Chapter 21 The Future

Although it is good for the soul to reflect on the many things that have gone before, we must look ahead if we are to keep pace with our fast-moving world.

I think the general fanning position is very bright - brighter than it has been, although we still have our ups and downs at times. But let us take comfort from the fact that we have 70 per cent of the world's population as potential customers in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing us, with our 30 per cent in the Southern Hemisphere, to enjoy an equaliser in world trade.

Whether the Northern Hemisphere has a very good spin or a very bad spin, we have an advantage in the fact that we produce our food out of their season.

With quicker transport, which will expand, the world is on the brink of development of trailer-type boats, airships, air balloons and the like, and this will enable us to get our produce quickly to the other side of the world. Already we buy roses from Amsterdam in our off-season, and they in turn buy roses from Australia in their off-season. We are growing tulips and sending bulbs away, using them in the Southern Hemisphere and then using them again in the Northern Hemisphere.

All different types of food, of course, are in the same category. Our forestry has a tremendous future also, for the world will need more and more trees. Over the past few years the papers have been full of the pros and cons of billion-dollar pulp mill development in Tasmania. I do not think there is anything wrong with development provided our environment is not harmed. But a lot more trees will need to be planted to keep such a mill supplied, for there are not enough natural trees available, in my opinion.

I foresee the time in a few years when any ground reasonably close to a pulp mill will bring at least $1,000 an acre. Transport of timber is expensive and it will be much cheaper to have it grown closer to the mill. This will put up the price of land, which will have some advantages and some disadvantages for farming communities.

It will create a lot of employment, and let us not forget that the timber industry brings in just as much as farming. This has been the experience in Europe, and it will be our experience too.

There was a time in Australia when trees were our enemy. Over many years farmers have just got rid of the trees, which were everywhere. These included my own family, who were some of the first people to settle the Scottsdale area. The first pioneers of our family worked very hard to get rid of their trees. On one occasion, I am told, they got rid of a huge log in their back yard by digging a hole and, with the use of spars, rolling it in.

Of course, in those days trees were the enemy of settlers, who did not have enough clear ground to grow wheat and other foods. Now, however, the wheel has turned, for trees are very valuable. Ground throughout the State which has natural trees on it is worth a fortune for the timber content and is an environmental asset as well. At a Rotary meeting in March 1990 a South Al rican tour speaker was telling us that his father's sugar cane farm sold for $14,000 a hectare to plant it with trees. This is $5,666 an acre, so it just shows how valuable trees and timber are becoming throughout the world. Admittedly in Natal, our Australian blue gums will have grown to pulping size in eight years, but it is still a very big price to pay for plantation land. Trees really help the environment; they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, so forests are a great asset to every country, in making work, purifying the air and protecting water supplies.

In Victoria tree planters are outbidding farmers for really good land, and this will happen in Tasmania. The farming community will be up in arms about it, but as long as it is turning in wealth and making work I cannot see that it will be such a big problem, because environmentally the more trees we plant the better off we will be, as long as we do not again use too many sprays and waste wood through the burning of our forests. This, as we know now, has caused ozone problems and the dreaded greenhouse effect.

On the whole, I think that the pulp mill mooted for Tasmania would be of benefit to the State, particularly if the result is extensive tree-planting programmes.

I just hope that the younger generation, who have had things relatively easy in some ways, realise there is work to be done. Some are working very hard and operating under very difficult circumstances, but work will always be necessary for success.

I think nations rise and fall, and individuals do also. The first generation makes the money, the second generation tries to hold it, and the third generation just spends it, because they have not the knowledge and experience to hold it. And yet really they have had a better education and more finance available to them. Sometimes they do make progress, but mostly they don't. It is a great mistake for people to get things too easy in life.

Now we have our bicentenary year 1988 behind us, we must go forward in the knowledge that the honeymoon is over. I think most people are aware of the damage we have done in our 200 years of white settlement, but we also have done a lot of good things. While there is much evidence of environmental damage, Tasmania is still one of the most unpolluted islands in the world, and we must plan all our activities to ensure that we protect all the good things we have left and do all we can to remedy our past wrongs.

