Saturday, June 22, 2013

From a useful life to grand visions of the north, just another day of bird and Abbott-watching at the pond ...

This morning the pond would like to spend a few moments and words remembering and celebrating a useful life.

It turns out that the pond has hundreds of pictures by Jeffrey Smart.

Well not exactly by Jeffrey Smart, but in the style or manner of Mr. Smart, and photographs rather than oil paintings.

But you catch the drift. For years the pond has had the habit, when in the right neighbourhood, Port Botany say, or Port Kembla or Newcastle, or on any freeway in the United States, or come to think of it, pretty much anywhere in a built-up urban world, of seeing a Jeffrey Smart composition and taking a photo of it, a little keepsake.

This is what makes a useful life. To give pleasure and a way of seeing to others is no small feat.

Now Smart took awhile to come to his way of seeing things - his early work can be awkward and sombre, and it's true he would explain this by way of reference to Adelaide - oh Adelaide, Adelaide, the pond has spilled wine at the foot of Colonel Light's statue - and it's also true that when he hit on his signature style, he never deviated, never bowed to fashion or trends, just kept on painting pictures, of a representational kind. Oh the horror ...

And it's equally true that there are others who have ways of seeing that appeal.

The pond could get caught up for hours arguing whether a scene was truly Smartish or Hopperish:

(Naturally a voice over the pond's shoulder insisted this work was definitely Hopperish).

And it's also true that the pond can never look at a wheat field without thinking of the Andrew Wyeth that is a signature picture at the MoMA:

Okay, it doesn't look much like Bective East, and you'd have a hard time following a good line on the harvester, but still, it brings a shudder of delight, this way of seeing.

Which brings us back to Jeffrey Smart. So much pleasure he gave to the pond and others, and he kept at it for such a long time, as when we caught his last collection at the Australian Galleries. Prices too rich for the pond - let's not talk about the exploitation of ways of seeing, or the way prices for Smarts will soar and slump and soar - but we still have the chance of a Sunday drive to Port Botany to check out all those Jeffrey Smarts ...

Incidentally it was well known that Smart was gay and in a committed relationship.

This doesn't have much to do with anything, but coincidentally, because the news broke about the same time, it leads the pond to contemplate useless, destructive, negative lives.

Yes, at the moment Smart was dying after a useful productive life, Exodus International was closing down, as you can read in the LA Times in 'Gay cure' ministry Exodus International to close.

"I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change," Chambers wrote in a statement on his website. "I am sorry that I ... failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine."

Indeed. And the pond is sorry that all that's on offer is "sorry".

Still, if your position in the market is eroding, why it's time to re-position yourself in the market, and carry on, as Exodus leader admits 'same-sex attraction,' urges talks with gays.

So where does this leave the vile Hillsong mob, and the bilious Gloria Jeans crowd, and assorted others, such as Willow Creek, and Compassion Australia and the Australian Christian Lobby, and lots of others intent on destructive negativity?

Who knows, and who cares, but rest assured that the pond would rather drink camel's piss than have a Gloria Jeans coffee.

And now after that brief detour, time to take a brief look at the loons today. Now you might think that Tony Abbott's splendid vision for the north would have been top of the page amongst the hacks at the lizard Oz.

But you were only saying that to tease the pond, weren't you.

Top of the digital page is, sob, sigh, Gillard v. Rudd, round 49, which is way longer than Joe Gans 42 round battle with Oscar "Battling" Nelson (oh go on wiki it).

And yes, there's yet another round of class warfare involving billionaire buffoon Clive Palmer, which looks like running on a daily basis until September:

Dear sweet long absent lord, there's so much distilled essence of hate in the kool aid they serve the hacks at the lizard Oz.

Only a year ago, Clive was a kindly donor to the Queensland Liberals and much put upon by that class warfarist Wayne Swan; now he's little short of the anti-Christ ...

Of course he was a buffoon all along, but now suddenly he's on the wrong side of the fence, and the Oz reptiles are lashing the billionaire with a fierce campaign of fear and loathing.

Will they ever shut up about him? Not likely. Once the raptors at the lizard Oz taste flesh, they go off like dinosaurs in a Spielberg movie ...

But back to Tony Abbott's northern vision. Long ago, in a town now far away, but still the centre of the known universe, the pond can remember doing a project on the great town of Humpty Doo, and its new role providing rice to the world.

It was part of the grand Australian vision, after the second world war, to make the north productive and safe from the Asian hordes.

Naturally the pond, when given a job which took it all around the north - yes the pond has crossed and re-crossed the Berrimah line - one of the first port of calls was the great town of Humpty Doo, to check up on the rice plantations feeding the hordes of Asia, the paddy fields down under that would see the north safe from the invading hordes (hang on a second, what if they have a taste for rice?)

