15 January 2011

Pro-Israel control of Obama’s Middle East Policy

I usually regard as Ronnie Barker-type news (“No nuclear bombs fell on Scotland again last night”) all commentary to the effect that the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is a creature of the pre-eminent pro-Israel lobbying organisation the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that senior US foreign policy adviser Dennis Ross is a member of the AIPAC crowd, and that he once served as WINEP chief.

After all, the Wikipedia entry on WINEP tells us here how in 1985 AIPAC “helped” to bring WINEP into being. The deal as I understand it was that AIPAC, as a lobbying organisation, was not entitled to tax deductibility of donations, so AIPAC decided to set up an “independent” think tank which would qualify for tax deductibility, would do deep intellectual “research” of the right kind, and enable the AIPAC crowd to sail under a different flag when it suited them to do so.  The idea was that WINEP would disseminate the AIPAC line, but in a way that disguised its AIPAC origins.

In March 2009, in Hillary's envoy: not everyone is cheering, I commented on the bizarre appointment of Dennis Ross as Hillary Clinton’s special adviser on Iran, and followed up with a post in May 2009 – Iran: Hillary’s envoy (contd.) – in which I noted the perception by an Orthodox Jew who had served as US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt, who commented that the perception was that in Middle East peace negotiations:

The perception always was that Dennis started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs.

Further posts included Dennis Ross on the move?, noting rumours that he was moving to the White House, and Making U.S. Iran policy, an extended analysis of the dysfunctional way in which the US Administration was approaching Iran, and Dennis Ross’s role in that.

Andrew Sullivan addressed this theme in March 2010 in a post Dennis Ross Bats for Netanyahu on The Atlantic’s blog The Daily Dish.

So the links between AIPAC, WINEP and Dennis Ross, and the fact that Dennis Ross is unashamedly an advocate for Israel within the highest circles of US foreign policy making, are not news.

Nevertheless, some important posts on this subject have gone up in the last couple of days.  In a 14 January post on TPMCafé, AIPAC's Man, Dennis Ross, Now In Charge of Middle East, MJ Rosenberg, in discussing “why the Obama administration’s policy on Israel-Palestine is such an epic fail”, points to a well informed piece by Nathan Guttman in the US Jewish online journal Forward which catalogues how Dennis Ross has edged out the official US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell as the dominant player on the Middle East peace issue. In Guttman’s piece, Latest Chapter in Mideast Tenison is Dennis Ross vs. George Mitchell, he says:

Ross’s increased involvement in the Middle East peace process became apparent when the administration engaged in talks with Israel over extending the moratorium on settlement expansion. Ross, according to American and Israeli officials, was the driving force behind the idea of offering Israel a generous package of assurances — both defense-related and diplomatic — in return for three extra months of a freeze on the expansion of settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Even though Israel ultimately turned down the offer, the episode reinserted Ross as a key player not only on broader strategic Middle East issues, but also on the nitty-gritty of the peace process.

Later in the piece Guttman says:

Ross’s involvement in the peace process increased when the administration sought to ease its troubled relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and with the Jewish community. A longtime Middle East hand, Ross, who is widely liked and trusted by Israelis, was sent to assure Jerusalem that the Obama administration was committed to Israel’s security and wellbeing. He also publicly addressed Jewish audiences at several events.

Ross’s history as a veteran peace negotiator under successive presidents from Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush gives him a record of experience in the region that few can match. But critics counter that this experience reflects a record of U.S. failure in the region, particularly with regard to the Oslo process that collapsed under his long-term role as its chief negotiator and strategist on the U.S. side.

Nevertheless, Ross’ strong ties to Israel now make him indispensable to the administration. Those ties include his previous role as head of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank founded by the Jewish Agency for Israel. His son, Gabe, is also married to an Israeli. These factors, together with Ross’s strong personal sense of Jewish identity, have gained him a reputation of being pro-Israeli.

Finally, there is this priceless quote from Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League:

“Dennis is the closest thing you’ll find to a melitz yosher, as far as Israel is concerned,” said the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, who used the ancient Hebrew term for “advocate.”

Further background on the origins of WINEP and its links with AIPAC may be seen in a 12 April 2010 item by MJ Rosenberg, this time writing for The Huffington Post. In Does PBS Know That “The Washington Institute” Was Founded by AIPAC?, Rosenberg gives an insider’s view of the history and takes issue with PBS and other media wheeling out WINEP commentators as though they were not part of the Israel lobby.

In Game, set and match to Mr Netanyahu of 24 September 2009 I commented that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must be laughing all the way home at the outcome of the meetings on Middle East Peace sponsored by President Obama, and went on to say

One of the big losers out of all of this is President Obama. This is a strategic defeat for him, not a tactical withdrawal. He talked tough to the Israelis, they didn’t budge, and he blinked. So forget about all the brave talk of moving to “final status” negotiations. Mr Netanyahu will turn up for the talks in the second half of October, but he knows that he simply has to insist on unacceptable parameters for the final status and the talks will go nowhere. The Israelis are quite comfortable with the status quo; it is the Palestinians who are desperate for change.

I saw this as a comprehensive victory for Netanyahu at the time, but the more I look at the history of this, the more I am convinced that the Americans were never seriously in the game.

“Centrism” or the rule of law?

In a Friday 14 January post on Salon’s Friday 14 January edition (accessible here) Glenn Greenwald goes to the heart of the tension between certain self-proclaimed “centrist” views and the rule of law.

In it he castigates Benjamin Wittes of The Brookings Institution, and by implication Brookings itself, for a centrism which:

... is devoid of any coherent worldview and instead has one overarching purpose: to defend Beltway elite prerogatives and specifically the bipartisan orthodoxies of the National Security State.

The particular target of Greenwald’s concern is the defence by this “centrist” of the effective immunity from investigation which the Obama Administration has granted to former Bush Administration officials in relation to murder, torture and other acts of criminality.

Wittes claims that this is in accordance with a two-centuries-old tradition of incoming presidents not prosecuting outgoing ones.  Greenwald cites no less a figure than George Washington to challenge this view:

George Washington vowed, in a December, 1795 letter, that there must never be immunity for wrongdoing by high government officials: "The executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity."

He goes on to examine the consequences of a system in which presidents and there retainers know that they will not be pursued for criminal acts perpetrated in the name of national security.

Greenwald’s concern’s resonate with concerns I expressed in May last year in We need to talk about Kevin, about Kevin Rudd’s lack of interest in finding out who knew what when about AWB’s $300 million of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in violation of United Sanctions; his lack of interest in holding something like the UK’s Chilcot Inquiry to examine events leading up to Australia’s participation in the invasion of Iraq, and who knew what and when regarding the disgraceful treatment of Dr Mohammed Haneef.

