Chapter 35......Multi Function Polis
Its a veritable environmental wasteland, bordered by the old industrial suburb of Port Adelaide, Salibury a working class buffer to the north and Enfield that squats on the city’s northern boundary. Rising in the northern suburb of Hope Valley this eighteen kilometre long, gunbarrel straight four lane artery, cuts across the streets of Clearview before changing direction. Ironically the boundary is named Grand Junction and it comes to rest in the parking lot of the most exotic dream of the eighties, the site of the Multi-Function-Polis. Hope, Clearview and Grand Junction; somehow, these images embrace the naivety of a maiden with the well planned, vision of a suitor. Hope, that elusive quality that induced our politicians to grab at a $40 billion straw in the vain hope that the Japanese would ‘smile’ kindly and in so doing help prop up our ailing economy. Clearview, the Japanese component, that like the highway had a very long and clear view of what this plan was all about. The Grand Junction, that marrying of vision and concepts, one to compliment the other. The embryo was conceived in the bosum of MITI and the baby was to have been delivered on Queensland Gold Coast. The result was an abortion. The aspiration of the parents were dashed. In the meantime the baby’s cot lies in the back bedroom of Gillman, destined never to cradle the sibling. So what went wrong? Will the plan ever be realised? I will attempt to answer those questions and in doing so I would ask you to bear in mind that this is the assessment of an ordinary citizen. It has no expertise to support the evaluations I make, but because the idea of a Multi-Function-Polis, the MFP, embraced the acquisition of land I was drawn into the debate. It took me down a path, that at times frightened me and gave rise to association with men at the very top of the structural pyramid. Perhaps readers will appreciate, how one-sided this business was and come to realise, that often fighting for ones country’s welfare was made more difficult by the Australian himself.
In the foyer of the Sheraton Mirage, I attempted to present a letter of concern to the Leader and co-leader of the Japanese delegation. For my efforts I was forcibly manhandled aside and booted in the ankles by a member of the entourage security. With his back to me he simply used his heel. Fortunately, the letter was delivered. One was addressed to Mr Yahiro, the other to Mr Kodama. To Australians one Japanese name is no different to the other, to me they took on considerable significance. I was not prepared to sit back and do nothing. Whilst the country’s leading bureaucrats, cradled these men around the country like crystal, whilst local developers came and paid homage, the Japanese took it all in and said little. On the Gold Coast they spent two days, talking and golfing. This then was the Japanese MFP delegation.
The plan for an MFP was no grand announcement, like rising damp it simply surfaced, hardly noticed at first and definitely not revealed by the government. Back in the early and mid eighties the Japanese government through its most powerful of ministries issued a directive for a long term blueprint. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry, was given the responsibility of putting together a plan to carry Japan into the exciting future. This nucleus of some of the best brains in the country formed a think tank that canvassed ideas examined them and looked at not only their viability, but more importantly their long term benefits for the future well-being of Japan. The credentials of the Ministry are interesting. In his book TRADING PLACES, Clyde Prestowitz traces it’s history. MITI, although it bears no resemblance to today's offspring, it was initially part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce . In 1885 the Ministry of Communications came into being, encompassing mail, telegraph, maritime shipping and lighthouses. Surely an innovation well ahead of its time. During the severe recession of 1925, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry ,MCI, was created. It drew up the concept of ‘industrial rationalisation’ that put in place much of the policy direction that has guided Japan’s steady progress and placed it in recent times among the worlds leading industrial nations. During the Second World War the Ministry became the Ministry for Munitions, taking over the control of electric power and aviation. It directed much of the Japanese war operations and just before the American occupation of the country, it reverted to its former name . 1949 saw changes and today's giant Ministry came into being. Head of that most powerful of all the Japanese arms of government, one Yukiharu Kodama ...‘just another Japanese name!’ Out of the blueprint for the future, among many, arose three plans that had a bearing on Australia. One was to be a linear rocket launcher, using alternative energy sources as ‘propellants’ to put satellites into outer orbit. The scheme envisaged a exponentially designed launching pad rising two kilometre high. Innovative? Maybe, but so too was the ministry of communication, when morse code was high technology. Today the Cape York Peninsula is the target of future outer space ventures, with its low energy sling shot potential. This plan surfaced in an article written by David Jenkins in the SMH of June 10, 1988. ‘Officials from Canberra and the five mainland States held closed door discussions in Melbourne yesterday, to put the finishing touches to a politically sensitive announcement about the Japanese governments initiative for a high-tech ‘City of the Future’ in Australia’. Although the article featured the MFP and highlighted the concern of the bureaucrats to the growing ‘anti-Japanese sentiment’ being expressed in Queensland, which had the potential to destroy the project at birth, the centre of focus was the rocket launcher to be erected in Australia. Extraordinarily nothing else was heard of these ‘initiatives’ in the press and they ‘died’. Senator Button made mention in mid September that the city was on track and that its likely destination was likely to be the Gold Coast. In an attitude typical of the politicians at the time he brushed aside the local hostility to Japanese ‘occupation’. On the Gold Coast the idea had been nurtured in the bosom of local developers and work had been going on behind the scenes to ‘capture’ this prize of Japanese altruism.
