Category Archives: New State of North Queensland
Green preferences are driving the Labor Government’s proposed draconian environmental policies as a trade-off for the Adani coal mine approval.
A source close to the ALP is warning Wild Rivers “on steroids” rebadged as ‘Pristine Rivers’ will be put back on the table along with revamped, tough vegetation management laws should the ALP win the upcoming election.
The source said revisiting Wild Rivers and vegetation management laws are on the agenda for the upcoming State ALP conference to be held in Townsville at the Convention Centre on July 28 and 29.
A World Heritage listing over the Laura sandstone escarpment country, mooted by the State Government, also looms large for the people of the Peninsula.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad is moving to pacify the Greens’ hostility over approvals to allow Australia’s largest coal mine in Central Queensland to go ahead.
Trad and her colleague, Environment and Heritage Protection Minister Stephen Miles, have not yet taken into consideration the strident opposition of Cape York Peninsula communities, the Cape York Land Council and pastoralists alike, some of whom claim they will campaign against the party at the State election expected on November 4 this year.
Pastoralists and some communities believe a World Heritage nomination by the State Government will be the precursor for listing the entire Peninsula, in effect the beginning of the end for the economic prosperity of Aboriginal communities sitting on vast tracts of grazing property.
In a recent radio interview, Chairman of the CYLC, Richie AhMat castigated the proposed new versions of Wild Rivers and vegetation laws as well as the existing environmental overlays on most Aboriginal freehold and Deed of Grant in Trust land(DOGIT) covering nearly one half of the land area of the Peninsula.
Referring to the Wild Rivers legislation, Mr AhMat asked how the government expected Aboriginal people to start up businesses and to be economically viable “when these land restrictions appear out of nowhere?”
“You can’t talk about economic development on one hand and you can’t talk about indigenous employment on the other, and you can’t talk about Northern Australia on both hands.”
In reply to a question about the as yet undisclosed ‘Pristine Rivers’ policy Mr AhMat alluded to funding that had been allocated in the past two state budgets purportedly for consultation with traditional owners.
He said he was worried about all the rivers in Cape York which could be affected by a lock up policy.
“All of our rivers in Cape York are fresh water rivers, water is a huge commodity now and nobody in their wildest dreams 10 years or fifteen years ago expected them to buy a bottle of fresh water,” Mr Ah Mat said.
“To buy a bottle of fresh water is more than a litre of fuel.
“Why does the government want to lock up Cape York, because they have a 20 to 30 year plan but they aren’t talking to anybody, it’s all secretive because we are out of sight and out of mind.
“We fought long and hard against the wild rivers, long and hard and we were untied as one on Cape York.
“This Pristine Rivers believe me there are rumblings about it in 1 William Street (Executive Building) now.
“This legislation over land is going to block everything.”
Gordon Rasmussen, Katters Australian Party candidate for the Cook electorate, which takes in all of Cape York, agreed with Mr Ah Mat.
“It looks like Northern Development is just a talk fest because what Mr Ah Mat says about locking up all the rivers and land on Cape York makes a mockery of the $5 billion federal fund for northern land development,” Mr Rasmussen pointed out.
“How does the federal government expect to achieve anything in an area like the Peninsula to help economic development for struggling communities when the State Government has divided up most of the Aboriginal land into nature reserves, national parks and heritage areas?
“If the Labor Party gets back into government we are all in for a very rough trot.”
Bring on a State plebiscite to create the new State of North Queensland
KAP’s Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth have called the LNP a disgrace after they confirmed they will sell out North Queensland and pass the budget as is, without any negotiation.
Robbie and Shane asked the government for four basic things to address the current crisis in North Queensland. Robbie and Shane and the rest of the crossbench said they would vote against the budget if the government refused to come to the negotiating table.
“North Queensland is in crisis. The government should be ashamed of itself for not agreeing to these four very reasonable requests,” Robbie said. “Even more shameful is that the LNP had an opportunity to stand with us to force the government to listen, but instead they’ve decided to sell out North Queensland and rubber stamp the budget.”
