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4PR – Voice of the People

4PR logo circa 1977

It was an anti-uranium demonstration on Hamilton No 4 Wharf in August 1977.

We were standing on the railway tracks in our home town Brisbane surrounded by 100 police.

The uranium train was breathing down our necks.

The Bjelke-Petersen government and mining companies were anxious to make a killing on the market while the price of uranium was high.

We were still standing resolutely on the railway tracks.

One of us had a transistor radio.

At 9pm on ABC radio  the news reader said that demonstrators had been moved from the railway tracks by police.Boos went up from our resolute mob – 25 or more standing on the railway tracks as the media put out the police and government’s line.

Anti-uranium demonstration 30 October 1978 King George Square

The call went out from a young student, Keith Horsely, with transistor radio:  “They lied, it’s a lie, we are still here … where’s 4PR?”
As if, in that moment, 4PR was the embodiment of truth.
The fact is we were standing on the railway tracks with everyone else and 4PR radio the last thing on our minds.

4PR is variously called People’s Radio, Pirate Radio, Voice of the People but it is here to give a voice to ordinary people and their struggles.

The uranium train got through that night but was stalled on the wharf by the waterside workers for health & safety reasons.

Bjelke-Petersen at UQ 1978

A couple of days later the  Brisbane Courier Mail reported it as a ‘commando style raid’. Somehow the journo had been fooled into thinking that some of us had swum across the river in cold windy August all the way from Hemmant – no mean swim. According to the CM report, we had our boots tied around our neck like commandos .

The truth is more prosaic – a few of us had  crept under the wharf at dusk and appeared on the wharf forcing the stevedore company to close the wharf. The wharfies insisted it was a question of health & safety not to have straddle cranes lifting boxes of uranium while there were demonstrators and police on the wharf.

In 1977-78  4PR made broadcasts in the forum area of the university of Queensland. This was  during the ban on street marches & assembly that Bjelke-Petersen used to stop the anti-uranium protests. and other  Organised resistance in Qld was brought to a halt while we fought for basic democratic rights

4PR broadcasts were initially confined to the sound waves.

First march against Ban on Street Marches in Qld – 12 September 1977

However along came  ‘George Orwell’ who built our first FM transmitter. After three broadcasts our transmitter gave up on us. Our trusty technician built another. That too came to grief – it melted one cold night on Mt Cootha when, in preparation for a pirate broadcast,  I connected the car battery teminals around the wrong way – the transmitter and my fingers got fried in the process.

As part of the Civil Liberties Media Committee we did make a radio show on 4ZZZ about mining and export of Uranium. Unfortunately the show was stopped by the 4ZZZ manager, Dennis Reinhardt,  when during a pre-recorded interview we asked federal Senator Neville Bonner why he supported ‘Australia’s Uranium Decision’. In 1977  the Fraser government decided to mine and export uranium.

4ZZZ did not want any flack from the federal government in its bid to get a high power licence. So they told us that the quality of our broadcast was not up to scratch.

4PR did make an appearance the following year at the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal public sitting held in Brisbane City Hall. We told the broadcasting tribunal chaired by the reasons why we thought they should not award 4PR a broadcasting licence. The 4ZZZ people in attendance breathed a sigh of relief to see someone in the room to the left (politically) of them .

In fact 4ZZZ had departed from its purpose and ‘adopted rock music as the main content of its musical programming in an attempt to corner Brisbane’ s alternative youth market’ Bill Riner, 4ZZZ broadcaster. 4ZZZ had made its name by critically reporting a raid by police and navy on a hippy commune in Cedar Bay North Queensland. In its desire to reach a wider audience it banned the women’s program, Megaherz, and the Civil Liberties Co-coordinating Committee from its airwaves.

The broadcasting tribunal closed the hearing while the 4PR delegation were removed by attendants.

4ZZZ got its high power licence which enabled it to broadcast throughout Brisbane. 4PR remained on the streets — restricted to sound wave broadcasts in King George Square and at the University.

That did not stop 4PR. We built a radio studio in the West End Resource Centre and together with Friends of the Earth, LeftPress and other community minded people kept the spirit, if not the material reality, of People’s Radio alive – for a time. I still have some of the old tapes which I will put up on PShift from time to time.

4PR is back, now in the form of Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 fridays at noon). Ironic, isn’t it?

If readers have any  interviews, poems, original music, radio shows that you would like people to listen please contact the editor (Details are in the  footers at bottom of this web-page).

