Home' Ausmarine : August 2009 Contents Early in the days of Mikhael Gorbachev's Perestroika, I visited a
St Petersburg shipyard. Entering the side door of a massive shed
I was confronted by a 100-metre hovercraft with four huge
turbines at the aft end. Designed to carry military tanks at 50
knots, but as my host assured me, it could also carry
commercial cargoes such as semi-trailers. The vessel was 95
percent complete and covered in dust.
"Why don't you finish the vessel?" I asked.
My host lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet. "We ran out of
cash and enemies at the same time!"
Perestroika was Russia's means of overcoming the country's
process of stagnation and the economy braking to a halt (we could
do with that!) as well as creating an effective mechanism for
propelling social and economic progress.
I then visited Nevsky shipyard, where the 1,100 staff had not
been paid for five months. They still turned up and worked for no
wages, but all of them had a large meal at lunchtime in the yard's
canteen. There were a few river/sea vessels almost finished in the
yard, but no customers, no cash flow, and an air of despondency.
Through a translator, the yard manager said there appeared to be
no hope, and they were hanging on for someone to save the day.
They were looking for a hero.
Heroes are thin on the ground. We have seen the movie
"Braveheart" where the hero Wallace displayed great leadership in
convincing his men essentially to do what they didn't want to do,
and overcome significant odds. That's what leadership is all about.
Heroes leave a better place, whereas deadbeat leaders leave a trail of
disaster. Observe Mugabe.
I sat beside a politician on a Qantas flight some years ago and as
we chatted, I expressed concern about gambling addiction
throughout Australia and asked this young man did he agree with
Rupert Murdoch's suggestion that gambling should be restricted, as
in the US, to somewhere in the desert like Alice Springs, instead of
every corner pub, club and newsagent.
"Oh I agree," he gushed.
"Well if you agree, why don't you be a hero and stand up and
shout about it?" I asked.
"Oh no," he said, "If I did that, I'd be out of a job in two weeks!"
His heroism and conviction were obviously kept in a small matchbox.
I don't suffer imposters well and reminded him rather tersely
that he was elected to stand up for what was good for the country.
The conversation came to an abrupt halt.
Singapore had a hero Prime Minister in the form of Lee Kuan
Yew, who transformed the small island nation into a respectable
economic powerhouse. Like most heroes, he knew that a sure
measure of failure is trying to please everyone.
January this year saw a US Airways plane with 155 people on
board ditched into a chilly Hudson River, apparently after a bird
strike upon take off from New York's LaGuardia Airport.
Everyone on board was saved and as the situation settled, the
flight's pilot emerged as a hero, with praise being heaped on him by
passengers, officials and aviation experts. Yes, there was a damaged
plane and some pollution, but perspective was maintained.
A month later on Australia's east coast, the Captain of the
'Pacific Adventurer', caught in weather worse than forecast, with
the ship rolling excessively, had his ship damaged by containers
lost over the side. Nevertheless he saved the ship and the crew and
slowly crept into port. No hero this, according to the rattlesnakes
of the Australian media, unions and politics, he lost some fuel
which was polluting beaches and he just endured scorn!
Australia's greatest challenge would be the lack of water in the
Murray Darling. Addressing this, there are two options of the
Bradfield Scheme raised first in the 1930s, and endorsed in the last
decade by Engineers Australia.
The first is the North Queensland scheme involving
moving water principally into the Thomson from the
Tully-Herbert-Burdekin Rivers, and then into the headwaters of the
Warrego, the top end of the Murray Darling system.
The second option involves the drawing of water from the
Mann River, near Grafton in northern New South Wales.
Dr Daniel Connell, an ANU academic, says the system is too
costly, but where in history will you find a hero who was an
academic hiding behind the skirts of high cost?
Read about the lively discussion on the Snowy Mountains
scheme and the scorners who said it was too costly to undertake.
Thank God for the country that some vision prevailed.
Should we spend 43 billion dollars on internet upgrades so we
can download penis enlargement, pornography adverts and other
rubbish much faster? Will this create employment?
How about doing both options of the Bradfield Scheme!
Can't afford it? No, we can't afford to ignore it!
Imagine the increase in employment, exports and general
wealth by giving the Murray Darling an abundance of good water.
Imagine hearing of families deciding to stay out there instead of
abandoning their homesteads in despair.
As our cash reserves continue to be depleted by economic
stagnation and an ever expanding bureaucracy, and our
unemployment climbs steadily upwards, we need Perestroika, and a
hero capable of good decisions.
Looking for a hero
With STUART BALLANTYNE
August 2009 AUSMARINE
THE EDUCATION OF AN
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