Robbie and Shane requested four urgent actions to support North Queensland, which faces unemployment rates as high as 14%, compared with unemployment of about 4% in Brisbane:
1. Power prices reduced by 5%
2. Commit to reducing North Queensland unemployment to 6% by 2020
3. Commit unspent infrastructure funding to North Queensland to kick start the economy
4. Set up a North Queensland Budget Equity Board
Shane Knuth said he was disgusted, but not surprised, with the government and LNP. “I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not,” Shane said. “I was excited because we had a real chance to make some change for North Queensland, but we needed support from either the government or LNP to make it happen, and neither of them would step up to the plate. They should hang their heads in shame,” Shane said.
Robbie said he was shocked the major parties wouldn’t consider KAP’s requests. “They’re quite happy to throw billions of dollars at a Brisbane rail project so city people can get home from work earlier, but won’t commit to something as critical as reducing unemployment in the North.
At least we in North Queensland know exactly where we stand with the government and LNP: and that’s on the wrong side of the Brisbane border,” Robbie said.
Robbie and Shane will vote against the budget unless the government accepts their basic requests – which could make an immediate difference to North Queensland.
State budget a lotto win for Brisbane
Robbie Katter says news that the government will spend $2billion on Cross River Rail confirms what people in the North have long been saying: the major parties govern for Brisbane. “It’s never been more important to fight for North Queensland,” Robbie said.
KAP is urging the LNP to join them in standing up for North Queensland. KAP’s Robbie Katter and Shane Knuth have asked the government for four urgent actions to address the crisis in North Queensland:
- Power prices reduced by 5%
- Commit to reducing North Queensland unemployment to 6% by 2020
- Commit unspent infrastructure funding to North Queensland to kick start the economy
- Set up a North Queensland Budget Equity Board
KAP State Leader Robbie Katter said he, Shane, and the rest of the crossbench, would vote against the state budget if the government would not deliver these initiatives for North Queensland.
“If the LNP stands with us, we can make this happen, we can create real change for North Queensland,” Robbie said.
The state treasurer said in his budget speech today “Queenslanders will not forget” if the Federal Treasurer doesn’t commit money to Cross River Rail.
“North Queenslanders will not forget that this government thought $2billion was better spent on a project so city people could get home from work a bit earlier, rather than on infrastructure projects to invest in North Queensland’s future,” Robbie said. “That same $2billion could have seen the rail line out of the Galilee Basin already built, which would produce income for Queensland for decades to come.”
Robbie said comments by the Treasurer in his budget speech that “confidence has made a comeback”, showed how out of touch the government was with life outside of Brisbane.
“In my home town of Mount Isa, confidence is so low in the wake of talk by Glencore of pulling out of its copper operations, people are losing sleep. This is affecting people’s lives, and all we hear from the treasurer is that survey results are good. Well that’s not what’s happening out here in the real world,” Robbie said.
“In other parts of the North, unemployment is as high as 14%. If business confidence was as high as the treasurer claims, we wouldn’t be seeing rates like this.”
Shane Knuth said it made him sick that more wasn’t being done to address unemployment in the North. “Unemployment in Brisbane is around 4%. If unemployment rates were as high in the big city as they are up North, the government would drop everything to fix the problem. Instead we see them drop $2bn on a project in an electorate with 4% unemployment.
What a joke. If they care about North Queensland and making a change, they will agree to our request to reducing unemployment in the North to 6% by 2020. And I expect the LNP to show some backbone and stand with us to make this happen,” Shane said.
In response to a public outcry, Katters Australia Party is drafting legislation to remove or cull crocodiles in northern waterways after a spate of savage attacks on tourists and residents.
The recent death of a spearfisherman and the mauling of a man at Innisfail by crocodiles prompted a series of public meetings called by the Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth to gauge public support for crocodile removal, culling, egg collection and safari hunting.
Meetings were held last week at Mareeba, Innisfail and Port Douglas.
At the Mareeba meeting Mr Knuth said the attacks had been given international media coverage and tourists were now cancelling visits to the Far North because they were frightened of being attacked by a salt water crocodile.