I might have added the shocking case of Mamdouh Habib, arrested in Pakistan, flown to Baghram Air Base in Afghanistan, rendered to Egypt for months of interrogation under torture, and then sent to Guantánamo, allegedly with the involvement of Australian officials, a case well described by Sally Neighbour in The Weekend Australian, 15-16 January 2011 (see here) – a matter in which neither the Rudd nor Gillard Governments has displayed any interests until now. The emergence of new evidence has forced the Gillard Government’s hand and the matter is now to be investigated further.

All officials and military personnel of democratic countries need it to be clearly understood that no person is above the law, ever, and no-one can expected to be shielded from investigation when government changes hands when there are grounds to believe they have, or may have, acted outside the law.

13 January 2011

In praise of residential universities

The 1947 New England University College Handbook contains a photograph of Booloominbah looking across the Southern Lawn from the rose garden.

Beneath it there is a quote from The Economist:

A place in any long-term policy of university expansion should be definitely reserved for the foundation of a few residential universities. A stately home on the outskirts of a small country town would be an ideal location.

On becoming autonomous the University of New England decided as a matter of policy to be fully residential, with benefits to which the overwhelming majority of its alumni would attest. As Australian university funding became more and more centralised and “one size fits all” – centralised systems need everything to be similar in order to work out their funding priorities – it became impossible to sustain the fully residential model and when the temporary buildings that formed my beloved Wright College reached the end of their useful life they were simply bulldozed.

Maintenance funding for the rest of the colleges has never been a priority for the funding authorities and the university faces a backlog in an area that is one of its great competitive strengths.

We talk incessantly about the virtues of innovation and of pluralism but when it comes down to is it is hard to do anything new or different in this country.

See also What a privilege it was ...

12 January 2011

The fate of the Arabists in State

Anyone who wonders why the United States has become so profoundly one-eyed on behalf of Israel, to the point where it seems unable even to conceptualise a Palestinian weltanschauung, will find an entry posted by Jeff Weiss on 9 January on the US blog Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East an interesting read.

Entitled Angry Arab says that after Bill Clinton got in, Arabists were ‘eliminated’ from State Dep’t, it is a commentary on a blog post written by Lebanese American academic As'ad AbuKhalil (“Angry Arab”)in response to a letter to the New York Times by Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.

The comments posted on the Mondoweiss piece are worth reading too.

I commented on some related issues back in March 2009 when the Obama Administration began to make (or fail to make) key Middle East-related appointments – see Got him!, Hillary's envoy: not everyone is cheering and No way to approach Middle East peace.

NASA imagery of Queensland rain cells, 10 January 2011

This link will take you to NASA imagery of the intense rain cells which wrought havoc on Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley on Monday 10 January 2011.

Not surprising that it was NASA’s “image of the day”.

11 January 2011

Stern and Oistrakh play Vivaldi

Some time in the summer of 1961-62, having completed my first year of undergraduate science at the University of New England, I went record hunting and was delighted to discover a recording, on the old Coronet label, of two of my favourite violinists, two of the greatest violinists of the time, Isaac Stern and David Oistrakh, playing four Vivaldi concerti for two violins.

For those who really care, the four concerti are:

-  Concerto in D minor RV 514 (F.1, No. 100)
-  Concerto in G minor RV 517 (F.1, No. 12)
-  Concerto in C minor RV 509 (F.1, No. 98)
-  Concerto in D major RV 512 (F.1, No. 41)

This is joyful music, and the two maestros are clearly enjoying themselves playing together – and I mean playing together, neither trying to dominate. Stern plays first violin in two of them, Oistrakh in the other.

The collaboration between these two artists, both Ukrainian born but Stern a resident of the United States from the age of one, and Oistrakh a citizen of the Soviet Union, was a bigger deal in the circumstances of the day than it might appear in 2011.

The two men had first met in Brussels in 1951, when Isaac Stern attended the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium violin competition. David Oistrakh was one of the judges.

The Cold War kept a tight grip on Oistrakh’s ability to travel to Western Europe and the United States. It was a tense time. The Soviet Union conducted its first atomic test in 1949 and its first thermonuclear test in 1953, the year that Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed on charges of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. A nuclear arms race was in full swing, the United States was in the grip of the McCarthy era, and we all lived in the Strangelovian world of nuclear armed bombers being on permanent alert.  Cultural exchanges were not high on the agenda of either side.

Nevertheless, in 1955 Oistrakh gained permission to travel to the United States, and gave a concert at Carnegie Hall that was lauded by American music celebrities not only for the quality of Oistrakh’s musicianship but for being one of the first breaches in the Iron Curtain. Isaac Stern, eleven years Oistrakh’s junior, attended the concert and described Oistrakh as “a musician who did great honour to the violin with his playing.”

It was during this 1955 Oistrakh visit to the United States that the two men collaborated on recording these four Vivaldi concerti, with Eugene Ormandy conducting members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

My vinyl recording is now almost half a century old, and I have long wondered why it had never been re-released on CD.

Happy to report, this evening while browsing the Presto Classical website I discovered that in December 2010 these marvellous recordings were released on CD by Sony, the heir to the Coronet label. Also on the CD is a recording of The Four Seasons by Anshel Brusilow, who was concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy from 1959-66.

The recording may be accessed here on the Presto Classical website.

United States: the permanent culture of political violence

Salon’s political news and commentary blog, War Room, contains a first class piece about the long history of political violence in America.

Entitled Our permanent culture of political violence, it was posted on Monday 10 January by Glenn W. LaFantasie, the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History and Director of the Institute for Civil War Studies at Western Kentucky University. His most recent book is Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground, Indiana University Press, 2008.

Professor LaFantasie’s article may be accessed here.

10 January 2011

Some New England Memorabilia

Received today from Burnet’s Books of Uralla, a town about 20 km south of Armidale in the New England region of New South Wales, three interesting memorabilia from the New England University College and the University of New England:

-  New England University College Calendar 1947-48, 24 pages (Armidale Express print): a memento of the immediate postwar period, when the University College was beginning to grow after its very fragile start in 1938 and a very lean time during the war years.

-  University of New England Handbook, November 1954 (Armidale Express print): published the first year of the University’s existence as an autonomous institution.

-  The University of New England Calendar, 1962 (printed by Halstead Press, Sydney, published by the University on 1 November 1961, the end of my first year at the University, by which time the University had grown to about 600 full-time undergraduates). This document combined in one volume the University Calendar last published in 1956, and the annual University Handbook.

