Chapter 8 ......Leading the Blind
The days that followed saw the growing public awareness reflected within the columns of the Gold Coast Bulletin’s Postbag. Australians, many of whom were not born prior to the 1950’s, set themselves against those who harboured memories of experience. Naivety, experience, hatred, love, rationality and prejudice were reflected in the many contributions. The Brisbane based Sunday Sun of April 10 began to pick up the message by writing.... ‘Growing unease at foreign, in particular Japanese ownership of Queensland property and tourist ventures is set to become a weighty political issue’.
Hardly had the ink dried on the copy before the Federal Treasurer Paul Keating bought into the controversy and in a fashion that typified his personal brand of arrogance, slammed those Australians who had a ‘sad attitude’ toward the Japanese. “We could not”, asserted the treasurer “afford to nurture the feelings of 43 years ago, when, our economy was so dependent on Japanese trade”. We could of course harbour our own views in private, but in the future that was where he expected them to remain.
But the tide of opinion continued to make itself felt at the offices of the GCB.
It was about this time that I experienced the first signs of opportunism. Concern for Japanese penetration and influence were not the sole domain of the author. I had spoken to a man who had worried long before I, about these things but had never done anything about it. I had visited him in his Surfer’s Paradise real estate office and we had exchanged ideas. To me Brian McDermott, had a handle on the understanding of world monetary policies and had strong view about One World Government. Candidly, McDermott’s views concerned me. Like so many I have come in contact with, his arguments were too heavy for the ordinary bloke in the street. I was afraid that he would simply ‘screw the concern up, with nonsense that would turn people off’. By his own admission he had been involved with activate organisations, who preached it seemed to me, dogma related theories on which to build arguments. To me the issue was simple,...the selling of our land. McDermott maintained that the worlds money moguls dictated the terms. To him an understanding about the appropriation of the Commonwealth Bank, about the King O'Malley's of this world, would serve the cause I pursued better. I was not convinced.
The following Saturday April 16 the Gold Coast Bulletin ran a series of contributions from across the spectrum. With a Rising Sun depicted over a picture of Surfer’s Paradise, McDermott poised over a pile of letters with pen in hand, the introduction heralded....complaints pour in about... and then the headline ...The Quiet Invasion. There were in all six contributions to the article, McDermott, who put forward theories about Fabian involvement; a Mrs Barbara Laird, the first person who actually responded to the provocative letter I had written on the March 16; Mr Gordon Thompson a TPI who ‘we did not fight to see our country sold from under us’; myself, and at the time more importantly the deputy-leader of the opposition the member for Wynnum , the Hon Thomas Burns. Said Burns:
“ I want to know who owns Queensland? I believe the Japanese system is right. If you don’t live in the country, you should not own it.” The article concluded by saying Mr Burns promised he would keep on leaning on the government until the act (Alien’s Act of 1965) was changed to give Australians control of their land.
It was a matter of pure coincidence that an eminent speaker briefly came to town. In a style measured by a thinking man Professor Geoffrey Blainey, warned Australians of their flirtation with Asian immigration. This great Australian had been invited by the then Liberal Party Shadow Minister of Defence in the Howard front bench, Peter White, to speak at the Iluka Hotel. Blainey impressed me by his quiet approach to a controversial and emotive subject. As a deeply concerned Australian, it would be difficult to find his peer. The tragedy is that there are so many bleeding hearts in this country who shoot from the hip on information born of zealots with a concrete point of view. People like Professor Blainey, are often caught in the crossfire between these people and political opportunist.
I remember meeting Peter White. It was a sobering experience. The immediate impression, chilled my marrow. Good God I thought is this the sort of person we leave our destiny in the hands of?. This reaction did not reflect any personal opinion of White the man, but rather as an individual sitting in council, at the affairs of state. In drawing the comparison with a thinking Australian in Blainey, I automatically took a disrespect for Australian politicians. As the years have gone by that opinion has been reinforced. The contrast between Blainey, the thinker and White, the politician strengthened my resolve to express my own concerns.
Gradually public awareness was growing, reflected principally in the GCB. This by a process of syndication found its way into some of the metropolitan dailies. Upon reflection it is interesting to note how some of these newspapers wrote quite provocative articles, where previously the matter had virtually been taboo. Some justified this foray by claiming that it was ‘addressing the concerns of those who were speaking out’. To me, initially at least this was a cowardly cop out, as few papers dared to take a stance on the issue. The Gold Coast Bulletin took a very even handed stance in the early days and it is to their credit that the issue gained an international prominence.
Dr Takanori Fukushima described as a world eminent neuro-surgeon came into the news when he offered to operate on a local girl Cherie Prescott, who was suffering from a rare type of brain lesion. Further more he would do it at no cost to the family. It was a heart rending story, that came about when the family saw a program about the doctor on the Sixty Minutes program. This humanitarian gesture created, in all probability quite genuine, tremendous sympathy not only for the young lady herself, but also for the Japanese cause. Even Alan Bond had thrown in $20,000 to cover the cost of ancillary expenses to travel to Japan.. Under these circumstances it is easy to accept the humanitarian angle, but it must be borne in mind that Japanese philanthropy is very much a part of winning the battle of acceptance in foreign countries. It is a useful weapon to beat down the barriers of resistance.
And what did happen with Cherie? The last I heard was that she was a mother, living it appears a perfectly normal life. The life threatening operation was aborted on the grounds that if the doctor had proceeded, there was no guarantee that it would succeed. Was Cherie, just an innocent pawn in a political game? Who knows?
Editors realising the rising tide of ‘anti-Japanese feeling’, canvassed opinion among shoppers. Here is a cameo of comment solicited by Danielle Dunsmore of the Gold Coast SUN:
“ They are buying too much.... Lease the land to them....They are over running everything.... If they live here OK, otherwise they cannot own land.... They are arrogant and obstinate and our investment laws are ludicrous.... They are nice people and cannot be held responsible for their ancestors of WW2, .... and so on.”
Half a dozen samples maybe, but in a TV poll 93% reflected the same result. As the editor of the SUN said “the Japanese people take great pride in protecting their country against foreign control. We should use them as an example”. I could not have agreed more. But would we, that was the question?
Out there in community Australia, people were having their say, they were writing letters, they were giving one liners to the roving reporters. The very important issue was in danger of becoming bogged down, for unless we did more than postulate through the columns of the newspapers, there was a danger that it would have a negative effect on the Japanese tourist and achieve nothing.
On May 7 the last of four letters appeared under my name, calling for those who like myself were concerned at the way our land was being sold off, to contact me, with a view to calling a public meeting. It was also suggested that a group of concerned citizens might be formed to pressure the government. In hindsight, it might surprise readers to know and especially those who followed the campaign, that it was never my intention to seek the profile that I attracted. In fact the meeting was called specifically to canvas an Australian, to act as advocate. Had I been able to achieve that, our campaign would have been that much easier. As it happened a “bloody Kiwi, had to tell the Australian, that they were a gutless lot”. Some believed that I was right, but nobody has the right to label an Aussie gutless, least of all a New Zealander.
I made no apology then, I make none now. This campaign was launched in respect of the Anzacs, who by their deeds and sacrifice bequeathed this nation to its people. The Anzac union is about camaraderie, about helping his cousins, and if a Kiwi had to assist his blind mate then, he did it in spirit