But if the Japanese ‘think tankers’ had visions of ‘high-tech, leisure cities’ on the Australia landscape, it nurtured another. It had the grandiose title, the ‘Silver Columbia Plan’. Essentially it was about building ‘retirement villages for senior Japanese citizens’ in countries that had stable governments, good health schemes and good food. Unfortunately for the Diet, (Japanese Parliament) it ran into considerable resistance at home,l ong before the planned was announced in the countries that had been ‘earmarked’. America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Financially strapped they would be the chosen for the repatriation of the large pool of Japanese retirement funds. None of those countries, it was suggested would reject the scheme because of the large amounts of investment capital and foreign exchange that would follow. Although it will be fervently denied, I have good reason to believe that the scheme that met resentment in Canada and America, largely because of the arrogance of the idea that had not been even discussed with those countries, went very close to becoming established on the shores of Trinity Bay. Perhaps it was a measure of the stature of people who speak out on controversial matters, that defines the relevant merit of their credibility, but the editorial that had slammed me for targeting the Japanese, branding me a racist for raising the matter of land ownership, now said it was not ‘anti Japanese or racist to fight for your country. It wanted to know why the plan to develop the shores of Trinity Bay, was being assisted by the Queensland government. In fact the newspaper rang me and with the exchange of ideas and information, they contacted the owner of the proposed development in Tokyo and found to their dismay, that he was the largest builder of retirement homes in Japan. Not only that but the White Rocks cane farm acquisition was to provide the service town to maintain and support the complex.
In a successful attempt to ‘hose down’ the damaging impact of what nearly occurred, the Queensland Government under Mike Ahern, in conjunction with the federal Labor Government, hurriedly rejected the project on ‘environmental grounds.” The removal of the mangrove swamps would upset the delicate ecology of the bay”. The same rationale had not stood in the way of politicians when Sanctuary Cove was the issue of the day. So what had caused this massive back down? I am inclined to the view, that public opinion would not have prevented the project going ahead. Rather the decision would have been a Japanese one. Bad publicity, is not something they seek. The venture could wait. Today there are such villas. They have been built in Spain. One has to question though a government who would send its old people overseas, to spend their last days away from the nucleus of their families. Perhaps the answer as to why these people would go at all is built within the Japanese themselves. They will do for Japan what they have too for its long-term benefit. In a country, that is hard pressed to obtain development land, the wide open spaces of Australia are an obvious answer. All that has to be done is to break down the barriers of resentment. With time, that will be achieved. In principle the idea of transporting your older people offshore, is offensive to our sensibilities. To the Japanese, given a choice it is probably not a option that they would accept without a sense of loss. Their culture is built around the family unit and they have a love of country. Both of these would be violated. To be abandoned to the vastly different country, particularly Australia, would be to cast old people into the same scenario as the ‘criminal’ element that was unceremoniously dumped here nearly two hundred years ago.