These documents are a little treasure trove of information about the staff who participated in the great experiment that was Australia’s first regional university.  In future posts I will draw on them to recall a little of the University’s history and the way things were.

For earlier posts on the University and its history see Booloominbah and New England University Rugby Team 1939.

09 January 2011

Looking ahead at 2011

In the countdown to the new year our media are full of retrospectives looking back at what happened in the year that is coming to a close.

Last year in Looking ahead at 2010 I commented that the start of a bright and shiny new year is perhaps a good time for those who are presumptuous enough to think that they know a few things to put their money where their mouth is and attempt some forecasts of what the year ahead will bring.

Forecasting remains a hazardous business, but I think I should repeat the exercise.  Reviewing Looking ahead at 2010 I think I had a reasonable hit-rate on my forecasts, to the extent that for the year ahead I think I should just record last year’s (in italics) and provide some updated commentary:

(1) There will be no progress towards an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Settlement building on the West Bank will resume, the slow ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem will continue, and Gaza will remain strangled by Israeli sanctions. There will be hand-wringing in Washington, but not much else.

Not much new to be said there: at the present time no-one even pretends that there is a peace process in prospect.  The Netanyahu Government has made plain that settlement building is more important to it than either peace or its relationship with the Obama Administration, Netanyahu is engaged in a contest with Avigdor Lieberman for leadership of the Israeli right, and the Israeli left has all but ceased to exist.

The two-state solution is dead, with no possibility of resurrection, so by year’s end things will be much the same as now only somewhat worse.

(2) The “surge” in Iraq will by year’s end be a proven failure.

Iraqi politics will continue to fragment.  The return to Iraq from Iran of militant Shi’a cleric Muqtadar al-Sadr testifies to that. He has not returned to Iraq to facilitate the process of bedding down either its internal politics or its relationship with the US.

(3) It will be even clearer than it is now that there is no possibility of “victory” or “success” in Afghanistan, and the US Administration will be busy positioning Hamid Karzai and everyone around him to take the blame for the failure of what was a doomed enterprise from the start.

An old colleague of mine used to say that the opportunity of a lifetime had to be grasped within the lifetime of the opportunity.  If the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 presented us with the opportunity of a lifetime to do something or other, the lifetime of the opportunity certainly did not last through eight years of neglect. If there was ever a chance, it is now far too late. The failure to establish any clear objective for the invasion did not help.

Enough said.

(4) There will be modest efforts to salvage something from the wreckage of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, but we can be sure that whatever action is agreed will be far too little, far too late. For a long-term hold, buy shares in engineering companies that are very good at sea walls.

The Cancun outcome marked a step forward, but one which sits firmly within the established framework of far too little, far too late. Engineering companies that are very good at sea walls remain a sound investment.

(5) Spin doctors will find creative ways to present all of the above as success, or at least as meaningful progress. Modern governments never do anything that is unsuccessful.

No change likely here.

(6) Pakistan will look more like Afghanistan than it does today. The US Administration will continue to pressure the Pakistanis to take actions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas which will prove disastrous sooner rather than later. There are good reasons why those areas were directly administered by Delhi during the Raj, and why the tailor made administrative regimes were continued from 1947 in the successor state, Pakistan.

At the outset of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 a lot of people would probably have agreed that if Afghanistan ended up looking a bit like Pakistan in 2001, that would be success. The net effect of our efforts will in fact be to make Pakistan look a lot more like Afghanistan.

The recent assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by a member of his own bodyguard, without any other member of his bodyguard attempting to prevent the murder or apprehend the assailant, serves to illustrate just how powerful the forces of Islamic conservatism are in Pakistan, and how deeply they are embedded in the armed forces.

(7) Nothwithstanding Pakistan’s travails, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence will continue to intervene unhelpfully in Afghanistan, with a view to Pakistan establishing itself as the dominant power in Central Asia. Much of the money to fund this will be diverted military assistance funding from the United States.

No further comment needed.

(8) There will be a very significant evolution of the Iranian political system. It is hard to see this happening without a lot of blood being shed, because neither side can afford to give up.  In the next few months there will be increasingly heavy handed efforts to suppress the reform movement, but the reform movement has such momentum, and so many members of the urban classes are so sick of the current regime, that it is hard to see the current leadership being successful in reimposing order. There are grounds for cautious optimism, but don’t mortgage your house to bet on it.

This is the main item on which I was too optimistic.  My view is that Ahmadinejad has such control over the apparatus of repression that things will deteriorate for the reform movement for the foreseeable future.  Nevertheless, Iran has had over a century of elected representation in a national parliamentary body, it has an educated middle class in the major cities, and I do not believe that the regime can maintain itself in power in the long run simply by means of repression.

(9) Whoever is running Iran will remain firmly committed to the development of an independent nuclear energy program, and in so doing will reduce the lead time for Iran to develop and deploy a nuclear weapons capability.  Nevertheless, the Iranian regime will refrain from committing to a nuclear weapons capability.

I remain of this view.

(10) The United States will not succeed in establishing any sort of effective sanctions regime against Iran (for which we can all be thankful).

Such sanctions as are established will cause hardship to ordinary Iranians without having much impact on the regime, and no impact on its policies.  As I have remarked in previous posts, the Iranians will not accept any settlement which they regard as humiliating, and they will not accept a position of second class international citizenship regarding the independence of their nuclear energy program. They will not accept what the United States wants, and the international community would not be prepared to impose upon Iran such draconian hardships that the regime – any Iranian regime – would  be likely to change its mind.

(11) As we emerge from the depths of the Global Financial Crisis, the full meaning of the crisis will become clearer, as we begin to appreciate the consequences for the United States and the United Kingdom in particular of the massive sovereign debt they have incurred. It will become evident that there can be no return to “normal”, that a new “normal”, meaning a substantial realignment of economic power and political influence, is in the process of being established.

The state of affairs in Europe speaks for itself.

Far from believing in signs of recovery in the United States, I think the consequences of US debt and deficit are still playing themselves out. US politics are in such a toxic state that I do not foresee any effective action to repair the nation’s public finances.  Meanwhile, it is trying to shrink its defence budget to help meet its rising interest bill, but that shrinking of the US defence budget is contingent upon greater success in its military adventures than I can foresee.

(12) Some of the above predictions will turn out to be profoundly wrong (I just don’t know which ones). Actually, not too many of them turned out to be profoundly wrong, but it is always a danger to be acknowledged.