Anyhoo, let the wiki on Umpity Doo take up the story:

In 1954, after some experimentation by CSIRO and based on previous successful rice crops, a joint Australia-U.S. company called Territory Rice Ltd. was formed with a plan to irrigate the subcoastal plain of the Adelaide River in order to commercially produce rice. The plan was a complete failure due to several factors, including an invasion of geese, soil that was too saline and an insufficient amount of drainage, all combined with poor management. They gave up the land to the government in 1962. The Rice Project was 20 km east of the present town on part of the Humpty Doo Station where the name "Humpty Doo" was first used. The irrigation dam, called Fogg Dam, is still there and an attraction for bird watching. (here for more)

Bird watching! And so it was, and the pond had a fine old time doing a little bird watching before moving on to Arnhem Land and doing some lagoon watching.

Now your old northern hands will have a view about Tony Abbott's vision, and what might be done to expand horizons in the north, but the pond reckons Bernard Keane in Crikey just about said everything that needs to be said (here, may be paywall affected):

Today the visionary North Australia/Asia's Foodbowl/Turn The Rivers Inland policy vision made a visionary reappearance in newspapers; like many an Abbott policy, there'll be a white paper about it once in government -- Abbott will, in Brendan Nelson's words about Kevin Rudd, "hit the ground reviewing", but that's no bad thing. The unconstitutional tax bits have been dumped but the door left open to visionary tax incentives to relocate to sections of the country where there aren't any people or infrastructure, along with a vague but visionary commitment to move some public service departments north; the Long March of Bureaucrats from Canberra to Karratha envisaged in the visionary original, leaked version of this scheme early in the year has been replaced with a less ambitious but still somewhat visionary proposal to investigate whether there's bits of the APS that could shift. 
Hopefully Abbott's white paper process will investigate the less visionary option of doing nothing, on the basis that we won't need to shift Australia to the top end when, courtesy of climate change, the top end is coming toward us at a rate of knots. In fact, you'd just settle for the white paper addressing implications of climate change for the original top end. The Abbott vision is that northern Australia becomes a cornucopia of tourism, agriculture and mining, apparently unaware it's tricky to have even two of those together let alone all three, and climate change is hardly conducive to any. Just ask tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef. 
In fact, this deep north stuff is downright weird. It's not just Tony Abbott's own big government DLP mindset emerging -- it's shared by Coalition MPs with functioning brains like Andrew Robb, the small government types at the IPA and far-Right miners like Gina Rinehart. It's straightforward, Whitlamesque regional development, complete with Whitlam government policies like moving public servants around. It's social and economic engineering on a huge scale; there's not a market mechanism in sight. Indeed, there's a utopian tone to the whole thing, not dissimilar to the early, funny socialist visions that were untainted by the nasty experience of the real world. It's as if the Right wants to create a new Australia, one free of all the bad things about the current one like pesky unions, well-paid workers and restrictive environmental regulation, a place where entrepreneurs, with just a little help from taxpayer handouts, some government spending on infrastructure where no one currently lives and a few indentured public servants, can breathe the (admittedly, rather humid) air of freedom and create a more efficient economy.

Yes indeed. It took the pond back to the grand days of Don Dunstan's Monarto (which became a zoo) and the later multi-function polis (which turned into nothing). Let's not even mention Gough and Albury-Wodonga ...

What's even more bizarre is that all this talk of nation building is not just DLP, but downright Chifley/Menzies/Curtin 1940s/1950s, with dams and farms (we need more wars so we can get more soldier settlers).

It is on a grand level, which is both deeply delusional and socialist government driven, in a way which might evoke the Snowy River Scheme but which also evokes William Lane leading his band off to a new utopian life in Paraguay (Lane later settled down to lead a sensible reactionary life in New Zealand).

It is, as Keane notes, deeply weird shit, all the more so when juxtaposed against Abbott's promise to deliver NBN broadband for a slightly cheaper price, with a significantly reduced capacity and quality of service, and with all that implies about Australia's chance of becoming a wired smart country.

Okay, so the country is going to be fucked over by monumental stupidity and silliness after September, and here's hoping the coalition gets a dose of decent consultants and advisors to hose down the fever.

Because that's what it is, a bizarre form of Gina Rinehart, Bob Katter - and yes, oh yes - Clive Palmer fever ...

There's the lizard Oz reptiles going after Clive, and there's Tony Abbott stealing Clive's policy and making it his own grand vision.

Deeply weird shit or what?

So is there an upside?

Why of course there is, because it gives the pond a chance to sign off in best NT News style.

Oh from a useful life, to a crocodile ...

So it goes, and such is life, but there you have it, take it away crockadoo at Humpty Doo:


  1. Dorothy, speaking of developing the north, hie yourself over to have a look at your favourite cartoonist, David Pope, this morning

  2. Judging from the media non coverage I've seen, I think this is only a bit of an overreach which his minders will file in the "That's just Tony" bin. But it's revealing that even when offered a policy our media aren't interested, nothing's to get in the way of Gillard-Rudd-Gillard...