Social consequences aside, the scheme I believe had much to commend it. Australia as a country is very young and undeveloped. Without buying into claim that Australian Aborigines have ‘owned’ this land for forty thousand years, in terms of development, they have contributed nothing. I am aware that there are bleeding hearts within our community who will claim that in 200 years of ‘white’ occupation, we have wreaked havoc and that it was the Aborigines who were at one with the land, but to wave that flag as if it was some cultural deliberation that enabled these people to ‘preserve’ the land, is a load of rubbish. The fact is that the Aborigine is a very basic human being, and the instincts that enabled him to survive for thousands of years was born of self preservation. It has only been in the last 200 years that Australia has begun to compile a dossier of history and whilst much of it has embraced injustice, desecration and violence, it has formed a nation out of a wilderness that was home to ancient nomads. Two hundred years has seen a gathering of peoples from all around the globe mesh into a land in a state of metamorphosis. Dominantly Anglo Saxon Celtic, we have welcomed refugees, displaced persons and absorbed the humanitarian unfortunates to the point where we at times question the wisdom of such policies. Racism, ethnic conflicts and religious differences, have plagued mankind since time immemorial, yet Australia has managed to provide home and security to those who have fought to the death on foreign shores.
With the changing pattern of the makeup of Australia, we continue to provide a new home for the dispossessed, the displaced. Politically we trumpet the need to trade with and develop closer relations with the people of Asia. Many Australians are appalled by the idea, although few would dare vent their views in public, yet we continue to parade this sham; a people honestly racially tolerant. It is in defence of this sham that those who have the courage to speak out on sensitive issues are ‘maligned’ by those who are cloistered by the sanctity of sanctimonious idealism. Our relationship with Japan, stood to be enhanced, had the idea been given the green light. Unlike the Aborigines to whom we seemed to be forever shackled, the Japanese have much to offer.
Retirement villages? On what grounds could we justify them? What was the real objective behind the Japanese initiative? In my view a golden opportunity was lost. Both parties failed to seize this situation to enhance closer relations.
Japan has an emerging problem with ‘retirement ‘. I understand that 80% of Japan’s population is between the age of 15 years and 65 years. That spectrum consists of the working population, distorted by the baby-boom aberration that places the greatest percentage of the workers at the high end of the scale. With childbirth figures in Japan being in the order of 1.2, per family, the input end is comparatively sparse, with concentration of the output end having serious impact on resources. Can Japan absorb the increasing pressure on its domestic and social infrastructure without causing dislocation and possible decline in living standards. With its large surplus of investment capital and the need to allow that capital to work for the greater good of global economies, the innovative idea of ‘allowing other countries to pick up the ‘retiree’ burden, seemed to me to be a good one; from the aspect of logistics. But who would be the beneficiary? If the Japanese had it in mind to allow Australians to build, manage and service these retirements villages, then the scheme had a big plus going for it. Ownership, would not be a question. Given the pressures placed upon domestic infrastructure in Japan, the government could afford to finance new infrastructure in Australia, with its associated lower cost and in place health programmes. But these parameters would have to be understood. Given the propensity to which the Japanese have acquisitioned the tourist industry, no Japanese involvement or inter-operation could be acceptable. In return Australians could contribute much to inter country relationships by displaying care and service, to older Japanese. The opportunity to display love and compassion, with time would help practically to break down the barriers of mistrust and misunderstanding.. On the practical side much needed foreign funds would flow into Australia, whilst at the same time building stronger bridges. This scheme of course does not take into account the huge cultural barrier, that exists and whilst the younger generation may be more adaptable to change on both sides, older people would resist. It would be a long process, but it would be a start.
If the Silver Columbia plan, seems acceptable to me MFP was not. This idea first surfaced in Japan late in 1986. It was hardly an original idea for it took its ideas from the young breed of inventor entrepreneurs, who founded Silicon Valley. Men like Shockley, men like Galvin, who gave birth to transistors, diodes and later silicon chips. Later they gave names like Texas Instruments to the world and enhanced companies like Motorola, with their individual brilliance. No, it was not the Japanese, but the Americans who had the innovative breakthroughs. Japan, seized upon the opportunities and reaped the harvest. Just as Australia had built its tourist industry and sold short for short term gain, so too had the Americans with their electronic treasure chest. Japan had always sought technical expertise and this was within keeping with it’s implied goals stated way back in 1857. Japan ever true to itself, had never deviated. It was this strategy that embodied the techno-city ideal. Americans whose open door policies had assisted the Japanese, with technological assistance, by not placing industrial embargos on their copyrights, thus leaving their technologies open to plunder had been offered this co-operative scheme by MITI. Hurt by some of the trading policies that congress often endorsed for political leverage, industrial America was highly sceptical of the benefits of the joint plan. Technical transfer was increasingly a ‘one way street’, with America receiving only minuscule and often puny benefits. America, never warmed to the idea, so Japan, button-holed Senator John Button.
