Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Drummond's bio continues 4 - Towards Centre Stage: Public life 1922-1927

Drummond's life 4 - Towards Centre Stage: Public life 1922-1927 continues my biography of David Drummond. It covers NSW politics, including the transformation of the Progressive Party to the Country Party, fights over railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Bill; along with continued new state agitation at state and national level, including the initially disastrous Cohen Royal Commission and the further articulation of the Movement's constitutional position. 

Continued collapse in NSW Labor support

The latest Newspoll released in the Australian made interesting reading. On these numbers, Labor could be reduced to as low as 24 seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly.919307-nsw-newspoll-30-06-2010 2

The difficulty this creates from the viewpoint of those seeking change lies in the fact that such an unbalanced possible result actually  makes it harder to get real change.

This may sound paradoxical. Surely a coalition Government with such a large majority would have a mandate to bring about change? Well, yes and no.

Yes, because the Government to do things. No, because the incentive to do things is reduced. From a New England viewpoint, there may be less incentive for the opposition to focus on New England issues, including the need for fundamental constitutional change.

This is not a party political comment, nor is it meant to be negative. It's just that if, as an increasing number of New Englanders appear to want, we are to get another vote on self-government, then we need support at candidate and party level. This may be more difficult to achieve.

It is quite a while since I looked at the detail of coalition policy statements from a broader New England perspective. I will try to do an assessment over the next few weeks.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Still searching for the Diggers Graveyard mine

I am trying to write. As a holding device, this post follows yesterday's Searching for the Diggers Graveyard mine.

The photograph shows the view from the Macleay River looking back towards the spot from which yesterday's photo was taken.  

I wonder what Gordon will find.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Searching for the Diggers Graveyard mine

All of us who live or have lived in New England have our own perspectives of the place based on where we lived and our experiences. I have written on this quite a bit in one way or another, attempting to bring different perspectives alive.

The gorge country that forms the eastern edge is a unique world in its own right. This was once flat country with rivers flowing to the west from distant eastern mountains. Then came continental drift and uplift. Western flowing rivers were forced to flow east, creating great gorges and a sometimes crazy river pattern.

20100512-09-42-40-diggers-graveyard-mine--valley-view Gordon Smith often explores this country in his lookANDsee photo blog.

Just at present, Gordon is searching for the Diggers Graveyard mine. This photo shows the valley view before descent. Gordon's caption reads:

  If I’ve got my bearings correct, this is looking upstream (north) as we descend into the valley with the Macleay River just visible behind the trees in the foreground (left of centre). At this point we’re about 13 km (8 miles) south of Hillgrove.

It's beautiful if very rugged country. Perhaps it's time for another geography post!     

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New State arguments 11 - the importance of a dedicated public service

One of my former public service colleagues died recently, something that I recorded in Death of John Martin. It got me thinking on the importance of a dedicated New England public service.

I have spent a bit over two decades as a public servant, more time working with public servants in other capacities. I actually have a very high opinion of public servants.

One of the problems that we have at present lies in the fact that there are no public servants working for New England, no one to provide the focus and type of support that might help drive New England forward.

This is not a criticism of NSW public servants presently working within New England. The reality is that they can do very little and for two reasons.

The first is that New England does not exist. Public servants must work within existing structures, including the varying regional structures imposed by agencies. In general, those structures do not reflect the broader New England. They are far narrower. No one looks at the broader entity.

The second is that those in regional offices have limited power. Not only do they have to work within NSW state wide policies and parameters, but their policy depth is limited. Their real input into policy making is therefore limited.

Imagine what it would be like to say to the head, for example, of the new New England tourism agency, we want a New England tourism plan. Your performance will be measured by the increase in the dollar value of spend by those visiting New England. No need to worry about Sydney, just get the job done.

Or the head of the new New England Department of State Development. We want New England's inland population doubled over the next ten years. How might we do this? Will it have adverse effects on other parts of New England? How do we manage this?

I could give many more examples. My point is that none of these things will happen under present structures. The people aren't there, nor is the power, nor even the data.

Friday, June 25, 2010

NSW Parliament remembers Don Day

In Deaths of Paul Johnstone, Don Day I talked a little about the history of that doughty North Coast Labor member Don Day, a man I fought against at one point because of his opposition to New England self-government. I was opposed to him, but had a high regard for him. 

In that post I mentioned that I met daughter Jenny at UNE. Though one of those lovely coincidences that make the internet so powerful, Jenny saw my story and contacted me. That's nice, because Jenny and I share so many things.

Jenny emailed me to let me know that Don's death had been recorded in debate in the NSW Legislative Assembly. You will find the Hansard here.

One thing that I thought was nice was the way National (previously Country) Party members spoke of Don's death. To quote Steve Cansdell, National Member for Clarence:

I recently attended the funeral of Don Day and was struck by the deep love and respect expressed in eulogies by his sons and grandchildren who spoke on behalf of the family. It was very touching. As I said, if I can finish my stint in Parliament with as much respect as a politician I will be a very proud man, but if I can finish my life with the same love and respect of my family as Don took with him I will believe I have done a great job. Congratulations to Don on being such a great man and the loving family person he was, and also on being, in politics, a very uncompromising and hard man to deal with if you stood against him.

City people sometimes find it hard to understand why country parliamentarians have such a high regard for their opponents. I think in the country parliamentarians actually have a much closer relationship with their electorates. As part of this, they actually understand and respect their opponents at a personal level. As I did in a small way (talking about time, not respect) with Don Day.


Just drove eldest (Helen) to work. I told her about this post and the background story.

One of the really nice things about this blog, and others like like it, is the way that it helps knit together the past. For most of us, to be a New Englander is to leave. Some come back, most don't. There aren't the jobs. Those who leave lose access to their past, to many of their links, the things that make up that past home. Their children can lose total context.

Each in their own small way, this blog and others like it play a small role in rebuilding the links destroyed by time and relocation. I think that that's nice. Certainly, its rewarding.     

New State arguments 10 - technical issues 1

In this post I want to look at some of the technical issues raised by New England self-government. These are important not just in a practical sense, but because people have a tendency to say that it's all too hard. It's not. The list that follows simply lists issues that have been raised so far.

NSW Public Servants

All NSW public servants within New England will automatically become New England public servants, preserving their entitlements. Public servants who do not wish to join the New England public service will have the opportunity to relocate to NSW.

