‘Daikyo’s sale of land to Koshin were aimed not just at making profits, but also at appeasing local criticism of Daikyo’s large scale development projects in Australia’. Koshin, had purchased a block of land, 13,600 sq m in Central Surfer’s Paradise, earmarked for a 544 room hotel and the now desolate Surfers Paradise Raceway at Carrara. Both properties had been sold in June 1988. These sales had taken place inside the month since we had held our meeting of protest at the Miami Great Hall. What was interesting about those observations, was that they were not made in this country. They appeared in Japan’s largest daily, Asahi Shimbun.
If Daikyo were ‘appeasing local criticism’, then, the man at the centre of the public concern, focussing attention on Japanese investment, must have been foremost in their mind. The question is why?
Why would one of Japan’s largest builder of condominium units, a company with sufficient clout and muscle, bow to public pressure, especially when that pressure was being generated by an unknown citizen of the Gold Coast. Why would a company, bulging at the seems with endless cash, that would generate plenty of Australian sympathisers, simply off load its properties and move north? It would be convenient to suggest, that these actions were driven by economic imperatives; but why would any company walk away from the Gold Coast, when half the world it seemed were breaking their neck to come here.
That Cairns has forged ahead as a tourist destination, had been almost solely due to Daikyo’s involvement, yet when the heat was turned up by the State Government, hoist on its own petard of equivocating, Daikyo had nowhere to go ........ It held this State to ransom, and the State buckled; buckled because Goss and co. refused to stand up to Canberra.
In an article published in the Gold Coast Bulletin of Sept.12. 1990, I was reported to have said:
From my observation, it would have been far more productive, had the Government simply just told Yokoyama san, in colloquial Australian, to ‘bugger off’.
Nobody in this country, has ever had the guts to stand up to Japanese investment. If they had, the smoke that continues to waft from the Daikyo camp, might have burst into flames long before this.
At the time of the public meeting, the name Daikyo had no reason to occupy my attention. Names such as Matsushita (pronounced Ma-soosh-ta) and Nihon were more to the forefront in those days. It also has to be remembered, that a great deal of the anger was directed at Australians who were only too eager to accommodate the wishes of those with the yen. In 1987, seven months before public anger spilled over Daikyo had hoicked, paraplegic businessman Errol Inwood off the Carrara Racecourse, with seven days notice. Although the story was front page news, it never raised as much as a protest. Daikyo certainly were not high-profile. Owners of the Gold Coast International, they enjoyed relative anonymity. Tsuneo Sekine, with his purchase of the ANA hotel and the provocative response from the man who did the deal Max Christmas, grabbed the attention. A newspaper report, three days following the meeting said that Daikyo, the property giant had come in for some unwanted attention, when their premises in Orchid Ave, had been vandalised, with graffiti. The fact that damage was confined to the buildings interior, was remarkable, given that the act of vandalism was not only seen, but no one was arrested. The company played the affair down, which was commendable given that, it was a criminal act. This sort of nonsense, is not on. If protests are to be carried out, then they should fall within the confines of rational behaviour. Vandalism, be it in peace or war, is intolerable and smacks at the very integrity of those who are legitimately trying to bring about change.
I remember, the day we conducted the protest march through the streets of Surfers Paradise. I specifically weeded out those banners and placards that I found personally offensive. The people concerned argued that they had the democratic right to protest and that they were expressing their abhorrence of what was going on. ‘Go home stinkin Japs’, only served to underline the total ignorance of the carrier, but do you think I could tell them how destructive their so called ‘support’ was. They had their little day, “hey look Mum that's me on tv. See, that's me with the banner. Watch'a reckon”. The press seize on such material and they use it to club you to death. Change, is hard enough, fighting big money, but pea brained helpers, are brilliant in the role of saboteur.
All this only served to frighten the business fraternity of Surfers Paradise. Whiteside, they claimed would not only jeopardise further development, but he also would send out signals, that would stunt if not destroy the tourist industry. Already Restaurant and Caterers Assn chief Charles Halstead was announcing that plans for Daikyo’s new 544 hotel would go on hold until ‘this business’ blew over. Certainly this was reinforced some days later when Daikyo’s then general manager, indicated that his company might not go ahead with long term plans to build a ‘mega-hotel’ on the Surfer’s sight . “We will have to wait and see what is going to happen. There are a number of foreign investors sitting back and waiting,” said Mr Kenny.
Federal Member for McPherson, Peter White accused Heart of a Nation, as being “hysterical and racist”, thereby putting himself firmly on side with the ‘establishment’. This sort of political comment, did nothing to address the debate, yet emanated from the very people who lacked the guts to front the public meeting.