  3. All that northern water with all that undeveloped land gone begging for all those people... and space for loons galore: a northing kennett squarking and typically splashing loudly along to lift-off from below the Murray heard out there over the back of beyond IPABC in the stale doogue morning air

    Why just think... the noalition 2010 election policies also featured:

    Examine creation of high-yield infrastructure bonds (by minds that count), including 10 per cent tax rebates to fund nation-building projects such as toll roads, rail and water projects...* $750 million to build the Redcliffe rail line (off this time round as not so far north enough for the shifty Brough electoral stuff?)...* Standing green army of 15,000 people to mobilise on environmental projects (a certain group damnification)...* No market-based system linked to a carbon price...* Promote regional Australia as an alternative to overcrowded cities...* (All that water there, a $6 billion fraudband for 'em too for minds that count, while an old northern queen's land alone exported 5Tonnes of coal per second, 100T of CO2 every 7 seconds in coal and gas trade - and that wasn't counting at 39T per capita the highest per capita greenhouse emissions of anyone in the world outside a few oil-rich sheikdoms. Oh yes, good old queensland, and the north... why just think)

  4. Oops: $6 billion*, the policy number (oops!) for fraudband then - $43 billion* for NBN policy then. *CM: Rupe's corrosive main Qld rag, election day 2010.

  5. The Great Australian Dreaming never ends, does it. My (admittedly alheimered) memory contains a story about a grand plan in Pig Iron Bob's time to ring the Great Australian Bight with nuclear power stations which would desalinated mega-gallons (as we measured things then) of water which would be pumped into the interior to fire up the 'dead heart' as a great agricultural food bowl. Yes, even then (ie 1950s).

    It may be just coincidental that this was contemporaneous with thinking that the Great Australian, Peter Thonemann, had (sadly erroneously) solved the problem of power from nuclear fusion (while at Oxford U, of course - the Great Australian Dream never included having any such work done here).

    Strangely, I simply can't find (Googlr orotherwise) any corroborating reference yto the Great Aussie Bight desalination plan, so I could just be imagining the whole thing. But it sounds about right, doesn't it ?

  6. GB it does indeed sound about right.

    "Mass Desalination Plants
    The simplest way of obtaining a permanent and unending supply of fresh water is to extract it from the sea by desalinisation. By establishing Nuclear power plants around the coast as desalinators, Australia could obtain an unending supply of fresh water, as well as an almost boundless amount of electricity. This is not a new idea for in the book 'Atomic Energy' (1958) Egon Larsen stated: —
    For Australia atomic power means something very special. It means hope for the fulfillment of a national dream: that of making the arid, waterless inland bloom. Australian, British and American scientists have spoken of the possibility of distilling fresh water from sea-water at a cost of 5s. for 1 million gallons, and of irrigating the Australian desert with it. Chances are that, given water, Australia could in time produce more food than America. A ring of nuclear-power stations along the coast could do the job of distilling fresh water and pumping it into a network of canals." (The 1st philosopher is unsighted by peer, so check the Larsen cited by seer )

    "Australia Unlimited Ltd
    The Minister for Primary Industry, Billy McMahon, praised the work of Australia’s ‘modern explorers’, the ‘scientists and scientifically minded farmers’, who were ‘rolling back our farm horizons’ and revealing our ‘unlimited’ opportunities... Science had taken an atom-powered leap into the future...

    The promise of atomic energy neatly coincided with technocratic visions of a reconstructed Australia able to step confidently into the postwar world. Rapid industrialisation demanded power, which the atom seemed to be offering at cut-price rates. But wait, there was more. In 1947, Mark Oliphant, quickly becoming Australia’s most recognisable scientist, suggested another ‘very visionary’ way in which atomic energy might fuel Australia’s development. He envisaged large-scale irrigation projects drawing their water from atomic-powered desalination plants. Only 50 tons of uranium, he calculated, would be necessary to cover 1,000 square miles of land with two feet of water.

    Sydney University physicist Harry Messel, a tireless atomic advocate, inspected uranium-bearing regions in the Northern Territory, and concluded: ‘The place could have a chain of nuclear power stations from the Arafura Sea to Alice Springs five years from now’...

    At last, uranium appeared to offer a solution to Australia’s ‘empty north’...

    The Liberal Party went before the electors in 1958 emphasising its achievements in national development and its success in attracting foreign capital. ‘Our slogan is “Australia Unlimited”’, Menzies asserted, ‘and we pronounce it with confidence’." ( )

    "It’s good to see the Coalition discussing infrastructure investment for a change, even if it appears to be a recycling of the Menzies chestnut of irrigating the desert" ( )

    My all timey memory flickers a bit around the nuking of a canal from bight or gulf to flood the useless centre with inland sea thus changing climate there for the better to wetter. Perhaps it's a returning Macarthur plan like that for causeways to NQ islands made of flattened mountains, again with some right old loons left holding the line.

  7. Many thanks, Anonymous, that more or less covers it - though I thought that there had been some sort of actual proposal for Great Aussie Bight nuclear desalination plants that was abandoned because of the estimated cost.

    Oh, but some names to conjure with: Titterton, Oliphant and Prof "Why Is It So ?" Messel. Titterton was indeed arrogant - any proposal he put forward, or even just publically supported, was bound to be rejected. Oliphant ended his days at ANU as I recall - he seems almost entirely forgotten nowadays.

  8. Ooops, "Why Is It So" was Julius Sumner Miller, not Harry Messel.


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