Last year I did not venture any predictions about domestic politics, mainly I think because up to that point my primary focus had been international.  So much happened on the domestic front during the course of 2010 that there was much to write about, and this year I will venture some observations about the outlook within the national polity:

(1)  As discussed in Can Gillard last?, I think that it will be established fairly early in the year that Julia Gillard does not have what it takes to be a successful Prime Minister, and on the balance of probabilities I think that there will be a change of Labor leadership before the end of the year.

(2)  A change of Labor leadership will not necessarily lead to the Government falling – the independents and Greens have a strong interest in seeing the Government go its full term.  Some deft footwork on the part of a new Labor leader should enable Labor to continue as a minority government.

(3)  The Government will fail to break out of its current obsession with the 24-hour media cycle, and its thinking will continue to be dominated by focus-group think. It will try to give the public what it thinks it wants, not what it needs.

(4)  As a result, the Government will botch the following major policy issues during the course of the year:

- Putting a price on carbon, and indeed the establishment of any effective climate change action
- Establishing a Minerals Resource Rent Tax regime
- Design and implementation of a Murray Darling Basin Plan
- Tax reform  

(5)  The Government should undertake a thorough review of the Defence White Paper and its defence policy settings, but will not.

(6)  Kevin Rudd will continue to be driven more by his overwhelming need for publicity and his desire to upstage Julia Gillard than by any concern to pursue Australia’s foreign policy interests. He will continue to display pedestrian thinking, poor management of his agenda, and poor judgement.  In sum, he will continue to demonstrate that he is a disastrous appointment as Foreign Minister.

What do the WikiLeaks Cables reveal about our leaders?

The leaking of 250,000 United States State Department cables to the WIkiLeaks organisation has generated an enormous amount of excitement about the fact of the leaks (how is this possible?), the content of the cables (did he/she/they really say that?), and the motives of people like Julian Assange, with some overheated commentary from the left (Assange is a champion of free speech) and from US conservatives (Assange is determined to destroy the United States and should be treated as an unlawful enemy combatant).

The excitement will die down over time, although with only a tiny fragment of the total amount of leaked material having seen the light of day, we can expect this to take a while.

While the content of many of the individual cables is interesting, the leadership behaviours that the release has provoked, and that are revealed in the 200 or so cables we have seen so far, are more important to any assessment of the overall impact on our society.

Three behaviour patterns are of principal concern. First, incidents such as this bring out the authoritarian instincts of our political leaders and lead them to indulge in such gross hyperbole that they misrepresent the situation to the Australian public.

The Prime Minister rushed to judgement, declaring Assange’s behaviour to be both “grossly irresponsible” and “illegal”, sentiments echoed by Attorney-General Robert McClelland. They then established a task force to identify what if any laws Assange might have broken.  Embarrassingly for the Government, it took the Australian Federal Police only days to conclude that Assange had broken no Australian laws.

Attorney-General McClelland also claimed that the publication of the cables would put lives at risk, an echo of US commentary.  If lives are indeed put at risk by the release, the primary responsibility would lie with the originator of the cable, because it would be an act of lunacy to name someone who was giving information at risk of life and limb in a cable that was destined to be posted on a diplomatic network to which about 3 million people have access. I have seen nothing in the cables I have read that would cause people named therein anything more than embarrassment.

More disturbingly, the cables reveal that behind closed doors our political leaders deal incautiously with representatives of the United States and Israel. They seem to forget that they are dealing with the representatives of a foreign country, in a game that is definitely reserved for grown-ups, the world of navigating our country through the shoals of major international events.  They make such forthright and absolute declarations of support that they give hostages to fortune, leaving themselves little room to negotiate on issues arising in the future on the basis of a hard-nosed assessment of where Australia’s national interest lies – indeed at times they give the impression they would struggle to see the difference between Australia’s national interests and those of the United States or Israel.

Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd are at pains to impress on the US Ambassador how rock-solid on the ANZUS Alliance they are, Beazley so much so that he assures the Ambassador that Labor would support Australia’s military contributions in Afghanistan until Hell freezes over, and that in the event of a war between the United States and China, Australia would have absolutely no alternative but to line up militarily beside the U.S.

We know from the cables that in 2008 Kevin Rudd went out of his way to express his strong support for Israel and his appreciation of its security concerns.  Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem told the Americans that  Rudd was "deeply worried" that Iran's intransigence means that the window for a diplomatic solution is closing and that Israel may feel forced to use "non-diplomatic" means.  This reads to me like a signal from Rudd that Australia would be very understanding if Israel felt “forced” to do something as undiplomatic as carry out a pre-emptive military strike against Iran. There has been a price to pay for Rudd’s pro-Israeli stance – retaliatory steps by the Iranians have made it more difficult for the Australian Embassy in Tehran to do its job effectively, which doesn’t seem to me to serve anyone’s interests.

Julia Gillard too went out of her way to establish a relationship with the Israeli Ambassador and asked him to arrange an early opportunity for her to visit.  When the Israelis invaded Gaza, they were pleasantly surprised to find that Acting Prime Minister Gillard was much more supportive than they had expected, and just plain surprised to find that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was on holiday and did not want to get involved.

The “Israel right or wrong” attitude of both Rudd and Gillard is quite over the top, at variance with our traditional stance of at least claiming even-handedness, and at variance with our national interests. I would define these to include the establishment of a lasting peace in the Middle East, which necessarily includes a decent outcome for the Palestinian people, and the establishment and maintenance of constructive relations with all countries of the region including Iran. I do not see how we can contribute to those outcomes if we are seen by all including Israel as a country Israel can afford to take for granted. Why would we want to tell any country that it can count on our support no matter how it behaves – so much so in Israel’s case that we are seen as a valuable part of its global PR battle?

The effect of these conversations behind closed doors is that the United States and Israel can go about their affairs confident that Australia will never press them on any issue, and on most occasions will even refrain from critical comment. Why would any country put itself in this situation, even with its friends?

Most serious of all, it is now clear that our national leaders use the shelter of national security classification to conceal from the public their real assessments and motives, and the advice they are receiving from their intelligence agencies. Such behaviour is unconscionable. There are many valid national security grounds for Governments withholding information from us, but they are not entitled to deceive us, not is it in their interests to do so.

Several examples have come to light.  It is reassuring to know that our top level intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments, which reports directly to the Prime Minister, has a sober and balanced view of the threat from Al- Qa’ida and of Iran, two subjects on which our Government has much to say.  In November 2008 Director General Peter Varghese told the Americans that al-Qa’ida “ultimately has failed to achieve the strategic leadership role it sought within the Islamic world”. On Iran, he said that ONA viewed Tehran's nuclear program within the paradigm of "the laws of deterrence," and that "It's a mistake to think of Iran as a 'Rogue State'." 