NSW Laws

Pending any subsequent action by the New England legislature, all NSW laws will continue in place.

Allocation of Assets and Liabilities

A commission will need to be formed to apportion assets and liabilities between New England and NSW. This is quite complex in a technical sense. As the process proceeds, interim arrangements may need to be set in place focused especially on state owned enterprises. New England may choose to allow NSW to continue to operate New England assets for a period.

New England Constitution

New England will need to adopt its own constitution. Pending the formal election of the first New England Parliament, a constituent assembly may be required.

Existing New England State Members

Once a decision is made to separate New England, but before formal separation and the first election, by far the easiest course is to turn current New England Parliamentarians into a constituent assembly. In this period, they will be members of the NSW Parliament as well as the New England assembly. The core role of the assembly will be to set arrangements for the first New England elections.   

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The ABC needs to learn geography

Listening to ABC radio, I heard that there had been a fatal road accident in North Western NSW. Then I found that it was near Ben Lomond on the New England Highway.

Get real, ABC. This growing tendency of yours to use the term North West for New England Tablelands' news is very annoying and  geographically incorrect. Western NSW does not begin at the escarpment.

If we are going to apply your geographic measure, then we have to start saying things like a road accident in the South Western towns of Goulburn, or Queanabeyan or Cooma. The ACT itself was incised from Western NSW.

It's all very silly.    

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Belshaw's World - rumblings of independence on the radar

I have been watching with interest the return of agitation seeking to create further new states in Australia.

An active movement has re-emerged in North Queensland, leading Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser to remark at a community cabinet meeting that North Queensland would never get self-government because Queensland might lose the state of origin.

In a sop to his audience, Mr Fraser did concede that Australia's state boundaries could move as settlement patterns changed, but not until the next century!

In New England, too, agitation has re-appeared, this time centred in the Hunter.

Back in March 2008, Newcastle Herald columnist Jeff Corbett floated the idea of a reformed New State Movement and self-government for the North. He wrote:

“Just think how well off we'd be if the regions of New England, the Hunter and northern NSW could spend all rather than some of their government contributions on themselves.”

Since then, the idea has kept re-surfacing, especially in reader comments on newspaper columns. One here, one there, then a spurt. Now a small but active group exists seeking to reform the New England New State Movement.

Those from Armidale who have been involved with the self-government movement will appreciate the irony. After all, we lost the vote in 1967 on the no vote in Newcastle and the milk producing areas of the lower Hunter and Manning Valley who were frightened of losing their then preferential access to the Sydney milk market.

The yes vote elsewhere was 67 per cent.

In considering the apparent irony of a surge in support for self-government in the Hunter, we need to remember that each wave of New State agitation has come from a different part of New England.

During the colonial period, initial agitation was Tablelands and Clarence based, with the next campaign coming from the Clarence. While these were sporadic, they established a separatist tradition.

Towards the end of the First World War, it was again the Clarence that called for self government. However, the sustained agitation that emerged from 1920 was initially driven out of Tamworth, before spreading widely across the North.

The reformation of the Movement at the end of the Second World War, the start of sustained agitation that culminated in the 1967 plebiscite, was driven from Armidale. Now we have the Hunter.

One of the interesting features of the growth in Hunter Valley interest lies in the source of the new state ideas.

In the forty years since the Movement effectively dissolved in the sometimes bitter local infighting that followed the 1967 loss, there has been almost new state coverage of any type in the Hunter.

So where does the idea come from? Well, talking to some of those involved, a key feature seems to be expressions of regret about the no vote in 1967 from the diminishing number who actively remember it.

One of the new activists, for example, heard about the idea from older unionists who said that we made a mistake. We were loyal, but have been betrayed.

Our activist had never heard of the new state movement, but became interested and started to investigate. This convinced him and led him to seek out others who were interested.

There is a further irony in all this.

When I was Chair of Tourism Armidale, I argued that we should use the fact that Armidale was to be the capital of New England in our promotion.

Yes, part of the idea was that it would help keep the New England dream alive. More importantly, however, it gave Armidale a unique identifying feature that could help the city stand out in a crowded tourism market place.

I could never get this across. 

Why irony?

Well, while all the old debates about capital and system of government are still there, there is also a general acceptance of Armidale’s traditional role as capital in waiting.

The new state activist I am talking about was working with someonHRCP2419-New-State-Float-1963e from Armidale. Enthused, he talked to this person about the need for New England to have statehood, only to find that his colleague knew nothing about the new state cause, nor about Armidale’s role!

I have been asked by my colleagues in the Hunter to see if there is anyone in Armidale who would like to play a role in reviving the New England New State Movement.

If you would like to join the group, please email me and I will put you in touch.

Finally, the attached photo shows a New England New State Movement float in a 1963 Newcastle parade.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 16 June 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

L J Hill's Pretty Bird Tree

I have mentioned New England singer-song-writer L J Hill before. I have found several of his songs on You Tube videoed by an amateur during L J Hill's performance at the Basement in Sydney on 29 March 2009.

Part Australian Aboriginal, part Cherokee Indian and part Irish, L J Hill now lives in the Armidale area. His songs focus on the New England Tablelands and Western Slopes. One song follows - Pretty Bird Tree. You can find all the clips here.

According to the Armidale Express, L J Hill is in the process is in the process of making a fully professional video to show on You Tube.

You can order L J Hill's Namoi Mud album here. 

A song by Tenielle Musulin

My thanks to Sue Gleave from the Broke Community web site (Cockfighter Country) for this one. This video song by her niece, Tenielle Neda Musulin,  was filmed in and around Broke. Enjoy. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Search for Captain Thunderbolt

Australia's National Film and Sound Archives has launched an international search for a full copy of the Australian film Captain Thunderbolt. I have mentioned the movie before because it has both New England and family connections.

Captain Thunderbolt Trailer Sneak Peek from NFSA on Vimeo.

Filmed around Armidale and Uralla in 1951, the film made its international debut at the Capitol Theatre in Armidale in 1953. It attracted little interest from Australian cinemas, but finally made its money back from international sales.

Never a long movie, around 69 minutes in the original, the only copy that survives is a shortened TV version.
NFSA is looking for a full copy because it was one of a very few feature films made in Australia at the time, and is also seen as social commentary.