Of course, the white man cannot be blamed for all the damage that has been done to our environment. The aborigines lit fires for years, and some of the sand blows they caused go inland for miles.

Now on the political right we have five per cent of the people who would smash down everything and call it progress, which it is not, and we have another five per cent on the left who would not touch anything at all. They would just let the trees stay there and rot, and we could not really afford to do that. In some beautiful gorges this may be possible, but generally speaking we do have to follow a course in the centre, taking note of what is really progress and what would be environmental suicide. So it is not easy for the governments of the day, whoever they are, to sort things out and steer a middle course for the benefit of all concerned.

In the Franklin River issue, for instance, there were three propositions. One was to dam the Franklin River, another was to build adam above the Olga, and the other one was really not to dam the river at all.

Peg voted not to dam it at all, and that won the day. I thought they should have put adam above the Olga, for that would not have hurt the Franklin River and would not really have submerged much forest at all. We then could have used all the great waters of the Strathgordon scheme a second time for nothing, and for this reason I felt it was just commonsense to build a dam above the Olga.

I realised, of course, that my point of view would not be acceptable, for I guessed only about 10 per cent would vote for that scheme, because people were wanting to be either on the far right of the argument and dam the Franklin River, which I think would have been wrong, or not to touch it at all, which again I think was probably extreme.

I knew big business wanted the whole big scheme of damming the Franklin River, for in that way they could get their power more cheaply; they were not very concerned about how much beautiful Huon pine was submerged, whereas the other people, who did not want anything touched at all, were not realistic.

We do not want to bum fossil fuels to generate electricity, nor do we want nuclear power stations, and so far we have not been able to tap three of the big elements - sun, wind and tide. Hopefully, we will do that some day; I know they have been used in a reasonable way, but not enough to satisfy the needs of the world.

But people were so uptight about the Franklin River argument. I rang the Hydro Electric Commission in Hobart and asked why the water from Strathgordon could not be used twice, and I had to ring six different people who were supposed to be authorities on the subject, and five of them said they did not know whether that would be right. The sixth one, however, agreed that it could be done.

We already had this giant storage built and it used the water once. The Gordon above Olga scheme would have generated about half the power of the other scheme and would have done very little environmental damage at all, and in my opinion it would have been a wonderful scheme. But this is just an illustration of how people get so uptight about different proposals that they will not consider taking the middle of the road.

It is good to hear two points of view, including that of the environmental lobby. Many people see the 'greenies' as a problem - and at times they do go overboard - but so does everyone else, so their point of view should be heard.

When Peg and I were overseas we travelled on a bus, and there were a lot of business people among the passengers. The guide told us that the greenies were a real problem in the U.S.A. and Canada, but then we suddenly arrived at a beautiful reservation in a gorge and she said, almost in the next breath, how the conservationists saved this beautiful gorge some 50 years before from the axe, and what a wonderful job they did. And everybody agreed with her.

We do need two points of view, and then we can make up our own minds on public issues. That is one reason why I have never belonged to any political party. The Liberals asked me to join some years ago, and the Labor Party also asked me to join them, and the Country Party, now the National Party, also approached me, but I refused them all. I realise by joining a political party one can put one's arguments very forcibly, but I prefer to be independent. I feel one can make a bigger contribution by not being a party man.

Although I listen and decide which policy speech is best and whether it is obtainable, I have always voted for what I consider will be best for the benefit of the country. I do not ever remember voting for my own selfish needs. For example, while the capital gains tax is against my personal interest, I consider some sort of capital gains tax is necessary, if we are going to try and spread the tax burden more fairly. If I sold out today I would have a considerable amount of capital gains tax to pay. Probably the present capital gains tax may be a bit high, but generally speaking, as mentioned I think a reasonable capital gains tax is fair.

