We are led to believe that the economic future of North Queensland is utterly dependent upon the opening of the Adani Mine in the Galilee Basin. Without it, we are told that there will be massive unemployment and a general economic downturn.

Indeed, it is of such enormity that an election in Melbourne for the Seat of Batman in the Federal Parliament will be decided on the issue, even though the electorate and the mine are thousands of kilometres apart.

This nonsense, spread by politicians, free market advocates, climate change deniers and general fear mongers, badly fails the pub test.

The stark fact is that development of the North and the Inland has never been backed by either serious political will or genuine investment, nor has a well researched long term plan of sustainable development for the region ever been prepared, let alone implemented.

The Adani mine was chosen as a quick fix for years of neglect and it was based on series of appalling fabrications. Continue reading “A FUTURE WITHOUT ADANI”


I have been a voter since 1952 and, at every election since then, there has been someone, either a Prime Minister or an Opposition Leader or an aspiring MP, who has seriously threatened to develop Northern Australia.

Sadly, I still wait with fervent hope for a leader to appear who will actually do it. For the past sixty years it has simply been an exercise in vote gathering. Continue reading “TAMING THE NORTH”


Australia is a disgracefully underdeveloped and poorly planned nation, the result of hugely neglectful politics over a long period of time.

Because no thought has ever been given to balanced development, most of our population is crammed into capital cities where the price of housing is exorbitant, roads are clogged and suburban rail systems are primitive.

80% of our land mass is sparsely populated and poorly serviced by internet, hospitals, water, railways, roads and ports. Continue reading “IN SEARCH OF A NATION BUILDER”


Last week, I outlined a plan to drought proof our Australian continent by sending tropical water south via dry river beds and connecting channels.

The concept is fundamentally sound, but it will become a reality only if the private sector provides the money and expertise to do the job as all governments are consumed by an insatiable desire to retain power at all costs. They think that capital spent on water won’t get them as many votes as handouts.



Australia is the driest continent on earth.

Yet we invest tiny dollars in water even though we are aware that Australia has the potential to become the food bowl of the world.

Unaccountably, we are willing to risk only miserable dollars in this enormous trading opportunity.


How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions

Just imagine for a moment that you are standing on Possession Island in Torres Strait with Captain James Cook on August 22, 1770, while the good captain makes his declaration that the Australian Continent is a territory of the King of England.

He calls you aside and asks you to prepare him a report on what quality of nation Australia should be 250 years hence, as he expects His Majesty to ask him about it when he gets back home.

Let us also assume for the purpose of this exercise that you are a person of extraordinary intellect who has the capacity at that time to perceive what the world will be like in the 21st century.

It will be safe for us to presume that you would not imagine an Australia that would the planning disaster it now is.

Would you have suggested that these unimaginable disasters may eventuate? Continue reading “How we have failed to build a balanced nation – disasters & solutions”

Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister

Article written for On Line Opinion “Under New Management” feature.

I greeted with enthusiasm Tony Abbott’s election comment that he wanted to be remembered in history as Australia’s Infrastructure Prime Minister. I formed the view that his words were welcomed by many who have genuine concern that our nation has an appalling record of neglected infrastructure stretching back for far more the half a century that has elapsed since the Snowy Mountains Project became a reality.

During this time, there has been a steady, but not spectacular, investment in roads and some expansion of ports, but very little spent on railways or water. If the PM can make a difference in these two areas, it will make an enormous contribution to the progress of the nation. Continue reading “Rail and Water Agenda for an Infrastructure Prime Minister”

The Election of a Lifetime

Who will win power in September?

A year ago Tony Abbott was an unbackable favourite to become Prime Minister of Australia at the 2013 Federal Election. Only Black Caviar had shorter odds. Most punters reckoned that Julia Gillard would lead her party to absolute oblivion, irreparably damaging the ALP brand in the process.

Now, although the Coalition is still clearly in front, it is a genuinely contestable election that may yet provide the biggest political upset in our nation’s history. Continue reading “The Election of a Lifetime”

Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?

Have we killed the legacy of John Flynn?

Out where the sun goes down, the people of the bush call him “Flynn of the Inland”. He was the man who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, made a valiant attempt to create a “Mantle of Safety” across the remoteness of the continent by building hospitals and hostels in places like Birdsville, Innamincka, Oodnadatta and Halls Creek, creating the Pedal Radio and establishing the Flying Doctor Service so that ordinary Australians could make a new life in the Outback and feel secure.

He also enlisted a team of Padres who ministered to people in areas covering countless square miles — marrying, baptising, counseling and burying them — no matter what their faith or lack of it. By any standards, his life’s work was a notable achievement which will be honoured by historians for generations to come.

Now, sixty years after his death, we should be honest enough to admit that we have not built on the solid foundation created by his extraordinary endeavours. Continue reading “Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?”

Is it a sin to sell the farm?

