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.

77 thoughts on “TANSTAAFL

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. @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.

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. ‘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.

  6. @Ootz

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. @Ootz

    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.”

  9. 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.

  10. @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.

  11. Megan

    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.

  12. Megan,

    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.

  13. @Ootz

    “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 ”

  14. 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.

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

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

  17. Happy New Year from Europe and i wish you all a lot of arguments and facts on this blog 🙂

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

    Now that’s an intelligent option.

  19. 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 …

  20. @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.

  21. 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.

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

  23. 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.

  24. Mel,

    “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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