Australia the last Frontier
I recently finished a photographic tour of inland western and northern New South Wales my home state. its development has been an interest for me for sometime. What I found during this trip was a worrying trend of an’ I’m OK Jack’ culture..
Australia is a country that offers so much especially from it’s richness in commodities much of which it has a ready market for in China. The issues that worried me were ones of development and management. When I first travelled from Australia 40 years ago the country had a population of around 9 to 10 million, today it is 23 million mainly coastal inhabitants. However much of the wealth is not drawn from the coast but the Outback once the great dividing coastal mountain ranges are crossed. The country has the potential to be commodity self sufficient.
The potential for self sufficiency is confirmed by the amount of mines, farms, cattle ranches and sheep stations. Merino wool is still the world’s finest.
Much of Australia’s manufacturing industry has been lost, the final blows coming with the withdrawal of the car industry manufacturing including the Australian iconic Holden brand.
Union and government inability to see eye to eye and manage this incredible country has been a contributing factor. however having said this the attitude of the coastal Australian is one of ‘ let’s have another barbie and go to the beach’ few even realise that their farmers have failing crops due to lack of rain and many have had their land repossessed by greedy banks who don’t give a damn for the development of the country. The immediate quest for short-term profit seems to be the goal of many banks the world over. I have always said that ” banks that do not contribute to the management of society are irrelevant to society”.
A major contributor and hinderance to Australia’s development is infrastructure. Bring this up to most Australians and the retort is but we don’t have the money or people and to add we don’t give a damn, Taxing major corporations properly could change this issue. The only time that the average Australian will give a damn is when food and retail commodity prices hit totally unaffordable levels. Then their will be wailing and gnashing that the prices are too high and still it will take a term for the penny to drop that the farmers and commodity developers should have been taken care of.
Infrastructure there are many developing regional centres, you only have to look at the size of the supermarkets that have grown up in regional centres mainly Woolworths and Coles but now challenged by Aldi. These groups are the real business people and see the advantages and potential for growth. If you look at Spain and the infrastructure that is going into place in a country that has just gone through a major recession you have to ask why not Australia. The average myopic Australian would argue that Spain has a larger Population. The average European will say that Spain has ripped of the Euro Zone for that money – better than being spent on expenses by corrupt Euro politicians. Spain now has one of the finest high speed rail networks in the world after China. Link Sydney, Dubbo, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and you will develop the interior of those states. Link Perth and you will develop Western Australia. Have the guts and the people will come. Getting a bus from the national capital Canberra to the major centre of Dubbo is a substantial exercise. Only one goes on Saturday and it goes through half of New South Wales.
Australia gets only 5 million tourists per year, half of those probably Chinese coming in and out to visit family; Spain gets 65 million, France 85 million and the UK 35 million. Now some would say that this is due to Australia’s isolation. I would however argue that the differential is too great and needs a closer look. Australians seem to be in cop-out mode. Promotion of Australia is mainly in English in the UK and yet the cross section of other nationalities in Australia has now become great indeed.
It is almost a no brainer to develop a rich country like Australia if there is a government without vested personal interests.The Australians are so limited in their thinking that unless they take action to manage this great country they will lose it. Already the Chinese own almost everything employing the Australians. Now I don’t have a problem with the Chinese investment in Australia without it the Australians would have bankrupted the country. The Chinese bring a lot of good things and should be welcomed. However when you own something and sell it you should retain a interest in what you have built especially as it is your main home.
The damage done to the Darling river and many other rivers adding to the mismanagement of water through the country. Once steamers travelled along the Darling river. Australia’s Artisian Bore covers 23% of the country one of the biggest water basins in the world yet it is not tapped properly in times of distress for farmers. The Snowy river scheme which was one of the engineering wonders of the world is not working properly and generating the irrigation that it should. Cubby station in Queensland dams off more water than Sydney Harbour contains. The South Australians are plundering the great Murray river without a management system in place
To get the development right you need a government with the will. , Link the great centres and the people will come; Australia has one of the best living possibilities in the World and could be the leading light in Asia.
Photographer Shane Aurousseau