Former deputy Mayor of Mareeba Shire, Evan McGrath spoke of crocodiles close to the town and how farmers had been menaced by them when checking their water pumps in creeks and channels.
He said crocodiles had been seen in irrigation channels and the Barron River near his farm. “Their numbers are out of control in areas where crocodiles have never been seen before.”
“Enough is enough,” Mr Knuth told a supportive audience of more than 100 residents.
“We have to bring the numbers back under control. Over the past 40 years since croc shooting finished the numbers have exploded and crocs no longer fear man and they have become cheeky and not afraid to attack people or domestic animals.”
A three metre long photo backdrop of a crocodile with a kelpie in its mouth reminded the audience of the audacity and savagery of a crocodile eating a pet dog near Innisfail two weeks ago, greatly upsetting the dog’s young owner.
Supporting the KAP legislation was the Chairman of Cape York Peninsula Land Council Richie Ahmat who suggested a truck load of large crocs should be taken from a local crocodile farm and dropped into the Brisbane River.
“Then we would see some action,” Mr Ahmat quipped.
Former Gulf area cattle station manager Jack Fraser told the meeting the excessive number of crocs in the vast Lower Gulf district were out of hand and should be culled as a matter of urgency.
He said several years ago a large crocodile on a cattle station was found dead on a riverbank. It was cut open to reveal 60 plastic cattle ear tags in its stomach.
“Sixty ear tags represents a loss to the station of about $60,000 worth of stock on today’s market,” Mr Fraser said.
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter received thunderous applause when he stated the obvious: “The Brisbane Government does not care a less about North Queenslanders and it is time we looked after our own problems.
“Home rule is across the world and like Brexit, North Queensland must now take a stance,” referring to a new State of North Queensland.
Member for Mt Isa Robbie Katter said he would present a bill to State Parliament in the May sittings to address runaway crocodile numbers that were of grave danger to the public.
He alluded to making unchecked crocodile attacks a precursor to blocking the May budget should the Labor Government not support his bill.
Meanwhile the Independent Member for Cook, Billy Gordon, did not attend either the Mareeba or Port Douglas meetings held in his electorate.
On his Facebook page after the meetings Mr Gordon claimed he would not be supporting the crocodile removal legislation because he had not been invited to either the Mareeba or Port Douglas meetings.
“The needs of my electorate are quite substantive, the areas of health, education, telecommunications….and tourism are of primary concern to me,” the post said.
“It’s on these issues that hard- nosed negotiations should be had on.
“As a matter of public record I have not been invited to or included in meetings in both Mareeba and Port Douglas to advocate for culling of crocs.”
A KAP spokesman said today Mr Gordon’s office was contacted early on Tuesday morning by staff inviting him to the meeting.
“On Wednesday morning his office put in an apology telling us they were unsure if Mr Gordon would attend,” the spokesman said.
“A meeting flyer was emailed to his office. KAP contacted his staff who said they were unable to send a representative to the meeting.
“KAP staff also left a message on his phone,” the spokesman said.
Mr Gordon is believed to be in Melbourne and was unable to be contacted for comment.
At the Mareeba forum, local Labor Party stalwart Duncan McInnes said most Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners he had spoken to supported the proposed legislation.
Welcome news from the Liberal and Labor church of free trade – Adam Smith would be proud of Mr Turnbull, Mr Shorten and their Uruguay DOFAT mandarins
Today the Queensland Government has confirmed White Spot virus has been found in wild prawns in Moreton Bay off Brisbane and now cannot be stopped.
KAP Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter said, “I congratulate the Government of the Australia with their Free Trade policies and no quarantine.
“Our prawn industry has been sacrificed on the altar of Free Trade.
“Not only all our industries have been exported overseas, and our jobs exported overseas but you’ve imported workers from overseas, which has been a cancer upon our pay and conditions and job opportunities in Australia — but now you’ve succeeded in destroying our oceans.
“Because the currents flow north, White Spot will now be taken up the Qld coast and infect the Great Barrier Reef.
“This was done with eyes wide open.
“Every single person associated with the prawn industry and every scientist who ever looked at this knew if you brought the prawns in, you’d bring the White Spot in… and the IHHNV and heaven only knows which hundreds of other diseases we haven’t identified…and these damn people in Canberra run around talking about our clean green image,” said Mr Katter.
