Nation in utter denial about it’s origin.

  65. Tiny dancer
    December 31st, 2012 at 21:06 | #65

    Rudd apologised. What else can we do? We took their land. You can’t compensate anyone for such an act

  66. Katz
    December 31st, 2012 at 23:28 | #66

    We can remind ourselves that Howard refused to apologise and that the right wing choir applauded his obduracy.

  67. Jordan
    January 1st, 2013 at 02:21 | #67

    Happy New Year from Europe and i wish you all a lot of arguments and facts on this blog :-)

  68. Tiny Dancer
    January 1st, 2013 at 12:45 | #68

    “We can remind ourselves that Howard refused to apologise and that the right wing choir applauded his obduracy.”

    Now that’s an intelligent option.

  69. Mel
    January 1st, 2013 at 14:11 | #69

    Ootz: “Why can we not, as a NAtion, rationally look at the evidence, acknowledge the inhumanity and give it its appropriate place in history?”

    We should acknowledge that and correct wrongs as much as we can, for instance compensating for the stolen wages, but we mustn’t be expected to jetison other unpalatable truths. The available evidence tells us that hunter gatherer societies were brutal and bleak affairs in many ways. War, never ending cycles of payback, the death penalty for minor infractions of tribal law, fear and accusations of sorcery often ending in bloodshed, cannibalism, the institutionalised degradation, rape, beating and humiliation of women and so on and so forth were all aspects of pre-colonial indigenous life. It is also true that the history of white Australia’s forebears was until fairly recently also almost unremittingly bleak in respect of war, plagues, famine, the upheavals of the industrial revolution etc…

    History comes in various shades of grey …

  70. rog
    January 1st, 2013 at 15:38 | #70

    @Mel Even if any of what you say is true it can have no bearing on the actions of the pioneers and in particular agents of the sovereign.

  71. rog
    January 1st, 2013 at 15:59 | #71

    Worth a read, an assessment of both aboriginal and early colonial law.


  72. Katz
    January 1st, 2013 at 16:11 | #72

    Tiny Dancer :
    “We can remind ourselves that Howard refused to apologise and that the right wing choir applauded his obduracy.”
    Now that’s an intelligent option.

    It’s gratifying to read that you agree with George Santayana.

    If the Howardista Right had admitted that their intransigence was wrong, then they might be forgiven. But they have done no such thing. One can only imagine that they harbour some hopes of retracting that apology.

  73. Tiny dancer
    January 1st, 2013 at 16:16 | #73

    Why such hate? How does Rudd”s apology turn into hate for Howard. Rudd fixed that wrong.

  74. Katz
    January 1st, 2013 at 17:31 | #74

    No hate for Howard. I have contempt for his inaction.

  75. Tiny dancer
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:18 | #75

    By cricks, you’d hate this current government then.

  76. Ootz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 08:56 | #76

    Tiny dancer, please pay more attention.

    In line with Prof JQs OP, I have been specific about, that a Nation or State should face fare and square the facts of it’s origin, otherwise its foundation is a fake and fraud. What ever gets built on top of it is on shaky ground as well as one way or an other, this crooked manner of nation building is carried on in to the future. fn1

    Further, Rudd apologised: “We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.” So far I have not seen or heard any mentioning from any Australian politician making reference to the historical facts in how the land of this Nation was ‘acquired’. We currently even struggle, with all the partisan politicking, to get Indigenous people acknowledged in our constitution. Most Australians presently would not even be aware of that, totally off the radar! My point is, this is about us, how we deal with our collective past as a grown up nation. Whether we want to, like a naughty child, point out that others have not washed their hands and brushed their teeth, in order to avoid toilet training, or whether we acknowledge the mess in our nappies and grow up. Honesty is paramount to everything else before we can genuinely ask, as you do: “What else can we do?”.

    fn1 Interesting comment by Langbroek in relation to my last point about history repeating itself.

  77. Ootz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 09:17 | #77


    “The available evidence tells us that hunter gatherer societies were brutal and bleak affairs in many ways. War, never ending cycles of payback, the death penalty for minor infractions of tribal law, fear and accusations of sorcery often ending in bloodshed, cannibalism, the institutionalised degradation, rape, beating and humiliation of women and so on and so forth were all aspects of pre-colonial indigenous life.”

    First, I’d like to see your evidence! Second, do you propose that above is a legitimate reason to invade any nation displaying such behaviour?

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