Having travelled extensively in the Country of my birth. I felt as a photographer I would like to show a side of Australia that tourists rarely see. The working and gritty side of a commodity driven country.
I have used black and white for strength. I see much of Australia as time warped in the 19th century. Much of the attitude beyond the populated coastal regions is early 20th century to 1945 the 50s and 60s. When I left Australia the first time the population had not yet hit 10 million. Today it borders on 25 million and should continue to grow exponentially. However still most new comers cling to the coastal regions like clinging to the gunnel of a boat. Little effort has been made by successive governments to develop the interior of this vast continent Island for community growth.
The main development has been for short term commercial / profit driven gains. Such objectives have caused the plundering of one of the world’s great commodity reservoirs with little thought for the landscape or its inhabitants. Many will say irrigation is a problem however Australia has one of the great sweet water catchments of the world in the Great Artesian Basin covering in excess of 1/3 of the country.
The country suffers from lack of real communication infrastructure development, railways and roads. There has been too much profiteering by small groups in power that have been too quick to take the vast sums of corporate cash on offer by the multi-nationals that covert the buried riches of Australia. The country is the epitome of the good life for the few a promotion of the 1%. This issue manifests in the lack of of support for the farming communities, wildlife protection and the governments inertia related to fire seasons.
Still many commodity industries are producing as they have for the last 150 years through the blood sweat and tears of hard yakka (yakka Australian for work). As an example Australia produces 1/3 of the world’s wool this wool from the Merino sheep is of the finest micron quality on the globe. Although some of the micron quality ( not all ) has been purposely lowered for more cost effective Chinese manufacturing. Shearing still takes place in the shearing shed on the sheep stations as it has for 150 years. Many commodities are mined in small holdings by sweating miners sometimes working in dangerous conditions, Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, White Cliffs to name a few.
Australia, the 11th wealthiest country in the world with a debt ratio to GDP of 31% far lower than the UK’s is underpopulated and lacks a cohesive tourist marketing plan Australia is a country of global interest that receives only 5 million tourists per year and many of those must be Chinese families visiting the growing Chinese diaspora living in the country .
A country of such vastness that all of Europe can fit into it has so much to offer in the way of wildlife, Art, History especially relating to the 1800s. The aboriginal community a historic longevity that few countries can offer, a continuous and cohesive society lasting longer than the ancient Egyptians and possibly the Chinese that can be traced back 50,000 years.
A historic social and artistic infrastructure that many races should envy.
Most marketing of Australia is aimed in a limited way at the English speaking world and tends to promote mainly beaches and the common knowledge icons, Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge Uluru /Ayers Rock warm beaches and the Barrier Reef.
There is however much more to Australia and current promotion does not illustrate the tremendous variations that this great country has to offer, the desert, the commodity industry, a country that supplies one third of the world’s wool,
Merino the finest micron wool in the world, the real history of the Aboriginal people.
Promotion tends to give a potted history of the Aboriginal never with the depth that illustrates the the evolution of these
accomplished people through the ages, the great literature that they have illuminated through storytelling, art and music. The cost of getting to Australia as a tourist from Europe can be high and once there travel around this vast country is not made easy for the visitor.Canberra the national capital has a long train trip to Sydney, Canberra to Dubbo (a major central NSW city) can only be accessed by car or bus. The bus only operating on Saturday and travelling to Dubbo via dozens of small towns. Car hire is expensive and usually carries anything up to a $5000 excess, insuring this excess can also be expensive. There seems to be a paranoia within the rental car industry that the car will be damaged or not returned. Also the cost can rise if the car is taken from one state to another. Such costs need to be looked at more closely.
There is of course the problem of many dirt roads a majority corrugated in the Outback not a plus for car suspensions unless . This does present a problem for rental car companies however there still needs to be a more tourist friendly rental structure. Australia has many rail arteries most now closed due to the lack of usage,When I traveled from the shores of my home country the first time there were only 9 to 10 million inhabitants, today that has increased to 24 million. This vast country could support many more. Controlled population growth brings many benefits, it increases the market size thus giving real reason for manufactures to exist as they have both export and home market. Australia lacks diversification and is dependent upon the commodities industry and the market fluctuations of pricing within that industry.
The Aussie Dollar is a commodity driven currency.
Car manufacturers have mostly pulled out of Australia even the iconic Holden is now manufactured overseas. Most business people will tell you that diversification is important in any business strategy if helps to flatten out the market controlling fluctuations.
Goods in Australia tend to move around by truck Road Train this is expensive and lowers the volume of product that can be moved quickly from manufacturer to consumer.
Many of the railway lines carefully constructed from the early 1900’s have been closed. The development of the interior has been neglected for lack of water yet 23% of the country is covered by one of the world’s great sweet water caches the Artesian Basin to this day greatly underutilized and still the 3 to 4 year droughts cause consternation or should I say constipation. Stretching from Cape York in the north, down to Dubbo and across to Coober Pedy, the Great Artesian Basin covers almost a quarter of the Australian continent, and contains enough water to cover the world over. Much remains to be known about this valuable resource that has enabled life in inland Australian to develop over thousands of years.