The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) President Matt West owns a prawn farm in the Mackay region. In a media report from January this year, Mr West says although his stock are some distance from the Sth East Qld region damaged by the outbreak, the disease can spread rapidly, “especially if it gets hold in the wild”.
NB: Cairns News published an exclusive story on January 10, 2107 about Chinese prawn importer Sino deliberately altering prawn samples for biosecurity testing. The company has been charged by Federal Police for falsifying records allowing white spot infected prawns to be introduced into Queensland. Imported green prawns infected with white spot virus used by anglers for fish bait are thought to have infected seven Gold Coast prawn farms and now Moreton Bay near Brisbane.
Nearly 70 per cent of Cape York covered by nature reserves or national parks; little left for Aboriginal economic benefit
Aboriginal people of Cape York Peninsula are being duped and dudded by the State Government over large land ‘hand overs’ that the local communities believe will prevent them from earning income.
On April 7, another 54,000 hectares north of Cooktown was handed over to several tribal groups from Hopevale, adding even more locked-up land to the vast national park estate on Cape York.
Since the CYPLUS (Cape York Peninsula Land Use Study) research of the 80’s and early 90’s once productive grazing land has steadily been resumed by State Governments, mainly the ALP, to be gazetted as national park or some type of nature reserve.
Nature reserves, national parks, regional parks, timber reserves and DOGIT land shaded areas cover at least 70 per cent of the Peninsula leaving small areas for grazing or commercial purposes that are not of any economic benefit to Aboriginal groups
Various Aboriginal corporations gratefully sign up to vast areas of former cattle stations, such as the Olkola people when last year they were handed five, once viable large cattle properties in central Cape York Peninsula totalling 1.5 million acres that used to run 30,000 cattle.
The Prescribed Body Corporate gleefully accepted the gift from the State Government, but seemingly did not properly read the paperwork. The PBC just helped the National Parks and Wildlife Service add another one million acres to their vast estate, on which no cattle grazing is allowed.
The remaining portion of Aboriginal Freehold can be used for grazing or selective timber cutting, but under the ALP environmental laws would have to be excluded from the nature reserves and park area by fencing it off.
The fencing would cost several million dollars and require maintenance on a weekly basis to be effective.
Indigenous leader Noel Pearson angrily said, “…again Aborigines have been duped by the Labor/Green bureaucracy.”
Noel Pearson sick and tired of being ‘dudded’ by the Labor/Green bureaucracy
Pearson heaped vitriol on the Labor and former LNP governments at a large meeting of stakeholders in Mareeba recently for dudding the communities of Cape York over land use.
“We have no property rights on Cape York and we need upgraded tenure. There are lots of fronts where all landowners are vulnerable,” he said.
Public servants who once worked for environmental lobby groups were targeted by Pearson for pushing extreme green agendas within government.
“These greens have infiltrated indigenous groups and government departments and it’s like a tag team, they are all the same, and have networked with all departments,” Mr Pearson said.
“Public servants should declare their association with environmental groups.
“The proposition there is going to be land clearing the size of Victoria, is fantasy.
“There are only pockets of land suitable for development.
“White people too have had many generations on this land and they have a great love for their land. It’s high time the law in Queensland started to respect that relationship.
“We spent five hard years and lots of money fighting Wild Rivers in court but we could have been doing other more productive things.
“We need another 10 independents in parliament to put us in a better position, given the absence of an Upper House.”
Alan Jones to chair Nickel workers meeting Monday, April 11
The Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter has responded to claims made by Treasurer Curtis Pitt that a state of North Queensland would not be economically viable.
“Queensland’s income comes almost solely from the four C’s: coal, cane, cattle and copper — all almost exclusively come from North Queensland. And the tourism between Mackay and Cairns is bigger than the Gold Coast. The base of the state’s economy comes from the north,” said Mr Katter.
Mr Katter doesn’t dispute the regional domestic product in North Queensland is less than South Queensland, as stated by the Treasurer in the Courier Mail yesterday.
