BORN IN 1939?
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BORN IN 1969
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BORN IN 1966?
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BORN IN 1968?

                                              52nd BIRTHDAY


The Askin government had recently been elected to run NSW, and the new Minster in charge of the Opera House, David Hughes, was very conscious of the great blow-out in costs. Utzon had been spending money, quite legitimately, for materials to do the job, but had not been getting formal approval.

When Hughes came to office, Utzon presented him with a bill for 100,000 dollars for these materials, and Hughes refused to pay because they had not been approved. This situation was made worse because Utzon insisted on having a certain type of plywood for the concert theatre, because it reflected sound in a favourable way. Again Hughes refused, saying the same effect could be achieved by less costly materials.

Of course, this was just what the public was told. There were probably other matters as well. In any case, Utzon resigned. For about ten days, Premier Askin talked with the two men, trying to find a middle way. They ended up having another meeting. For a while it seemed that the two above problems could be fixed, but Hughes insisted that Utzon surrender his one-man control of the project, and in future be directed by a committee of architects and accountants. Utzon refused, not surprisingly, and so his resignation stood.


Let me say first up that there was huge interest in what was going on. The nation’s newspapers were flooded with Letters, and radio and TV was full of all sorts of stories, some of them true. The SMH on two days devoted two entire Letters pages to the story, with liberal column space on a dozen other days.

The range of opinions was vast. Some would have supported Utzon if had built an Ark. Other hated everything about him, including the manner of his selection in the first place. In between, more rational writers regretted the cost blow-out, and some blamed his wild dreaming for this. Others said that he was brilliant, and that given a unique edifice would grace Sydney for all time, cost should be no object.  Then others said that surely it was the expert Utzon who should decide on technical matters such as plywoods, and that Hughes should stick to politics.

In any case, let me pick out just a few Letters to show their diversity.

Letters. The plans for the Taj Mahal were prepared by a council of architects from India, Persia, Central Asia and beyond, but that did not prevent it from being a very fine and successful building.

So far as giving Mr Utzon carte blanche is concerned, that would be ridiculous. In inquiring into costs and procedures for which he must ultimately take responsibility, the Minister for Public Works, Mr Hughes, was only doing his duty.

Letters.  Once again political power-juggling, professional jealousy and narrow-minded bureaucracy are driving a man of genius from our midst. Thirty years ago it was Walter Burley Griffin and now it is Utzon.

We are trying to break the man, a creative architect of world reputation, and to spoil his work, one of the great buildings of our time.

But no doubt in 20 years, when a lot of water will have washed past the Opera House, and today’s politicians will have been forgotten, we will make amends and, as with Griffin, honour Utzon on one of our postage stamps. For such is the size of our vision.

Letters.  From the turning of the first sod of soil on two acres of Sydney’s fast disappearing parklands, till the present, the whole scheme has been a colossal and disgraceful waste of public money and resources. The method of raising the money, 100,000 Pound lotteries, is morally doubtful and already has been directly responsible for one murder that we know of.

Surely now is the time to stop work on this monument to irresponsible Government spending, and channel the money so saved into essential services. A few that come easily to mind, more so lately as we’ve heard so much about the shortage of money for them, are the Eastern Suburbs railway, sewage disposal, water supply (all over the State), country roads and teacher training.

It is obvious by now that to start this Benelong Point project was a mistake. It is time for the Government to be honest with itself and admit it, and stop work on it before any more hard cash is swallowed up.



Beginner's guide to Vietnam
The point of decimal currency
Strike action  in Victoria
Utzon and the Opera House
What happened to our cemeteries?
Song and dance routines
Roller games
Libraries for all
Irritations at the movies
Johnson's visit
Vietnam and Mr White
The place of zoos
Summing up 1966
News-in-brief: two pages each month



ABOUT THIS SERIES   …  But after that, I realized that I really knew very little about these parents  of mine They had been born about the start of the Twentieth Century, and they died in 1970 and 1980. For their last 50 years, I was old enough to speak with a bit of sense.  I could have talked to them a lot about their lives. I could have found out about the times they lived in.  But I did not.  I know almost nothing about them really. Their courtship? Working in the pits? The Lock-out in the Depression? Losing their second child? Being dusted as a miner? The shootings at Rothbury? My uncles killed in the War? Love on the dole? There were hundreds, thousands of questions that I would now like to ask them.  But, alas, I can’t. It’s too late.


Thus, prompted by my guilt, I resolved to write these books. They describe happenings that affected people, real people.  The whole series is, to coin a modern phrase, designed to push the reader’s buttons, to make you remember and wonder at things  forgotten. The books might just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a heritage otherwise forgotten. 

Hopefully, they will spark discussions between generations, and foster the asking and answering of questions that should not remain unanswered.

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