I was interested during a visit to Finland, when we had some very conservative Americans in our party. They asked the guide what sort of government Finland had, because they were admiring the progress and beauty of the country.

The guide replied that it was a Conservative government, and an American said he could easily see it was a Conservative government; that was evident by the progress.

He was looking around the coach and talking flat out, and I could not resist a little dig. So I said to the guide, How long has the Conservative Party been in power? She replied, Six months. Then I asked what sort of government did they have before that, and she replied that it was a Socialist government. How long were they in power, I asked, and she said, Eleven years. The coach was very silent!

I think the Americans are a wonderful people, very like Australians, but, also like Australians, some are a bit narrow-minded and are isolated, although they travel a lot. Have afternoon tea in Switzerland and you will find that the Swiss can speak half a dozen languages, whether Russian, German, French, English or Italian, and they con- verse well with all their visitors. They seem more open-minded than we are, for we have been very narrow-minded until recently. We have started to open our minds a bit, but we are still against any form of government which we do not favour.

But in Switzerland if you ask how some leader of some country is doing the answer will be Yes, he is doing a wonderful job. And when you ask what party he belongs to the reply will be, Oh, I don't know. It does not really matter; he is doing a really good job. The Swiss do not put labels on them, whether they are red, pink or conservative; wet Liberal or dry Liberal; right Labor or left Labor or some such label. We put all those labels on our people.

We cannot see any good in half the world that believes in Communism. I do not personally believe in Communism, but I was very impressed in China with the progress they had made and how efficient they were with the facilities available. I thought India also was a nice country, but they had been backed by the West and were supposed to have democracy. However, I thought China was more gentle and nice, though they can be tough if necessary, as was demonstrated during 1989. I do not believe that the God of the Universe would think that the Chinese are not as good as the Indians or Americans or Australians or anyone else. I think the people of the world are a wonderful lot of people, but like the birds all different.

For instance, the swallow is beautiful and flies very swiftly, whereas the little robin redbreast does not fly in the same way - but it is just as nice. We are inclined to think that if we were a robin redbreast everyone else should be like us. The kookaburra is a beautiful bird, but he has some dreadful habits. He drives little birds out of theirnests and pinches their eggs, but that is how he is. And isn't it good to hear the kookaburra laugh.

So we admire the robin redbreast sitting on the ground or on a nearby post; we admire the skylark and the groundlark and the swallow and all other birds for what they are, and we do not think, just because they are not the same as one another, that one is superior to another. But we humans are so narrow-minded; we are inclined to think that all people of the world should be as we are, and if they are not there is something wrong with them.

If you shop in the Far East you will find that the price of an article is high, but it is not difficult to get it cheaper. The shopkeepers enjoy bargaining, and even European people are given at times to bargain quite considerably.

In Scotland years ago I had the best afternoon of my life following the haggling between two farmer friends over a mob of cattle one wanted to buy from the other. This was mentioned earlier in the book so I will not go into detail, except to say that my friend, after offering £65 for 22 cattle, for which the other wanted £105, finally, after two and half hours, bought them for £92, six pounds less than he had expected to buy them for in the first place. And on top of that the seller gave him £5 so the cattle would die well.

Even in Tasmania we like a bargain. I knew an old chap named Hardwick, who was an astute buyer, and he had a very big lip. If the seller asked $8.50 for sheep, out would go his lip and after a while he would get the price down to $8. He would continue to look down in the mouth and eventually the price would come down to $7.50, even though the first price was quite reasonable.

I was buying cattle and offered a farmer $210 each for a mob of steers, but he could not let them go for that price because he had refused this price offered by other agents. So I offered to take them for $212 if he would deliver them free to my place. He accepted that, although the cost of delivering them would be probably $12 ahead. He had been given an out, as the other agents could not say he had sold the steers for less than they had offered.

In April of this year, 1990, Peg and I visited Japan to look at beef and other industries, also most importantly to see our daughter Jeannie, son-in-law Henk and grand-daughter Stephanie.