While the film does tell the story of one of Australia's bushrangers, one who has since acquired almost mythic proportions, it should not be read as history: New England historian Robin Walker rudely remarked that the film only connected with fact by accident!

From my perspective, the film was a very big thing. I don't remember it being made, I was very young, but I do remember the showing at the Capitol Theatre. Later I saw it again at school, but I don't know whether the second was the full or shortened version.

It wasn't just the fact that it dealt with a New England story, but also the interlocked connections between the film and all the extras that appeared in it, including my father and aunt. I was very young, but I should record my full memories at some point, including the things that I was told. Who knows whether or not the information was accurate, but it provides a feel.

When I went through the stills provided by the NSFA, I could remember some of the locations.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New England Story - Eve Uzzell

Today on my return from netball I watched, by accident, an ABC TV series that I had never seen before,Eva Uzzell Can we help? I really enjoyed it. In fact, one part reduced me to tears.

Newcastle girl Eve Uzzell was less than one when her father ( a corporal in the Australian Army) was killed in an accident on Stockton Bridge. She never knew him, and always wondered about him, for his death left her mother to bring up the kids alone. It wasn't easy, so her Dad was not discussed. Now she asked the program to find some of his former colleagues. You will find the transcript here.

Do you know, some of the best responses that I have received on my blogs have been simple stories recording details of personal pasts, of family stories. I haven't always been able to follow up people who contacted me in the way I should, but I do greatly value the responses.

We all have a deeply felt need to connect to our own pasts. I think that this need  has become greater as the speed of change has progressively locked the past out. I don't want to argue a case here about the nature of social change or changes in historical research. Rather, I would make the point that as the world changes, becomes clouded, we all tend to look to our own family and clan to provide a sense of personal continuity.

The reason that Eve's story reduced me to tears lay in its humanity. I don't know Eve, although I felt that I did a little after the program. However, I didn't need to know Eve to understand why the meeting with he father's friends (photo above) was important in bringing alive as a person the father she never knew. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

New State arguments 9 - benefits of self-government

This post introduces the benefits that New England might gain from statehood.

By way of background, after our defeat at the 1967 plebiscite, I kind of gave up. I was involved in other things, and the new state cause seemed dead, remote.

In 1981 an odd thing happened. I had begun writing a biography of my grandfather, David Drummond, as a PhD thesis in history. In 1981 I came back to Armidale to research and write full time. As I explored Drummond's views, I found my belief in the new state cause re-ignited.

When I came back to Armidale, I had had fourteen years experience in the Commonwealth Public Service and had become an SES (Senior Executive Service) officer. I now fed the new state arguments through my practical public service experience. Suddenly, things that had seemed political arguments made sense in a way that I had not seen before.

In the period since, I have worked as a Commonwealth SES officer concerned to bring about change, as a consultant, as the CEO of a specialist medical college and as a person providing demographic and policy advice to NSW Government agencies. Those experiences ended by reinforcing my views.

At a very personal level, I found myself wishing that I could have used my skills and experiences in a formal way to support New England social and economic development. I also found that each experience now reinforced my view that the existing system created fundamental structural impediments to the achievement of New England growth. I tried to bring about changes within the bounds set by current structures, but kept failing.

In June 2007, I began a series on this blog called Why I Remain an New England New Stater. This set out a few of the lessons I had learned.

I will extend this argument in later posts. At this stage, I want to make one simple point.

I care about New England. Indeed, some would say that I am obsessed! However, there is absolutely no way within current structures that I can do anything major about this. Without our own state, I have to keep piddling around the margins.

I have achieved some things; a house here, a change in housing policy there; recognition that Aboriginal demographic structures are different in regional NSW; I have helped re-create an interest in the history of the broader New England. Yet none of this matters a damn because the institutional structures continue to work against us.

So long as those like me who care about New England have no-where to go, so long as we have to try to work around existing structures, then New England will continue to go down.

I accept that I am one-eyed. Simply, I care.                

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Belshaw's World - life's a beach when it's cold in Sydney

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 9 June 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010
It’s raining in Sydney as I write. It feels like it’s been raining for ever. It’s also cold.
Sydney cold?

Well, perhaps not by Armidale standards. But once Sydney gets damp and cold, it gets miserable. The place simply isn’t geared for it.

Life goes on in the midst of damp gloom.

While the girls were at school, weekends were dominated by sport. Getting there, watching, getting back.
Sydney has some very good sporting facilities, but most sports do involve lots of travel. There simply isn’t the ready availability of local grounds that we take for granted in Armidale. There isn’t the space.

Today with the girls at university, weekend sport still features heavily, but with less parental driving.

Saturday is always netball.

Eldest is coaching two junior teams and also plays. This means two netball time slots, separated by a time gap of several hours.

I usually take Helen to the first game, the ten year olds, and then watch. This Saturday I found a place by a tree somewhat out of the wind.

I did feel sorry for the girls in their light netball tunics. Still, they did not seem to mind.

The worst thing about a wet Saturday is that my wife cannot get her obligatory exposure to the sea at Bronte.
Every fine Saturday she gathers there with her side of the family for coffee and just to sit.

I cannot share this obsession. Growing up in Armidale, the sea is a place to visit on holidays. Then it’s great. Otherwise, I get bored rigid.

The practical problem that I face is that Dee gets quite crabby without her Saturday Bronte exposure. It’s a bit like a heroin addict on withdrawal!

Sunday is always ZClare Agrippina Belshaw’s hockey.

ZClare Agrippina? Well may you ask.

The Z was added first. When queried by a Facebook friend, the answer was why not? Then Agrippina was added after a famous if somewhat strange lady from Ancient Rome.

ZClare Agrippina is a hockey goalie. It seems to suit Clare’s character: periods of danger and intense excitement, broken by longer periods when she has absolutely nothing to do!

When Clare first started playing hockey and I wanted to encourage her we worked out a deal. For every save she got a coke, for every goal she lost two cokes.

As she got better, the rules were changed to loss of four cokes for a goal.

Some other parents were just a tad appalled. Fancy giving the girl a coke!

I must say that I took the view that it kept her playing sport, and also gave us a personal fun thing that we shared. The coke has now dropped by the wayside, but the hockey continues.

At the June long weekend, she is playing her first representative match in the NSW State Women’s League Championships at Bathurst. She is playing in Division 1 just below the main State league. We have to work out whether or not we can get there.