These sober assessments are at variance, however, with the explanations the Government gives us for our presence in Afghanistan (we have to prevent it from becoming a haven for terrorists) with its alarmist comments about Iran, which simply echo commentary coming out of Israel, and with Kevin Rudd’s comments to the Israeli Ambassador noted above.  Governments are of course entitled to reject the advice they get from their advisers, but there is nothing sensitive about the comments by Director General ONA noted above, and on a matter of this importance it would be desirable to disclose to us what the overall assessment of our national assessments agency is and why the Government itself sees things differently.

Perhaps the most serious case of deception relates to the prospects for the war in Afghanistan. The stock line from Western Governments is that they are optimistic, things are going well, perhaps not quite as well as we would like, but we are making progress.  What we find from WikiLeaks is that the real assessment – no doubt shared by all our NATO allies – is quite different. In October 2008 Kevin Rudd told visiting US Congressmen that the national security establishment in Australia was very pessimistic about the long-term prognosis for Afghanistan, a pessimism which was evident in a December 2009 cable reporting the views of Australia’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, former Defence Secretary Ric Smith, who referred to the “train wreck” the Australian Federal Police have to deal with in working with the Afghan National Police.

This gap between the public statements and the Government’s real views is outrageous.  The situation it suggests is that all Western Governments involved know the outlook in Afghanistan is very bleak, but none is prepared to confess this to their public.

Contrast this with the way Winston Churchill took the British people into his confidence during the days when his country was in dire peril. When he addressed the House of Commons upon becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, Churchill did not gild the lily – he promised the British people nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat.  When Britain faced the prospect of invasion, he held out the thoroughly unattractive prospect of the British people fighting the invading Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills.

In his speech at the Mansion House in November 1942, after the mighty victory over the Afrika Korps in the Second Battle of Alamein, he said that the occasion was not the end, it was not even the beginning of the end, but it was perhaps the end of the beginning.

In all these dire circumstances Churchill was straight with the British people. He rightly withheld from them a  vast array of military and other secrets, but in asking them to shoulder the burden of facing Hitler all but alone, he did not leave them in any doubt about how difficult it would be or what price they would be called upon to pay.

On Afghanistan our political leaders should be dealing with the Australian people in a similarly forthright way, telling us why we are there, why it is important, and what we need to do to succeed. We are a mature and sensible people. If the Government can convince us of what the task is (something that remains a mystery) and why it is important, we will rise to what is needed to succeed, and the Government can proceed confident that it has the backing of the majority of Australians. If it cannot convince us of the importance of the task, or even define it coherently, then maybe we shouldn’t be there.

What the WikiLeaks cables are progressively revealing is patterns of behaviour on the part of our political leaders that involve very substantial breaches of trust. This is a matter of the highest importance.  Democracy both depends upon trust, and thrives upon it, as many great examples of democratic societies rising to the occasion in difficult circumstances demonstrate. It is to be hoped that, whatever other consequences the leaks might have, they result in a closer alignment between what our political leaders say to other governments in private and what they say and disclose to us.

Note: This item was first published on Inside Story on 23 December 2010 – access it here.

Nice countries don’t do extra-judicial punishment

The following is an extract from an “In Brief” item in The Sunday Age, 9 January 2011, under the heading Palestinian slain in case of mistaken identity:

HEBRON. Members of an Israeli special forces unit hunting for a Hamas militant shot dead a 66-year-old Palestinian in his bed on Friday, mistaking him for the wanted man who lived in the same building. The killing, in front of the man’s wife, raised fresh questions about the military’s conduct and rules of engagement in the West Bank.

The army expressed regret for the killing, the latest in a string of fatal incidents in the past week.

The danger of killing the wrong person is just one of many good reasons why extra-judicial punishment of any form, but especially extra-judicial killing, is a thoroughly reprehensible practice which cannot be justified under any circumstances in a society which is supposed to be governed by the rule of law.

In addition, as noted by the paper, this incident certainly raises questions about the IDF’s conduct and rules of engagement.  This 66-year old man was in bed in his apartment, with his wife, and it was not possible for Israeli special forces to effect an arrest? Give me a break.

08 January 2011

The history of the black box flight recorder

Earlier today I uploaded to the aadiDefence blog my colleague Bill Schofield’s Hargrave Memorial Lecture, which he delivered to the Melbourne Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society (Australian Division) on Monday 6 December.

It is a fascinating story about a great Australian innovation, and an inspiring one about one man’s persistence in seeing it through. It is also a sobering one: no matter how creative our fellow Australians might show themselves to be, there seems to be nothing in our institutional environment which encourages and facilitates the process: dogged spirits manage to succeed in spite of our systems rather than because of them. I know that this is a story that happened quite some time ago, but how much has changed? Not much, as far as I can see; in fact with the requirement for most of our public sector research organisations to justify their research programs by attracting industry funding, I fear things have gone backwards from the depressing picture that emerges from Bill’s lecture.

In spite of that aspect, it is an inspiring story, which you can access here.

03 January 2011

Andrew Bacevich on Douglas Feith

There should be literary prizes for putting the boot into targets who deserve it. Christopher Hitchens tipped a wonderful bucket over Henry Kissinger recently (see Hitchens on Kissinger).

In his The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2008, Andrew J. Bacevich has this to say about Douglas Feith, who from 2001 to 2005 served as the Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy, the  third-ranking position in Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon:

Trained as a lawyer, Feith possessed the temperament of an ideologue. He specialized in enforcing preconceived notions.  Rumsfeld felt certain, for example, that Saddam Hussein had links to the 9/11 hijackers.  He was also convinced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction hidden away.  Feith’s job was to confirm what his boss already knew. Toward that end, he devoted personal attention to the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which duly told Rumsfeld what he wanted to hear.   OSP’s analysis turned out to be completely wrong, but Feith had accomplished his purpose – and his boss’s.

As the countdown toward the invasion proceeded, Rumsfeld didn’t want anyone outside of his own shop mucking around with the war planning.  The defence secretary found especially irritating concerns expressed by the State Department and some military officers that occupying Iraq might pose some challenges.  He counted on Feith to shut out the meddlers and to base Pahse IV planning on best-case assumptions.  Once again, Feith delivered.  Small wonder that Rumsfeld described his subordinate as “a rare talent”.  Rumsfeld had every reason to be satisfied.