With Halstead and Kenny, throwing down the gauntlet of fear, threatening dire consequences, if the people did not sit back and shut up Daikyo’s Gold Coast manager David Priest said the company had no intention of pulling out of the Gold Coast. It was a case of too many Indians; everybody it seemed was intent on throwing their sixpenneth worth in.
All of this must have been very disturbing to Daikyo, back home. Japanese management, do not like making waves. Better to say nothing, smile and nod, than shoot at shadows. This was a lesson that Daikyo failed, I believe to teach their Australian team. Candidly I have never understood, why Americans and Australians have never studied Japanese management culture closer. Maybe you have to be Japanese to understand it, but I for one have tremendous admiration for their application, dedication and success.
Japanese companies and corporation, start off in countries like America and Australia, at a natural disadvantage. Apart from the historical events of recent times, that colour
new associations, there is this inbred intolerance to just being Asian. It will be argued, that in this day and age that this attitude no longer exists. It is a nice argument, that does no more than cloak our inhibitions, but it is there, never-the-less.
The Japanese are fully aware of this and in the program of acceptance to a new country, certain practices are adopted. Acceptance is very important. Consequently large companies, set out to attract the very best that can be bought. This not only gives the company a stamp of credibility, by attracting top management, but it also provides them with access to powerful sources. Conduits to power, if you like. None of this is peculiar to the Gold Coast, for this happened in America, long before the Japanese turned their attentions to Australia. Nor is there anything sinister about the Japanese mode of operation. I use the word ‘sinister’ reservedly here, because, the method achieves the end.
Japanese industry has a long history of ‘joint partnerships’ that have led to total acquisition. We hear so much about the ‘mutual exchange of technical knowledge’, yet there is little to support this well worn argument peddled out time and time again to justify the marriage to Japanese investment.
When I was a kid growing up, America led the world in radio technology. They gave us the thermionic valve, that took us from crystal sets, to long distant communication. In the fifties a group of kids, played round with various metals and cane up with a semiconductor called a transistor. Young Shockley and some of his mates set out in makeshift workshops developing ideas, that gave birth to the silicon chip industry and the world of modern electronics. Those workshops were in a slum area of California. Today we call it Silicon Valley.
But the technical transfer, has been one way. Motorola, Zenith, RCA and Sears, were giants in the early days of television. In fact, in the hey day of American consumerism, there were something in the order od twenty five television manufacturers. Attempt to penetrate the Japanese market, met with total resistance. This was due to the far sighted and intuitive perception of the powerful Japanese communications ministry, that put in place regulations that forbade the introduction of television, until Japanese technology was equal to if not superior to the Americans. This measure frustrated the American manufacturer to the point that he was prepared to meet the conditions set down by the Japanese Government. Yes, they could market their sets in Japan, provided they were built there under license. Before long the cartel of Japanese electronic companies led by the late Kenji Matsushita, began exporting Japanese manufactured television set to America. Cut to the bone, to capture the market, it was not long before the consumer abandoned the American product in favour of the cheaper and often more reliable Japanese model. When the Japanese consumer at home became aware that the same sets, in their country, were selling at nearly half the cost in America, it set off a wave of ‘dumping charges’, that could not be refuted. America with its open door access had allowed Japanese business acumen and superior technology, to hollow out its television industry. Today the only television sets that are manufactured in America are from companies that have been breathed new life into by their Japanese companies. This business strategy, this culture, has developed in the traditions of fierce competition handed down from generations. Daikyo and companies like them, employ those self same regimes.
In America, the Japanese spent millions of dollars ‘buying’ expertise. Whether that expertise is in the field of management or professional lobbyists, the money is seen as investment capital. Corporate philanthropy, where communities witness the ‘generosity’ of these companies, is also big business. In 1989 alone Japanese companies spent in the order of $312 million, ‘buying’ public acceptance.
When in the words of Channel Nine reporter Rick Burnett, Sir Sydney Schubert,‘ put himself on the market’, Daikyo, were quick ‘to snap him up’. The Brisbane Sun of 7/7/88, reported that recently retired Queensland Government Co-ordinator General, Sir Sydney Schubert was about to fly out to Tokyo to meet with Shuji Yokoyama, to negotiate a salary package. Sir Sydney said before he departed that his 43 years with top administration would give his new association an edge over its competitors, ‘all part of being in private enterprise’. The decision is one which will determine the direction of his life for the next ten years. As a parting shot, Sir Sydney went on to have a swipe at the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment that was being expressed on the Gold Coast.
Which ever way you look at it, the government is a function of the people. It is elected to carry out the wishes of the people and it is paid by the people. Private enterprise produces the wealth of the nation and as such, is not in the position to run the necessary functions of a nations needs. Government is a non producing appendage of society, whose sole role it is to conduct the affairs of a community. Not the particular interests of a section of that community, but the welfare of the people as a whole. Those who are elected to serve are servants and not masters.