Mind you, this raises another issue that will be familiar to many parents. Clare will want to stay with and mix with the team.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s all part of the normal adjustment process that all we parents go through as our kids grow up. However, I still find it hard to get used too.

I seem to have come some distance from my starting point.

It’s still very gloomy, but at least it’s stopped raining. I have to try to dry some clothes now for the week. Talk to you again next week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Drummond's life continues

Continuing the story of my grandfather's life: Drummond's life 3 - The Progressive Party 1920-1922.

Ready for tomorrow - Victoria pushes decentralisation

The Victorian Government's Ready for Tomorrow Strategy has received wide publicity. You will find the strategies here, an example of the coverage here.

Now before I go on, two points.

NSW might argue that it has already moved some Government agencies to Bathurst and did so a long time ago. It is also the case that NSW is a much bigger state in geographic terms. The places that Victoria is focusing on are all closer to Melbourne than Bathurst is to Sydney.

All that said, the Victorian move is proactive and illustrates the gap between that state and NSW where planning is reactive and narrowly focused on service delivery.

One of the reasons why so many of us support self-government for New England is just to get out from under, to have a chance to do our own thing. In the meantime, we could all wish that the NSW Government had a better vision, instead of a State Plan based around a series of loosely connected and mechanistic performance indicators.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A note on loss of the young and country sport

NSW Women's State Hockey Championships records my reactions to visiting Bathurst to watch Clare (youngest) play her first game of representative hockey.

One issue that I recorded in that post is the impact on women's hockey in the country of the loss of young people. It's not just the question of overall loss. It's also the impact of the loss of young people to university study at critical age ranges. This is already a significant issue, but will become more so if Government targets for the percentage of young attending university are achieved.

The problem is not limited just to country areas traditionally defined, but applies to all centres where university study requires kids to leave home to go to another place.

I am not saying that we should stop kids going to university. Far from it. I am saying that we should recognise the community impacts involves.

Hockey NSW's answer appears to lie in part in changing the rules so that kids who go away and play for another team in their new locale should still be eligible for representative selection in teams from their home area should they chose. This strikes me as a good idea, but I wonder what else might be done?

    I don't have a clear view here. I am just posting so that the question is on the record.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Break in transmission

I am in Bathurst where youngest is playing as goalie in the state hockey competition. Will resume transmission Tuesday.  

Belshaw's World - New England films feature Dungog film festival

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 2 June 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010

I have been drawing up a list of things that I must do in New England before I die.

That’s not being morbid. I suddenly realised that the list of things I haven’t done is now so long that it is going to take years to catch up!

One current priority is to go to the Dungog Film Festival, a celebration of Australian film. The fourth festival was on last weekend.

This Festival has been a quite remarkable success. Part of its interest lies in the way it deals with film making from script workshops to rough cut views to final releases.

Given my own interests, it won’t surprise you that I looked for activities with a New England connection.

One script workshopped this year was by Marcus Waters.

A Kamilaroi man, Marcus Waters is a writer and film maker now lecturing at Griffith University.

The script tells the story of Elijah Waters and his younger sister Katie. Reared in the Aboriginal boxing tents by his grandfather, Waters returns home after 17 years to find his grandfather’s legacy in tatters.

A drunken useless father has died leaving the family property under foreclosure. Elijah also discovers he has a younger sister (Katie) trapped in an abusive foster care system. Elijah’s own life is in ruins. Now, finding Katie, he breaks her out and together they go on a journey of discovery. The only way that Elijah can support them is to become part of the brutal and violent world of underground bare fist boxing, where gambling and high stakes dictate loyalty and support.

I was interested in this one not just because of the Kamilaroi connection, but also because the plot links to the show boxing round.

Boxing troupes such as Jimmy Shaman’s used to be a main feature at the Armidale Show.

The drum would start beating to draw the crowd. Attracted by the noise, my brother and I would come drifting across the rutted dusty ground towards the stand. There we would stand, while the spruiker expounded the virtues of the fighters.

"Come on, come on, come on. Give it a go. Survive three rounds and we will give you five pounds."

Each fighter would be brought forward and introduced to the crowd. "Surely some of you blokes can beat him. Three rounds, five pounds." The locals would hold up their hands and be called into the stand to be fitted out.

Many of the boxers were Aboriginal, for this was one way in which Aboriginal people with limited opportunities could achieve success.

Dungog also saw the showing of the rough cut of Bathing Franky.

Described as the edgy debut feature of director Owen Elliot and writer Michael Winchester (both also produced), the film was shot in Dungog and around the Hunter Valley

Steve, (Shaun Goss) a young man on parole, is finding it hard to deal with his time in prison. He meets Rodney (Henri Szeps), a wildly irrepressible older man, who is the full time carer of his mother Franky (Maria Venuti). An intimate friendship between Steve and Rod develops, leaving Rod torn between the love and loyalty that he feels for his ailing and dependent mother, and his desire to lead his own life.

I am not sure about this one, I get enough human dramas anyway. I was more attracted to Lou, a new feature due in cinemas on 17 June.

Shot in and around her hometown of Murwillumbah by writer/director Belinda Chayko and based in part on her own family, the film tells the story of eleven year old Lou.

Lou’s life is turned upside down when her father walks out. Afraid to let anyone hurt her again, blaming her mother for her father’s departure, Lou builds a tough shell around her heart.

Life suddenly changes when her estranged Grandfather moves in to the family's rented home. Doyle is ill and befuddled. Confused, he mistakes his granddaughter for his long departed wife. Lou, intrigued, plays along, using her bond with Doyle against her mother. As the game progresses, Lou's tough exterior is chipped away; ultimately she understands what it is to be loved and in the most unexpected of circumstances.

In all, three very different works showing a different aspect of the modern New England experience.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Movie Lou's trailer now up

In 4th Dungog Film Festival - New England films I referred to a new New England movie called Lou. Set in Murwillumbah, Lou is a tender story about the relationship between 11-year-old Lou and her grandfather. Not long after Lou's father walks out of her life, her irascible and befuddled grandfather crashes in. But when Doyle comes to stay, Lou discovers, against all her expectations, the healing power of love.

The trailer us now up. I commend the film to you. It made me cry.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Hunter Valley Concerns

I hadn't intended to post again today and especially not on new state issues. However, in a comment Mark referred to a Newcastle Herald story setting out local concerns about cash raised from the Valley by Sydney compared to local spend.