The gossip around town is that a majority of Australians believe that, when foreigners invest in farming in Australia, they actually dig-up the land and take it back home, lamentably leaving us with a continent which is just a massive hole in the ground.

From what I hear, the same majority enthusiastically applaud Australians who invest overseas; this is seen as courageous entrepreneurial activity by fine Australians who want to help lesser beings to prosper from our benevolence. Naturally, we expect that they would not have the audacity to protest about our presence in their nation.

All of this means that the loud cries to stop foreign investment in any Australian business are sanctimonious hogwash. The reality is…. Continue reading “Is it a sin to sell the farm?”

An Olympic Dream

The massive expansion of the BHP mine at Olympic Dam in South Australia is splendid economic news for Australia in terms of job creation and export revenue, as is the impending opening of the Galilee Coal Basin in Queensland which has the potential to become Australia’s largest coal field.

Reports on the 24-hour news cycle tell us that BHP has signed an agreement with the South Australian Government to build a water desalinisation plant near Port Augusta, with pipelines to Olympic Dam at an estimated capital cost of four billion dollars and an annual operating and maintenance cost of $200 million. Some of the water will be used also to meet general water needs in South Australia.

This decision shows once again the unfortunate tendency of State Governments to make decisions in isolation without looking at a solution that will create economic and social opportunities across the nation as well. Continue reading “An Olympic Dream”

How Green was my Valley?

My headline has stolen the title of a great novel that I read back in my school days. Written by Richard Llewellyn, it told the story of humble people who lived in a lovely valley in Wales where suddenly, out of nowhere, miners found lots of coal. Their quality of life descended into the depths as their landscape turned into an awful scene of squalor, grime, coal dust and unethical politics.

I was greatly moved by it and read it several times, particularly as my father was a lowly-paid manual labourer in a timber mill, located in an isolated bush community where the forests were slowly being decimated.

Now, more than 70 years later, I have a leading role in the building of a railway which will enable several new coal mines to open in the Surat Basin in Central Queensland in a much cleaner environment to Wales. This leads me to want to make a few objective comments about the emotion that surrounds the current mining boom in Australia. Continue reading “How Green was my Valley?”

The Murray-Darling at five minutes to midnight.

 There is a no more thankless and unproductive task than to have a cake of a fixed or shrinking size and be given the task of dividing it among a large number of people — each of whom is after a larger slice than they are reasonably entitled to have.

Yet, this is the fate of the Murray Darling Authority which is taking a thrashing from everyone with an interest in the region — irrigators, farm service industries, small business, Greens, the five governments that are involved, and lots of others. No-one is happy, and they will remain that way until a greater water supply is permanently available — a goal which is achievable, but will cost money and political capital. Continue reading “The Murray-Darling at five minutes to midnight.”

Opening up the Great Australian Food Bowl

The export of the produce of Australia has always been crippled by the tyranny of distance and the high cost of covering that distance. Our national tragedy is that we have never faced-up to this fact and created a fast, efficient and economical system of transport for our exports.

This same considerable problem will be a major issue in opening-up the Great Australian Food Bowl. Continue reading “Opening up the Great Australian Food Bowl”

Creating the Great Australian Food Bowl – Andrew Robb Leads the Way

Having long been a staunch advocate of using the surplus water of northern Australia for the benefit of the whole continent in a far more wise and visionary way than we currently do, I was delighted to read the recent front page coverage in The Week-end Australian of the planning that Shadow Federal Finance Minister, Andrew Robb, is undertaking regarding the storage of water and the expansion of agriculture in his policy development role for the Coalition.

It is refreshing to know that there is at least one parliamentarian who has it in mind to do something significant about water and our capacity to become the food bowl of the world, with the added benefit of becoming less dependent on mining for our national economic survival. Continue reading “Creating the Great Australian Food Bowl – Andrew Robb Leads the Way”

Food Water and Minerals – why can’t we have them all?

The conscience of the nation has been stirred by the ever intensifying and increasingly bitter battle between farmers and miners and coal seam gas producers about land, water and the environment.

This newsletter has been constant in its efforts to remind governments that they are handling these issues quite badly — their main problem being that they have had it in the too hard basket for far too long in the forlorn hope that it will go away. It won’t. Significantly, and for no valid reason, current draft legislation lets gas producers off the hook. Continue reading “Food Water and Minerals – why can’t we have them all?”

Will there be Peace and Prosperity along the Murray-Darling?

The Federal Parliament’s Committee on the Murray Darling, which is chaired by Tony Windsor, has been making good progress in achieving a bipartisan consensus on the future of the farming industry in the region as indicated by their recent report to the Gillard Government.

Additionally, the Murray Darling Basin Authority, led by Craig Knowles, seems to be fostering far better relationships with the community than was achieved by its previous leaders. There is now a real chance that a solution to the region’s current water problems can be achieved if the Government and Opposition don’t turn it into an opportunity to have yet another slanging match. Continue reading “Will there be Peace and Prosperity along the Murray-Darling?”