Button, whose working relations with the Japanese, centred around the ‘rationalisation of the car industry’ in Australia, immediately warmed to the plan. Coming back to Australia, he must have told the inner sanctum of the cabinet about the plans set before him by MITI. This it must be remembered, was some 15 months prior to the Gold Coast outbreak of ‘anti-Japanese sentiment’. For reasons that have not only remained a mystery, but had much to do with the ‘opposition’ to the idea, the government decided not to release an inkling of the plan to the public. It was not until June 1988, only days after the ‘hostile meeting’ on the Gold Coast, that Senator Button ‘slow released’ information about not only the ‘techno-city’, but also the satellite launcher. Buttons raising of the issue, low key as it was, had more to do with ‘assuring and placating the Japanese’. So low key was the reference to the techno-city, that apart from the article written by Jenkins, no further press was given to the matter until September.1989! So what was taking place behind closed doors? What was the level of consultation between the Japanese side and Australian? Where the Australians privy to all the details of the proposal that now was taking on the shape of acceptance? How much was Button and company advised on the development of the plan? These questions of course were not raised by Australians, simply because they knew nothing of the scheme being held from the public gaze. In fact the foundations had been in place for some time, for by April 1989 the second meeting of the joint secretariat had drip fed information of an obscure nature.
Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences at La Trobe University, Yoshio Sugimoto, Japanese born Australian citizen was one who was following developments with close interest. Sugimoto knew only to well the predatory nature of such collective Japanese business, that had Government driven impetus behind it. Sugimoto, like myself was concerned by the hush-hush nature of plan. He began to look for information. One piece of documentary evidence he came upon reinforced his belief, that the silence was not accidental but design. In a Joint Secretariat Committee, copy of the minutes, a copy I must emphasise written in Japanese with Sugimoto's translation:
‘The control of public consciousness in relation to the MFP project is a matter on which the Australian side is concerned. This is thought to be a basic stage in realising the possibility of the MFP. ...It is necessary to control the consciousness of public and related organisation very carefully’.
Sugimoto, detected shrewdly that there was an aura of secrecy surrounding the plan for the techno-city when he said:・On the whole, the technocrat class composed primarily of bureaucrats, managers and professionals is propelled by the belief that they own specialist knowledge which enables them to pass judgment about the state of the nation, aloof from and independent of the masses.” He concluded by saying that “tecnocrats analysis tend to have the appearance of being politically neutral and advisory, although they always had political ramifications”. In other words, we, the masses would tolerate this patronising and dangerous attitude, because they were elected and as government, they possessed the divine right to make these momentous decisions.
I never felt easy about Buttons capacity to deliberate on this question of the Techno-city. In fact I spoke with Sugimoto about this and expressed the view that the people should be presented with both sides of this proposal and then be given the constitutional right to accept or reject. In other words, a referendum. If the project had been a sleeper to Australians, it certainly was not to vested interests. The Gold Coast Bulletin, ran a feature that was to further fuel the ‘anti-Japanese ‘ feeling that had continued to occupy the columns of the paper for nearly eighteen months. Headlined Operation Super-city, it was written by feature writer Peter Nally, who had been at the forefront of stories that involved Japanese investment. It outlined the push that was now being mounted by a group of local developers, who had banded together to strengthen a stake in the new city, that now took on the mystical title of MFP. Driving force and father of the newly formed 2020 Syndicate, was none other than Geoff Burchill. Burchill had collaborated with Japanese entrepreneurs, having been involved with Daikyo, Shinko and EIE. All this revelation served to throw petrol on the fire. If the Japanese were being targeted for buying Australian land, then men like Burchill, Christmas and Schubert served to flaunt the perception that they did not really care a damn what we thought; they had the right and money to do as they damn well pleased. Alan Midwood, director of the planning group Rider Hunt, became publicity spokesperson for the 2020 Syndicate and proceeded to issue press releases with monotonous regularity. His unashamed promotion of the concept. induced me to become involved, to the point where I set out to negate Midwood's arguments. Gradually the public began to take interest, until it became evident that people simply did not want the plan. Shrewd lobbying accompanied by some thorough preparations set the public to believe that the Gold Coast stood to gain the techno-city. At Homebush, out of Sydney, Williamstown in Melbourne Gillman in Adelaide, along with a couple up north, the rush was on. This Japanese gift horse, to which I preferred to call the Trojan horse, was on for all cities alike. Suddenly the plan that had been accompanied in secrecy, was now a big fat bone among a pack of hungry dogs. The noise awakened a nation. The Multi-Function-Polis, was suddenly becoming an embarrassment. The government was being accused of secrecy. The government denied it. Suddenly demands were being made upon the government to level with the people. Studies were set up , top look at what actions could be undertaken to alleviate public antagonism. The enquiries revealed what the people had said, Involve us! So was set up the MFP Community Consultation Committee. This ploy at best acted as no more than a safety valve, involving as it did more civil servants sitting on committees and simply going through the motions. I never believed that public opinion would alter the course of the plan, but I was in favour of any discussion that might create interest in the Japanese camp. Suddenly with an election in the air and the topic of the MFP beginning to gather momentum, Andrew Peacock, rocketed the issue into national prominence. Without too much attention to detail, he simply told the nation that if elected, he would ‘axe’ the Japanese city of the future. Not surprisingly, the Australian newspaper acted as a ‘propaganda sheet to underpin the vehemency of those who saw Peacock as a threat, to the project. Prime Minister Hawke, stopped short of accusing him of out and out racism, that weapon that he had employed against people such as myself. Hawke in accusing Peacock of tapping a sensitive issue in the dying stages of an election, in order to win votes, was probably right, but in the fashion of political cynicism, it was a ploy he would have embraced had it suited his lot. The Labor Party has no claim to virtuous morals.
“Why does he say this is a Japanese enclave? What sort of vein is he trying to tap, with that lie? He is trying to tap into the very worst elements that there must be in Australian thinking and it is a desperate abuse of the obligations of political leadership.” All these leading questions and self assessment. This was an open accusation, implied, that any Australian who did not agree with his views was by definition a ‘racist’. It was of course a stock position that Hawke adopted. This man who had committed Australia to signatory to United Nation agreements, to which most Australian have little knowledge, is the least qualified to pontificate on the ‘thinking’ of his oft self assessed ‘fellow Australians’.. Paul Kelly of the AUSTRALIAN, said that Peacock had stooped to ‘exploit immigration fears’. Enclaves as Peacock had intimated, were never according to Kelly, a prospect. Writers from around the country, roundly condemned Peacock as indeed they had when I spoke out. People such as Peacock and Whiteside, only served to obstruct the passage of issues that the administrators of power politics deem correct. Such people should be silenced and if that does not work, employ the art of denigration by insinuation. For the national press, hardly known in recent times to be sympathetic to ‘right views’, the written word would weave its agenda. The Courier-Mail, with its Tokyo correspondent Peter Wilson and its Canberra scribe both gilding the Hawke lily.
With the Japanese in high acquisition mode on the Gold Coast and respected real estate agents Baillieu, Knight and Franks revealing what I had been saying relentlessly, that their property ownership was a staggering $4.7billion, the climate for pushing more investment was opportune. Geoff Burchill, co-chairman of the 2020 Syndicate set off for Brussels to push for the Gold Coast as being the best site for the Multi-Function-Polis. The venue for espousing these views the International Union of Local Authorities Urban Development. About the same time the public were invited to the Bond University to hear about and contribute to discussion on the 2020 Syndicate enthusiasm for the MFP. Joint chairman for this Syndicate was the man who had helped form the group Professor Don Watts. Watts was Chancellor of the partly owned Japanese university.
