February 27th 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY SSCA: Check out this inversion of the Parental Control system

CANBERRA OBSERVED Barnaby Joyce likely to give Cabinet a kick-along

ALCOHOL Studies confirm benefit of earlier nightclub closures

HISTORY OF TAIWAN Post-WWII Japan's loss is Chiang Kai-shek's gain

SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT Welfare of children at heart of surrogacy inquiry

EDITORIAL Syria agreement first step to ending the carnage

EDUCATION Discounting Christianity in schools denies history

WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES Diversity's American dream: genderless parenthood and apple pie

ENVIRONMENT Harry Butler: a victim of deep-green politics

EUTHANASIA Legitimate denial of choice at end of life (Part I of two)

ACTIVISM Safer schools or a radical Marxist sexual revolution?

UNITED STATES Big Brother v the Little Sisters: Obama takes nuns to Supreme Court

MUSIC Oppositions reconciled in logical harmony

CINEMA Of heists and hedge funds: The Big Short

BOOK REVIEW Alarms and arms

BOOK REVIEW The human factor

LETTERS

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ENVIRONMENT
Harry Butler: a victim of deep-green politics


by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, February 27, 2016

I recently wrote elsewhere an obituary for my long-time friend, naturalist and environmental consultant Harry Butler, who died of cancer aged 85 on December 11, 2015. Harry’s life was so full and rich that I was painfully aware that I had had to omit or only briefly mention many things.

The late Harry Butler

I could devote only a couple of sentences to the fact that his insistence that mining and other development and environmental conservation were interdependent and had to go together had attracted the fury of the anti-human “deep greens”. It may be worthwhile expanding on that here. His office at WAPET (WA Petroleum) in Perth had been well inside the building with no windows because of the death threats he had received.

It was an astonishing demonstration of the irrationality and psychopathology of some “deep greens” towards a man who dedicated his life to promoting the cause of conserving wildlife and the environment, beginning decades before it became fashionable, and for a long time with little or no financial reward.

In Australia, apart from his educa­tional work among children and adults, he was a practical pioneer of the whole technology of restoring devastated landscapes. Since at least the early 1950s, he had been holding audiences spellbound as he talked about wildlife. He once told me: “A naturalist should be able to pick up a handful of dirt and speak on it for at least half an hour.”

He was probably Australia’s first major television naturalist, and his In the Wild programs were a national institution. Between 1976 and 1979 26 episodes of In the Wild were screened, bringing him instant stardom, a Logie and a Gold Sammy award as the best male television personality of the year.

I once witnessed his quick thinking and courage, when I was covering the filling of Lake Argyle behind the Ord Dam as a reporter for The West Australian. We were trying to rescue cattle from one of the drowning islands when a huge scrub bull charged us out of nowhere and attacked filmmaker David Oldmeadow. Though armed with only a .22 rifle, Harry leapt between the injured Oldmeadow and the bull and shot it dead at point-blank range, the muzzle actually touching the creature’s massive skull. I believe without doubt that he saved Oldmeadow’s life.

Award-winning journalist Norman Aisbett has reminded me of just how bitter and politically loaded the campaign against Harry was. His departure from the ABC’s canons of political correctness sent him from hero to zero (don’t hold your breath waiting for In the Wild to be rescreened).

During the early 1970s the Australian Conservation Foundation, originally a broadly conservative movement dedicated, like Harry, to wildlife conservation (one of its founders was leading judge Sir Garfield Barwick), and similar bodies, were taken over by a leftist cadre less interested in preserving wildlife than in anti-capitalist, anti-development political and social revolution.

They were joined by anti-uranium activists, some of whom, along with those motivated by ignorance-driven fear, wished to weaken the West militarily vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and “deep greens” of the sort who were to describe humanity as “the AIDS of the Earth”.

In 1980 Harry was named Australian of the Year for 1979, but by that time the invitations had abruptly dried up and the left was subjecting him and his work to a campaign of totenschweigtaktik (death by silence).

He spoke bitterly to Aisbett, and proved himself something of a prophet when, long before we had seen section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act applied to Andrew Bolt, he warned that Australia was erecting barriers, both through legislation and, perhaps more perilously, through unspoken consensus against freedom of speech. “You hear civil liberties groups talking about equality for everything from women to homosexuals, but is seems the one major civil liberty that is lacking is freedom of speech,” he said.

Aisbett wrote in 1993 that Harry felt deeply injured and believed that his career had been done a great disservice when a headline shouted: “Don’t grant land rights, says Butler”. The hate mail came rolling in. In fact he had made a submission to the Aboriginal Land Rights inquiry opposing exclusive land rights “at the expense of the rest of Australia”.

He happened at the time to be the only environmental consultant to the Aboriginal central lands council of the Northern Territory. He was a fully initiated member of two Aboriginal tribes and also their lore-giver. He attributed his uncanny hunting and tracking abilities (which I witnessed) to what he had learned from them.

The ABC’s behaviour demonstrates the perfectly true accusations of leftist bias. But just important is its exclusion, as the Harry Butler case shows, of anyone who does not subscribe to the whole leftist package of beliefs, no matter how valuable a contribution they might have to make. Not for nothing has it been said that the initials actually stand for “Anyone But Conservatives”.

His last letter, plainly a conscious farewell to his friends, stated in part: “I leave you life itself, because I know you cherish it. My love to you all.”

Harry’s kindnesses to individuals have not been much remarked upon. I mention one. In 1975 I suffered a series of personal tragedies that left me shattered. I desperately needed to be taken out of the dark thoughts that were overwhelming me. Harry somehow knew the best treatment available: he turned up at my house with a large box of books by my favourite authors. It worked.




























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