Andy and Ian, currently on Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at noon) with its limited resources tries to report and analyse current struggles. Paradigm Shift is broadcast on 4ZZZ FM 102.1 Fridays at noon on the lands of the Toorubul, Jagera, Ugarapul, Mununjali and Yuggera people. We pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land.

We challenge the assumptions of our current society, to resist oppression and investigate alternative ways of living for a world based on justice, solidarity and sustainability.

Contact: Ian on 0407 687 015 or Andy on 0413 205 154

You can find Paradigm Shift on soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/ian-curr

Ian Curr
May Day 2011

Meatwork bashed by Snr Cnst John Watt in secondary-boycott-of-live-cattle-1978 at Hamilton Wharf Brisbane

PS: The uranium that got through was on a ship going to Hamburg. Who knows where the toxic substance ended up, in Fukushima?

Will the Federal government put it in Mukadty in the Northern Territory?

This is where we lived while 4PR was on the run from the government on the corner of Brunswick and Russell Streets West End:

Corner of Russell & Brunswick, West End in Sam Watson’s play “The Mack” Stage Design by Kooemba Jdarra Photo: Ian Curr

One response to “4PR – Voice of the People

  1. Denis Reinhardt

    CRA’s rival, a consortium led by Perth-based Ramsgate Resources, had also become attracted to the Mt Kare mine. On the recommendation of businessman Trevor Kennedy, the consortium hired Denis Reinhardt, whose family had a long history in PNG and who was a close friend of Paias Wingti, then both a former and future prime minister.

    Reinhardt was an unlikely mining advocate. The former journalist and student activist was a champion of various left-wing causes in Brisbane in the ’70s. He underwent a remarkable transformation, taking over mining companies and cultivating contacts with his erstwhile enemies in Queensland’s branch of the National Party. They included former Treasury chief Edward “Top Level Ted” Lyons and disgraced police commissioner Terence Lewis, who both sank money into Reinhardt’s ill-fated gold-mining ventures.

    Reinhardt’s investments floundered. His goldmine in the rainforests of the Conondale Range, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, was an environmental disaster. Shortly before moving to PNG, Reinhardt was sued by Standard Chartered Bank for $11 million owed by his companies. Although a director or secretary of 36 companies, Reinhardt said: “I obviously haven’t got any money.”

    A new PNG company, Oakland, was set up by the Ramsgate consortium to sign an agreement with dissident landowner groups opposed to the CRA-KDA deal. Court actions challenging the legality of CRA’s leases were launched and complaints lodged with police alleging that Flower had improperly received KDC payments.

    Reinhardt turned up in the Highlands town of Tari with a fraud squad policeman as efforts were stepped up to lobby landowners to join the dissidents. Five KDC directors were put in a Tari jail cell “for their own protection”.

    Reinhardt served on Flower a court order requiring him to hand over documents relating to Mt Kare. When he refused, Flower was arrested and thrown into a police watch-house with 20 criminals. Flower: “The air was fetid, rank with the smell of dried sweat, recent crimes and the drain at the back.”

    Reinhardt produced a series of reports for clients which were later leaked to Flower, who has given copies to Inquirer. In one report, Reinhardt boasts that he had convinced a landowners representative to “persuade Andi Flower that he should leave the country”.

    In one of his reports, Reinhardt tells Ramsgate that a primary purpose was to “keep the pressure on Flower to give up”. Apart from litigation, Reinhardt advocated a “form of guerrilla warfare in the media against CRA”, for instance by placing advertisements in the Fairfax press in which landowners appealed to CRA shareholders.

    At the time, Namaliu was considering deporting Reinhardt. The PNG Foreign Affairs Department told the prime minister in a report that Reinhardt faced civil court actions for “dubious business dealings” in Australia.

    Reinhardt’s friend Wingti won national elections in June 1992. The new government moved to drop charges against three men over the attack on the mine site five months earlier and to bring in fraud charges against Flower.

    In a stick-and-carrot approach, the dissident landowners tried to win Flower over by offering him a K30,000 “retainer” and an end to litigation. He turned the offer down. Soon after, during a visit by Flower to Tari, the dissidents spread a story that he had set up the murder of a man. Flower was pursued by an angry mob and rescued by helicopter. “This lot wanted my blood and I didn’t feel even slightly brave.”

    Reinhardt’s endeavours found favour in the Fairfax press. An article in The Sunday Age headed “PNG warns rip-off miners”, quoted Ramsgate chief John Morris: “What we are up against is very much the old colonial mentality. We want to share 50-50 with the locals. It’s as simple as that.” Flower saw it differently, alleging: “They didn’t like the idea of dividends being divided among 6000 landowners; they needed to control KDC so they could get their hands on the money.”