In the days ahead a plethora of pro MFP information and press releases appeared in the Gold Coast Bulletin. They were interesting times among which; Hokojitsugyo purchased the first parcel of 757 hectares; investors rushed to register land before the deadline on the closing of the Foreign Land Register;
Bradford challenges the secrecy of the MFP, hotly denied by Alan Midwood; the revelation that 1.5% of the State was foreign owned (subsequently pared back to 0.34%); and last but not least, indicating the sensitiveness of the federal governments attitude to Japanese investors), the refusal to back the Gold Coast City Councils approach to have the city’s ‘bombsites’ actioned on the FIRB’s criteria, met a blank refusal. It was a period where Japanese tour guides were coming under fire for ‘herding’ their own people into Japanese run shops, where the Cooke Inquiry revealed that union members were prepared to obtain unsavoury evidence to ingratiate themselves with Japanese developer Daikyo to whom Whiteside had caused problems. Now as the moment for the federal government to decide on the site for the MFP came into focus, Japanese investment within the anticipated zone increased. Burchill also had three parcels of land, but in the open submission to inquires he never denied this and offered to stand down as co-chairman of the 2020 Syndicate. In the greater picture of course, these matters were irrelevant. What caused concern for most Australians was the threat that land within the Gold Coast corridor, might be acquisitioned by the government. Whilst developers had been flourishing their cheque books around the Coomera area, enticing many to sell. Others with more other intrinsic values did not see money as reason enough to relinquish their land. These people threatened, those who had greater plans for the region. The State government frightened that if the 2020 preferred site, met approval with the Federal Government, anticipated that those who had land would seek to exploit the position and ask the ‘earth’ for their property. The State Government said it would freeze the sale of land if the site was chosen. This intention was given fuel when Wayne Goss in Japan, seeking further investment, allowed his deputy Tom Burns to speak to the press. Burns in answer to a question about how the government would force people to sell the land, said that the government would implement its powers of requisition. This revelation angered the landowners of Coomera who saw a threat of having their land taken at government valuations.
In the early hours of the morning Wayne Goss slept in his hotel in Hanoi. Awakened, he was officially notified from Canberra that Coomera would be given the MFP if his government could secure the land within seven days. Goss was not impressed, either with being woken up at that ungodly hour or being issued with an ultimatum. Will Bailey chief executive of the ANZ group and chairman of the MFP committee was firm in his request. If this deadline was not met Adelaide, never really a serious contender, would be awarded the project. Wayne Goss, now faced the wrath of local people, of those like myself who had waged a continuing war on the MFP and the deadline, which if not honoured would see this futuristic project pass from the State. We were told that the State government would have to find $320 million to acquire the land, in question; some of the most valuable land in Australia. Gillman, the alternative site, was crown owned and could not be given away. Was Gillman used as a fulcrum to obtain Coomera?
It was an attitude that I found difficult to come to terms with. If Australians were not prepared to fight for their land, then they deserved to lose it. Goss should have invoked the states right and taken the land. The people to whom he feared, were not the force to see him thrown from office.
On the morning of the deadline, I sent a telegram to the Premier’s office. It was to the point. ‘If land resumed at Coomera for MFP we will fight the government on the platform ...GOSS BUYS YOUR LAND, WITH YOUR MONEY TO GIVE TO THE JAPANESE. The people are very angry. Ignore them at your political peril. ‘ Signed Bruce Whiteside, Chairman Heart of a Nation.. Later that day Goss lashed out at the MFP committee in ‘engineering’ a situation that effectively allowed them to have two bites of the cherry. They wanted Coomera, but they wanted the Queensland Government to acquire the land. This federally encouraged scheme wanted no part of being banker to the project site. So why was the ‘rider’ to the final decision, part of the deal. Did the committee realising the public hostility to Japanese investment and land acquisition in Queensland, seek to have a means of escape, from possible backlash? Who knows?
It was a great victory for people power over bureaucratic arrogance.