“Our lower GRP is proof of the need for a separate state for North Queensland. We cut the cane, we dig the copper, we muster the cattle and we ‘aint getting the benefit.”
Respected Economist at DSEconomics, and regular columnist in the Townsville Bulletin, Colin Dwyer has published in The Bulletin today (1 April 2016) a strong quantitative economic position for a separate state of North Queensland:
Currently about 20% of QLD revenue is generated from Coal, Base metals and a small amount of LNG gas mining royalties. Most of the coal is produced in North Queensland and all of the base metals are produced in North Queensland. Mining royalties represent roughly $4 to $5 Billion, most of which could be spent in a new North Queensland state and not SEQ.”
If a new state of North Queensland where to receive the current Queensland GST funding share from the total GST pool of about $56B, then North Queensland would receive about $2.5 to $3Billion this year.
If we then consider the additional revenue streams such as rail and freight charges from agriculture and mining, payroll taxes, stamp duties on residential and commercial property sales and home insurance, ports revenue, electricity and other GOC revenue, its obvious North Queensland is fiscally viable and more than likely will prosper into the future.
Mr Katter believes the examples of other states matter in this debate,
“Curtis Pitt said that we can’t go it alone. Would he please go tell Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and to Western Australia. We are double to the size of most of them and equal to the size of all of them and they all stand on their own,” said Mr Katter.
Letters to editor
I keep reading about the benefits of fluoride in water supplies and how it is supposed to be good for teeth. It is unusual that I often read this in the Cairns Post and the Courier Mail that are both Murdoch newspapers. I wonder why they push fluoride and vaccines? It is easy to find scientific publications that say fluoride is killing us slowly and causing a lot of medical problems. I have had a first hand experience with the problems related to toxic fluoride being added to drinking water. In 2004 when Mareeba had fluoride in the water, we had to send our son to primary school. He had been home schooled or on school of the air for most of his life on a cattle property and was drinking rainwater.
When he went to school in town he had to drink town water.
After being at school for about a year, we noticed his teeth were becoming quite motley with patches of white like staining and he complained of soreness. I asked a dentist what could be causing this and he said straight away, fluorosis!
He asked if we were giving him fluoride tablets which no sane parent would ever do. Of course we were not doing that.
Then I contacted the local council who told me the amount of the dose of fluoride going into the water, and when I checked it up it was quite high compared to other places like Townsville that I checked.
I also found out the fluoride the councils use is a very toxic by-product of aluminium production and comes from the refinery at Gladstone. It is not naturally occurring fluoride.
We then sent him to school with rainwater bottles and told him not to drink the tap water and put him on a course of anti-oxidant supplements. A few months later the symptoms disappeared and his health improved.
His sister attended the same school and drank only rainwater. She had no health problems. We did hear of a few other kids with similar problems and I told the council.
In 2013 he developed a cancerous tumor on a kidney. A search of medical journals will show that ultimately this is a classical symptom of fluoride poisoning, confirmed by a local doctor and naturopath.
He was able to get the tumor removed and has since been on health supplements to repair his kidneys.
My son’s siblings did not drink town water and had perfect health.
I am patiently waiting for the anti-fluoride lobby to get sufficient funds to mount a challenge to forced fluoridation. I will contribute towards it. Their legal opinion says we will thrash the governments that force fluoride onto the population.
I warn Cairns people to watch out for the Cairns Post and the state government, because they want to poison you.
Anti fluoride mum!
(name withheld on request)
A meeting of more than 300 cattle producers at Charters Towers has called on the federal government to create the Australian Reconstruction and Development Board and place a moratorium on bank foreclosures before the state’s cattle industry completely collapsed.
Called by the Member for Dalrymple, Shane Knuth, the crisis meeting followed on from a similar meeting held by the Member for Mt Isa, Robbie Katter at Winton last year.
Producers demanded the federal and state governments act immediately to introduce the ARDB, modelled on the Rural Reconstruction Board of 30 years ago which was designed to absorb the “toxic” trading bank interest debt that has engulfed primary industries and to issue low interest development funds for primary producers and small business.
