Climate of Hope

Monsters exist, but they are few in number to be truly dangerous – Primo Levy

In 1977 Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced “Australia’s Uranium Decision” and embarked on uranium mining and export from this country. Many people were arrested in Queensland opposing this decision – 418 people in one afternoon in the Valley of Death in Brisbane. Despite this, the Hawke Labor government continued mining and export of uranium with ‘a three mines policy‘ introduced in 1983.

On 24th November 1977, Prime Minister Fraser spoke at a lunch-time rally organised by the Queensland Liberal Party in King George Square in Brisbane. The podium was erected on the Ann Street side of King George Square before an audience of mainly liberal party supporters. Special Branch and Federal police were in attendance.

In the crowd was a disaffected Irish republican, Frank Dowling, who came forward and yelled abuse at Fraser. On the signal of the special branch officers nearby, Dowling was immediately arrested. It was for the third time that day, this time for ‘disorderly manner’ under the Vagrants Gaming and other offences Act.

Fraser spoke from the podium in support of his government’s decision to mine and export uranium. Members of the Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Committee stepped forward as Fraser hurriedly departed. They spoke for democratic rights in a state where the state government had banned political street marches to prevent anti-uranium demonstrations from mobilising opposition to stop yellow cake being exported from Hamilton No 4 wharf on the Brisbane River. Opponents of Uranium were promptly arrested.

As contractors were dismantling the podium, I got up to speak out against state and federal government attacks on democratic rights and their decision to mine and export uranium. I was arrested and thrown in the back of a paddy wagon along with Frank Dowling. During my short speech, curtailed by police intervention, I pointed out the contradiction of being arrested ‘for speaking to attract a crowd’ when Fraser had, just moments before, been allowed speak to his supporters. Especially given Fraser’s role in the dismissal of the Whitlam government by Sir John Kerr.

Whitlam referred to Fraser as ‘Kerr’s Cur’ something that travelled with me because of my surname. Such was the animosity directed toward Sir John Kerr, that at rallies I had to remind people that my name was spelt ‘Curr’ not ‘Kerr’ and was therefore no relation to the man who plotted the downfall of Australia’s elected government with CIA assistance. The 1977 federal election was to be held on the 10th December and the Liberals lost three seats in Queensland but still managed to win government.

I have never understood why people on the Left wish to resurrect Fraser as some kind of small ‘l’ liberal. They cite as evidence that Fraser allowed Vietnamese refugees into the country against the advice of more conservative members of his party. Nonsense. Fraser felt guilt because, as Minister of the Army, he had backed US invasion of Vietnam. His government had picked the losing side. So he allowed anti-communist refugees to come on fishing boats into Australia. Something the Howard Liberal government would later not permit. Fraser came from a privileged class of land owners. His squatter’s property Nareen in the Southern Grampians of Victoria provided sanctuary far from the conflict in Vietnam that he supported at Minister for the Army.

Fraser in Vietnam in the late 1960s as Minister for the Army

Australia has 33% of the world’s uranium deposits and is currently the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada. Despite promises by successive Australian governments this radioactive material has found its way into two major meltdowns that has caused loss of life and cancers in the northern hemisphere. There is still no solution to the waste problem.

On 9 Feb 2020, I attended a ‘Keep Ban on Nukes‘ forum in Brisbane. This was brought on by a recent government paper suggesting that nuclear energy was a possible way to avoid the climate change crisis. At the forum there was a talk given by Robin Taubenfeld followed by a film Climate of Hope made in 2007 by Scott Ludlum and and Jose Garcia for the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia.

It is curious that people place any emphasis on the threat of nuclear power being introduced in Australia when there is such anabundance of hydro, solar and wind power which are much cheaper than the nuclear alternative. More needs to be done to stop uranium mining and export to countries that already have nuclear power which endangers lives and produces radioactive waste. Labor’s support of uranium mining has made this difficult for some.

At the forum there was some discussion of the case for renewables, particularly with regard to base-load power currently provided by coal fired power plants around Australia. The reasons for South Australia’s electricity grid failure in was raised. The cascading failure of the electricity transmission network resulted in almost the entire state losing its electricity supply, affecting 850,000 people.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since Climate of Hope was made. The Fukushima meltdown in Japan, for one. Also attempts by Iran to develope a nuclear capability is another. Iran’s nuclear program was aided by recent US government’s unilateral abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – a nuclear agreement signed by President Obama and the Iranian government to place limits on Iranian nuclear development.

However the film Climate of Hope does give a good idea of what happened at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union.

There was a quiz at the end conducted by Rosemarie Severin stimulating some discussion. Australia has 33% of the world’s uranium deposits and is the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.

“Nuclear power is the most complex expensive process ever invented to boil water, which powers steam turbines that generate electricity. Australia does not have any nuclear power primarily because of the expense in building such a plant.” –

SAS Officer Vanished

In 1977, after I was arrested at Fraser’s re-election rally, I was approached by an active SAS officer who has also been arrested during the street march campaign. He said that he was an experienced paratrooper in various theatres of war.

This man came up to me on the grass in King George Square only metres from where I had been arrested at the Fraser rally in December 1977. The SAS officer told me an interesting story.

After he had been arrested at a street march he went to court and challenged police version of events. Apparently he had successfully resisted police arrest. With his army training he was an expert at escaping arrest.

However the coppers eventually caught and charged him.

After his appearance in court he was at home, smoking a joint, when visited by the federal police (and, possibly, an ASIO agent). They said not to worry about the potential ‘possession of a dangerous drug’ charge but they had an important directive to give him.

On no account was he to associate with Brian Laver (Anti-Vietnam war activist), Stephen Z (street marcher) or Ian David Curr (myself).

I never saw him again…

Ian Curr
11 Feb 2020

The picture below gives an idea of the scale of a nuclear plant.

This image shows a worker climbing a lattice of steel rods at one of the original Hanford Site nuclear reactors.
This animated documentary takes viewers on a tour through the science of climate change, the nuclear fuel chain, and the remarkable energy revolution that is under way. Produced in 2007 by Scott Ludlam and Jose Garcia for the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia.

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