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Founding Fathers

 

I have long taken and interest and have a different historical spin on the early colony.  I think it was  a relatively insignificant project concocted by a few enthusiasts in London who had in mind an experiment for turning some selected gutter trash convicts into useful citizens and perhaps 'civilising' or bringing God's Grace to the natives of New South Wales into the bargain.  They 'sold' the project to the government of the day on the grounds of the potential economic value of the pines and flax, identified on Cook's voyage, by Banks; by suggesting that the transportation would ease the load on domestic prisons by removing minor felons capable of being reformed; and by suggesting that a colony would strengthen the British strategic position in the south Pacific, and later the Indian Ocean, initially against the French.  As this latter purpose came to fruition Sydney was heavily fortified to protect the British South Pacific fleet against the Russians.  Some of those forts, notably Fort Dennison, are still in place today.

Many of these 'Founding Fathers' were under the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment and/or residual Scottish Puritanism.  They considered it a noble project, possibly a duty, to encourage people to better themselves or alternatively to bring them the redemption of the Gospels.  It was a pet project of Banks, in particular, who was keen to see the territory that he had helped to discover as a younger man, amount to something.  I doubt that they fully believed in any of the official reasons for the undertaking; and clearly there was never whole-hearted enthusiasm for the project in the Parliament or Whitehall.  The abolition of slavery was a hot political topic at the time and many were beginning to doubt the effectiveness of transportation at all.  Yet the reformation of criminals was successfully undertaken in NSW and it was clearly not accidental.

The Bigge Inquiry (1819-21) was to set up by the Parliament investigate these issues.  It raised concerns about the freedoms given to cooperative convicts and recommended harsher treatment more closely befitting a penal colony.  Far from being violent, NSW was revealed to be one of the most benign and humane societies; by the standards of the time.  Of course there were some bad choices among those transported, recidivists among the convicts and not a few bad apples among their guards.  These generally found themselves relocated to Tasmania or Norfolk Island.  But many made good; were emancipated; and given land.  Bigge, somewhat contrarily, also recommended a higher degree of democratic government, leading to the establishment of the NSW Legislative Council, and a number of other beneficial reforms.   As a result NSW soon enjoyed one of the highest living standards in the world.  Bigge himself was revealed to be yet another enlightenment figure and qualifies, along with his opponent Macquarie, as a principal architect of Australia's future success.  Not to be forgotten in this development, and the rise of the colony, was Brisbane who followed on from Macquarie and Bigge; another Scotsman.

 

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Travel

India and Nepal

 

 

Introduction

 

In October 2012 we travelled to Nepal and South India. We had been to North India a couple of years ago and wanted to see more of this fascinating country; that will be the most populous country in the World within the next two decades. 

In many ways India is like a federation of several countries; so different is one region from another. For my commentary on our trip to Northern India in 2009 Read here...

For that matter Nepal could well be part of India as it differs less from some regions of India than do some actual regions of India. 

These regional differences range from climate and ethnicity to economic wellbeing and religious practice. Although poverty, resulting from inadequate education and over-population is commonplace throughout the sub-continent, it is much worse in some regions than in others.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Alan Turing and The Imitation Game

 

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It's very touching and left everyone in the cinema we saw it in reaching for the tissues; and me feeling very guilty about my schoolboy homophobia. 

Benedict Cumberbatch, who we had previously seen as the modernised Sherlock Holmes, plays Alan Turing in much the same way that he played Sherlock Holmes.  And as in that series The Imitation Game differs in many ways from the original story while borrowing many of the same names and places.

Far from detracting from the drama and pathos these 'tweaks' to the actual history are the very grist of the new story.  The problem for me in this case is that the original story is not a fiction by Conan Doyle.  This 'updated' version misrepresents a man of considerable historical standing while simultaneously failing to accurately represent his considerable achievements.

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Carbon Tax

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I’ve been following the debate on the Carbon Tax on this site since it began (try putting 'carbon' into the search box).

Now the tax is in place and soon its impact on our economy will become apparent.

There are two technical aims:

    1. to reduce the energy intensiveness of Australian businesses and households;
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Read more ...

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