I was very interested to see the progress that Japan has made in the last twenty years since ourlastpropervisit. We have in recent years visited other countries and the progress of all countries in this region, such as Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and others is phenomenal.

Australia has wonderful opportunities to sell produce, wool, minerals and other goods to this area. I realise at the moment we have a wool surplus, but I have just written to Hugh Beggs, Chairman of the Wool Board and John Kerin, Minister for Primary Industry suggesting they sell wool on credit to China. I also rang up John Allwright, president of the National Farmers Federation so he could discuss the idea with his committee.

I know John Kerin and John Allwright are really good men, and although I don't know Hugh Beggs, I understand he is also a sound effective person. Therefore I hope between the three of them they can decide to grant credit and sell the wool. Australia would gain a lot of goodwill overseas by this action, as well as helping ourselves.

The easy answer is that it is impossible to grant credit to China as others will also want credit. However, ways and means can be found to overcome this if it is considered necessary. China could buy the wool, manufacture it, sell it and pay us on credit. The Wheat Board has done similar things in the past. We must trade with people and find ways to do so.

I am pleased the Japanese own part of our meat industry in Australia, because they are now advertising and promoting Australian beef! I visited feedlots and farms where the farmers received $12,000 nett return per bullock! While we cannot expect to get anywhere near this price, we can and should be able to reduce the margin of beef prices in the supermarkets to the benefit of Australia. At present beef prices are from about $8.00 a kg. to about $40 a kg. in their supermarkets.

We should be pleased a Multi Functional Polis may be built in Australia. We can then hopefully pick up some of the Japanese and other overseas technology. When you get down to it, much of it is common sense, for example, using their canals for roads and highways to save dismantling buildings or building a decent air terminal for Tokyo where everything flows in circles, instead of having an airport like the one at Sydney, where people are possibly working harder, but getting nowhere.

The same applies to our harbours. We should commandeer land (pay a good price for it) and lay out our container port so that the goods just flow in and out with the minimum amount of fuss. It is the planned layout we need in Australia, not harder work.

We have a wonderful chance to see the technology of Multi Functional Polis built here for us to view, by someone else, that will cost us nothing! Yet we are very scared and probably we may miss Out and Chile or some other country may get it and the technology for nothing. Let us hope that we have the courage and vision to view such a city and pick out the practical items which we can copy for Australia's benefit in other areas. I do not fear the Japanese with their hard work and business enterprises. We workjust as hard, but they are more dedicated. We just must learn to plan better and compete better and our future is terrific.

It is encouraging that our Minister for Trade, Dr. Neil Blewett has just returned from a trip to China. Three months ago I wrote to various people stressing the urgent necessity for our resuming trade with China and other countries.

It is also pleasing that John Kerin is organising a trade delegation to Russia, Eastern European countries, Japan and other far Eastern countries to help our trading position.

It is no good holding quantities of wool (or anything else) if we can sell it on credit. By selling we create a future market as well as immediately getting rid of big storage bills by holding it in Australia.

letter from Kenneth B Coles

letter from Kenneth B Coles

We can develop our industries without spoiling our country- side. In 1956 while visiting a Californian food factory, I noticed a drilling rig operating in the grounds. I was intrigued and said, You are looking for oil? No, the manager answered, We are not interested in oil, we are really trying to find gas to run our factories.

Australia has vast quantities of natural gas that we are exporting and hopefully we may even find sufficient quantities in Bass Strait to run our future factories. This is an environmentally friendly fuel which we should see used a lot more in Australia.

In the 1950 - 60 period I was interested in the possibility of finding oil in commercial quantities in Australia. Therefore when in Washington in 1956 I discovered a chart showing sections of the world with estimated potential for oil and gas production. Bass Strait and northern Tasmania were in this potential oil area. I therefore wrote to Sir Kenneth Coles, chairman of the main Australian company then involved in oil exploration.