When Premier Wayne Goss, chose to single me out for rare personal attention in the Gold Coast Bulletin, I rested easy, that our message had helped to scuttle this ‘hair brain scheme that threatened to introduce a Japanese Trojan Horse’. On October the 11. I received through the mail an invitation to attend a seminar, to discuss the MFP. This was the early stage of trying to ‘involve public ideas and attitudes to the MFP’. For my part it was a case of putting the cart before the horse. These exercises would involve only a small sector of the public, would not allow the public the right to reject the scheme and should have been implemented before the decision go ahead was made. I was a little apprehensive about attending, knowing that those who attended would largely be advocates of the idea and experts in their field. The novice if you like among the professionals. I attended and was uncomfortable. This class was out of my league. My gut feeling was to listen, to the arguments put forward. In fact there was no dissent. Bob Lansdown, Ross Stockall and Rod Keller, the latter head of the Adelaide MFP Committee, painted a rosy picture of what the project held out for Australia. Alan Midwood, expressed the disappointment at not being chosen but went on to speak about getting behind the MFP in the greater interest of Australia. Others lent their weight to reinforcing the decision to push ahead with the futuristic city. It was a cosy atmosphere. Finally after one and a half hours Bob Lansdown, asked if there was anyone else interested in putting forward comments. “Yes Mr Chairman, I would like to say something”. Suddenly I was aware that every eye in the room was riveted on me. If the bureaucrats were unaware of my outspoken-ness, the locals, those who had been pushing the MFP certainly weren’t. I commenced, “Mr Chairman, I have listened for one and a half hours about this ambitious scheme yet I have not heard the Japanese name mentioned once. One of the reasons for these seminars has been the secrecy that has plagued, this proposal from its inception. This whole business of the MFP is a Japanese initiative and yet here we are deliberately evading any reference to them”. You could have heard a pin drop. Rod Keller, a director of the chemical giant Santos, a man who in Adelaide would not be aware of the fight that I had been involved in, quickly denied this to be the case.
“This is a misconception, put forward by those who are removed from the closer picture. This is a an Australian project, that will have international input. The Japanese, will play no greater role than a multitude of others”.
What I said next, must have alienated the meeting. Perhaps I should have put my tail between my legs, but I sensed a certain uneasiness.
“I reject those comments Mr Keller. You say that the Japanese have no more interest in the plan than any other nation. Why was it then that this morning the Australian government, co-opted Echiro Saito, head of the Keidanren, chief executive of Nippon Steel and possibly the most powerful businessman in Japan as joint chairman with Will Bailey, to the MFP Joint committee”. Lansdown then asked me if I would be good enough to stay, because he wished to speak with me. The meeting closed. I was hardly flavour of the moment. Lansdown approached me and asked if I would be interested in putting a written submission to the panel. I could not see how I could write anything that would influence the inevitable outcome. Lansdown, however thought differently. He was openly enthusiastic that someone could be so forthright in front of such intimidating and informed people. I don’t think he expected what he heard. He told me that the Community Consultancy Committee would be in touch. By December 29, 137 submissions had been received ; 82 from Adelaide with only ten coming from Queensland. Of those four were ‘summomsed’ to Brisbane to appear before the CCC panel. This panel comprised of Dr Deirdre Jordon, AC, Chancellor of Flinders University, ex chairperson of Adelaides Dept of Education; Dr David Wilmoth , Associated Director of Higher Education at the University of Technology at Victoria University and Robert Lansdown, Chairman of the National Capital Planning Authority, former secretary of the Commonwealth Dept of Communications. As I left the interrogation that lasted an hour, where the others had taken only 30 minutes, Bob Lansdown came with me to the foyer of the hotel. He thanked me for my contribution saying that one of the concerns that had arisen from my submission , had given rise to the committee testing my observation that the real concern about the MFP, had been the matter of foreign land ownership. This he said surprisingly had proved to be the case.
For me, the exercise had been interesting and to some extent rewarding. I had become programmed to the view that my comments were not really taken seriously, being nothing more than nuisance value. Bob Lansdown, helped me to regain faith, that perhaps all was not lost.