More than 20 resolutions were passed unanimously by the gathering of desperate and often distraught cattle producers.
While an unprecedented 80 per cent of the state is reeling under a drought declaration, producers heard how social media and 60 Minutes superstar Charlie Phillott, 81, of Winton, beat the ANZ Bank and had his property returned with a substantial settlement.
Mr Phillott’s plight has been closely monitored by the 60 Minutes television show and scored an Australian record 3.5 million hits on Toowoomba veterinarian David Pascoe’s social media site.
He urged producers to stick together when fighting questionable behaviour by the banks.
He said he had never missed a repayment but when the bank restructured his loan he was unable to manage and was eventually put off his Winton property after the bank took it over.
“All of us here owe a great deal of gratitude to Bob Katter for he saw my position and stood by me for two years ,” Mr Phillott said.
Primary Industries Minister Bill Byrne when addressing the meeting started an uproar when he said the State Government would not be building more dams because there was “no business return” from farming.
Charters Towers cattleman Mick Pemble attacked the Minister asking why he could not build dams, and “…do what everybody else in this room does and borrow the bloody money!”
“If I could make it rain I would, but our resources are finite and we are working on what can be done in the circumstances,” Mr Byrne said.
“There are amendments before Parliament and our policy is that water is critical to agriculture but the government capacity to fund such a project is limited.
“If you build dams in the city or for mining you get capital back but for agriculture you do not get capital back.
He said federal money or private investment would be needed to build dams.
Meeting chairman Shane Knuth said he was aware of highly questionable behaviour by bank-appointed receivers that had caused a lot of grief to families through no fault of their own.
He said there were many hundreds of northern producers in financial difficulties and the local industry could collapse unless the bank debt issue was resolved.
“I know some of you want to speak, and I am aware that confidentiality agreements stop you from telling us about what the receivers have done to you, but everyone is behind you and we must stop the foreclosures,” Mr Knuth said.
Burdekin farmer Max Menzell asked the Minister why police were involved when foreclosures took place adding that they should not be used by the banks and receivers as debt collectors because foreclosures were a civil matter.
The Minister strongly defended the use of police stating categorically: “That is the law.”
Mr Knuth said more meetings and what actions should be taken would be called unless the government brought the banks into line and stopped foreclosures immediately.
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, Charlie Phillott, Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth and Member for Mt Isa Robbie Katter.
Mr Phillott said the northern grazing industry and businesses owed Bob Katter a great deal of gratitude for giving producers a voice in dealing with banks and foreclosures.
Bob Katter addresses 300 desperate cattle producers and small businessmen at the Charters Towers Debt Summit. Resolutions passed called on the federal government to halt farm foreclosures immediately and enact the Australian Reconstruction and Development Board to absorb toxic bank debt or the northern industry could collapse.
A combined taskforce of investigators is looking at Noel and Gerhart Pearson through a microscope and will be publishing their findings, allowing all Australians access to information exposing Noel Pearson’s stand-over tactics and blatant racial abuse against whites. His consistent use of disgusting foul language and manipulation of unsuspecting Traditional Owners was published in the Melbourne AGE newspaper on August 18, 2014.
One must ask why this person still remains Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appointed special adviser on indigenous affairs (or should that read “ENFORCER” ) and why his obsessive hatred of white people has not been addressed?
Dropping bombs and stoking feuds: the other side of Noel Pearson
By Paul Sheehan
Shortly after 11 am last Friday, Noel Pearson, chairman of the Cape York Group and a nationally prominent Aboriginal leader, walked into the newsroom of The Sydney Morning Herald and approached a senior editor. He proceeded to berate the editor, loudly, obscenely. He took off his jacket and told the editor he would “beat you to a pulp”. He also mentioned throwing him off the balcony. He dropped the “c” bomb repeatedly.
All in the middle of a metropolitan newsroom.
This is the other side of Noel Pearson, the unelected, unaccountable bridge-burner who has left a trail of damage and division that offsets and undermines his efforts to break the cycle of social dysfunction in many indigenous communities.