You will find the story here.

NSW Budget 10-11: mining royalties

I haven't had time to do a proper review of the 2010-2011 NSW budget. However, I did want to look at royalty payments since most of these come from New England.

The table below provides a summary of some revenue variables.

  08-09 actual $m 09-10 revised $m 10-11 budget $m
Total revenue 49,663 55,492 57,669
less Commonwealth payments 22,309 26,798 26,741
State source revenue 27,354 28,694 30,928
royalties 1,279 953 1,745

You can see just how important Commonwealth payments to NSW are. This creates a practical management problem for the NSW Treasury because of uncertainties associated with the level and timing of Commonwealth payments.

I was surprised at the fall in the royalty amount in 2009-2010. Royalty payments had been rising sharply. Why, then, did they fall? The answer appears to lie in the value of the Australian dollar.

Methods of calculating royalty payments vary between the states. In the NSW case, the rise in the value of the Australian dollar reduced $A payments to mining companies. The huge rise in projected royalty payments in 2010-2011, 48.5% of the projected increase in state source revenues, is due in part to the decline in the value of the Australian dollar, more to projected increases in production.  

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hunter Valley calls for New England new state grows

Back in March 2008, Newcastle Herald columnist Jeff Corbett  floated the idea of a reformed New State Movement and self-government  for the North. He began his blog post:

Just think how well off we'd be if the regions of New England, the Hunter and northern NSW could spend all rather than some of their government contributions on themselves.

Since then, the idea has been slowly gaining traction in discussion and in comments on newspaper stories and indeed on this blog. See, for example, the comments on the 11 May 2010 Herald story on Cessnock City Council planning powers.

There has in fact been a fair bit of discussion on and off over the last twenty years about new states in general and self-government for New England in particular. Ian Johnston's one man campaign is an example. I think that those interested, me included at one point, thought that simply putting the matter on the table would re-ignite interest. However, while these kept the idea alive, they failed to gain the traction necessary to restart full agitation.

In discussions with Jack Arnold from Armidale on Ian's campaign, I put the problem this way: we have lost so much of history and folklore that people don't have a framework any more. All the various calls for sub-division or New England statehood were essentially starting from scratch instead of being seen as another stage in a long-running campaign. The sense of Northern or New England identity had become attenuated, diminished. 

You can see this process if you look at work done at the University of New England. At its foundation, this university seen as a central part of the infrastructure required to create a New England new state and indeed took its regional role very seriously.

One outcome was a wave of research and writing into different aspects of New England history and life. One example was the way the combination of New State agitation with academic research and writing maintained a focus on decentralisation throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Another example was the focus on regional extension activities. A third was a wave of historical research; theses, research papers, articles and books. This explains why the history of Northern NSW including Aboriginal times is the best documented of all Australian regional areas.

From the 1980s much of this activity progressively eroded. This was partially due to institutional factors, changes within the University itself, in funding arrangements for universities and in the broader and sometimes disastrous impact of changing Australian Government approaches to higher education. However, it was also due to loss of the focus and momentum previously created by the existence of active new state agitation.

The University's specialist regional history collection provides an an interesting example. The original geographic boundaries were based on the new state boundaries. However, with the passage of time the boundaries were altered from the new state boundaries to northern LGA boundaries, while the Hunter was excluded. The new state origins became a footnote.

Another symptom was the progressive decline in regional historical research measured by theses and research papers. This was a loss not just to New England, but to non-metropolitan history in general. The word decentralisation dropped from policy usage.

In saying all this I am not being critical of UNE, nor am I oblivious of the work done by, say, Newcastle University in documenting the history of the Hunter. I am concerned with the broad pattern. 

To my mind, the most striking change since Jeff Corbett wrote his 2008 column has been the re-birth of interest in New England (Northern) history. Like most changes, this actually began a little earlier. However, you can see it clearly now in, for example, discussion on this blog and on the new New England New State Movement Facebook page.

Sure numbers are still small: 44 members on the Facebook page, some six who have put their hands up to join a group planning a Newcastle public meeting to test public feeling for a re-launch. However, beyond this is now a constant bubble of public discussion.

Those further north may see a sense of irony in the fact that the key agitation this time is coming from the Hunter. After all, it was the votes in Newcastle and, to a lesser extent, the dairying industries of the lower Hunter and Manning Valley frightened of losing access to the Sydney milk market that cost us the yes vote in 1967. However, this misses a key point.

Each re-birth of new state agitation has come from a different area.

In the nineteenth century, it was the Clarence Valley and part of the Tablelands. Towards the end of the First World War it was the Clarence. From 1920 it was Tamworth. Then, from the end of the Second World War, it was Armidale. Each new burst has been triggered by local grievances that then gathered broader support.

Now it's the Hunter's turn.

The first call in the Hunter for the creation of a Northern New State came from the decentralisation movement of the 1880s. Yes, that early. This was a mass movement concerned about metro dominance that began in Victoria and then spread. This is where the later popular term decentralisation came from.

I have absolutely no problem with the Hunter as part of New England, nor the fact that it is Hunter people who are driving. I just glory in that fact that for the first time for many years there are people who want to talk about what new states mean, who are interested in their history, who want to know about past analysis and conclusions.

I have no idea whether this interest will translate to a sustained movement. I just know that for the first time for many years there are people prepared to look at the broader New England, to fight the divide and rule policy that has emasculated collective analysis and action.

Achievement of New England self government is necessarily a longer term objective. Achievement of local and regional gains through collective action is an immediate benefit. I think that that's pretty good. 

Monday, June 07, 2010

Reflections on New England identity

I am not posting today in any substantive way because I spent a fair bit of time over the weekend getting the next chapter in the Drummond biography ready to post - Drummond's life 2 - Entry into politics 1907 - 1920.

I am bringing this material on now because with current interest in the revival of the new state cause, Drummond's life provides a perspective on some elements of New England history, the rise of the Movement, as well his own story. Sadly, very little has been published that can provide an entry point to this part of our collective history.

In a comment, Mark expressed surprise at the size of the Movement. This was not just a minority pressure group, a footnote in Australia's history, but a genuine movement that achieved considerable results.

Of course, my personal links mean that I can, with accuracy, be accused of bias. Still, in writing, I have tried to provide the evidence to support my conclusions.

