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Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 99 [2]

A Kidman Proposition

The story goes that, in 1870, with nothing but five shillings and a one-eyed horse named Cyclops, Sidney Kidman (yes, Nicole Kidman is related) left his home in Adelaide at the age of thirteen to go droving. By the time he died in 1935 he was the richest person in Australia – the ‘Cattle King’ – and reputed to control more land than anyone else on earth.


Although they’d been trimmed to less than half what they were in Sidney’s time, the Kidman properties, in 2016, still part-run by family members, comprise(d) one seventy-sixth, or 1.3%, of the total landmass of Australia, some 101,000 square kilometres – ‘strung’, as The Australian put it (11 Oct 2016), ‘from Western Australia’s east Kimberley across the Northern Territory’s grassy Barkly Tableland, down to the rich Channel Country of southwest Queensland and leading into South Australia, and ownership of a land area bigger than Tasmania’ (or Scotland, or…).


In effect they comprise(d) 2.6% of Australia’s agricultural land.  Altogether they supported up to 185,000 head of cattle, i.e. just under two head of cattle per square kilometre, the largest proportion of them destined for export. What has been billed as a bitter family feud led, in 2014, to the sale of the properties as a job-lot (with the exception of Anna Creek in South Australia, the world’s largest cattle station, kept from the deal for security reasons – too close to Woomera, etc. – and later sold separately) for 386.5 million dollars to Gina Rinehart (two-thirds) and her business partner Shanghai CRED (one third).


What a waste. I’ll go a step further and say (entirely my own opinion) what a hideous betrayal – by this government, yes, though the way things stand just about any government we might have elected at this low point of our national thinking would have made the same kind of decision. Betrayal of our natural heritage, betrayal of our wildlife, betrayal of the nation itself. Why? To further fill up the coffers by a miniscule amount? To reduce by a miniscule amount the national debt? To announce to the world, as the Treasurer said at the time, ‘that Australia is open for investment’ (read ‘for sale’)? Perhaps. But ultimately – primarily – to keep happy one of the very biggest in the big end of town. Smoothing wheels.  When it might have been bought – this is my point – for less than one eighth of the cost of one of our new submarines.

The Channel Country properties

Bought, by the government, and restored to the nation, restored to the natural/national heritage. A little creative thinking (and creative further purchasing) and, linking the Channel Country properties together by way of bushland corridors, we could have had the country’s largest wildlife reserve, restored the wounded landscape, helped ensure the survival species after species, done something positive in the face of our relentless negative. But now the plan, out of the government’s hands, and way out of ours, is merely to increase the stock level, make the tired land pay even further, as if, somehow, it had committed some crime against someone, and that someone were seeking retribution.


Another crazy pipe-dream, and, yes, of course, far more complicated than the mere purchase of land, but who knows? Even if state or federal governments couldn’t be persuaded, all it might have taken might have been a few like-minded millionaires with fund-raising skills and a desire do something very daringly positive.


Next time. (We have to keep dreaming.)

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