Chapter 5 ......Winds of Change
When local real estate agent Max Christmas stitched up the deal that saw the HOLIDAY INN , an American owned hotel pass to the large Japanese electronics corporation MATSUSHITA, he unwittingly lit the match, that ignited the whole Foreign Land Ownership debate. In a mood of prowess he announced through the pages of the Gold Coast Bulletin of April 2 1988 that the pilot sale would precede the onslaught of other foreign investors, who were awakening to the bargains that Australia and particularly the Gold Coast had to offer. Christmas was responding through a feature article that the local newspaper ran each Saturday called Page Four Focus. In a full page spread the headlines blazed ‘Japanese Here To Stay, Says Max’ pasted above which was a picture of the enthusiastic Max with auctioneer’s gavel in hand, about to ‘close a deal’. In the light of recent strong comment in the paper it remains an academic point as to whether Christmas was engaged to comment or whether the Bulletin approached him. For all his flamboyance Max Christmas has never been one to seek attention from publicity, yet through the very nature of his business his name became a household one.
Christmas is no slug. At the age of fourteen he lost his father and being the
eldest in the family, shouldered the burden of responsibility and ventured into
the world to seek employment, thereby easing the burden from his mother. He came
to the Coast, finally settling into a career in real estate. Until the Japanese
came along he enjoyed the tide of adulation and criticism no more or no less
than any other successful businessman. Page Four Focus, was to put Max Christmas
in the firing line of public indignation.
What drew the real estate mogul out of his publicity shell more than anything else, had more to do with a letter that I had penned not as a result of the Page Four Focus, but as a result of the sale of the HOLIDAY INN IN THE FIRST PLACE. That letter appeared highlighted on March 16 1988, and headed ‘A protest by one who remembers.......
“We are a pack of gutless apathetic crawlers with no pride or sense of shame. We are money hungry in the extreme. We are numb to what is happening. Real estate agents actually boast of their proud records of multi-million dollar sales to these people. We build casinos for them, we have hotels for them, we plaster their language on our shop fronts, travel guides and car rentals. We have shops in Surfers that employ them, we treat them like expensive crystal. We sell them coal, steel, produce, you name it, we sell it at THEIR price .Its socially unacceptable in this so-called enlightened age to comment along these lines, we are supposed to all be brothers. Well, I just happen to object most vehemently to what is happening it both Australia and New Zealand Its all very well for those who either can’t remember, or just prefer conveniently to forget, but it is just over forty years since men fought and died under appalling conditions defending this country from the advancing Japanese war machine. And we hypocrites that we are stand for a moment at RSL clubs all over this country, in reverent memory...Lest We Forget! We don’t deserve to stand in the shadow of those Anzacs, we don’t deserve to keep what we’ve got. Sooner rather than later we’ll surrender this great country, not at the end of a barrel, but through our own implacable faith in ourselves...‘she’ll be right mate’. Well mate I’ve got news for you, if we don’t stop what is happening, we’ll wake up one morning and find that the party’s over. So, on behalf of all those who perished at the hands of the Japanese I would charge all those who think as I do to stand up and voice their protest. We all know I am not alone in my concern. Sooner or later somebody has to say enough is enough. And I always thought it was McArthur who made that prophetic statement ‘I shall return’ “.
Until this point the path of Japanese progress and participation in Australia had not brought forth any public comment. True, many were worried about was happening and were discussing it in general conversation among themselves. What my letter had done and was designed to do was to encourage others to speak out in the media. At first it met with limited response but it had an unexpected side effect, it drew the GC Bulletin's attention to public concern. At the time I wrote the letter some of my friends believed that it would not be published, my wife among them. I remember ringing the man who handled these sort of things at the paper and querying if it was acceptable. Roy Chapman asked me to read it to him which I did and to this day I remember his reply. ‘If you have the guts to put your name to it, I’ll publish it’. I did and he honoured his word. What has to be realised is that at the time, there was no visual attitude to the Japanese at all. The latent furore was in neutral mode, so there were no factions, no vested interests being impinged.
As mentioned the eighties was a period of wide and wild fluctuations. From my
own perspective that observation commenced on New Years Eve 1980, in Central
Surfer’s Paradise. On that particular evening my wife Iris and I were taken to a
unit directly above Bill Pearcy’s old real estate office. As the evening
unfolded on a steamy street, bedevilled with the brief showers that came from a
low cloud base, the town came alive . Carnival was king, the young, the not so
young mingled in frivolity, revelry and hilarity, which grew as the night wore
on. Colour swamped the senses, noise filled the air and gaiety permeated every
every nook and cranny. Shops on the street and through the multitude of arcades
did a roaring trade, selling the merchandise suitable for the moment. The
atmosphere was something special, it was part of the package that made Surfer’s
Paradise, a little unique, epitomising as it did, an aura of exuberance. It
peaked that night and as the magic of midnight sounded in the New Year, so the
seaside resort set out on a roller-coaster ride into the future. It was my first
night on the Coast and is forever etched in my memory.
This was the Surfers that we all knew, that we all loved. The playground of the ordinary Australian family, that saved all year to spend a holiday there was about to change. Chief among the change-makers was Max Christmas