Just at present, there is a fair bit of interest in what constitutes the New England sense of self-identity. Part of my problem is that, in growing up, I never questioned what it meant to be a New Englander, it just was, self-evident.

I might not agree, for example, with the ALP and some of the views expressed in Newcastle, but I never thought of Newcastle as being other than part of New England, our big city. It was only later when I came to do my research into Drummond and the history of the Movement that I found that there were debates and disputes about boundaries.

In the forty plus years since the defeat of the plebiscite, the concept of New England has become vaguer, more attenuated. The difference between the New England (the Tablelands) and the broader New England or North has also become an issue.

To some, New England now just means the Tablelands or perhaps Tablelands and Western Slopes. Even the very idea of the Tablelands itself has become blurred because of the way regional boundaries are drawn.

Now, when I look at some of the discussions on our sense of identity, I write because I must, to restate things that I used to take for granted.

In writing as an historian, my views are subject to challenge. Indeed, they should be. The craft of history is in part a dialectic between different ideas, a professional discourse. However, I like to think that the material I write will show people within New England something about their own past. I also like to think that my writing will make that history accessible to people outside New England, to challenge the deeply held assumption that Australia is, in some ways, a single uniform whole where variance links just to broad differences such as class, gender, party or race.

There is very little room for for regional difference in the way history is currently written. I would like to change that. We do have our own history, and need access to it.     

Sunday, June 06, 2010

New State arguments 8 - why Sydney needs out from NSW

In the past, one of the most basic problems in achieving self-government lay in the fact that Sydney would lose jobs and economic control. This is not an anti-Sydney argument, just a practical refection. The position has changed.

Sydney's problem now is that the need for a NSW Government to consider broader issues in an increasingly fragmented and disparate state means that Sydney itself is not getting the attention it needs.

Sydney as a city has been losing position to Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The use of the Sydney Statistical District as a construct for Sydney conceals this to some the extent. The Sydney Statistical district includes the Blue Mountains and Central Coast. This combination shows Sydney still increasing its share of the NSW population. However, Sydney as traditionally defined has in fact been been losing share.

The Sydney Morning Herald as Sydney's local paper has been campaigning for several years for action to address Sydney's needs. Schools, transport and declining infrastructure have been central to that campaign.

Sydney defines itself as Australia's global city. It has become a city state in it's own right. Yet it's image is increasingly blurred. The NSW Government's brand Sydney campaign has been a fiasco. By contrast, Melbourne has reinvented itself as Australia's life style capital. In the absence of change, it seems likely that Sydney's relative decline will continue.

In smaller Victoria, the Government through its jigsaw strategy has been able to promote Melbourne and the Victorian regions. This is not possible in NSW. Further, with increasingly limited state resources, conflicts over the investment required to rebuild Sydney are inevitable.

In a NSW consisting of Sydney and its immediate environs, the Government could focus on its core mission of making Sydney Australia's greatest city.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The life of David Henry Drummond 1890-1941

Given the growing interest in New England history and the New England New State Movement, I have decided to bring on line the biography I wrote of my grandfather, David Drummond. It covers his life up to the end of 1941 when the NSW Government of which he was part suffered electoral defeat.

The biography was written as a PhD thesis and needs some editing and updating to be suitable for print publication. However, I think that it's a reasonable read. More importantly, it provides a picture of the political events in which Drummond was involved, including the New State Movement. I have left the original introduction out. I will look at that later.

For length reasons, I am going to bring it up a chapter at a time, treating it as a serial: chapter one: Drummond's life chapter 1 - A troubled child: family life 1890-1907.   

Friday, June 04, 2010

New State arguments 7 - the constitutional position

At the time the Australian Federation was formed, the existing state structure was not seen as fixed in stone for all time. For that reason, the Australian constitution includes specific provisions that allow for the admission and governance of new territories, for alteration of state boundaries, for mergers between states or parts of states and for the subdivision of existing states.

The relevant section reads:   

Chapter VI. New States.

121. The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.

122. The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.

123. The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.

124. A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.

Since the Federation was formed, these provisions have been used a number of times.

Within Australia, they provide the basis for the governance of the Australian Capital and Northern Territories. Both remain territories rather than states. The NT itself was a territory of South Australia at the time of Federation. In 1911, control was transferred to the Commonwealth by parallel legislation in both jurisdictions.

Externally to Australia, they provide the basis for the acquisition and administration of external territories. In 1933, for example, land in Antarctica claimed by the Empire was transferred to Australia by Imperial order and accepted by an Act of the Australian Parliament. In another example, in 1955 Australia accepted responsibility for the Cocos Keeling Islands via parallel legislation passed in the British and Australian Parliaments. 

While the territories' power has been exercised, the new states or subdivision power has not. Further, its exact meaning has not been tested. However, on the words alone, a referendum in the state or states involved is required plus parallel legislation in the jurisdictions involved.  

Given that a formal process exists for the creation of new states, the problems involved have always been political rather than constitutional. There is no present mechanism that allows for the creation of new states without the effective consent of the governing party in that state, regardless of the views of the people. Governments in power have proved very reluctant to do anything that would diminish their power. For that reason, all the new state movements over time have campaigned for constitutional change.

One of the odd things about the arguments put by those in power against subdivision is that they are a bit like the compulsive sinner who pleads with God for help to reform, but not just yet! Those arguing against specific new state proposals have often said things like there will be new states, but the times not right or this specific case doesn't make sense. It is, in fact, very hard to argue a general case that existing state structures must be fixed for all time. It doesn't make a great deal of sense.

We saw an interesting example of this a week or so back in Queensland. I quote from the Courier Mail of 27 May 2010:

NORTH Queensland should not be allowed to break off into another state, because it would cost the state on the football field, Treasurer Andrew Fraser says.

Premier Anna Bligh and her senior ministers faced a public forum today in which they were questioned on topics ranging from daylight saving to abortion.

But in a question on the perennial issue of whether north Queensland should be made a separate state, the north Queensland-born treasurer and rugby league fan was not a supporter.

Mr Fraser said the breadth and diversity of the state was its great strength.

"It allows us to beat NSW at State of Origin as well, which is worth pointing out," he said.

"... JT (Johnathan Thurston) and others all hail from the north and we'd be pretty foolish to cast that aside."

Queensland beat their NSW rivals 28-24 in the first Origin game for 2010 last night in which Thurston won man of the match.

