Williams' Word with Ray Williams | October 16


There was an interesting suggestion by Kevin Sasse in the Goulburn Post’s columns recently for a statue in central Goulburn of the famous author Miles Franklin. It was a good suggestion, but it would be a sure bet that there was little or no reaction to this clever idea.

Goulburn’s decision makers have steadily, over the years, refused to accept that this city has a remarkable past and that the future of Goulburn could be boosted by promoting its place in Australia’s history. This is a fascinating town with a history and culture unlike anywhere else in Australia.

The concept of a statue is a clever one but surely it should go further, much further. Goulburn was not only the first inland city in Australia, it was the operational centre for the whole of south-eastern NSW until the creation of the Australian Capital Territory.

But there is more than that to this town. Where else could visitors learn about the chain gangs of prisoners who created the Great Southern Road, or of the impact that bushrangers had on early Australia? Everyone knows about Ned Kelly but his was merely a re-enactment of an era that had ended 20 years before he had his confrontation with the police.

If you were to draw a line from Goulburn to Bathurst and, say, to Young, you would cover the main bushranger activities in Australia – and Goulburn was where it all ended when a magistrate said the only solution to the problem was to make it illegal to provide food or shelter for the bushrangers, a suggestion that was taken up by the state government.

But Goulburn has something special that should click with today’s feminist movement. 

How about a city that promotes the role of women in the development of Australia? Imagine a walk around Belmore Park where the story of the importance of women in Australia’s development is explained, of Miles Franklin and other authors and women of influence such as Dame Mary Gilmore. Her story should surely be worth a special mention, as is that of Caroline Chisholm whose story explains so much about Australia’s past. There was a roofless building on the grounds of what is now Bourke Street Primary School until it was demolished only about 50 years ago. This was said to be Caroline Chisholm’s base while bringing wagons loaded with girls newly arrived in the colony, who she brought to good homes in the Goulburn District.

Then there is the CWA, that fine building near the Court House that was part of an organisation which was vital to the women in those early years. Many of these hardy people would come into Goulburn with their husbands and their children, often only once a month when the stock sales were on, and the CWA provided a place where they could leave their shopping, talk to other women and even have someone check on the progress or health of their children. The CWA was a haven for these often very lonely women.

But, sadly, nothing will happen. For some reason our decision makers have never accepted that this is a unique town with a great story to tell.


The Federal Coalition is still searching for ways to stop unions from making donations to the Labor Party. And that is sad because the unions created the Labor Party and the ALP, in turn, gave their members much better pay and conditions. The unions, through the Labor Party, have brought great benefits to our whole workforce, not just union members.

Unions have come in for some heavy criticism in recent times, often being well deserved because of the actions of some self-serving union officials, but we should not lose sight of the value of unionism generally. We don’t emasculate big business because of a few bad apples in their ranks.

Back in the 70s the Builders’ Labourers Federation (the BLF) was a really tough union and they put their foot down about wholesale developments around the Harbour Bridge area of Sydney. They were working for the benefit of future Australians and were able to force the state to retain some of the old-style buildings, particularly around the Rocks.

These old buildings can still be enjoyed today, one of the few parts of central Sydney not overtaken by ugly, Lego-type buildings. Sydneysiders could well do with another BLF-type union to bring some sense into the crude belief that good planning involves huge buildings. 

Very simply, union is strength and that is recognised by all sections of our society. The Australian Medical Association is a union of doctors and two of the strongest unions in Australia are the gambling industry and the liquor industry. This sort of union has lots of money and woe betide any politician who tries to limit their money-making schemes. 

It is true that there were some bad union officials who have abused their powers but that type of union was emasculated by two Labor prime ministers, Keating and Hawke.

Sure, there have been some cases where union officials have abused their power for purely personal gain but it was blatantly strange that the costly Royal Commission was into the unions, not the corporations that were complicit in any illegal deals.

Indeed, if the federal pollies themselves encouraged better communications with their own employees, through their unions, they would soon learn that there is huge waste of money and resources in their departments because of poor management, particularly in senior levels. Much could be learned simply by asking the people actually doing the work. 


And it’s not only unions for workers.

There are hundreds of lobbyists in Canberra, each one representing a form of union, be it the AMA, the big banks or the growers of bananas. Many of these organisations pay lobbyists big money to encourage the government to make decisions that will benefit them. What, then, is the difference between the actions of a union and those of the paid lobbyist?

We need both but both need a strict set of rules and it’s the government’s job to ensure these rules are fair and equal to all.

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


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