Yet Rumsfeld’s assessment seems unlikely to stand.  Whatever Feith may achieve during the remainder of his life and whatever epitaph he chooses for inscription on his gravestone, history will remember him as “the stupidest fucking guy on the planet.”

The source of that judgement, which is likely to remain definitive, is General Tommy Franks.

02 January 2011

Szigeti and Bartok at the Library of Congress

On 13 April 1940 a remarkable concert took place, a performance by two émigré Hungarian musicians, great musical figures of their day, the violinist Joseph Szigeti and the musicologist, composer and pianist Béla Bartók.

Both musicians had only recently arrived in America.  They had been deeply concerned about the repressive regime of Admiral Horthy in their native Hungary and the advance of Nazism and Italian fascism. Bartók forbade the broadcast of his works from stations in, or beamed to, Germany and  Italy in the 1930s, Szigeti refused to appear in Germany after 1932. As the situation in Europe grew worse, both of them decided to emigrate as a necessary protest. Szigeti left Europe at the end of 1939, and Bartók attended Szigeti’s final Budapest Concert, which included his Portrait, Op. 5.

Bartok, although determined to leave before Hungarian surrender to what he called “bandits and assassins”, proceeded at a somewhat less hurried pace. He sailed to America just in time for the April 1940 concert, and returned to Hungary in May to settle his affairs, giving his own farewell concert on 8 October.

The program for the Library of Congress “Sonata Recital” was a wonderful one:

-  Beethoven: Sonata in A major, Op. 47, “Kreutzer”
-  Bartok: Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Piano
-  Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano
-  Bartok: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano

We are fortunate that this historic concert was recorded and the sound quality is quite good.  I acquired it on vinyl in 1965, but it has been released on CD. I acquired the version released on Vanguard Classics (ATM CD 1583) a few years ago.  That edition seems to have lapsed, but a Hungaroton release (HCD 12330) is available from Presto Classical here.

New England University Rugby Team 1939

The New England University College (NEUC) of the University of Sydney opened its doors to students in 1938. The following year it fielded its first rugby union team in the New England Zone Rugby Union Competition:


Back Row: Lewis Border, Consett Davis, Max Hartwell, John Rafferty, Jim Belshaw (Coach), Alf Maiden, Les Titterton, Frank Rickwood, Ken James
Middle Row: Ralph Crossley, Paul Barratt, Pat Thompson, Alan Sutherland, Peter Durie
Front Row: Ed Scalley, Harry Savage

Some notes on the players:

Lewis Border:

Like my father, Lewis Harold Border, born at Bundarra NSW on 16 April 1920, was an old boy of The Armidale School (1934-37) and the son of an Anglican clergyman, the Ven Archdeacon H. Border, of Gunnedah.  When the University College opened Border, Ken James (see below) and my father shared a room in Booloominbah.

He joined the Army on 22 August 1942 and was discharged on 20 April 1945, at the rank of Bombardier, his posting at discharge being with the 14th Australian Infantry Training Battalion (see his service record here).

Border joined the Department of External Affairs and after a couple of postings in Washington in the 1950s was Australian Ambassador to Burma (1963-65) and then to South Vietnam in the late 1960s.

In the early 1970s, as a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, he chaired an interdepartmental committee on which I was one of the Treasury representatives – a committee which worked over about a twelve month period to settle Australia’s policy positions for the Preparatory Conference for a major overhaul of the Law of the Sea.

Consett Davis (1913-44)

H.F. Consett Davis, after whom the UNE playing fields are named, was the foundation lecturer in Botany and Zoology, joining the staff in March 1939.

He was born in Sydney on 23 June 1915.  He had been a brilliant student, taking First Class Honours in both Botany and Zoology at Sydney University.  When war broke out he first joined the Royal Australian Air Force. His service record (see here) shows his date and locality of enlistment as unknown, and gives his date of discharge as 25 October 1940, at which stage he had the rank of Pilot Officer. Another service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army on 3 December 1941, the eve of Pearl Harbour, and was discharged from the 2/7 Division Cavalry Regiment 1 May 1944 with the rank of Lance Corporal.

A third service record (see here) shows him as having rejoined the Army on 26 June 1944, presumably after some period of training or briefing, and having served until his death in an air crash in New Guinea on 11 December 1944, at which time he was a Lieutenant in the 1st Australian Army Tropical Research Section.

Of his academic work, a paper on Hymenopterous Parasites of Embioptera read by Alan P. Dodd on 26 July 1939 (see here) contains a couple of references to specimens being returned to Consett Davis. There is another reference to him in a paper, The Sydney ornithological  fraternity, 1930s-1950: anecdotes of an admirer, by Allen Keast, Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario (see here).

His widow Gwenda succeeded him on the University staff. She joined the staff of NEUC in 1945 as a plant taxonomist, and like him initially taught both botany and zoology. As the University developed she played a major role in setting up the Botany Department. She was still on the staff when I was at UNE in the 1960s. A brief biographical note on her can be found here.

Max Hartwell

Max Hartwell was born at Red Range NSW on 11 February 1921. His Army service record (see here) shows him as having joined the Army at Glen Innes on 16 December 1942 and being discharged on 23 January 1942, as a private soldier in the Sydney University Regiment. I have no background on this but given his subsequent career it is reasonable to suppose that when the University Regiments were disbanded after Pearl Harbour someone found a better way for him to contribute to the war effort than slogging away in the infantry.

When Max Hartwell died on 24 March 2009, blogger Robert Higgs had this to say about him (here)

A native of Australia, Max enjoyed a long, eventful life. Born and reared in the outback of New South Wales, he progressed to teacher training, school teaching, service in the army during the war, graduate training, and a life of productive scholarship in England and the United States. He was an outstanding economic historian and contributed greatly to the “Standard of Living Debate,” defending the view that the Industrial Revolution, far from having been a Marxist nightmare for the working class, was the means by which they were gradually lifted from the poverty that had been their lot from time immemorial. Max spent the heart of his career at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he trained a number of outstanding economic historians. Later, after his retirement from Oxford, he alternated between teaching at the University of Virginia and teaching at the University of Chicago.

John Rafferty

John Rafferty would appear to have been a local, the son of Second Lieutenant Arthur John Rafferty, Chemist of Beardy Street Armidale, who enlisted in the Army on 16 February 1915, sailed out of Melbourne on the troop transport Ceramic on 25 June 1915, and returned to Australia on 26 September 1917 (see here).

There is a service record (see here) for Arthur John Rafferty, born in Armidale on 24 August 1920, who joined the Army at Kempsey on 7 September 1942 and gave his next of kin as A. Rafferty. He was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant on 16 April 1946, his posting on discharge being with the 2nd New Guinea Infantry Battalion.