On a serious note, Mr Fraser said Australia's state boundaries could move in the next century, as settlement patterns changed.

Here you see the usual pattern of dismissal along with the sop of possible change later.

Do the political problems involved make change impossible? The answer to that is no. No political entity can preserve itself in the long term if a significant proportion of its population demands change strongly enough.

Had New England voted yes at the 1967 plebiscite (and it was pretty close), the NSW Government would have been forced to respond. At a political level, it might have tried to temporise and delay by offering other forms of concessions and benefits.

Of itself, this is not to be sneezed at. However, the Government would also have been forced to address the next round issues, including whether a NSW referendum was required, as well as the practical issues involved in separation.

In 1967, a NSW referendum might well have failed. I am not sure that is true today for reasons I will set out in another post. However, if New England again voted yes even though NSW as a whole voted no, another set of dynamics would have been created that would have maintained the pressure for change. This would probably have led to increased devolution of power as an intermediate step. 

Significant change takes time.

The Scottish Nationalist Party was formed in 1934, although its predecessors were older. At the time, the idea of a Scottish Parliament seemed a long way a way. In 1978, the then Labour Government passed an Act providing for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament subject to a referendum. While a majority of those voting voted yes, this failed to get the required absolute proportion. In May 1997, the Blair Labour Government was elected on a platform promising another referendum. This one passed, and Scotland gained its Parliament.

In New England, the New State Movement collapsed after the 1967 result and the bitter in-fighting at the NSW election that followed. The pressure stopped to the ultimate detriment of all New England. Further, since the New England Movement as the most powerful movement had been the main national driver for the other separation movements, the whole cause declined.

Yet today the issue is clearly coming back onto the agenda in New England and elsewhere. The pressure is coming back.


In comments, Mark pointed to a very useful paper by UNE's Bryan Pape, Federalism for the Second Century, that summarises the changes that have taken place in the constitution, discusses constitutional principles and argues the case for constitutional change including especially new states.

Mark also pointed to a story in the Australian of 6 April 2010 in which Percy Allan, former head of the NSW Treasury, is quoted as arguing the case for more states. In part support, Mr Allan points to the difficulties he experienced in NSW in trying to devolve more power to the regions.   

Thursday, June 03, 2010

New England delegation meets then NSW Opposition Leader Askin

I wasn't feeling like a detailed post today. Instead, I decided just to run a photo with brief comments. I ended up spending far more time than I had available with limited reNew State relegation meets NSW Opposition leader Askinsults.

All I really wanted was a photo that would show some aspect of past New England life. For the life of me, I couldn't find what I wanted.

This photo from the State Library of NSW shows a New England New State Movement delegation meeting then NSW Opposition Leader Robert Askin. This is the only New England New State Movement Photo in the entire Picture Australia collection.

No date is given, nor are are any names identified. There are two faces that I know but cannot for the life of me attach names too. However, I can tell you this much.

Since Mr Askin is opposition leader, this was prior to the 1965 State election at which Mr Askin became premier. The grant of a referendum on New England self-government was an election commitment. This, a commitment to a new referendum, is something that some of us want to work for at the 2010 election.

Immediately to the left of Mr Askin is Peter Wright (poet Judith Wright's brother) who was chair of the Movement's Executive Committee. Peter's personal contribution to New England causes was quite remarkable. To the right is Davis (Bill) Hughes who was member for Armidale.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Belshaw's World - facebook, gossip and the allure of Armidale

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 26 May 2010. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010

I had intended to write another column on New England films. Then a comment by Alexander Mendoza on the Save the Beardy Street Mall Facebook page caught my eye. He wrote:

“When I didn’t work all day, I used to go down town and sit outside for hours at Caffeinds and Rumours because it was good food, and good company. I always knew that I’d bump into someone down there.”

This really struck a chord.

In case you haven’t worked it out by now, I really love Armidale. I can’t help it. It’s just part of what I am.

For much of my working life, I have lived outside Armidale: first I lived in Canberra or Queanbeyan; then, after nine years back in Armidale, we moved to Sydney.

Throughout I kept coming back. Year after year I came back for events, or just to visit for the weekend.

After Dad and then Mum died, I came back to stay with Aunt Kay and Uncle Ron.

Ron and I had a game. I had to find out what was happening in town that he didn’t know and in the shortest possible time! The pattern was always the same.

Saturday morning, I would go downtown to the Mall, buy a paper and then (weather permitting) sit down outside.

Ordering coffee and breakfast, I would read my paper and then watch the world go by. Nearly always, I would see people that I knew who would stop for a chat.

Breakfast finished, I would go for a wander around the shops. By the time I went back for lunch, I could tell Ron what was going on!

After we moved back to Armidale, and then again on weekend trips back after our move to Sydney, there was a similar pattern: Saturday morning breakfast in the Mall, followed by shopping.

You can see that the Mall was central in all this. It unified the pattern of traffic across the CBD by providing a central focus.

I have spoken before about the remarkable reinvention of Melbourne as the lifestyle city.

City life is not just services nor convenience: it’s lifestyle and interaction between people. Lose this and you lose the city.

It seems that you can take people out of Armidale, but not Armidale out of the people.

Both my daughters are heavily involved in the consuming life of Sydney. I don’t see any way of digging them out of this. Yet recently I had a surprise.

Eldest was nine when we left Armidale. Now twenty two, she still classifies herself as a country girl and has Armidale as her hometown on her Facebook page.

One of Helen’s friends (Jenny) challenged her about her Facebook page. Why did she say that she was a country girl and from Armidale when she was clearly a Sydney Eastern Suburbs’ chick?

Helen got quite upset. Joined by sister Clare, she launched a spirited defence of Armidale and country girls, combined with an attack on the Eastern Suburbs equivalent.

I was taken a bit by surprise. I have no expectation at this point that either girl would want to live in Armidale, but the connection is still there.

This brings me to another point.

Regular readers of this column will know that I am writing a history of the broader New England.

Doing this from Sydney is proving difficult. The travel I need to do is all north, while I don’t have easy and immediate access to the records and contacts that I need in Armidale.

Given these problems, the family has agreed that I might base myself in Armidale while I’m finishing the book. Previously this would have been difficult because of my role as major child care. However, with both girls now at university, this is no longer an issue.

The suggestion does not involve breaking the family up. Rather, the idea is to create two nodes that we can all move between as circumstances permit.