    While working for Ramsgate, Reinhardt was hired as an adviser to PNG mines minister Masket Iangalio. Iangalio went on the attack against CRA, accusing the company in parliament of offering bribes to landowners. CRA responded angrily, with group executive Mark Rayner declaring: “CRA is aware of widespread allegations of bribery and corruption, but it is not CRA offering the bribes.”

    In a June 1993 letter to dissident landowner leaders and Ramsgate, one man demanded a K250,000 payment for organising the attack on the mine site 17 months earlier. The letter said the man had been approached to organise a gang to get rid of CRA at Mt Kare and that “me and my gang carried our contractual duties”. The letter warned that if the money were not paid, the plot would be revealed.

    Ramsgate eventually prevailed in the courts, with a key ruling vindicating the appointment of a KDC chairman. An exhausted CRA pulled out of Mt Kare in 1993, and Flower finally agreed to join the dissidents, working side-by-side for several months with Reinhardt: “The long and short of it was that I entered the belly of the beast.”

    MP Moi Avei told parliament that Reinhardt stood to profit because Ramsgate had offered him 1.3 million paid and optional shares conditional on a satisfactory outcome at Mt Kare. But Wingti lost a parliamentary no-confidence motion in 1994 and new prime minister Julius Chan moved quickly to deport Reinhardt. Ramsgate had control of the mine but, like CRA, found itself mired in litigation amid competing claims of land ownership. With nothing to show for its efforts but a $8million loss, the now defunct Ramsgate Resources finally quit Mt Kare in 1998.

    Reinhardt went off in search of greener pastures. In the late 1990s, an Australian company, Ross Mining, was developing the Gold Ridge goldmine on the island of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands, with the support of landowners under what the then prime minister, Solomon Mamaloni, described as a “beautiful agreement”.

    In 1997, a consortium including a Reinhardt company, Merthyr Holdings, was importing diesel generators to lease to the Solomons government as a temporary measure before building the Lungga Hydro Scheme. The consortium wanted the Gold Ridge mine to be supplied by the generators, but Ross Mining insisted it would use its own power.

    At the time, dissident landowners backed by Slater & Gordon were launching court action against Ross Mining, challenging the Gold Ridge mine on constitutional and environmental grounds. Fresh from court successes in tackling CRA over PNG’s Ok Tedi mine, the Melbourne law firm saw itself as a protector of the interests of Melanesian landowners.

    Ross Mining hit back, alleging in a Solomons High Court claim for damages against Slater & Gordon that Reinhardt and the law firm were working together against it. A court affidavit sworn by landowner David Thuguvoda claimed Slater & Gordon told him “they were experts in using newspapers and television …”. The damages claim alleged the firm had commenced proceedings against Ross Mining in the name of landowner Nelson Tave without his consent. The matter was settled out of court, with Slater & Gordon issuing a statement saying it “regrets ever becoming involved in proceedings”.

    The Gold Ridge mine was ransacked during the Solomons’ 2000 civil conflict and has not reopened. Prime minister Mekere Morauta told his parliament in 2001 that divisions between landowners had led to slayings and the destruction of property. Then Australian Liberal MP Ross Cameron told his parliament in 2003 that the mine was idle after Ross Mining lost millions of dollars, “very largely because of the actions of an Australian law firm acting in support of an unscrupulous businessman, Denis Reinhardt”.

    Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech told Inquirer that the allegations by Morauta and Cameron were baseless: “We invited them to repeat their comments other than with the protection of parliamentary privilege. They declined to do so.”

    Grech said the claim that Tave had not given his consent for proceedings against Ross Mining was untrue. Slater & Gordon also disputed claims by Thuguvoda, which had never been been tested in court.

    Reinhardt, now operating Brisbane timber importing company Endeavour Timbers, dismisses many of the claims in Flower’s book. He tells Inquirer: “Flower has always had a vivid and reconstructive imagination … His selective rakings of ancient history can only be seen as promoting a self-published tome.” Reinhardt says he had no knowledge of the 1992 armed attack on the Mt Kare mine and that he “absolutely” condemned it.

    Reinhardt says he gave advice to Slater &Gordon, but the Solomons litigation was unrelated to either the diesel contract dispute or the demise of the Gold Ridge mine. “The loss of the mine was for similar complex landowner-government relations issues as in Bougainville. Resource projects in Melanesia must constantly adjust to meet landowners’ raised expectations. Otherwise the landowners will resort to direct action.”

    Source: How PNG gold lost its lustre

    Greg Roberts
    The Australian
    February 16, 2008

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