Letter: Lucky or Stupid?

How disturbing to see the National and Liberal Party’s conniving to remove the last remnants of old growth. Couple this with the clear-felling of regrowth and the planting of monocultures, it reveals a government hell-bent on the destruction of endangered species.

Australia is not a clever country. Professor Donald Horne stated this emphatically in his 1964 masterpiece, The Lucky Country. His summation? “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck”. His thesis? Unless we apply intelligence to our affairs at all levels we will run out of luck.

“The Lucky Country” phrase was widely misinterpreted by conservatives and ill-read cohorts as a national compliment, in fact it was damning of Australian consciousness. It was no coincidence that these folk hadn’t read the work. Their ignorance proved the point of the book.

Horne’s contention was that we had to make our way by developing our knowledge and not shy from its application. So there we are, second rate, dropping away, reaching for the sub-mediocre.

In terms of a forest industry how do you define a clever country? Sweden sets the tone. Its mixed species forests are the back-bone of its sovereign wealth. At the end of the 19th century, Sweden was the poor nation of Europe, its forests had been stripped. Its asset was the applied intelligence of its people.

Now, its planted forests cover 23 million hectares, the geographical size of the UK and expanding: forests are Sweden’s culture. Under law, for every tree harvested, three are planted. Logging is selective, clear-felling is banned: no dispute.

Absorb this statistic! If every Swedish forest were to be cleared at once, it would take a staggering 54.5 million semi trailers to move it to processing. That same number would be needed to ship the finished product. Yes, even the sawdust is used.

The forests would be cut with Swedish machinery. Clever this. From a primary industry, forestry, secondary industry developed. Sweden is the world’s biggest producer of heavy trucks. The Volvo and Scania trucks that ply the worlds highways developed from the transport needs of the forest industry.

Other benefits? Employment discrimination between the sexes is not a problem in Sweden. Women assemble the trucks.

Topping all this production is what Australia’s slow thinking conservatives would consider a hindrance. Sweden has what is perhaps the toughest environmental legislation on the planet.

Sweden and its thinking economy is the model of what the late Donald Horne would have desired for Australia. Fifty-four years since the first print it is remarkably up to date, even as the language has moved on.

Yes, a “lucky country” with second rate people stripping its resources is still applicable, but it needs a word of our times,  a descriptive noun: bogans!

Warren Tindall