Now I have to work out how we might fund this.

When I was in Armidale before, I used Armidale as a base and earned most of my income outside the city. That meant a fair bit of travel. To do this now would be self-defeating.

So the issue that we are working through now is just how I might earn enough cash in Armidale to actually fund the whole thing. And that I don’t know yet!

Stats on university participation in New England

Today's post on my personal blog, Measuring regional disadvantage in higher education, looks at the latest report on the reasons for differential university participation rates across Australia. I just wanted to mention here that appendix five provides a breakdown by LGA. This allows the New England pattern to be analysed.

I am not sure that this will tell us anything that we don't already know in broad terms, but the detail is likely to be interesting in increasing our understanding of regional patterns within New England.

Unfortunately, I don't have the systems or skills to strip the data from the PDF. This means that I have to re-enter data by hand before I can do analysis. This takes time. In the meantime, those interested in New England higher education may find the report interesting.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Deaths of Paul Johnstone, Don Day

In providing commentary on New England life and issues, I do try to monitor obituaries. It's not possible to catch them all, but I do try to pick up some where I know people whose lives have illuminated aspects of New England life. In this case, the obituaries' section of the Sydney Morning Herald pointed me to two recent deaths. 

In the comments that follow, I haven't repeated all the material in the obituaries. Rather, I have given a summary with some personal comments to set a context.

Paul Lorimer Johnstone was born on November 12, 1922, the second of five children, and the only son of John (Jack) Johnstone and his wife, Noemi (De Lepervanche). Like his father, he was educated at the Armidale School, where he was a keen sportsman.

In 1939 Paul joined the legal firm A.W. Simpson & Co, Armidale's oldest law firm, where his father was a partner. In 1941, he enlisted with the 2nd/6th Australian Armoured Regiment, rose to lieutenant and served in New Guinea in 1942 and 1943.

After the war Paul returned to Simpsons, completed his exams and was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW in 1948. That same year, he married Rosemary Nivison. Paul practised law at Simpsons as a partner and later as a consultant until his retirement.

A simple story, but one with many textures centred on his profession and community life.

Professionally, Paul held executive positions in the North & North West Law Society and was president in 1968 and 1969. This is quite important, for with country professionals (lawyers, accountants, doctors engineers etc) their professional associations are central to keeping them in touch.Kath Vickers, Paul Johnstone 1999

Paul was a keen sportsman who played a key role in the development of the Armidale Tennis Club holding many official positions. He also played squash, was a clay pigeon shooter and, later in life, a golfer.

The photo from cousin Jamie's collection shows Paul and Aunt Kay (Kathleen Vickers nee Drummond) as joint patrons of the Tennis Club in 1999. The honour board behind them carries their joint names in the two years they won the mixed doubles in the early 1950s.

Today it is hard to believe just how important tennis was. Throughout much of the twentieth century, tennis was the dominant social sport across New England, providing a key element in the social life of big and small communities alike.

Paul's contribution to community activities was enormous. Outside sport, he was on the TAS Council as his father had been before him; he was active in Legacy, in the construction of retirement homes and a founding member of the committee to build a handicapped children's centre; he worked for civic improvements in general, and was chair of Council at the Armidale College of Advanced Education.

In her obituary, daughter Pamela records that her father had a sense of humour and a quick wit. He was a generous host and loved to invite people to his home for dinner, not always giving appropriate notice to wife Rosemary.

I didn't quite see him this way.

I knew Paul all my life, but not well. As a child, one of the Johnstone's trees was on our fruit collection round in the early mornings when we went out scavenging. Given our age difference, I always saw Paul as an older, more formal, figure. I knew he was active in community activities, but actually had no idea as to how much he had achieved until I read the obituary. I wish that I had known him better.

Don Day was a very different man, if with the same community focus.

Don and I came from different sides of politics. He was Labor Party, I was Country Party. I was a campaigner for self-government, he was opposed. Yet, and for reasons that I will explain in a moment, I had a high respect for him.

Don was born in Victoria in 1924 and grew up in the Depression years. Alex Mitchell records that Don went to Swinburne Technical College, began his working life as a fitter and turner and became an ALP supporter. After war service, he began an engineering degree, but with a wife and young family to support he gave up his studies to enter the rural motor trade at Maclean. He served in local government for 19 years, as deputy mayor of Maclean municipality, deputy shire president and chairman of the Lower Clarence County Council, and was active on the hospital board and in the local chamber of commerce.

I first came across Don during our campaign for self-government. He was already active in local government and in the ALP and was the most visible new state opponent in the Clarence, visible via statements and letters to the editor. Friend Geoff and I as first year university students decided to take him on.

I have often wondered what happened to Geoff, for we lost contact after university. He came from Grafton, had a shock of long hair that he threw back. I used to join him at the Earle Page townhouse in Dangar Street. There we would peruse the Grafton Daily Examiner and compose our replies via letters to the editor.

We wrote under various names, then posting the letters. For a period, our exchanges with Don dominated the letter pages!

New England is so fragmented today that we forget just how small and interlinked it was then. Everybody knew everybody, or at least somebody who knew somebody. It was the following year, I think, that Don's daughter Jenny came to UNE and we became friends. So I was campaigning against Don on one side, socialising with his daughter on the other!

In 1971, Don won the state seat of Casino for the ALP. This marked a major breach-head in the previous Country Party dominance of the North Coast, although I am a little suspicious of Alex Mitchell's interpretation here.

I think the key point to remember is that country people, and I still classify myself this way, have different expectations of their members of parliament from those in city electorates. They actually know them personally and have a primary belief that the member represents them at a personal and locality level. Their personal expectations are far higher, but they also give loyalty in return. 

The Country Party may have stuffed up to some degree, but Don won because he had fought for, and was known to have fought, for local concerns. He held the seat for the same reason until his retirement as member in 1984, including a period as minister. Once he retired, the ALP promptly list the seat.

I have always wondered a little how Don fitted into the ALP machine. He was loyal to the Party by tradition and sentiment, but was always prepared to fight against dominant interests including city perceptions. He lost some, but his approach brought substantial benefits to his electorate.

I suspect, I may be wrong, that by 1984 the gap between Don and some views in the ALP may have begun to wear him down a little. Upon retirement, Don remained active on his farm outside Maclean. Even today, he is remembered as an active and effective local members.