Look at the irrigated development of Israel and no Artesian Basin. The Darling Murray river system is being plundered without thought. Great rivers that once were busy arteries carrying paddle steamers transporting goods and passengers would be lucky to see a canoe.. Mines are closing even Broken Hill the beginning of Australia’s largest company Broken Hill Pty Ltd a region of more variation in differing mineral deposits than any other place on earth seems to be scaling back.
By 2050 the population is expected to reach 42 million. The infrastructure to cope with this increase needs to be kick started as soon as possible. I think that I pointed out in a previous blog that if Woolworth and Cole’s had waited until their current 18 million supermarket customers had been lined up in front of the first plot for the first complex they would never have reached the market saturation levels they have reached today. When reading papers on population growth and how the terrain can support the projected numbers what I find missing is projected figures based on future investment and development most papers only discuss the here and now, Australia needs some serous modeling put into place, such a vast country is a blank sheet of paper and possibly the world’s real last frontier.
Australia comprises a land mass of around 7.629 million square kilometers. It is about 50% greater than the European Union. When I did my first trip overseas in the early 1970s the population was around 10 million today it is 24 million people. The latest visit to my homeland started to give me an insight into the deficiencies in the infrastructure of this vast and exciting country. I mentioned in a previous blog the difficulties in travelling to the major inland city of Dubbo from the National Capital. There is only one bus a week Saturday and this travels through many outback small towns. Australians whom I spoke to and as an Australian I do understand the lingo generally felt that there are not enough people to justify building the infrastructure. This is rather like saying that Woolworths and Coles with their 18.3 million customers and total control of the $85 billion grocery market should not have built stores until the 18.3 million people where queuing up in front of the vacant plot picked out for the first store.
I spend my time now between Spain and Australia and have pointed out on many occasions the strong High Speed Rail Network that has gone together in Spain – Alta Velocidad Española (AVE)
Now I know that much of this network is built via EU (European Union for those Australians who don’t know where the EU is) loans. This money is however much better spent on infrastructure than going into some greasy politician’s pocket. The last 6 months have seen Spain coming out of recession with a growth rate as good as Germany’s. The infrastructure in Spain will pay off the country now has the second best High Speed Rail network in the world after China, where is Britain and Australia. The road system of Spain is now mostly silk like highways. Goods and tourists can move faster companies like this type of investment. Ford motor company is putting 2.8 Billion Euros into manufacturing in Valencia what a confirmation of trust; one of the biggest car manufacturing investments ever. What of Australia’s car manufacturing it has stopped, even the
iconic Holden has left the shores. Australia loosely welcomes 5 million tourists per year. I will add that at least half of these tourists are probably Chinese families coming in and out to visit relatives. Spain has 70 million tourists, France 85 million and Britain 35 million. Now most Australians while over the Barbie will tell you that it is due to the distance, from where the antarctic, Asia including China and Japan are in striking distance as is much of the East Coast of the USA. Tourists can lift an economy the Greeks may have to survive off the tourist industry. Greece attracts 22.5 million tourists per year with a population of 11 million; tourism contributes over $30 billion US per year to the economy. Now it is the birth place of democracy whatever that is, however Australia has a people who can be traced back 50,000 years and are living on one of the oldest continents on earth. The differential between what other countries achieve in attracting tourists and what Australia with its stunning and much unspoilt countryside, outback and beaches achieves should make the tourist board ashamed. Thailand gets 22 million plus Tourists annually.
Australia is generally believed to be a dry land once away from the coast. However the Great Artesian Basin is the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world covering 1.7 million square kilometers some 23% of the continent this is a massive sweet water cache, It is also an under used resource with many of the great Australian Rivers being pumped dry.
The Darling river with its tributaries is 2,844 km long making it the largest river system in Australia. The Murray river is Australia’s longest river at 2508 Km. The Murray Darling confluence is at Wentworth New South Wales.The Murray Darling river system is one of the longest in the world.
There was a period when steamers came up the Darling river today you would be lucky to paddle a canoe up this great river. Industry and to some degree intensive cotton farming and its hunger for water have had a great effect on the water level of both the Darling and Murray rivers.
The Murray still has some depth to it but the Darling has little left. Cubbie Station located near Dirranbandi South West Queensland the largest irrigation system in the Southern Hemisphere covering some 240,000 acres has dammed of more water than the total volume of Sydney Harbour from the Darling river system.. All of this intensive agriculture is damaging the environment and having an effect on the native commodities wheat and the wool industry. The problem seems to be that successive governments have been more concerned with their political power and personal financial gains rather than investing management skills into protecting this exciting continent and growing the real wealth of the country. It is hoped that the Aboriginals who control the rights to most river banks will step in and help fight this destruction of the environment.
The only state at the moment that has a sound financial base is New South Wales but I wonder how long that will last, possibly NSW should go for independence the Scots would support them. With sound management Australia has the mineral / commodity wealth to be one of the leading countries in the world. Australia is the 11th wealthiest country in the world, Spain is the 12th. Generally speaking the country left to the Australians would go bust. It’s lucky that the Chinese have come however the joint deals need to be managed so that the Australians also benefit. There is the population for both a manufacturing base and commodity base. The Australian Dollar is at the mercy of commodity and especially mining prices – good business spreads the risk.