Sir Sydney was part of that system for 43 years, retiring when Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was unceremoniously uprooted from parliament. Possibly upon retirement he would have received a hansom pay-out. This very able man was not only Co-ordinator General for eleven years but for the final five, personal advisor to the Premier. Sir Sydney, by definition of his once held position was a very powerful man.
Yet like so many he lambasted the very people who had paid his wages for a lifetime . Now in the employ of Daikyo, he chose to decry the integrity and intelligence of the masses, because they raised legitimate concerns at the amount of land that the Japanese were buying. This was nothing new, for other high powered Australians were also trying to dampen down the unrest created by public anger. That great champion of the Aussie underdog Prime Minister Bob Hawke, took the unprecedented step of apologising publicly to the Japanese Prime Minister, then on a goodwill tour of Australia, ‘for the repugnant behaviour of those who had spoken out on the Gold Coast’. Mr Hawke went on to say, that it did not represent the views of the Australian Government or most Australians. The latter he was not prepared to test, despite many a plea for a referendum on the issue. On the day he maligned those who had raised the controversial issue I was a recipient of the Australian Citizenship certificate. In that document Mr Hawke had prevailed upon me to fight for the rights of the young people to whom we would ultimately hand this great nation over to. Yet here was that great icon of the dinky-di Aussie, apologising to a foreign leader whose country was acquiring so much land that the natives were concerned. The irony of course was that it was a‘ foreigner’, who was sounding the alarm bells.
This report from a Japanese newspaper, simply highlights the gun-ho attitudes of people like Hawke, Keating and Schubert, who tended to hold those like myself to ridicule, simply by virtue of their positions and not argument, whilst their Japanese brethren took a far serious view of the matter.
‘Mr Takeshita told his cabinet colleagues in a meeting straight from his return from Australia, there was excessive investment in some tourist development. He said future investment should be more balanced and sensitive to concerns expressed about excessive foreign investment’. Mr Takashita’s comments reported on evening television news in Tokyo, followed a strong defence of Japanese property investment in Australia by both the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke and the Treasurer Paul Keating, over the past few days..
This of itself gave a big lie to the claim that we were uninformed or ignorant. The tenets of basic preservation shone through the deceptive intrigue of those who considered trade in the short term against the long term interests of the future. Simply Whiteside was putting into practise, what Hawke advocated; the interests of tomorrows Australians. Perhaps my ‘loyalty’ to this country is narrowly defined. I cannot condone the action of any Australian who is prepared to sell his country for the benefit of foreigners, that deprives future generations. The resident that sells out to a non-resident Japanese or any other, is no better than the real-estate agent, who targets the Japanese buyer. The Prime Minister who allows the Foreign Review Investment Board (FIRB) to sanction the sell off of our priceless land, is as culpable as the executive who is seconded to Japanese business, to perpetuate and assist the process. Some of these people, enjoy the position to do so today because their departed loved ones gave their lives, defending the very land they sell today, from the very people that tried to seize it at the point of a barrel.
I make no apologies, nor do I have any time for those who assist the Japanese in the appropriation of this country. That is not to say I do not have any time for the Japanese. They at least do not take lightly the selling of their soil. It has been claimed that my views are that of racially motivated zealot, yet this hardly explains the support that created the furore, that rose out of public concern .
This was the implied threat in the early hours of the morning at the Cairns Hilton “ You my friend are a dangerous man. ‘. Not dangerous from the point of view of national security, or even economic security, but financial security of those who peddled the nations natural heritage. As Max Christmas said recently, he learnt one thing in life, “everything comes from the ownership of land”. It was ownership of land that we were concerned with and if Japan brought enough of it, would they become predatory shareholders.? When Sir Sydney took the helm as chief executive of Daikyo, one of the first purchases of land was the sugar cane farm at White Rocks. This sale took the medias attention, because its market value was in the order of $1.2 million. Daikyo purchased the property for a staggering $23 million. The question being asked was why? Did they have some inside running that would make this parcel of land strategic value. The purchase at this price simply begged the question, if the sale was lagging for a buyer at $1 million, why not make a play at say $1.5 million and avoid the smell of suspicion.
Whatever the reason for this acquisition, it remained secret. Daikyo in the meantime having disposed of three properties on the Gold Coast were concerned at the growing disquiet about its activities. In a bid to allay fears it launched a private survey to ascertain public feeling. This seemed an extraordinary action given that Daikyo from the perspective of the ‘establishment’ were good corporate citizens. If it was the intention of Daikyo to allay fears, this action costing in the order of $50,000, only raised more questions. Daikyo seemed not only sensitive to public criticism of Japanese investment, but also seemed particularly sensitive to drawing any sort of attention to itself.