Tony Abbott is having a shocking run with his inner sanctum. He’s been putting out fires lit by his Treasurer, his Attorney-General, his Minister for Employment, his Treasurer, again, and now his personally appointed special adviser on indigenous affairs.
Abbott’s appointment of Pearson now looks well-meaning but obtuse. If Pearson were to ever appear in court in a defamation action over being called a bully, the court would be presented with voluminous evidence of his foul temper and self-indulgent rages, some of which have been recorded on tape.
One of his tirades was recorded by a former federal minister. Even after Pearson was advised he was being taped he continued a long, expletive-laden soliloquy of abuse and invective. The current Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, is also reported to have been subject to one of Pearson’s rages, repeatedly being told to “f— off”.
The trigger for Pearson’s rage on Friday was an old sore, a profile published in Good Weekend two years ago, on August 25, 2012, by Jane Cadzow. The profile was rigorously researched and crafted, a trademark of Cadzow’s work. She has won two Walkley Awards for feature writing and been a Walkley finalist four times.
Cadzow’s request for an interview with Pearson had been turned down. Yet on the morning her profile appeared he was on the phone delivering a long blast of outrage. He was aggrieved that it had been written while he was receiving treatment for cancer and that Cadzow did not go up to Cape York when researching the story.
But Cadzow was not going to Cape York without an interview with Pearson. She also felt his rage over the phone vindicated her portrayal of his anger, based on many sources.
“His call went on so long,” she told me, “and I had so little chance to get a word in, that I even made a cup of tea … It was ironic that while he was complaining about the story his behaviour fitted exactly with the pattern I had reported.”
Her profile began with this confronting scene: The meeting began cordially enough. A Queensland government delegation was in Cairns to confer with Noel Pearson, the most influential indigenous leader in the country. Pleasantries were exchanged as people took their places around the table, then the room fell silent while everyone waited respectfully for him to speak.
What followed, according to former parliamentarian Stephen Robertson, was “a tirade of expletives and abuse”, including, more than once, the phrase “f—ing white c—s”… starting very slowly, very deliberately, and speaking quite softly, then over the next 15 or 20 minutes reaching a crescendo”.
Among those present was state environment minister Kate Jones, whose female adviser was dismissed by Pearson as an “arse-wipe”. Robertson says his own chief-of-staff, an indigenous man, was called a “sell-out c—“. Another member of the group sums up the rest of the diatribe: “‘You f—ing white c—s’, scream, scream, scream. Full on, for half an hour. Nobody could get a word in.”
The story presented a troubling portrait of a charismatic bully who has extracted millions of dollars of funding for indigenous programs from governments and corporations, via persuasion or browbeating. The portrait of Pearson’s older brother, Gerhardt, was also troubling. The profile was balanced with the many positives for which Pearson is famous – his intellect, his lucidity and his commitment to practical improvements for Australia’s poorest communities.
I’ve interviewed Pearson, seen him speak, seen a room captivated by his eloquence, and written in his favour. But his positives are offset by his negatives, the feuds, the disdain, the costly demands on the public purse.
And his bullying is often premeditated. Cadzow interviewed many people including a former close associate of Pearson who became an adversary, Lyndon Schneiders of the Wilderness Society. He described how Noel and Gerhardt Pearson planned their intimidation: “They called it ‘bombing’. When they were going to go in and make their views forcefully known to government, they were going on a ‘bombing raid’. I watched them do it to advisers, to backbenchers, to ministers, to journos. It wasn’t pretty.”
Even the journalist who did more than any other to push the Pearson mythology, Tony Koch, came to regret his long silence about Pearson’s dark side. In a column for The Australian in April 2012, he wrote: “Instead of drawing people into his orbit, Pearson has succeeded in pushing almost everyone away.”
This does not augur well for his role as Abbott’s emissary. Pearson’s story forms just a fractional part of the tens of billions of dollars of government funding that has been funnelled into indigenous communities and programs with little impact on measurable improvement. The public’s exasperation and cynicism is rampant. It pays the bills.
Pearson’s most recent explosion, on Friday, is emblematic of a man who cannot control his anger or curb his ego. This does not serve his cause. It also damages the cause of the Prime Minister he is supposedly helping.