Queensland naturally enough lost interest in the MFP, only commenting at the lack of progress and problems that were besetting the Adelaide commitment. It appeared and rightfully assumed, that the Japanese were not really interested in Gillman. Japanese involvement centred on Queensland and if the selling features of the MFP were to be taken seriously, then leisure and desirable climate were its salient features. Adelaide, was not the chosen destination of leisure Japan, be they tourist or high profile intellects. The MFP began to fade into history. Nine months later, when the MFP was long since history on the Gold Coast, I wrote a letter to the Gold Coast Bulletin. It was early September 1991. Word had it from inside sources in Canberra that a high level delegation from Japan was coming to Australia, to look over the MFP progress. These men were under the direction of MITI and if most Australians did not realise the significance of that, then they should at least be made aware of it. If the newspaper had been interested, it might have picked the news up. It didn’t. I don’t believed that wanted to risk running a story that they could not corroborate. On November 28, they ran a front page story that a high powered delegation would arrive on the Coast on December 6. Admitting that Gillman the chosen site was not the only likely beneficiary of the overall plan, the spokesman for the State government said that MITI members would be examining the Coomera site. In other words while the official stance was that Queensland was no longer involved with the objectives of the MFP, it was never the less pursuing every avenue that might see it materialise on the Gold Coast. Geoff Burchill, the founding member of the 2020 Syndicate who had prepared the way for the project to be established here, was scheduled to meet with the delegation. Officially the idea of the MFP for the Coast may be dead, but as I had indicated earlier, that would be far from being the case. Why was this delegation, purportedly coming to Australia, to view progress on the MFP, that was giving concern in Tokyo, on official business on the Gold Coast. Why was Yarihuru Kodama, one of the most powerful men in Japan spending time on the Gold Coast, in his official capacity. Socialising and playing golf? No, he was here on business and that business was of major importance to the well-being of Japan.
I had done my homework and as daunting a prospect as meeting Kodama was I determined to speak with him. I sought to do this, by contacting the co-ordinator of the delegation. If my contribution to the Community Consultancy had been good enough to solicit, then I wanted similar consideration granted to speak to the delegation. It was not to happen. The community consultancy exercise was for domestic consumption. The delegation was here on business, government business and the peoples advocate of concern had no place, expressing thoughts that might jeopardise, the Japanese interest. I was given the run around until, I simply ran out of time. Calls were not returned and when I button-holed personnel, they told me that they would have to refer the request to more senior staff. They never showed up. I took into my own hands to nail Kodama at the hotel. First of all I asked the hotel manager if he could approach the delegation head, with the view to presenting him with a letter. No he could not do that. From my perspective I had exhausted all reasonable avenues. I would have to nail Kodama in the foyer. The difficulty was going to be to recognise him, but when the delegation arrived 45 minutes late, they stormed into the hotel like a wave of flood water. Singling him out I approached him, he momentarily paused, but before I could say anything I was unceremoniously manhandled by security guards and forced aside. Viciously and with his back turned the black suited thug, kicked his boot heel into my shin. In hindsight I could understand, the potential for concern, but I would have been more impressed had Yahiro, stopped taken the letter and moved on. I have met far too many Japanese to believe that this would not have been his wish. Culture and courtesy I have found to be the hall mark of these people. It is only from Australians that I have found brashness that hankers back to the convict era. Kicking shins lacks not only style but smacks at tactic that were better suited to Nazi Germany.
However my action was not in vain, my letter was duly delivered to both Mr Yahiro and Mr Kodama.
On Jan 6 1992, I received in confirmation of this. The letter came from DITAC:
Dear Bruce, Thank you for your letter of Dec 17, concerning the letters for Mr Yahiro. As promised when I met you at the Sheraton Mirage, I passed the letters to the Japanese side through a senior representative of the Australian Embassy, Toyo, who was accompanying the Mission. The letter was signed Ross Stockall.
It had been Stockall who had approached me to write a submission to the committee considering the implications and concerns of the MFP. Stockall at least acknowledged, that I was not the village idiot. As Shaw had once said,~ nothing is ever achieved by a reasonable man’. A couple of months later I had a ring from Canberra. The lady was compiling the documents from the submissions tendered about the MFP. She felt compelled to ring me, because of all the submission she had read, mine had moved and frightened her most. She felt it expressed the fears of many she worked with and believed that one day I would be proved right. I told her that all the contribution would do would be to gather dust. No she insisted, it was being filed. I laughed, civil servants had to do something. I told her that history would be my judge, in the meantime I would wait and see. I called the MFP, the Japanese Trojan Horse, but given the supreme apathy of the Australian people and the capacity of our leaders to be seduced, I don’t think that such subtle methods need to be employed. We are sitting ducks!