This could hardly be avoided given that they had developed many projects and were on the drawing board for more. One of those early projects was the Palm Meadows Golf Course whose design engineers had been Burchill and Bates. Neville Bates who went on to become North Queensland's Daikyo chief, pioneered much of the success that the company achieved, but was summarily sacked after his position was tainted by Labor Party connections.
In the early days few in the media focussed their attention on Daikyo’s operation. Whilst I had been given a warning to be extremely careful, ‘because it is my people I worry about , and not yours’ I found Daikyo’s presence here as landowners no more or less objectionable than say EIE, Koshin, Ashizawa or Shimuza. However as I became the focus of attention by innuendo and smear I began to follow the fortunes of some of these companies. As a consequence I raised the reference, to companies actively selling off our real estate. On Feb.7 1991 I had this to say ...”such fancy euphemisms .....(see speech) ..... That story for obvious reasons I cannot repeat on the public platform.
On this night, I fired a volley of verbal shots at the whole army of those who were trading our heritage. Daikyo were caught in the fire .
For the moment, the meeting, that had raised the Prime Ministers ire, had not drawn comment from the Gold Coast contingent, but when a Japanese company purchased 457 acres of land at Coomera, for a school, Rick Burnett and channel nine followed up the story. Probably more than any other news item that went to air, this one awakened public attention to what was going on. Burnett had interviewed locals in Coomera, who expressed concern that their land was being sold off to make way for a school. Their leading question revolved around why so much land was needed. Originally the purchase had been for 800 acres and now, some of this had been traded off. Flying down over the coast Burnett alluded to our recent public meetings and said that these were becoming regular events that, which under-pinned the seriousness of the situation that politicians were simply running away from. The man behind these meetings said Rick is Bruce Whiteside. With that the camera focussed on our public meeting, followed by my comments. When Burnett had called to interview me, he had casually asked did I really have any idea of just how much the Japanese owned on the Coast. I produced a list that I had compiled, that staggered him.
“How accurate is it Bruce”,
“Accurate enough for the Labor Party to plagiarise it and use it in its election manifesto”.
When I gave Burnett a copy, I did not envisage that it would be scrolled over the background of the Gold Coast. I would have appreciated the request to have used it. It was a source of great amusement, that my phone rang for days advising me of what the Japanese owned as a result of this screening. I don’t think the general public ever realised the agony and perseverance this campaign extracted from one man.
This material gave Burnett room to broaden the scope of his program, so he took the fight into the very offices of Sir Sydney Schubert, a man who Burnett had said,” put himself on the market”. Confronted with the evidence Daikyo’s boss seemingly uncomfortable defended the purchase of land, by dismissing it as being ‘only a small amount”. Burnett in a classic piece of television engineering, caught Sir Sydney (and I might add myself, when I saw it on the news that night), completely unawares.
Channel Nine had set up a monitor and ran the tape of our meeting where I had questioned Daikyo’s motive in this country. As the tape rolled Sir Sydney was not amused, for unbeknown to him the cameras were also rolling on him. Burnett says during this little piece of high drama; As the emotions of the moment build, Sir Sydney , who is not impressed with Whiteside’s claims is threatening to sue”. When the video ceased, Sir Sydney, pummelling the side of his hand into a cupped palm, said that he had had “enough of this shit' and that he was going to 'sue all the way”. Sitting at home I was shocked. Not at Sir Sydney’s reaction, but at the threat to instigate legal action. One again I was going down this path asking myself WHY? Why was issue such a sensitive matter that the head of Daikyo saw fit to threaten legal action. Perhaps the question answers itself.
I had said nothing to damage Daikyo, yet here they were again again I was going down this path asking myself why on the defensive, as if they were worried that this sort of attention might reveal skeletons in the closet. Daikyo’s own actions did not, allay my growing interest. This reaction would not have sprung from the Japanese side of the management, because any unfavourable action against an ordinary Australian citizen, by a large Japanese company, would have been counter productive anyway. For that reason I reasoned I had no need to fear repercussions. If Sir Sydney was admonished for this outburst, he certainly did not learn from it, for sometime later he caused a real furore.
For the moment Daikyo faded from the picture. In truth, they were no more than another piece to the overall picture . My concern was the sale of Australian land and as the Japanese had access to endless supply of cash, they were the ones who stood to pick up every piece of choice real estate that came on the market. Whilst some companies had conduits to information, others relied on the greed driven real estate agents, peddling properties for maximum profits.
One morning I received a phone call from Brisbane.
“Bruce, George here. Have you seen this mornings AUSTRALIAN?
“You’ve been named in the Cooke Inquiry