Williams’ Word with Ray Williams

A MOST UNUSUAL TOWN

There was an interesting full page advertisement promoting Goulburn in the Canberra Times recently. It was encouraging to see the council promoting the city, but maybe it could have been more effective if that ad had explained more about this most unusual town, its unique character and history. It surely has a story worth telling – but no one seems to be telling it.

Where are the signs welcoming visitors to Australia’s first inland city? Where are the signs showing where explorer Captain William Hovell once lived or where he is buried? Where is the message about some of Australia’s most amazing women who once called Goulburn home? Who is telling the stories about Miles Franklin, Dame Mary Gilmore, Caroline Chisholm? Or the bushrangers who terrorised the district?

Most Australians know only of the Ned Kelly gang, but they appeared some 20 years after the real bushranger history ended. If you drew a triangle from Goulburn to Young and then to Bathurst, that was where most of the real bushranger activities happened.

And someone should put a few signs around Goulburn’s shopping centre, telling the story of that stone archway facing Belmore Park, which was the base for the Cobb and Co coaches; and the fact that a big corroboree was recorded near where the Goulburn Railway station now stands.

Goulburn has a great story to tell, a story of Australia’s early history. Why not tell visitors what this interesting town was all about?

AN ELECTION IN THE OFFING?

The Federal Labor Party must believe that a federal election is likely sometime soon. After months of sitting back and letting Mr Turnbull’s team struggle to get its messages through to the voters, Mr Shorten’s group has suddenly appeared to tell the voters that, if elected, their government would tax the rich. Labor hasn’t been a very vocal Opposition, they have simply let Team Abbott do the job of Opposition for them.

Team Abbott has been quite unusual in Australian politics. It has effectively destroyed the governments of Julia Gillard, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott himself. Mr Abbott seems to forget that he was once in the top job and made a mess of it. And Team Abbott refuses to understand that the Australian voters aren’t enthusiastic about our country being run by a ‘far right’ government. The reaction to that strange 2014 Budget showed that very clearly.

All the Labor team has to do to gain voter favour is to talk about taxing the rich, approving same sex marriage and believing we should do something about climate change; and let Team Abbott continue to undermine the Coalition’s chances of winning an election.

HOW MANY IS ENOUGH?

How many people could, or should, Australia logically accommodate? The current population recently hit 24.5 million, but no one seems to have set a logical target, one which would be best for our continent or for the Australian people.

Let us be realistic. Australia is the smallest continent and we have a population that is less than some of the world’s largest cities, but it is also the flattest and driest continent with 44 per cent of the country being classed as desert, which makes it the second largest desert in the world. We are not like most other nations.

The planners seem to accept that the population growth will be almost entirely in Sydney and Melbourne, thus occupying some of the best agricultural land in the country. Factories and houses on our best land.

Australia has less river water, run-off water and natural wetlands than any other continent, our largest river system the Murray-Darling carries about one-seventh of the continent’s water, but its yearly flow is no more than the Amazon carries in one day. Only about one-tenth of our land is arable.

With that picture in mind, what would the ideal population be for Australia? Our politicians work on the basis that we should continue to have a large rate of migration, with our population to hit 25 million in October next year. Where will these extra people live? Will their need for accommodation increase our already illogical house prices? Where will these extra people work? Will the jobs come from? Do we need more doctors, for example, particularly from countries that need them far more than we do?

We will need to build houses and infrastructure for the new arrivals, but it all seems to be illogical, particularly in the longer term. There has to be some more logical target, particularly if we have any intention of doing something about climate change. A steadily increasing population will make any target for CO2 emissions almost impossible to achieve. Continued population growth is one of the world’s major problems.  

MORE FOREIGN AID?

It seems that whenever budgets are discussed there is an immediate reaction by many people about the money we spend on foreign aid but this is usually from people who have no concept of what foreign aid really means. It means, for example, that we try to help the struggling governments of our nearest neighbours, such as Papua New Guinea, which has huge problems trying to get some stability in one of the most diverse and problem-wracked countries in the world. A country that could easily fail unless it receives help from other countries.

We also need to give support to other countries, particularly in the South Pacific region. Some neighbours are beautiful countries and its people should be able to share our good fortunes. Providing assistance now could save us lots of trouble (and money) in the future. It could be that money spent on foreign aid is more effective than money spent on defence.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.