I have no further information about him.  Would anyone with information about John Rafferty please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Jim Belshaw

J.P. (“Jim” or “Jimmy”) Belshaw was born in Christchurch on 23 January 1908. He was one of the University College’s foundation staff members, the first to take up duty, becoming the lecturer in History and Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Economics (each of the foundation staff had to teach two subjects).  He was the first President of the fledgling Union, and Deputy Warden in the early days. Being a New Zealander, he was clearly the best person to coach the rugby union team.

In due course Jim married Edna Drummond, the University College’s first librarian, daughter of D.H. Drummond who as State local member and Minister for education had played a critical role in gaining the support of State Cabinet for the establishment in Armidale of a college of the University of Sydney (for Drummond’s role see Booloominbah).

Service records show (see here) that Jim joined the Army (presumably the Sydney University Regiment) in Armidale on 23 September 1941, and was discharged with the rank of Private on 30 September 1945, his posting on discharge being 3 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (Part Time Duty).

Upon the University becoming an autonomous institution in 1954, Jim Belshaw became the first Professor of Economics. I think I probably attended his Inaugural Lecture, which would have been given in the Teachers’ College Auditorium. My parents were meticulous in attending all of the Inaugural Lectures, and I went along – a very mind-broadening experience for a ten year old.

Jim Belshaw’s son James, who was a year behind me at Armidale Demonstration School and The Armidale School, runs a number of blogs concerning the New England region – see for example James Belshaw's New England Blog. At Belshaw Sans Words, a blog with pictures and few words, there is a 1944 wedding photo for the marriage of Jim Snr and Edna Drummond, and a photo of D.H. Drummond taken at tennis at Parliament House, Sydney during the 1930s.

       Alf Maiden

Alfred Clement Borthwick Maiden (1922-79) was born in Taree, attended Taree High School and studied economics and history at the New England University College. He became a full-time militiaman in December 1941 and transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 9 October 1942. His service record (here) shows that he was discharged on 4 December 1945, and that his posting on discharge was as Corporal in 555 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery.

In 1946 he joined the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) in Canberra. After two postings in Washington and a stint in the Department of Trade and Industry, he became Director of the BAE in 1959.  In 1968 he resigned from the public service to become Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat (IWS).  In July 1973 he was appointed full-time chairman of the newly established Australian Wool Corporation; he also accepted appointment as Chairman of the IWS.

He was appointed CBE in 1965, and named “Man of the Year in Australian Agriculture” in 1976.

His Australian Dictionary of Biography entry may be found here.

Les Titterton

Leslie Thomas Titterton was born in Kempsey on 12 January 1920. His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army on 29 May 1941. He was discharged on 12 February 1946, his posting on discharge being a Lieutenant in 1 Australian Movement Contingent (General Purpose).

He appears to have died on 1 December 1974 and been buried in the Dawson River (Taree) Lawn Cemetery (see here).

I have no other information about Les Titterton.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Frank Rickwood

Frank Rickwood, the son of a newspaper editor, was born in the coalmining town of Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.  He took an honours degree in science, and in January 1946 became a field geologist with the Australasian Petroleum Company, for which he conducted numerous surveys in PNG.

In 1950 he became a senior lecturer in geology at Sydney University, but continued his field trips to PNG, with a particular focus on the Southern Highlands. He subsequently joined British Petroleum, and worked extensively in Latin America before pioneering the development of Alaska as a major oilfield. In 1974 he became BP’s global head of oil and gas exploration and production.

Retiring from BP in 1980, he joined the Board of Oil Search, becoming its Chairman in 1992.  AT Oil Search he played a major role in promoting oil and gas exploration in PNG, an effort which led to the discovery of the Kutubu oil field in early 1986.

He was awarded an OBE by PNG, an honorary doctorate by New England University, and the first Haddon Forrester King Medal by the Australian Academy of Science.

A copy of an obituary article by Rowan Callick, published in The Australian on 23 July 2009, is on the UNE Alumni website – access it here.

Ken James

Like my father and Lewis Border, Kenneth Alfred James, born in Lismore on 12 November 1917, was an old boy of The Armidale School (1931-35), where he had been Senior Prefect, and the son of an Anglican clergyman, the Reverend G.A.G. James of Kyogle.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 20 June 1942. His date of discharge is not known, but his final posting on discharge was as a Warrant Officer in No. 7 Operational Training Unit.

A footnote in my father’s 1993 memoir Psychology at New England states that Ken James trained in Canada, and on completion of his military service returned there and at the time of writing was resident in Vancouver.

I have no other information about Ken James.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Ralph Crossley

Ralph George Crossley was born in Perth on 15 May 1902.  He was one of the College’s five original staff members, arriving direct from Germany in April 1938 to take up his post as foundation lecturer in French and German. A conscientious and effective teacher, he was described by one of his students as “bubbling over with vim, vigour, verve and vitality”.

The National Library’s “Trove” digital archive (see here) shows that in 1939 he submitted a thesis entitled Die Kaiserchronik: ein literarhistorisches Problem der altdeutschen Literaturgeschichte , copies of which are in the libraries of the Universities of Melbourne and Tasmania.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 27 June 1942, and was discharged on 30 September 1945, his posting on discharge being Warrant Officer in 3 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (Part Time Duty).

He later joined the German Department at the University of Sydney and was its acting head when in 1947 he was appointed Principal Instructor at the first migrant camp, at Bonegilla in Victoria, and then became the consultant on teaching techniques for the other camps (see 5 March 1948 statement by Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell here and his role in a history of the Adult Migrant Education Program here).

Paul Barratt

My father Paul Eric Hunter Barratt was born in Kalgoorlie on 23 December 1917, the son of the Canon Thomas Hunter Barratt who at that time was taking God’s word to the gold miners and the chaps laying the transcontinental railway line.

He was the first student to enrol at NEUC, indeed for a couple of days feared that he might be the only one. He completed his Sydney University Arts Degree in 1940 and went to Sydney in 1941 for his Honours year. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the University Regiments were wound up and he went into the artillery, but he was soon called upon to assist with the establishment of the Australian Army Psychology Corps and become one of its founding members. The focus in the early days was aptitude testing to enable the armed services to put their raw recruits to best use, but as the war progressed the focus shifted to prisoner of war relief.

