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.
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.
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.
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
May Day 2011
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: