Chapter 3 ......Lone Pine

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary thing typified much about the people of my reluctantly adopted country. For a people who have a great propensity for maligning the ‘Poms’ for whinging and whining, Australians under attack from foreign takeovers, have no peers in this department. They squeal like stuck pigs and expect the others to take up the fight. All this grandstanding about the patriotism of Australians in today's society at least is nothing less than sickening. By their very nature those who read these lines will be immediately offended by this observation born of experience. The attitude is, that because we are Australian we should should not be subjected to such comments , that such impertinence is an affront, underlines the very problem we face. We are intolerant to criticism that does not find favour. We close our minds to that, we do not want to know about. We are fair game for those who see Australia for what it is, and that of course is a potential goldmine. Do Australians deserve to be custodians of this great continent? Do Australians deserve to retain those things that our forebears wrought from barren soil? In a world with an ever increasing population, where resources are not finite, where global trading allows national icons to disappear overnight, we would do well to fight for the things we hold dear. Whinging and whining will not achieve those ends, sooner or later we will lose the things we value.

 Lone Pine in a sense was at the vanguard of highlighting to the average Australian, what the power of money would do. Whilst Japanese investment in Australia has been on these shores for over 100 years, the recent off shore surge of Japanese capital has created many facets. In the case of the owners of the sanctuary, it fulfilled their need to sell the property. To the man in the street, it was a ‘sellout’ to the old enemy. To the four or five year old, it meant that he or she could still go and see the koalas. It could be argued that the Japanese at least were not about to deprive Aussie kids of their natural heritage. Good public relations of course, but the decision all round was made purely for speculative purposes. Altruism, was a useful by-product.

The sale of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary unobtrusively introduced a practice that was to become commonplace, although at the time it had no name. Vertical integration, a technical handle for the amassment of all associated aspects of an industry, simply passed over the heads of most Australians, and that from a political perspective was desirable; the less the people understood, the easier it was to fool them. Yohachiro Iwasaki, a rich man among the richest in Japan, set out in 1971 to build a world class resort at a remote coastal location called Yeppoon. The project was not without its snags, for under the Whitlam Government of the day, 51% Australian equity was a prerequisite. The Queensland Government of 1978 introduced the mechanism that did away with public accountability...The Franchise Agreement. In due course large tracts of land passed from the Livingstone Shire Council, passed to the Minister for Lands the late Russ Hinze and was subsequently sold to our friend  Mr Iwasaki. Construction of the hotel was slowed when a bomb did considerable damage, underlining the considerable tensions that existed. The Japanese participation in this sort of venture was not without its critics. Chief among these was a man who fought vehemently for fifteen years to prevent the Japanese from establishing a foothold here, Tom Burns . He, more than any other Labor parliamentarian in the country epitomised the old fashioned ‘boots’n’all’ battler. Always at the forefront of any debate on the matter, he was seen as the country’s leading advocate against the Japanese takeover, a mantle that was to passed to the author. The politician in a position to influence change gave way to the painter; the painter, who deep down admired Tom Burns as he did no other politician. That Tom Burns had a worthy ally in the fight, was aborted on December the 1st 1989. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition , spokesman extraordinaire on matters Japanese, became the Deputy -Premier.  Since that day, I doubt very much if the word Japanese has passed from Toms lips. If they have I for one have not heard it.  From that day forth, when Tom Burns and the Labor Party occupied the government benches, the Japanese were off limits to ‘unfavourable comment.’ Instead of taking the fight of foreign ownership up with the Federal Government, they chose to ride the punches until in the end they became putty in the hands of shrewd Australian operators acting in favour of Japanese investors. In a sense these men were little more than compradors, yet they had no opposition for those who were loud and long on rhetoric, in the days of opposition, were now politicians in power.

Chapter 4