Towards the end of the war he was embarked on the MV Duntroon, bound for India, but Japan surrendered while they were at sea, and the ship was diverted to Singapore, arriving there the day that Mountbatten accepted the Japanese surrender. He and Madge Brown, the AGH matron on board, who also became a familiar figure around the UNE campus from the post-war years until the 1960s, were involved in the medical and psychological assessment and treatment of the prisoners in Changi Gaol and those coming down from the Burma-Thailand railway line and other camps in Southeast Asia (for some more on that see Ida Madge Brown (1904-2009)).

He returned to Armidale in 1946 as an officer with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme (CRTS), a Commonwealth funded scheme directed to the reintegration of ex-servicemen into civilian life, and a few years later took up a position as a lecturer in the Psychology Department. He retired as Professor of Psychology in 1978. His career, and some early history of the University, is documented in his Psychology at New England: an autobiographical history of the first forty years, University of New England Publishing Unit, 1993.

Pat Thompson

Patrick Thompson was born in Taree on 3 March 1920.

His service record (see here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 20 April 1942, and was discharged on 23 April 1946, his posting on discharge being Private with the Northern Australia Observer Unit (NAOU – the “Nackeroos” or “Curtin’s Cowboys”). This was the unit in which the Master in Charge of Cadets at The Armidale School in my day served, and as I observed in Remembering Des Harrison, serving in this unit was not for the faint hearted. Its stock-in-trade was long-range horse-mounted patrols over a seaboard of 5500 kilometres. They were to operate in small groups, living off the land as far as possible, and operate without hope of medical assistance or casualty evacuation.

I have no other information about Pat Thompson.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Alan Sutherland

James Alan Sutherland was born in Barraba NSW on 29 April 1912, and was one of NEUC’s foundation students. 

In the University’s first year of operation in 1938 he topped the Sydney University Psychology I exams (my father came second).  This gave great pleasure on the tiny campus, in view of the scepticism and outright derision accorded by many at Sydney University and in the wider Sydney community to the whole idea of setting up a “university under the gum trees”. The pleasure was renewed when Alan Sutherland and my father jointly topped Psychology II the following year and were jointly awarded a Lithgow Scholarship.

My father recounts the next step in Sutherland’s career in his memoir:

At the beginning of 1940 Alan Sutherland left the College with the intention of pursuing his study for Honours in the Psychology Department of The University of Sydney. He informed me later that he was also, at that time, trying to gain acceptance for the Navy, unsuccessfully as it transpired. He enrolled in the Third Year Honours class, which brought him into close contact with Dr A.H. Martin who was then Senior Lecturer in the Department. It was not long before there was a head-on clash of personalities, so ‘head-on’ apparently that Alan withdrew from the University and enlisted in the R.A.A.F.”

Sutherland’s service record (see here) shows that he joined the RAAF on 13 February 1941 and was discharged on 19 November 1945. His posting on discharge was Flight Lieutenant at RAAF Station Bradfield Park.

Sutherland must subsequently have completed a B.Sc. Agr. at Sydney University. He became Senior Lecturer in charge of Biological Science at Armidale Teachers’ College, then University Fellow in the Centre for Curriculum Studies, University of New England. He died in 1983.

Peter Durie

Peter Harold Durie was born in Sydney on 25 January 1920.

There are two service records. The first (here) shows that he joined the Army in Armidale on 8 August 1940, and was discharged on 8 July 1942, his posting on discharge being Gunner with the 110 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. The second (here) shows him as having joined the RAAF on 26 April 1944, and being discharged on 12 March 1946, his posting on discharge being Flying Officer with the No. 2 Malaria Control Unit.

I remember that he came back to Armidale for a year or two after the War and was very friendly with my parents, coming often to parties they would have for a mixture of staff, students and friends at the home we rented from Don Shand at 95 Marsh Street.

He won my heart because when he was leaving town he gave me a wind-up phonograph, a portable machine for playing 78rpm records, and about half a dozen records, of which I remember in particular the 1931 recording of Gerald Adams singing “You Will Remember Vienna” from the film Viennese nights.  It wasn’t the latest music but having the autonomy to play my own music at the age of five or six was really something. Then someone gave me the Orson Welles - Bing Crosby recording of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” (Part I on YouTube here) and I was in seventh heaven.

I have no information about what Peter Durie did after he left Armidale.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Ed Scalley

Edmund St Clair Scalley was born at Abermain NSW on 24 March 1922.

There are two service records. The first (here) shows that he joined the Army at West Maitland on 19 December 1940, while based in Armidale. He was discharged on 23 May 1944, his posting on discharge being Gunner with the 224 Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Battery. The second (here) shows that he joined the RAAF the next day, 24 May 1944, and was discharged on 28 February 1945. His posting on discharge being Leading Aircraftman at No. 7 Stores Depot.

I have not been able to find anything about Ed Scalley’s subsequent career, but have found a photo of him on the Clifford/Miller Web Site on www.myheritage.com (see here).

Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Harry Savage

Henry Lewis Savage was born in Armidale on 16 June 1921. I suspect that he entered the University College in 1939 – I don’t think he was one of the original 1938 intake of about fifteen students.

His service record (here) shows that he joined the Army on 20 April 1942 and was discharged on 30 January 1946. His posting on discharge was Sergeant in the 1st Australian Prisoner of War Contact and Enquiry Unit.

After the War Harry Savage returned to his studies at NEUC, under the CRTS, became a teacher, and was Head of English at Tumut High in the 1950s when my UNE contemporaries Laurie Piper and Don Smart were there.

Harry Savage was the younger brother of Jack Savage who, with their father, had the well-known tailoring and menswear business C. Savage and Son in Beardy Street. Jack’s son John was in my class at the Armidale Demonstration School throughout my primary school days.

Harry and Jack’s second cousin Ellen is celebrated as the only nurse to survive the Japanese sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur in 1943. Of that episode the Australian War Memorial says here:

Despite her own injuries, 30-year-old Sister Ellen Savage nursed the wounded and boosted the morale of the others. The other eleven nurses all drowned. After a day and a half adrift on life rafts, the 64 survivors were spotted by an RAAF Anson and recovered by the destroyer USS Mugford.

Sister Savage’s courage was recognised by the award of the George Medal.

Ellen Savage’s service record may be found here, and an Australian War Memorial blog post on the sinking of the Centaur may be found here.

I have no other information about Harry Savage.  Would anyone with information about him please post a comment or send a twitter message to @phbarratt.

Overall I think our little “university under the gum trees” even in its earliest days, with all its limitations of facilities and money, made a pretty good fist of rounding up a bunch of country kids and setting them on paths that might not otherwise have been available to them. Something to reflect upon for those who think that big is beautiful when it comes to tertiary education.